October 25 - 31, 2020: Issue 471


Three Ferries Named Narrabeen (1883 To 1984) + One Named Barranjoey (1913-1985) - Some Historic Manly Ferries Songs

MV Narrabeen is one of four Freshwater class ferries that operate the Manly ferry service between Circular Quay and Manly on Sydney Harbour - photo by Bernard Spragg from NZ


A song of Sydney ferries
The life their steersmen know,
What time the Curl Curl burles
Her bows in ocean snow,
Or when the Mosman steamer,
As dawn begins to break
With muffled beat of pulsing screw
Runs rippling Into silver blue
The velvet of the lake

From morn to eve their playtime
They make 'twixt headlands grey
Their bells record the daytime
From Ryde to Watsons Bay
And when the stars are burning,
On ebon sconces set
They light the deep with other stat s
That sway like lamps at river bars,
O'er the dark waves of jet

Oh steersman bound for Manly,
The wind is at your throat
Comes morning red or wanly,
It lights your flying boat
Oh stay not by our city
Whose harbour is your own
Leave to the souls that fume and fret
Their narrow streets of smoke and sweat,
And keep your rocking throne

SYDNEYSIDE SONGS. (1930, June 28). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 11. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16696668

The recent announcement by Transport for NSW that Sydney’s new fleet of 10 River Class ferries with the first four vessels arriving in Sydney in early October, along with speculation these will replace the Manly ferries 'Freshwater class', recalls for some the many names of these vessels as they changed over the years and that the name 'Narrabeen' has been used on at least three occasions.

In an early October Media Release Transport for NSW states: 

Some of NSW’s leading artists, authors and athletes have been selected to lend their names to Sydney’s new fleet of 10 River Class ferries. 

“All of the River Class vessels have been named after notable individuals who have helped shape NSW culture through art, literature and sport, with three authors, three artists and four athletes selected by Transport for NSW,” said Transport for NSW Chief Operations Officer, Howard Collins.

“The first four vessels will be named after artists Esme Timbery, Margaret Olley and Olive Cotton, and author Ruby Langford Ginibi.

“The remaining vessels, which will arrive in Sydney later this year, will be named after authors Ruth Park and Ethel Turner, footballer Cheryl Salisbury, netballer Liz Ellis, basketballer Lauren Jackson and wheelchair track and road racer Kurt Fearnley.”

Pauline Mitchell, the daughter of author Ruby Langford Ginibi, said the naming of the ferry was a beautiful tribute to her mother.

“Having mum’s name on a ferry has put her back in everyone’s minds for carving the way for all Aboriginal people today. We are grateful that our beautiful and powerful mum can be honoured in this way. It means so very much to us.”

Olive Cotton’s daughter, Sally McInerney, said that her mother loved the sea.

“Many of her photographs were taken at beaches around Sydney during the 1930s and 1940s. When she married and went to live in the country far from the coast, people would ask if she ever missed her city life and professional career, but the only thing she admitted to missing was the sea.

“Olive’s family is sure that she would have been surprised, gently amused and extremely appreciative at being included in the excellent company of the Sydney Ferries fleet.”

The first four River Class Ferries were due to start final testing, commissioning and operational readiness activities in Sydney Harbour in October. Transdev Sydney Ferries will also commence crew training, after which a date for the vessels to enter service will be determined.

River Class ferries have an association from earlier times with Charles Jeanneret, the man who was behind building the first wharf at Newport (named Victoria after the queen of same name) and the SS Florrie, built by Rock Davies, which became the first mail boat run from Newport and to Barrenjoey and then on to Gosford in 1879:

PITTWATER. The Royal Mail S.S. "FLORRIE, under contract with her Majesty’s Government, will run as follows, commencing on SATURDAY, 2nd August. 1879:-From Gosford Wharf, on THURSDAYS and SATURDAY'S, at 8 a.m., touching at Blackwall, and arrives at the head of Pittwater, at about 11 a.m.; from Brisbane Water, passengers will be conveyed by waggonette leaving Pittwater immediately after the arrival of the Mail steamer from Gosford ; and passengers from Sydney will be conveyed by waggonette leaving Post-office, Manly, at 8.20 a.m. for Pittwater, and thence by Mail steamer to Brisbane Water. The steamer conveying the Mails from Sydney leaves Circular Quay at 7 a.m. ROCK DAVISAdvertising. (1879, August 2). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13448783

Mr. Jeanneret also ran ferries on the Paramatta River, thus the earlier reference to 'River Class Ferries'. Sources state a disagreement or a refusal to allow Mr Davis to use this wharf were resolved in Mr Jeanneret purchasing the Florrie. Other sources point to her only ever connecting with other mail steamers from Sydney at the head of Barrenjoey (the custom’s wharf) or with vehicles bringing mail overland into Pittwater. Most of these terminated at Newport due to the condition of the tracks into Pittwater which were even worse or non-existent further north then this. Either way, Mr Davis seemed happiest building boats while Charles Jeanneret, who must rank among Australia’s pioneers as a gent who invested and built much infrastructure, was a keen ferry procurer.

Born in Sydney in 1834 the eldest son of Dr. Henry Jeanneret he grew up on Flinders Island, then a protectorate of Tasmania, where his father had the title of ‘Commandant’ as well as ‘Superintendent of Aborigines’. Here he learnt navigation and seamanship. After stints at sea, sailing to England at 18 and on the goldfields in Bendigo he returned to Sydney in 1850, joined the Bank of New South Wales and married Julia Anne Bellingham in 1857, settling at Hunter’s Hill. They had eight sons and two daughters, the youngest of these, born in 1879 was named Florence Annie. Besides being responsible for the building of many lovely houses at Hunter’s Hill and elsewhere, being attributed with a great avenue of trees in this suburb and the construction, later, of a tramway, C E Jeanneret heard the complaints of fruitgrowers in this area on the then existing ferry service for their produce down the Parramatta River to Sydney markets.

Reminiscences. The Late Mr. Jeaneret. History of the Parramatta Steamer Company. 

The late Mr. Alderman Jeanneret's career had an important bearing in the development of the passenger traffic on the Parramatta River and elsewhere. The original proprietors of the Parramatta steamers were Mr. E. D. Manning, Sir William Manning, Mr. J. S. Mort, Mess.rs. J. and W. Asyrnes, and it was about 30 years ago that Mr, Jeanneret came upon the scene and that his influence was felt in connection with the river traffic. At that time the Hunter's Hill people expressed great dissatisfaction with the arrangements of the original Parramatta Steamship Company, and this culminated in Messrs. Jeanneret, Joubert and others  running a small steamer called the' Tsabel’ from Hunter’s Hill to Sydney. Success attended the venture, and, soon after, the s.s. Adelaide, procured in Melbourne, and engined in Sydney was added to the service. The enterprising owners then floated a company in opposition to the old company. Almost the whole of the fruitgrowers of the Ryde district, from those at Ermington to those of Hunter's Hill took tip shares in the company to the extent of £5 and under. Mr. Jeanneret was unanimously selected as Manager, a position for which he proved himself eminently fitted. The two companies now entered into a keen competition, with the usual result that both lost heavily, and in less than two years there was an amalgamation, Mr. Jeanneret being selected as manager of the combined fleets. Soon after the amalgamation, the members of the old company disposed of the whole of their shares in the boats, and the new company were therefore left masters of the situation. Owing, however, to the heavy expenses, incidental chiefly to the working of the old steamers, whose earnings did not give an adequate return for the outlay, the victorious company found after a time that it could not meet its liabilities. Tenders were invited for the purchase of the fleet, which was sold to the highest bidder — the energetic and enterprising C.E. Jeanneret. He continued running the steamers successfully, the time proving exceedingly opportune for the venture. Those were the good old times when railway construction was in full swing, and large sums of money were being expended in the building of bridges, so that traffic on the river was very considerable. He continued the service for many years at a profit, and added considerably to the fleet both by purchases and the building of new steamers, bringing the number of vessels in the service up to 20. It was he who built the Halycon, Eagle, Eclipse, Nautilus, Osprey,  Neutral Bay and, lastly, the Pheasant.

He sold three or four of his steamers to the Adelaide Company (incorrect; see further down 1.)Of the 20 vessels in his service half-a-dozen were employed on the Parramatta River, the others running to Gosford, Neutral Bay, Iron Cove, Hawkesbury River, etc. It was the late Mr. Jeanneret who opened up the Iron Cove service and also the service to and from Woolwich. Another boat he built was the s.s. Gosford which was afterwards sold at a satisfactory figure. During the good times an English syndicate made an offer for the purchase of Mr. Jeanneret's entire fleet, and he went to England in 1890 to treat with the syndicate. The result was that he sold out, severing entirely his connection with the service which he had worked up to a high state of proficiency. He made his home at Hunter's Hill, which he regarded as ' the apple of his eye ' from the time he first saw it. He was always a shrewd business man, and of him it might almost be said that he ' made Hunter's Hill.' He built a great many villa residences on the Hill; in fact, no single individual has spent so much money in property in that borough as he. It was due to his influence that the Post and Telegraph offices were built at Hunter's Hill, and they are certainly a credit to the place. In conclusion, it may be added that of the officers or men employed by the old Parramatta company that opened up the river service, the genial and ever-obliging Captain Mance is the only one now remaining in the service. He is known as the Commodore of the fleet, a distinction to which he is well entitled.   Reminiscences. (1898, September 10). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate(Parramatta, NSW : 1888 - 1950), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article85845277

Extending his growing fleet’s services to Pittwater, the Hawkesbury River and ensuring these were used on the days and times when they weren’t scheduled for the Royal Mail run would have seemed logical to such an entrepreneur. The Florrie became a fixture on Pittwater and the Hawkesbury, bringing holiday day trippers and picnickers to Pittwater. It was the Florrie who transported the official party to the Customs wharf to lay the foundation stone for Barrenjoey Lighthouse in 1880.

The name 'Narrabeen' has not been the only attached to Manly Ferries - many a suburban beach of the peninsula has been paid tribute through a vessel named for it on the Manly run - Dee Why, Curl Curl, Fairlight, Freshwater, Barranjoey - but it is 'Narrabeen' that has recurred.

The first ferry named 'Narrabeen' was a paddle steamer that was built in 1886 by Mort's Dock and Engineering for the Port Jackson Steamship Company, she was an iron-hulled vessel, Narrabeen was 48.8 metres (160 ft 1 in) long, 239 tons (211 tons from 1911) and could carry up to 850 passengers, although, when launched, reports stated her capacity was 700 - her 'trail' took place on a Tuesday with a run from Morts' down to Manly:


Yesterday the new steamship Narrabeen, built for the Port Jackson Steamship Company by Mort's Dock and Engineering Company, was taken for a run down the harbour to test her machinery and to enable the builders to formally hand over the ship to her owners. Among the gentlemen present were Captain Broomfield (chairman), Mr. J. P. Franki (manager), Mr. S. Briggs (assistant manager), and Mr. T. Ferguson, Mort's Dock and Engineering Company ; Captain Haselton (chairman), Messrs. Gilles, J. Wood, Taylor, M'Clements (directors), Mr. J. Chounding (manager), Mr. L. Ogilby (secretary), Mr. J. Oliffe (superintending engineer), Port Jackson Steamship Company ; Mr. W. Cruickshank, Government engineer surveyor ; Mr. Henry Seife, Government engineer surveyor ; Mr. R. Pollock, superintending engineer Bulli Coal-mining Company; Mr. Peter Hunter, superintending engineer Newcastle Steamship Company; Captain Webb, Captain Summerbell, manager North Shore Ferry Company; Mr. P. Curtis, Mr. Lawrence, and others. The Narrabeen cast off from the jetty at the Circular Quay about a quarter to 11, and steamed down the harbour as far us the Heads and back again, doing the measured mile at the rate of 11.4 knots an hour. When returning to the Cove she met the Brighton, and had a spin with her from Fort Denison right down to Manly pier. At first it seemed as if the larger boat would give the Narrabeen a beating, but after they had got fairly underway, the Narrabeen went away, and kept a good lead all the way to Manly, the performance being regarded as in every way a most satisfactory one. The vessel having been safely moored, an adjournment was made to the forward saloon, where refreshments had been served previously.

Mr. LAWRENCE, after calling upon the company to charge their glasses, said that he had very great pleasure in asking them to drink " Success to the Narrabeen."  He might not be known to them all, but he was an old resident of Manly, mid took a great interest in the place ; and he could say that the success of Manly was attributable wholly and solely to the energetic spirit displayed by the Port Jackson Steamship Company-(hear, hear)-who had placed such fine steamers on the line. The boats had made the place, and not the place the boats. (Hear, hear.) In the old days they had the Phantom, to make a passage in which was at times a perilous undertaking; then came the Breadalbane and others, and after them a better class of boats, viz., the Fairlight and Brighton, than which he supposed there were not any superior south of the line. (Hear, hear.) Now the directors had crowned the whole thing with that fine boat, and had thus been the means of giving encouragement to local industry. (Applause,) They commenced by going to New Zealand, and now they had come right home, where they had obtained a boat with which he was most agreeably surprised, and which he was sure the residents of Manly should feel greatly indebted to the company for providing them with.

Captain HESELTON, in responding, said the directors did not go to New Zealand for a steamer until they had tried all they could to got it built here for what they regarded as a fair price. They, had, however, determined to have the present vessel built in Sydney, and from what they saw there was every reason to be satisfied with that decision, us the Narrabeen would compare for speed and workmanship with any boat of her kind, (Hear, hear.) He was confident she would do a great deal better when the stiffness had worn off her machinery. He spoke in terms of praise of Mort's Dock and Engineering Company, who find done all they possibly could to turn out the Narrabeen a first-class job. He knew that they had had a great deal to contend with, but in spite of this they had met his wishes and suggestions in the best possible spirit. He did not think the Manly Beach residents or the travelling public could find fault with the company for not keeping pace with the times. (Hear, hear.) They had not been in the company eight years, and yet they had built five large steamers, which he thought was keeping ahead of the times. (Hear, hear.) He did not think any place in the southern hemi-sphere was so well served in the matter of steam communication as Manly Beach. He did not think the steamers ever missed a trip, and the Mayor and aldermen regulated the time-table so as to meet the wishes of the public. Now that the company had more boats, it was intended to run more frequently between the two places. With regard to what Mr. Lawrence had said of the Phantom, he might tell them that his friend Captain. Webb superintended the building of that vessel, and after-wards commanded her while she wat running on the Yarra ; and he (Captain Heselton) was with him as mate. The Phantom was a very great success; but what surprised them was that the Manly Beach people put up With her so long. (Laughter.) He concluded by saying that the Manly Beach trade had been a success to everyone that touched it, and he had no doubt it would continuo to be profitable. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. JOHN WOODS proposed " Success to Mort's Dock and Engineering Company," and in doing so said he thought the Narrabeen had proved beyond all doubt that we bad brains enough in the colony to turn out mechanisms equal to any in the world it we had proper encouragement. (Applause.) The industries of the colony were languishing for lack of support, and he wished, from the bottom of his heart, that the people generally would take a greater interest in them. Mort's Dock and Engineering Company had performed their work in the Narrabeen very satisfactorily, and he hoped the vessel would be the means of bringing additional interest to bear upon colonial industries. He paid a tribute to the late Mr. T. S. Mort, who had done more than any other man to foster colonial industries-(hear, hear)-and concluded by asseverating that it would be far bettor to keep money in the country for such work as the Narrabeen than to pay it away for the benefit of mechanics in the old country. ('Hear, hear.)

Captain BROOMFIELD, in replying, said that the trial trip of the Narrabeen had given him a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction. That boat was undertaken by the company without any idea of making money out of the job ; they were anxious to show the public that the capabilities of the firm wore quite equal to the requirements of the present day. (Hear, hear.) The Narrabeen was a good, strong, plain, faithful, end substantial job, and he had no doubt she would maintain the reputation of Mort's Dock and Engineering Company, as all the other boats had done. They might be a little high in their prices, but when a job left their place it was well done. (Cheers.)

Mr. FRANKI also responded.

After the speeches were concluded, the Narrabeen cast off from the Manly pier and steamed back to Sydney. The weather was fresh and cool, and the outing proved very enjoyable.

The principal dimensions of the Narrabeen are;- Length over all, 160 feet; beam, 22 feet; depth, 10.6; extreme width over paddle-boxes, 40 feet. The engines, which were designed by Mr. Auldjo, chief draughtsman at the dock, are compound-diagonal surface-condensing, the high pressure cylinder being 21 inches in diameter, low pressure 40 inches in diameter, and the stroke 5 feet, with separate air and circulating pumps. The engines will indicate to 450 horse power. There are two boilers of the navy type, made for a working pressure of 100lb per square inch. They are 19 feet long, 8 feet diameter, with two of Fox's patent corrugated furnaces, 3 feet diameter in each. The paddle-wheels are 15.6 diameter, with 8 feathering floats on each. The Narrabeen will carry about 700 passengers.  TRIAL TRIP OF THE STEAMSHIP NARRABEEN. (1886, December 22 - Wednesday). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13623336

Narrabeen, Passing Garden Island with her original open wheelhouse - photo by Henry King. circa 1886-1899, courtesy MAAS,  https://collection.maas.museum/object/31388

Narrabeen Ferry no 1 Items: e00334_0003_c and e00334_0004_c, circa 1898, photos by Henry King, courtesy State Library of New South Wales

Passengers on-board the ferry Narrabeen, Australia, 1  - showing glassed-in wheelhouse.(1900). Passengers on-board the ferry Narrabeen, Australia, 1 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-137394340

Originally built with an open wheelhouse, this was later glassed in to offer more protection to the master and helmsman. The Narrabeen was smaller and of lower passenger capacity than her contemporary Brighton (1883), and was used on peak and off-peak services to Manly, not without mishaps:


Excitement ran high among the passengers by the Manly ferry boat Narrabeen yesterday morning, owing to a collision which occurred between that steamer and the Government tug Kate. The collision happened in the vicinity of Pinchgut, and resulted in the tugboat sinking, happily, however, without loss of life. A dense fog prevailed at the time, and to this fact the collision may be attributed. 

The Narrabeen was on the 7.15 a.m. trip from Manly, in charge of Captain Drewitt, and she had safely negotiated a passage through the fog until in the vicinity of Pinchgut. Then suddenly the hull of a vessel, which proved to be the tug Kate, loomed up, and the next moment the collision occurred. The Kate was struck on the starboard side, and her planks were torn asunder by the Iron stem of the Narrabeen. The damage extended well below the water line. There was a big inrush of water through the aperture In the tug's side, and she soon began to settle down. The crew of the tugboat, fearing the vessel would sink from under them, had jumped on board the Narrabeen when the boats were locked together. It so happened that the engines of the tug had just previously been reversed, and the Kate, gathering sternway, quickly disappeared ithe fog. 

The tug, after being abandoned, appears to have described a complete circle, and in her manoeuvres she narrowly escaped coming Into collision with the Narrabeen a second time. The efforts of the crew to regain her by means of the boat from the Narrabeen were unavailing, and she eventually sank about 100yds. to the eastward of No. 6 buoy. The Kate had a powder lighter in tow for Broken Bay at the time of the collision, but she was promptly cast adrift, and thus a more serious disaster was averted. 

The Water Police were soon on the scene with their launch Nemesis, in charge of Senior-constable Bultitude, and while cruising round picked up a quantity of wreckage from the sunken tugboat. The Narrabeen, after lowering her boat and rendering all necessary assistance, proceeded to the Quay to land her passengers. An examination of the vessel was made at the wharf, and she was found to be uninjured. Under these circumstances she was enabled to continue running during the day. HARBOR COLLISION. (1898, August 23). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 - 1930), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article239554781

Visit: Prospector Powder Hulk At Towler’s Bay


Quite a sensation was created last evening when it became known that the Manly ferry steamer Narrabeen, crowded with passengers, was helplessly drifting about the harbour, and a large number of the friends and relatives of the belated travellers assembled on the Manly Wharf and along the foreshores to gain the latest information respecting the disabled vessel.

The Narrabeen left the Circular Quay at 5 15 p m for Manly, and this being one of the business trips the vessel had a full complement of passengers returning from the business houses in the city to their homes. Everything went well until the steamer was off Dobroyde Point, when, owing to some defect in her machinery, she suddenly became absolutely disabled. At the moment of the mis-hap the whole of the lights on the steamer were extinguished, and a good deal of anxiety was entertained on board, especially by the women and children, while business men expressed their dissatisfaction at what promised to be a long delay.

Shortly after 6 o'clock the steamer Brightside, which is employed In the cargo service of the company, passed on her way from Manly to Sydney, and she was hailed by the captain of the Narrabeen. With some amount of difficulty hawsers were placed aboard, and the Brightside vainly tried to take the Narrabeen in tow. Many attempts were made, but it was evident from the outset that the Brightside was not sufficiently powerful for the task, and she was unable to make any impression on the disabled steamer.

While these fruitless efforts were being made both the Kuring-gai, which left the city at 5 45 p m, and the Manly, which left town at 6 20 p m, passed the Narrabeen on their way to Manly. On their return trips from Manly to Sydney the Kuring-gai and the Manly slowed down for a few minutes, held some communication with the master of the Narrabeen, and then, to the disappointment of the stranded passengers, stood on their course for the Quay.

After the Narrabeen had been drifting for an hour and a half the Brightside ceased attempts at towing, and the master decided to take off the passengers. This, however, proved no easy task, for both being paddle steamers, it was found exceedingly difficult to moor abreast of one another. Eventually the Brightside was lashed alongside the Narrabeen, and planks were run out, connecting the two vessels, by means of which it was hoped to tranship the passengers.

A nasty swell was running and the operation of transferring so many passengers was attended with some amount of risk, especially as the Narrabeen was in total darkness. Lanterns were hoisted by the cargo vessel, and these threw a glimmer of light on the planks, which were surging to and fro with the movement of the steamers In the swell. The transhipment was necessarily carried on very slowly, and the women and children were agitated.

While the work of transhipment was in progress, at about 7 o'clock, the pilot steamer Captain Cook arrived on the scene to ascertain whether any assistance was needed. The captain of the pilot steamer launched a boat and consulted the skipper of the Narrabeen. As there appeared to be no immediate danger, however, the Captain Cook, after standing by for about half an hour, returned at 7 30 to her anchorage in Watson's Bay.

By 7.40 p m the work of transhipping the passengers had been completed and they were accommodated as far as possible with seats on fruit cases and other packages of cargo. The Brightside safely reached the wharf at Manly at 8 o'clock, and great cheers, partly of an ironical character, were exchanged between the crowds on the the wharf and fore-shores and the belated passengers, who were observed emerging from great stacks of produce in all parts of the ship.

All were safely landed a few minutes after 8 o'clock the voyage from Sydney to the seaside village having occupied nearly three hours. When the passengers last saw the Narrabeen she was drifting midway between Dobroyde Point and North Head. Subsequently, however, the Brightside returned to the disabled vessel, and took her in tow to the company's works, where repairs will be effected. A HARBOUR MISHAP. (1906, August 10). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14792264

With the introduction of the larger Bingarra class, she was modified in 1911 for use as a cargo ferry with derricks fitted at either end. The first Narrabeen was hulked about 1917 and her fate after this is unknown, although she does turn up as being in Berrys' Bay, according to one report, as a hulk in 1927.

The last Manly cargo vessel, Narrabeen (II), was built in 1921, sold soon after in 1928 to the Westernport Bay Shipping Company and then onwards again to a Bass Strait interest - she was wrecked in 1958. 

The Narrabeen Launched

The Narrabeen, the new cargo steamer for the Port Jackson and Manly Company, was launched this morning, from Drake's yards, Balmain. She was named by the builder's little grandson. Those present at the launching were Messrs. F. Doran (manager), Dendy and Burnside (Manly Ferry Company), Fair- weather and Thompson (J. R. Thomson and Sons, and designers of the vessel), and Wilkinson (Mort's Dock). The latter company will engine the vessel. The Narrabeen is a wooden vessel 119 feet long , 26 feet beam, and with a depth of 9½ feet. It is expected that she will maintain a speed of ten knots. Her cargo carrying capacity will be 150 tons. Mr. Doran states that she will be in commission in about three months. MANLY CARGO STEAMER (1921, May 9). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118902228


Without a hitch the new Manly cargo steamer Narrabeen was successfully launched at Drake's yard, Balmain, this morning. The grandson of the builder broke the customary bottle of wine, but apart from the christening ceremony there were no speeches. The new boat rode on the water gracefully, and the Manly Company intends to metal her over before her trial run. Expected to be in commission about three months hence, the Narrabeen is 110ft. long with a beam of 26ft., and a depth of 9ft. 6in. Her carrying capacity amounts to 159 tons, and her engines are expected to generate a speed of ten knots. CARGO-CARRIER (1921, May 9). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 8 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article221475337 

Heading south:

The Manly ferry boat Narrabeen,  en route to Melbourne, on Tuesday, was obliged to make a stop at Wollonogong Harbour, owing to a heavy sea running. WEEK BY WEEK (1928, November 2). South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus (NSW : 1900 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142328134


The new steamer Narrabeen, for Phillip Island, reached Westernport on Saturday. The Narrabeen was built in 1921 for the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Co at a cost of £16,000. Mr A. K. T. Sambell, the owner of the Phillip Island Shipping Service, has spent £1,000 in fitting out the vessel for the special requirements of Westernport. She has accommodation for 500 passengers and about 15 motor-cars. The addition of this vessel will release the s.s. Alviina for a quick passenger and mail service. During the season she will leave Stony Point within 20 minutes of the train arrival. The Narrabeen will pick up cars, goods, and road traffic after the departure of the Alvina. In consequence of the addition of the Narrabeen, the steamer Genista, which for many years carried the whole trade to Phillip Island, has been converted for use as a passenger and car ferry between San Remo and Newhaven, thus providing facilities for a round tour from Melbourne, via Stony Point, returning via San Remo. With the reorganised shipping service new methods will be adopted for the safe and expeditious handling of cars. PHILLIP ISLAND SHIPPING SERVICE. (1928, November 5). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 18. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3967161

Queer cargo for Cowes, postcard, shows Narrabeen II ferry with cargo of elephants - from the Collection of Phillip Island and District Historical Society Inc.

Two conflicting reports:


No Definite Plans For Future 

The only wooden steamer in the Bass Strait trade, the Holyman freighter Narrabeen, which arrived at Town Pier from King Island on Saturday night, will be laid up this week while her future is decided. Although no definite plans have been made she may not enter the islands trade again. Mr. Keith Holyman stated last night that a decision in this regard, would be made during the week. 

A former Phillip Island (Vic.) ferry, the Narrabeen, was bought by the Holyman company and converted for the Bass Strait trade after the wreck of the Colliboi in 1932. The new auxiliary ketch Loatta, which has traded chiefly between Melbourne and North-West ports, is expected from Flinders Island to-day, and will make two trips to the island this week. NARRABEEN TO BE LAID UP (1938, October 17). Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 - 1954), p. 6 (LATEST NEWS EDITION and DAILY.). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52231140



The 23 ton freighter Narrabeen, a unit of the Holyman Line, is to be fitted with Diesel equipment, which was ordered from England about three weeks ago. This will make the vessel more suitable for the islands trade. which it has been carrying on for some time. The Narrabeen, which arrived at Launceston yesterday from King Island, will leave Launceston for the island next Monday, and as soon as possible after its return from that trip will be prepared to receive the Diesel equipment, which will be placed aft. 

The new engines comprise a six-cylinder Crossley 331 horsepower Diesel unit similar to those which were installed in the Loatta. The engines are expected in Tasmania within about three months. The auxiliary ketch Loatta, which has traded chiefly between Melbourne and North-West Coast ports, is expected from Flinders Island to-omorrow, and will make two trips to the islands this week. 

The Narrabeen is a former Phillip Island (Victoria) ferry and was purchased by the Holyman Line and equipped for the Bass Strait trade after the Colliboi was wrecked in 1932. DIESEL EQUIPMENT FOR NARRABEEN (1938, October 17). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 - 1954), p. 5 (DAILY). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article94428133

Narrabeen (III) was commissioned in 1984 as the third of four Freshwater-class ferries, all of which remain in service. The ferries are owned by the Government of New South Wales and operated by Transdev Sydney Ferries since 2012 under the government's Sydney Ferries brand. Transdev won the tender to operate ferries for Sydney until 2028. Their webpage on Sydney Ferries state they have a team of almost 600 staff helping to deliver over 170,000 services for Sydneysiders and visitors every year, with 15 million customer journeys per year. Transdev is a French-based international private public transport operator, with operations in 20 countries. Transdev Australasia is an operator of bus, ferry, light rail and rail services in Sydney, and Australia and New Zealand.

MV Narrabeen was preceded by MV Freshwater (launched March 27, 1982), MV Queenscliff (in service by July 9, 1983) and followed by MV Collaroy (launched 1988 - Collaroy was the vessel used to carry the Olympic torch across Sydney Harbour for the 2000 Sydney Olympics). 

But how did the privately owned ferry service become a public one and then a privately operated one again?; 

Excursionists steamers ran to Manly in the 1850s and regular ferry services catered for residents when real estate developer Henry Gilbert Smith at first hired 'The Brothers' in 1854 to take people to look at land allotments and then established a ferry run in 1859 with 'The Phantom':

Approach to Manly Beach (near) Sydney [a view], 1856? / [S.T. Gill]. Item: c072540001, courtesy State Library of New South Wales.

`Phantom' paddle-steamer at Manly Wharf - The `Phantom' (built in 1858) started on the Manly route in 1859. Item: a089691h, courtesy State Library of New South Wales

Coaches left from and returned to The Pier Hotel, which was opposite the wharf; this continued that way -  View of Manly Beach—" The Pier". (1876, January 29).Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 20. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70588529 

There was no formal Obituary or thanks published for Mr. Smith after his death – just a simple notice and prior to this, in January 1886, advertisements for the selling of his estate/home, named ‘Fairlight’:

SMITH -April 1, at the Langham Hotel, London, Henry Gilbert Smith. Esq., formerly of Fairlight, Manly. Family Notices. (1886, May 19). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13636651 

Succeeding operators included Thomas Heselton:


Captain Thomas Heselton, who since 1856 had been most prominently identified with shipping affairs in this city and in Melbourne, died on Saturday at his residence in Ewenton-street, Balmain East. The deceased captain was born at Whitby, Yorkshire, in 1831. His first voyage was made in connection with the American and Indian trade. He became successively second and chief officer, serving in both capacities for a number of years. At the age of 25 he made hiss first voyage to the colonies arriving in Melbourne in 1850. He was subsequently appointed to the command of the Howard Smith liner, You Yangs one of the first vessels of the company's fleet to run between Melbourne and Sydney. After leaving this vessel he went to England for a trip. 

On his return he settled down and devoted his attention to harbour communication. He purchased the old Manly Beach line of ferry steamers and was prominent in furnishing an up to-date tug service for the port. For eight or nine years he worked the service successfully and afterwards sold out to Mr. Carey. 

He again visited his native land in 1874 and returned in 1876. At the time of his return the Manly ferry service had been formed into a company, known as the Port Jackson steamship Company, and Captain Heselton was appointed to the position of managing director, which he held for a number of years having only relinquished the position about four years ago. He was also managing director of the Old Balmain Steam Ferry Company for a number of years. For the last two years the deceased was a confirmed invalid. He suffered a severe fall about two years ago, whilst on a visit to the Jenolan Caves, and never thoroughly recovered. At the time of his death he was in his 71st year 

He was one of the original founders of the Balmain Bowling Club, and had held the office of president. Yesterday the club's flag was flying at half-mast as a mark of respect. The deceased left one son and a daughter, Mr. W. E. Hesleton and Mrs. A. Kinninmont, his wife having predeceased him some years. Captain Heselton was a director of the Manly Gas Company since it's inception, which position he held up to the time of his death. DEATH OF CAPTAIN HESELTON. (1902, October 20). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14522332

In early 1875 the service was taken over by John Randal Carey, of Carey, Gilles and Company, auctioneers, who, with a syndicate of others, in 1879 started a first version of the Daily Telegraph, which was then a four-page penny newspaper. In 1876 Carey joined with others to form the Port Jackson Steam Boat Company which was incorporated in January 1877. 

Mr. ROBERTSON said two petitions were received for the incorporation of Manly as "Brighton," the first on March 18th, 1876, which however had been mislaid and not recovered. The second was received on July 27, 1876, and a proclamation issued, incorporating the municipality, and the election of aldermen fixed for the 6th proximo. The delay was caused by the necessary formalities of official procedure. No application had reached the office of the Colonial Secretary concerning the want of a public wharf, at Manly. The Government, since the receipt of the first petition granted permission to lease the land at Manly, on which the present pier or a portion of it was situated, to the Port Jackson Steamboat Company on December 15, 1876, for five years, at £25. No application was made by such persons or, any one on their behalf, for such lease, but permission was granted by the Government, before responsible government, to erect the pier, and afterwards to make expensive additions thereto. It became desirable that a figure should be determined for this right of holding this one for five years. Besides it was proposed that some equivalent should be rendered for the occupation; hence the issue of the promise of lease. Tenders under these circumstances for the lease of the land were not called for, nor was it let by auction. Nothing was recorded to the effect that the Colonial Secretary, prior to the granting of such permission, informed the inhabitants of Manly, or any one on their behalf, that they might rest assured that such lease should not be granted, or anything to that effect.

The names of the proprietors of the Port Jackson Steamboat Company are stated to be J. A. Carey, of Sydney; J. B. Watson, of Sandhurst, Victoria ; Jenkin Collier, of Melbourne ; and John Woods, of Manly. NEW SOUTH WALES PARLIAMENT. (1877, January 13). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13392178

In 1881 it was reincorporated as Port Jackson Steamship Company and was opened to public shareholding.


The passenger trade between Manly and the metropolis has made great strides of late years, owing as much to the enterprise of the company, who are engaged in the traffic, as to the natural facilities and advantages of the Brighton of New South Wales as a residential suburb and a watering-place. When the steamer Fairlight was brought to Sydney, her speed and capabilities for carrying passengers materially assisted in rendering Manly accessible from the metropolis : but the company, considering that need had arisen for still further facilitating the traffic, have decided to obtain a larger and swifter steamer for the trade, in furtherance of this idea, Mr. J. Richmond proceeds by the Orient steamship Horata to England to make the necessary arrangements. 

A 900 horse power steamer will be built on the Clyde to the order of the company, which will possess all the advantages of a first-class ocean-going steamship. The vessel will be of steel, with all the latest improvements, and magnificently fitted up. Her dimensions will be— 220 feet length, 23 feet beam, 11 feet 6 inches depth of hold, she will contain the best and latest machinery and steam starting gear ; will be capable, of steaming 16 knots an hour, and of carrying l1500 passengers. She will also be lighted by electricity. In addition ' to the new steamer, a screw passenger boat, for picnics and the occasional Manly trade, has also been ordered. She will be 120 feet in length, 16 feet 6 inches in beam, and 9 feet 6 inches in depth of hold and engines of 350 horse power, which will drive her at the rate of 14 knots per hour. The larger vessel will make the passage to Manly in 20 minutes— a vast improvement on the old 50 minutes trip which rendered that favourite watering place so inconvenient of access. The company whose enterprise is under notice, deserve well of the travelling public, and there is no doubt that their new ventures will bring their own reward in increased dividends and a more extensive trade. Mr. Richmond returns to Sydney in command of the larger vessel, and expects to have both steamers in Port Jackson within 12 months from the present date. THE PORT JACKSON STEAMBOAT COMPANY. (1881, November 26). The Sydney Daily Telegraph (NSW : 1879 -1883), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article238308766

Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company, Paddle Wheeler "Brighton" docking at Circular Quay,  Sydney  - photo circa 1890 - At the time the Manly Jetty was on the west side of Circular Quay, near what is now the Overseas Passenger Terminal. from and courtesy the Powerhouse Museum Tyrell Collection - photo by Henry King.

The company faced tough times during the 1890s depression and, after raising fares, in a dispute with Manly Council in 1893, lost its access to the main Manly wharf. In the same year a group of Manly residents formed the Manly Co-operative Steam Ferry Company Limited as an answer to continuously rising fares for those faced with a water-access only commute to town for work (no bridge at The Spit, nor any Harbour Bridge or decent roads): 


To the editor of the Daily Telegraph,

Sir, — In order to correct certain misrepresentations which have been made as to the proposal I have brought forward in the Manly Municipal Council, will you be kind enough to publish the enclosed proposed report at your early convenience. The matter is of more than local interest, and deserves serious consideration. 

I may add that I have already received several letters from business people in Manly, who know best how great our grievance is, strongly urging me to proceed with the project I have in hand, and one of which is so much to the point that I have asked permission to make use of it. — Yours, etc., March 21. J. A. SCARR. 

At a meeting of the special committee of the whole council Alderman Scarr will move— That the committee report to the council as follows :— 

1. That it is expedient to apply to Parliament for an Act to empower the municipal council of Manly to carry on the steam ferry service between Manly and Sydney, and for that purpose to purchase or lease such steam vessels, wharves, and plant as may be necessary for the service, and to borrow money not to exceed £ upon debentures secured upon sucli steam vessels, wharves, and plant, upon the right to the beneficial occupation of the Manly Pier, and upon a special rate, not to exceed In the pound, on all ratable property in the municipality of Manly, this rate to be considered merely as a security, and to be imposed only in the event of the steam ferry service failing to yield sufficient profit to provide interest on, and a sinking fund for, the retirement of such debentures. 

2. That the council should, under the exceptional circumstances of this case, apply to the Government for a guarantee for the payment of interest on such debentures, on the ground that, while the Government make roads and railways to all other parts of the colony, the residents of Manly have a right to expect at least some assistance In carrying on what should be their best and is at present their only practicable means of communication.

 3. That the council should represent to the Government and Parliament that it is a serious drawback to the prosperity of Manly, and an almost insupportable grievance, that the only practicable means of communication for a large district should be under the control of a company which has so carried on the traffic so as to favor excursionists only, while refusing concessions to the reasonable wishes Of the settled inhabitants. 

4. That there is neither population nor wealth in the district sufficient to justify the formation of a rival company, as has been done at Balmain under similar circumstances, the boats required for the Manly service being necessarily far more expensive. 

5. That it is expedient that an attempt should be made by the council to buy from the Port Jackson Steamship Company their whole interest in the Manly steam ferry service, including the steam vessels Brighton, Fairlight, and Narrabeen, the cargo wharf at Manly Cove, the wharf at Little Manly, and their lease of the jetty at Circular Quay, Sydney— the whole to be valued by competent arbitrators. 

6. That, if such attempt should prove unsuccessful, the council should still endeavour to obtain the powers and guarantee mentioned in the first two of these resolutions, and should ask the Government to allot to them wharf accommodation at the Circular Quay, in order that the council may be enabled to carry on the service with new boats and new plant.

 7. That this committee is of opinion that, though it is advisable to avoid competition in the running of the service by buying out the P.J. S.S. Company in the way suggested, the council are fully entitled to anticipate success in carrying out the scheme now proposed by means of new boats and new plant, inasmuch as, If the company refuse to come to terms, they must necessarily fail to maintain their position when opposed by better vessels than their own, running to a more centrally situated pier than any in their possession. 

8. 'That a public meeting of ratepayers should be called to ask their approval of the proposed action by the council ; and that it should be urged upon them that, besides adding greatly to their convenience, a ferry service run by the municipal council, with competent professional assistance, in the interest of the people only, would atop the depopulation that is now taking place as a consequence of the general dissatisfaction with the existing service, and, by increasing the number of houses and residents, would so lighten the burden of rates for all purposes as to more than make up for the possible risk of the imposition of the spceiul rate proposed as partial security for a loan. MUNICIPAL FERRY SERVICE FOR MANLY. (1893, March 22). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 - 1930), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article235949396

The rival operators engaged in a fare cutting war until the new co-operative was absorbed by the Port Jackson company in May 1896 - one example of these 'disputes':

Manly Ferry Companies.


A little unpleasantness which occurred on June 25 last, near Bradley's Head, on the half-past 6 o'clock trips to Manly of the steamers Conqueror- and Narrabeen, was settled in an amicable way at the Water Police Summons Court --this afternoon. . There was a summons issued by Mr. German, of the new company, against Mr. George Williams, captain of the Narrabeen, for not having, so far as was practicable, kept on that side of the fairway or channel which then lay on his starboard side, contrary to the act, &c- and a similar cross-summons against Mr. James M'Nab, of the Conqueror, by Mr. Chounding, of the old company. After some evidence had been heard in the case against Williams a suggestion was ifcrovm out to the effect that it would be wise if a settlement was effected. Mr. Smithers, ' the sitting magistrate, considered that in the interests of all it would be a judicious course to pursue. Thereupon a retirement was made to an adjoining room, where the parties. with their solicitors, Mr. J. C. M'Lachlan and Mr. Creagh, held a consultation. The outcome as announced by Mr. M'Lachlan was that they thought it would be better to preserve a friendly feeling, and therefore the informations would be withdrawn. Manly Ferry Companies. (1894, July 21). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113324246

The name was then changed to the Port Jackson Co-operative Steamship Company Limited. In August 1907 the company was reincorporated as Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company Limited. Those who held debentures in the co-operative were offered shares in the new company.

During the 1910s and into 1922 the Binngarra class ferries were built to cater to increased trade:

By Manly and Port Jackson Steamship Company - courtesy National Library of Australia [nla.aus-vn3304093-13x]

In November 1971 the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company attracted a takeover bid from diversified transport company Brambles Industries, which was rejected, but a later offer of $2.1 million was accepted in April 1972It soon became evident that Brambles intended to close the service or sell the ships to the State Government at the earliest opportunity. Fare increases and service suspensions followed. The Bellubera was withdrawn from service on December 14th 1973; the Baragoola was to follow early the next year. Public outrage and fears that the service would be suspended entirely led to the government resuming responsibility for the operation of the ferries in 1974.

Concerns about the on-going serviceability of the existing vessels led to a decision to modify the design of the Lady Wakehurst and Lady Northcott, then under construction for use on the inner harbour routes, so that they could be used as relief boats on the Manly run. On August 27th 1974 the public timetable was reduced to only require two ships. The decision to modify the two Lady Class vessels proved fortuitous; as both the North Head (formerly the Barranjoey/Barrenjoey) and the Baragoola had to be sent for major overhauls, and the smaller ferries acted as relief ships while these works were carried out.

During the naming ceremony for the Lady Northcott on February 11th 1975, then Liberal Minister for Transport Wal Fife announced that two new ferries would be introduced to the Manly service within three years.

A study by maritime consultants Burness Corlett Australia was released in July 1976. The study investigated the requirements of new vessels to replace the North Head and Baragoola by 1978. Various configurations were considered, including conventional monohull, catamaran, hovercraft and hydrofoil. Planning ferries of both single and twin-hull configuration were rejected, as such a configuration cannot be double-ended and therefore would have required berthing stern-first. Hydrofoils were also rejected from consideration due to excessive cost and limited passenger capacity. Two options were selected for detailed investigation: monohull and twin-hull, both double-ended and having 1200 passengers capacity. The study recommended the selection of the twin-hull due to the higher service frequency achievable (due to the twin-hull's faster speed of 18 knots versus 14.5 knots), however the study noted that other than this, there was relatively little difference between the options. The twin-hull was designed with dimensions of 63 metres (207 ft) length, 12.8 metres (42 ft) beam, and 3.3 metres (11 ft) draft, while the monohull design was 67 metres (220 ft) length, 11.6 metres (38 ft) beam, and 4.27 metres (14.0 ft) draft. The wider beam of the twin-hull design would exceed the limits of the existing wharves at Circular Quay, and necessitate a reconfiguration of the wharves if selected. Burness Corlett were confident that the twin-hull option was the superior choice, due to service speed and stability through Sydney Heads, and so no model tests were performed for the monohull design.

Burness Corlett predicted that either design would take approximately 21 months to construct, and that if the new ferries were to be introduced in 1978 as planned, an aggressive construction program would have to begin immediately, with tenders to be called no later than April 1976, although records show the report was not released until three months after this date.

After a change of government at the 1976 election, the new Labor government's Transport Minister Peter Cox announced that tenders would be called for the construction of a new "super ferry" in line with the results of the engineering study, to carry up to 1,200 passengers at speeds of 18 knots (33 km/h). On January 9th 1978, the traditional three-ship Manly Ferry timetable was reintroduced. The service was operated with the Baragoola (1922), Barrenjoey (1913), renamed North Head on May 7th 1951, and either the Lady Wakehurst or Lady Northcott. However, the modified Lady class ships were not good substitutes for the two older vessels, as the newer Lady ferries were too small and too slow for the Manly service. 

Following the return of the Labor Government at the State Election on 7 Oct 1978, the Labor Party's Alan Stewart became the Member for Manly, and a bit of a 'hurry up' and order the new Manly ferries naturally followed, although it was still a few years before anything happened. The four Freshwater class ferries were built by the State Dockyard in Newcastle and Carrington Slipways in Tomago. Steelwork for Freshwater, the first, was laid down at the State Dockyard on October 31st 1980. Strike actions delayed her completion until June 1982. The ferry terminals at Circular Quay and Manly were also substantially modified to accommodate the larger ferries, including the installation of wide height-adjustable two-level hydraulic ramps. Additionally a new bus-interchange was built in the wharf forecourt at Manly.

The Freshwater Class ferries all have a capacity for 1100, Speed: 15 knots, Length: 70.4 m, Displacement: 1150 tons. The Freshwater Class ferries have been in service for almost 40 years in the case of those launched first, but a ferry named for Pittwater's beloved 'Barranjoey' served longer than that.

The "Binngarra-class" ferries, which included Binngarra (1905), Burra-Bra (1908), Bellubera (1910), Balgowlah (1912), Barranjoey (1913), and Baragoola (1922), were designed by Mort's Dock and Engineering, initially under the guidance of former chief draughtsman Andrew Christie. The first five were built at Mort's Woolwich yard and Baragoola was built at the Balmain yard. They were among the largest ships built in Australian yards at that time and, on the admission of Mort's executives, were built by the dock more for prestige than profit. Build costs were higher in Australia than in the United Kingdom, but this was offset by the cost of sailing them out to Australia.


"I name' you the 'Barranjoey'!" Crash went a bottle of sherry on the bows of the ship, and on a smooth, even keel the new steamer for the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Co., Ltd., slipped down the ways. There was a crash of breaking timbers, and as the vessel took the water the spray splashed over the taffrail. Two tugs took the Barranjoey quickly in tow, and a few minutes later hammers were going as the busy shipwrights got to work to complete the vessel. The launching took place at Mort's dock this morning, on the top of the tide.

Miss Lettie M'Brlde performed the christening ceremony, the tri-color by which the bottle of wine was suspended being cut up afterwards and distributed as favors. Those present included Mr. J. J. Eyre, chairman of directors of the P.J. and M.S.S. co., and other members - of the directorate, Messrs. B. M'Bride, W. J. Loudon. A. Howie, W. P. Eyre, Hunter M'Pherson, V. Couldery, W H. Couldery, snr., and Mr. F. Doran, manager, Mr. Kelso King, chairman of directors of Mort's Dock and Engineering Co., Mr. J. P. Franki, managing director, Mr. r R King, Works Superintendent, and Mr. Christie, Master of the Dockyard, were also present. 

The Bellubera, with bunting flying, took a crowd of Manly residents up to see the launching, and a whistle from the steamer was the signal for the order, "Let her go". 

As the vessel touched the water the name flag was run up. The Barranjoey is the seventh vessel for the Manly service, and the 37th launched from Mort's Dock. The vessel is a sister ship to the Balgowlah, and is built of steel to Lloyd's highest class, having five watertight bulkheads. The following are the (principal dimensions:— i Length overall, 210ft.; beam, 32ft.; depth moulded, 14ft. 61n. The accommodation will be up-to-date in every way. Ample room is provided for at least 1500 passengers. A wheel-house is provided at each end on specially built navigating bridges with an independent set of Uley-M'Lellen's patent steam steering engines. There is an independent set of Chadburn's telegraph gear in each wheel-house. Telephonic communication from each wheel-house is also provided, thus ensuring the greatest possible security against mishap. The machinery will consist of a set of triple ; expansion engines, having cylinders 18 3-5, 28 1/2 and- 48 5-8 diameter, with a stroke of 27ft., fitted with steam reversing gear. Steam will be provided by two navy-type boilers, each 19ft. 61n. long by 11ft. 8in. diameter, at a working pressure of 1801b. per square inch. Among the auxiliary  engines which will be fitted are an independent centrifugal circulating pump, automatic feed pumps, feed-heater, filters, &c. The indicated horsepower will be about 1500, and the guaranteed speed is 14 knots. 

The electric light installation will be of a very high class from the firm of Roby and Co., and fitted on board by Messrs. Warburton, Franki, Ltd. After the launching there was a gathering in a special marquee, where the Barranjoey was wished a long and profitable life. Mr. Kelso King, in proposing the toast of the P.J. and M.S.S. Co., Ltd., said that Mort's Dock built the first steamer for the company 27 years ago — that was the Narrabeen, which was still in commission, carrying cargo. The company was prepared to pay the best price, and they got the best workmanship — the Barranjoey would still be going strong in 27 years time. Mr. J. . J. Eyre, In reply, expressed a hope that it would not be long before, they witnessed another launching, 'Mr. Franki said that visitors from other parts of the world confirmed the opinion that the Manly Company had the best fleet of ferry boats In the world. The directors of the ferry company presented Miss M'Bride with a bangle of turquoise and gold, and this having been clasped on the young lady's wrist by the chairman of directors she wished, "Long life to the Barranjoey." LAUNCHING THE BARRANJOEY (1913, May 8). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 1 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229847378

The name "Barranjoey" was taken from the headland at the northern tip of Pittwater - when her name changed to 'Barrenjoey' with an 'e' is not clear. Her sea trials were run on September 17th 1913 from near Long Nose Point to the Sow and Pigs and back. One newspaper report said that she exceeded the speed stipulated in the contract by one knot. Following the trials, guests of the company were entertained at a luncheon held on board while she was moored off Cremorne Point. The chairman noted that since the paddle steamer Narrabeen (1886), the combined value of new steamers delivered by Mort's Dock for the company was £170,000. In 1901, the fleet comprised five steamers with a combined capacity of 4,300 passengers. Twelve years later with Barranjoey's introduction, there were eight vessels with a combined capacity of 10,500. The new steamer was placed in service on September 20th 1913, at which time the company's capacity was sufficient and the Baragoola wasn't delivered until 1922.

Barrenjoey on Sydney Harbour, 1920s, before expansion of her wheelhouses.

The cost and difficulty of replacing the large steel-hulled Manly ferries saw them upgraded and modified rather than replaced. In line with regulations requiring improved crew accommodation, facilities were progressively removed from the poorly-ventilated spaces below the main deck. In the 1920s, Barrenjoey along with Bellubera, Balgowlah and Baragoola had officers' cabins attached to their wheelhouses. In the 1940s additional cabins were added to the wheelhouses for the entire crews, which affected the vessels' stability and resulted in reduced passenger capacities from the 1950s. Also in the 1920s, Barrenjoey and the rest of the "Binngarra-class" ferries were fitted with small cafeterias below the main deck aft, but these cafeteria's were removed from the vessels in the 1930s.

In August 1930, Barrenjoey had much of her open upper deck enclosed with reversible and upholstered seating provided making the vessels more suitable for the heavy business traffic, and was kindlier to the travelling public during the colder months and at night.

In 1946, the company decided to convert Balgowlah and Barrenjoey from steam to diesel-electric propulsion, as the cost of replacing the two vessels with new boats was by then prohibitive and post-war scarcity affected even this industry. 

Barrenjoey's last trip as a steamer was on April 12th 1948, when she was withdrawn from service for a survey, which subsequently failed her boilers. By June 30th 1949, the ferry's original builder, Mort's Dock and Engineering, had fitted new hull plates, altered the hull framing, and provided foundation beds for the new equipment. Post-war shortages of labour and materials prolonged the work and increased costs to £261,772 which almost bankrupted the company.

Four seven-cylinder British Thomson-Houston diesel engines were provided which drove two English Electric electric engines. Her new engines generated 2000 bhp and could push her to 16 knots. Her tall single steam funnel was replaced with two short funnels. Her formerly timber superstructure was completely rebuilt with a fully enclosed steel upper deck, wheelhouses further extended, and bows rebuilt to resemble the South Steyne's (1938). With the exception of the outside seating on the main deck, all seating was enclosed and upholstered. The camber on the upper deck was removed, and with the transverse seating being removable, it was possible to hold dances on board while limited catering facilities were provided.

The vessel's new gross and net tonnages was 465.66 and 183.78 respectively. She was permitted to carry 904 on the main deck and 358 persons on the promenade deck with a total seated capacity of 1,005. The rebuild also provided a raked bow and stern in place of the former straight stems. Following sea trials on the May 5th 1951, she was commissioned on May 7th 1951 having been renamed 'North Head'. The vessel's stability had been affected by the new heavier steel superstructure and larger wheelhouses. Life rafts were moved from the sun deck to the fore and aft ends of the promenade deck and sections of the bulwarks were hinged to allow the wooden rafts to be pushed overboard.

Newly rebuilt as North Head and alongside HMAS Vengeance as part of Queen Elizabeth II's first visit to Australia - photo dated March 3rd 1954 - photo by and courtesy Noel Reed

The last four "Binngarra-class" ferries (Balgowlah, Bellubera, Barrenjoey and Baragoola) were all to be modernised and converted to diesel-electric propulsion. However, the company's post-war economic difficulties and the cost of the Barrenjoey's rebuild and diesel conversion almost bankrupted the company. As such, Balgowlah was decommissioned and sold to ship breakers in 1953 and the engines acquired for her went to Baragoola. Upgrades to Bellubera and Baragoola in future years were much more modest in scope retaining their original hull shape and timber superstructures. Bellubera was withdrawn from service in 1973.

In 1964, she was sent to Melbourne under her own power for the Moomba Festival for six weeks. She returned to Melbourne in 1965 and 1967. North Head and Baragoola were included in the sale of the Manly ferry business to Brambles. The NSW Public Transport Commission took over the service in 1974 acquiring North Head and Baragoola. With the arrival of the first two Freshwater class ferries Baragoola was retired. In 1984, with the third new Freshwater class ferry Narrabeen now in service, North Head was withdrawn on December 12th 1985, 72 years after entering service, and making her among the oldest or longest running ferries on the Circular Quay to Manly and Sydney Harbour runs, in all her versions.

On March 26th 1987, North Head departed under its own steam for Hobart for use as a floating restaurant and convention centre. There the ferry underwent significant restoration and cruised the Derwent River for around 13 years until the venture failed. In 2000 she was sold and moved to Port Douglas to be used in the same manner. However, after that venture failed, the ship rotted in a Cairns dock until 2005, when it was sold on eBay to a landscape contractor, who dug a pit and put it in his front yard. Last reports state she was rotting there too. [9.]

We opened with a poem - let's close with a poem from one of our own:


Dusk of a spring Sunday; ferries
Packed with homing cars.
And a two-mile line of tail lights,
Little crimson stars.
Like a spotted snake slow-winding
Through the empty grey
Of the Sabbath streets, and pausing
Doubtful, on its way.

As we wait there are, thank Heaven,
Pleasant things to see;
Half the lamps of Sydney sparkling
Tangled in a tree
On the harbour's steel-blue mirror,
Far and far below,
Jewelled dragonflies and beetles
Skimming to and fro.
Towering flats, their daylight crudeness.
Mercifully dimmed.
Rise against the blue cloisonne,
Of the skyline limned;
Spires and domes and fairy castle!
Climbing up the sky,
While the low last fires of sunset
Deepen, flare and die. . .
Now we move-the stars burn brighter
In the mystic blue
What will be the next bright drop-scene
Hung before the queue-? 


IN THE QUEUE. (1925, November 14). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 11. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16254971

A First Fleet class ferry passes Freshwater class ferry 'Narrabeen' - photo by and courtesy Yewenyi 

"Ferry Patronage - Monthly Comparison". - Retrieved from Transport for NSW

References And Extras

  1. TROVE - National Library of Australia
  2. Prospector Powder Hulk At Towler’s Bay
  3. The Riddles Of The Spit and Church Point: Sailors, Rowers, Builders
  4. Shopping and Shops In Manly: Sales Times From 1856 To 1950 For A Fishing Village
  5. SS Florrie
  6. The Mail Route To Pittwater and Beyond
  7. Newport Wharf History
  8. 2018 Ferry Name Reach For Longevity In An Environment Crusader and An Environment Author To Engage The Young Needs The Gibbs-Turner Original Magic Button
  9. SS Barrenjoey/MV North Head Ferries of Sydney (Archived) and Wikipedia
  10. Anthony M Prescott, The Manly Ferry: a History of the Service and its Operators, 1854-1974 (located at MLMSS 5038). - State Library of NSW.

THE MANLY ferry. 

Mr F. Williams, of the Brisbane- Post Office, forwarded a communication to the Manly Council on Tuesday night enclosing a news, paragraph- from the "Courier" files of August 3, 1865. The article is in reference to the launching of the 'Emu', better, known to Sydney holiday trippers and Manly residents as the Bright-side, which was recently placed on the scrap-heap by the Manly and Port Jackson. S.S. Co., Ltd.

The excerpt is as follows:— 

"The Emu, the largest river, steamer on the Brisbane River, was launched on August-5, at Kangaroo Point, in the presence of a fairly large number of persons. The steamer steadily and majestically glided into the  glittering waters of the Brisbane River, as Miss Raff, daughter of the chairman of: the Q.S.N.- Co., broke the bottle of champagne and named her the Emu. The vessel was designed for the passenger trade between Brisbane and Ipswich, and is  a flat bottomed, double-headed boat, and Will steer from either end! Her length is 170ft. over all,' and' the beam Inside the paddle boxes is 22ft. The vessel will be ready for her trial trip in five or six -weeks." 

The Emu, later the Brightside, was in the service of the Manly Ferry Company for many years as a passenger steamer. With the advent of the twin-screw modern steamers, the Port Jackson Company placed the Brightside on the cargo service, where she continued running for several years, and, gradually becoming entirely obsolete, she was scrapped, and the Narrabeen placed on the run.  THE MANLY FERRY. (1915, August 13). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 - 1930), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article238930227

The Emu was originally owned by Queensland Steam Navigation Company and used on the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay. She was later used on Port Phillip and was brought to Sydney in 1868. She was run by the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company on Sydney Harbour on the Manly run from January 1877 serving alongside ferries PS BrightonSydney's biggest paddle steamer, and Fairlight. The company renamed her Brightside in 1887. She was converted to a cargo vessel in 1902. She continued working the Manly route until 1908 when she was gutted by fire. The hull was converted to a lighter, and broken up in 1909. Her engines were used in a sawmill.

As Emu (II) at Circular Quay, 1886 - image from the collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum on The Commons 

The Brighton and Narrabeen were being used as hulks in the Harbor, and The -Fairlight was a hulk at Brisbane.  When There Were Dairy Farms at Darlinghurst (1927, July 24). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 - 1930), p. 20. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article246987877

New Manly Ferry Launched To-day

In the midst of the din of a hundred sirens, accompanied by the cheers of many spectators, the new Manly ferry steamer Baragoola was launched from the Balmain shipbuilding yard at Mort's Dock this morning.

Mrs. M'Pherson, wife of the chairman of the directors of the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company, performed the christening ceremony by breaking a bottle of Australian wine over the bows of the steamer. Then in a moment the gaily beflagged craft slid down the stocks to the water of the harbor. 

Description of Vessel 

The vessel is of a similar type to the well-known Barranjoey, and has been built entirely in Mort's Dock and Engineering Company, Ltd., at a cost of between £75,000 and £85,000. The dimensions are: Length. 199ft ; beam. 34ft ; depth moulded, 14.6ft. The machinery to be installed will consist of a set of triple expansion engines sup-plied with steam from large navy type boilers, sufficient to drive the vessel at 14 knots an hour. 

Official Luncheon 

Immediately after the launching ceremony those present were the guests of the directors of Mort's Dork at an official luncheon, to mark the occasion. In proposing the toast of the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company. Mr. Cec. Merryvale, chairman of Mort's Dock Company, stated that the late Sir George Reid had once said that wheat and wool where the chief concerns of Australia, and that there was no need for this country to bother about shipbuilding or other similar industries, as other parts of the Empire could attend to these things; but the war had shown us in no uncertain way that Australia was not safe without her manufacturing Industries. The launching of the Baragoola was only one more instance of what could be done in the shipbuilding industry in Sydney. This was the 41st vessel built by Mort's. and represented the eighth boat for the Manly Ferry Company, which had involved the owner in an expenditure covering the past 35 years of nearly a quarter of a million pounds. He congratulated the owners on their patriotic attitude of supporting an Australian shipbuilding industry. 

Splendid Boats 

Mr. H . McPherson (chairman of directors of the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company), in responding, congratulated all who were concerned in the construction of the vessel. It was particularly gratifying, he said, that all the boats built for them at the Balmain works, had given entire satisfaction, and in the past 11 months their fleet had covered 199,360 miles and had crossed the Heads 30,480 times in all weathers. 

He mentioned, however, that his company was strongly opposed to the Government competing with private enterprise in shipbuilding and other industries. He considered it distinctly unfair. There would have to be big reduction in the cost of construction before the company could place another order, as the Baragoola had meant an increase of 190 per cent, over the cost of the other vessels of the fleet. The Barranjoey cost £32,000, and this boat would run into between £75,000 and £80,000. 

As the native name of Baragoola means flood tide, he trusted this would be symbolical of increased activity in Australian shipbuilding circles. Mr. J. P. Franki, managing director of Mort's Dock, referred to the launching of the first Manly steamer, the Narrabeen, in 1886. He stated that, apart from the company's interest in the construction of the vessel. It was a desirable thing that shipbuilding and constructional work should be available for the training of apprentices. He hoped for brighter times in the industry, and a continuance of the good feeling which had been maintained between the Port Jackson Company and his firm for the past 35 years. Other toasts were proposed and responded to by the following: — Commandante Ernesto Burzagli, of the Italian warship Libia, Mr. Fred Doran (general manager. Port Jackson Steamship Company). Mr. E Shirley Chapman. director (P.J. and M.S.S. Coy.), the Mayor of Balmain (Mr. W. Wain-wright), and Mr. R. R. King, manager Mort's Dock. The work of completing the vessel will be pushed on with all possible speed and it is expected she will be in commission with a few months. New Manly Ferry Launched To-day (1922, February 14). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118883066

Baragoola's launch day, 14 February 1922

SS Baragoola Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company Limited publicity postcard October 1922- courtesy Dufty Photography

Lawson Poem

IN 1920 Henry Lawson wrote a poem for the North Shore and Manly Times..

It wasn't published and the odds are that Lawson didn't get anything for it.

It occupied one piece of note-paper and was signed by Lawson and called "Old North Sydney."

The other day it was bought at auction by Mr. James Robert Tyrell for 31 guineas and will be included in his book of reminiscences to be issued at the end of the year. TALK of the TOWN (1951, June 11). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48643919

Old North Sydney
Henry Lawson, (Actually Penned In 1904 According To Some Sources)

They're shifting old North Sydney,
Perhaps 'tis just as well,
They're carting off the houses
Where the old folks used to dwell.
Where only ghosts inhabit
They lay the old shops low;
But the Spirit of North Sydney,
It vanished long ago.

The Spirit of North Sydney,
The good old time and style,
It camped, maybe, at Crow's Nest,
But only for a while.
It left about the season,
Or at the time, perhaps,
When old Inspector Cotter
Transferred his jokes and traps.

A brand new crowd is thronging
The brand new streets aglow
Where the Spirit of North Sydney
Would gossip long ago.
They will not know to-morrow,
Tho' 'twere but yesterday,
Exactly how McMahon's Point
And its ferry used to lay.

The good old friendly spirit
Its sorrows would unfold,
When householders were neighbours
And shop-keeping was old;
But now we're busy strangers,
Our feelings we restrain,
The Spirit of North Sydney
Shall never come again!

Also this one:

 The Horse and Cart Ferry
By Henry Lawson

IT WAS old Jerry Brown,
    Who'd an office in town,
And he used to get jocular, very;
    And he'd go to the Shore
    When they'd serve him no more,
And, of course, by the passenger ferry,
A sight on the passenger ferry.

    Now this is a song of the ferry,
    And a lay of the juice of the berry;
    'Tis the ballad of Brown,
    Who'd a business in town,
    And commenced to go down
        Very slow,
        Don't you know?
    By coming home just a bit merry.

    By the Drunks' Boat-that's right-
    On a Saturday night
He would often be past being merry;
    With his back teeth afloat,
    On the twelve o'clock boat,
And a spectacle there on the ferry
(A picture to all on the ferry).

    In the mornings, ashamed-
    'Twas the last drink he blamed,
Though the first was the matter with Jerry,
    With his nerve out of joint,
    He'd sneak down to Blue's Point,
And he'd cross by the horse-and-cart ferry,
Like a thief-by the horse-and-cart ferry.

    But long before night
    He'd most likely be tight,
And a subject and theme for George Perry;
    And he'd cross to the Shore,
    Somewhat worse than before,
And a nuisance to all on the ferry;
Singing-drunk on the passenger ferry.

    And so it went on
    Till his reason seemed gone,
And the Law, so it seemed, got a derry
    On Brown. He went down,
    And they sent him to town
One day, by "the trap," on the ferry-
The Government trap on the ferry.

    He was sober and sane
    When he came back again,
And the past he'd determined to bury-
    Or, I mean, live it down-
    And he crossed from the town
Like a man, on the passenger ferry.
(There were sceptical souls on that ferry.)

    They say 'twas the jaw
    Of his mother-in-law
Drove him back to the juice of the berry;
    But he soon got afloat
    On the passenger boat
Or adrift on the horse-and-cart ferry
(Wrongly called the ve-hic-ular ferry).

    The drink had him fast,
    And he drank till at last
He dried up-a withered old cherry;
    And they thought him no loss
    When they sent him across
In a box, on the cart-and-horse ferry-
In a low, covered trap on the ferry.

    Which I rise to explain--
    If the moral ain't plain,
And if you're a cove that gets merry--
    Always stick, when "afloat,"
    To the passenger boat;
Or else to the cart-and-horse ferry,
Or you'll make matters worse, like old Jerry.

    But this is the song of the ferry,
    And the lay of the juice of the berry;
    And you will not deny-
    If you read by-and-bye-
    That the casual eye
        Of the Tight
        At first sight
    Misses much in the song of the ferry.

From: Skyline Riders and Other Verses by Henry Lawson
In Full at: 

THESE are songs of the Friends I neglected--
    And the Foes, too, in part;
These are songs that were mostly rejected--
    But songs from my heart

Yours truly,
Sydney, 19/9/1910.

From Album 'Photographs of Henry Lawson in North Sydney including his former residence, 1922 (three weeks prior to his death)  photographed by Phillip Harris'. Image a6161013, courtesy State Library of NSW.


Sydney people themselves do not quite realise the extent to which shipbuilding is carried on in Port Jackson (writes the "Sydney Morning Herald"), and that being the case it is perhaps to be under-stood that people In other States are not to be under a complete misapprehension in regard to the matter.

It will probably surprise 90 per cent, of readers to learn that from 1901 till 1907 (the latest official figures available) no fewer than 22 steam vessels and 72 sailing vessels above the class of sloops and yawls were constructed in this State. The aggregate net tonnage of the steamers built in that period was 6,723, and that of the sailing vessels 3,560,- making a grand ,total of 10,283 tons. When it is considered that by far the greater portion of this construction has taken place in Port Jackson the importance of the industry comes into something like true perspective without any allowance being made for the fact that it has increased strikingly during the past year.

The Government works at Cockatoo Island have come into public prominence owing to the talk there was in regard to the Federal trawler and the controversy now in progress concerning the proposed construction of the Commonwealth war-ship. But this, one of the most complete, establishments of the kind south of the line, has hitherto been practically an unknown quantity in the- mind of the man in the Street in regard to capacity for shipbuilding. It has been accepted in a general kind of way that these works turn out occasional vessels for the Public Works Department, but the number and size of them-vindication of what really can be done-are seldom noted.

As a matter of fact, the "Fitzroy Dock," as it is popularly called, has constructed the Glaucus dredge, of 1,600 tons, and the Groper, 500 tons, together with three or four of about 500 tons, and a whole series with names covering the complete Greek alphabet, from Alpha to Omega, averaging about 300 tons. Further, it has turned out about a dozen tugs, running Up to a tonnage of 600, and 10 hopper barges ranging from 280 tons to G50 tons, to Bay nothing of almost innumerable small craft in the way of launches, etc. When it is remembered that the biggest vessel constructed else-where in Australia amounted to only a few hundred tons it will be realised on a second glance at the above figures how futile it is to suggest that any other port is even nearly on an equality with this.

Apart from the Government works on Cockatoo Island, there are many others on the shores of Port Jackson. The principal one is, of course, the well-known Morts Dock, but there are several others that have successfully carried out big work, and the name of the smaller yards is legion. That the industry as represented by the larger work is by no means of mushroom growth is shown by, say, the instance of the steamer Governor Blackall, 490 tons, which was turned out by Morts Dock as far back as 1871-a vessel which, by the way, is still afloat. There is also the Ajax, 344 tons, now on duty as pilot steamer at Newcastle, which was con-structed at the same works in 1874.

Glancing casually down a list of locally-built steamers, we see quite a number running between 300 tons and 500 tons. Among them are the Alice, 352 tons; the Port Jackson Company's ferry steamer Bingarra, 4-12 tons; the same company's Burn-Bra, 4C0 tons, and their Kuring-gai, 497 tons; the pilot steamer Captain Cook, 398 tons; the Sydney Ferries' Kai-kai, 307 tons; the old Leichhardt, about 400 tons; and too North Coast Company s Nerong, 219 tons. Then in a smaller classes are such vessels as the Sydney Ferries' Koree, 276 tons; the coaster Kiltobranks, 272 tons; the Port Jackson Ferry Company's Narrabeen, 239 tons; the Coo-loon, 238 tons; the Friendship, a sea-going wooden steamer,-214, tons; while the vessels between 100 tons and 150 tons would make a long list indeed. The vessels named are but a few picked casually from the list, but in themselves they are sufficient to emphasise the absurdity of comparing the industry here with that of any other State in the Commonwealth.

In regard to docking accommodation also Sydney stands very easily first. Old prints show H.M.S. Curacoa in the Fitzroy dry dock as far back as 1865, and since then there has been ample accommodation for any vessel that has over required t it. On Cockatoo Island there are the Sutherland and Fitzroy docks, with lengths of 638ft. and 506ft respectively, oapable of taking vessels drawing up to 32ft and 21Jft. Morts Dock at Woolwich is now being made 675ft. in. length, but when completed it will have a length of no less than 763ft It can take a vessel drawing 28ft This firm's dock at Balmain is 640ft. in length, and can rake a vessel with a draught of 18ft At Johnstone's Bay the same company has the Jubilee floating dock, 'by far the biggest floating construction ever carried out in Australia (about 4,000 tons). This has a length of 317ft. and a lifting power of 1,500 tons. A smaller dock has a length of 100ft. with a lifting power of 120 tons, while at Woolwich the company's pontoon dock has a length of 195 ft. and a similar lifting power to that of the Jubilee dock. At Waterview Bay Rowntree's floating dock" has a length of 160ft. and a lifting power of 474 tons, and Drake's dock at White Bay is 150ft long, and has a lifting power of 300 tons. Added to these facilities, Mort's Dock and Engineering Company have three patent slips at Balmain with lengths running up to 270ft. and lifting power up to 1,500 tons.  SHIPBUILDING. (1909, May 11). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved  from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9981700

Mort's Dock is a former dry dock, slipway, and shipyard in Balmain, New South Wales, Australia. It was the first dry dock in Australia, opening for business in 1855 and closing more than a century later in 1959. The site is now parkland. The surviving remnants were added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 14 January 2011.

Mort Bay was originally known as Waterview Bay, and at the corner of the bay was the mouth of a small stream which ran down from Balmain Hill through the valley of Strathean. On its way to the harbour, the stream collected in small waterholes known as the "Curtis Waterholes" after the then landowner James Curtis.

In 1842 James Reynolds purchased from Curtis an area of land bounded by what is now Curtis Road down to the water front between Mort and Church Streets, dammed the stream, built a stone house called "Strathean Cottage" and sold fresh water to the ships anchored in the deep calm waters of the Bay.

The land was then sold to Captain Thomas Rowntree in 1853, who recognised the site as a prime location for a patent slip. To finance his venture, Rowntree sold his ship the "Lizzie Webber" and in doing so, met auctioneer, Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. With partner, merchant J.S. Mitchell, Rowntree had formed the Waterview Bay Dry Dock Company. Rowntree had arrived in NSW in 1852, owning much land. He'd built the "Lizzie Webber" to carry English passengers to the goldfields and for Australian coastal trading. Mort further recognised the necessity for Sydney to provide docking facilities for ships needing repairs in the Colony, as at that time there were no such facilities south of Bombay (modern Mumbai), India. The location was ideal.

Proprietor and landlord Thomas Sutcliffe Mort had a flair for money-making. Building a dry-dock here, he created a building boom and large-scale development. Born in Bolton, Lancashire and comfortably raised, he'd arrived here in 1838, working as a clerk and rising rapidly. By late 1843 Mort was organising wool auctions (the first to be held solely for wool), later of livestock and property. Organising wool sales in London, he was one of our first exporters and laid a pattern for future wool brokers. Mort's Wool Store at Circular Quay was designed by Edmund Blacket, on the site of today's AMP centre. By 1850 Mort was Sydney's leading auctioneer with a fortune from land speculation in search of port space for his wool vessels.

Photograph of Mort Building, Circular Quay, ca. 1886-1900 [copies] / H.King; Kerry & Co. Item: a1780112h, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Thomas Mort in horsedrawn trap, Mort's Dock, Item a1780033h, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Mort's Dock was the brainchild of industrialist Mort and former steamship captain T. S. Rountree (or Rowntree). Steam ships had first appeared in Sydney Harbour in 1853 but no repair or maintenance facilities existed to cater for the new vessels. In 1854, Mort and Rowntree purchased an area of land at Waterview Bay on the northern side of the Balmain peninsula and excavated a dry dock measuring 123 by 15 metres (404 by 49 ft).

Rowntree and Mort formed the Waterview Bay Dry Dock Company (later Mort's Dock & Engineering Company) in 1853 and built Australia's first dry dock and patent slip on the site. Recognising the need, and despite the Government building a dry dock at Cockatoo Island, he started. He offered incentives: on completion, workers got a freehold block of land. The dock was operational by March 1855, one year before the Fitzroy Dock at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Subdivisions and sales of Waterview Bay land followed the development, values spiralling when it opened. The first vessel serviced at the new Mort's Dock was the SS Hunter, a coastal mail steamer running between Sydney and Newcastle.

Mort had bought large tracts and as needs arose, sold. When the dock needed extensions (1866 and 1875), he met costs with more sales. By 1877 80% of the estate was settled by a working class population. The elite who had settled the area from the 1840s objected to pollution and industrial impediments to "their" marine views.

Balmain [Mort's Dock] - 1887 - by New South Wales. Government Printing Office, Image No.: a5589001h, Album ID : 975163, Courtesy State Library of NSW.

Despite being the only commercial repair facility for steamers, the dock was not as profitable as expected and by 1861 Mort and Rountree had leased the majority of the surrounding land for cargo storage, minor engineering and an iron and brass foundry. In 1867, Mort's Dock became principally an engineering facility; including the construction of steam locomotives, ship machinery, mining equipment and steel pipe for the Sydney Water Board. Mort had ceased partnership with Rowntree and taken another partner in Thomas McArthur, superintendent engineer of the Australian Steam Navigation Co. When McArthur died, Mort sold his shares to his foreman and his manager, possibly to guard against growing unionism, or improve flagging productivity. Balmain had become a focus for activity because of the dock, where at least two unions were busy. Dock manager James Peter Franki continued to manage the dock for 50 years finally retiring in 1922. Ship construction and repairs continued at the dry dock and immediate surrounds.

The company become the largest private employer in the colony, a cornerstone of the union movement and birthplace of the Australian Labor Party (then the Labor Electoral League), founded at this dock in 1891 by Balmain Unionists, who fielded 4 candidates in State elections. Having bought a copper mine in Queensland and a coal mine in Newcastle, Mort added an iron and brass foundry, boiler-making facilities and a patent slip at Balmain. In 1870 the dock assembled the first locally produced locomotive.

In 1901 the company opened a second dry dock (Woolwich Dock) and slipway to cater for increased demand and by 1917 the Dock had built 39 steamships, 7 Manly ferries, pumping engines for the Waverley and Crown Street reservoirs and the ironwork for the Sydney GPO. In the interwar period an iron foundry was constructed, a slipway and floating dock purchased and it had a virtual monopoly on local industry.

The outbreak of World War II proved to be a boom time for Mort's Dock. The 1920s and 1930s had seen a decline in the Royal Australian Navy with few vessels constructed and older ships sold off or scrapped. Japan's entry into the war led to a sudden demand for coastal protection and increased offensive power in the Pacific Ocean. Between 1940 and 1945, Mort's Dock constructed fourteen of the sixty Bathurst-class corvettes built in Australia during the war, as well as four of the twelve River-class frigates. By the end of the war Mort's Dock was second only to the Cockatoo Island dockyard in the number of naval vessels produced.

Shipbuilding once again declined in the post-war period, and revenue from engineering leases fell as firms relocated to cheaper land in western Sydney. The dock's death knell was the introduction of container shipping in the 1960s. Mort's Dock closed in 1958, Mort's Dock and Engineering Company went into liquidation in 1959 and ceased trading completely in 1968. The site was purchased by ANL in 1960. The derelict Mort's Dock site was levelled and converted into a container storage terminal for ships berthing at Glebe Island and White Bay in 1965; its buildings were demolished and the dock filled in for new wharves to create its newest container facility. The backfill preserved the dry dock and other in situ remains providing a high archaeological potential and fabric integrity. - From "Mort's Dock". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage and Barnard, Alan (1974). "Mort, Thomas Sutcliffe (1816–1878)". Australian Dictionary of Biography

Launch of the Captain Cook: Launch of the pilot steamer 'Captain Cook' at Mort's Dock and Engineering Co. Works, Waterview Bay. Dated: 7 December 1892 Digital ID: 9856_a017_A017000135 - courtesy State Records OF NSW

Royal Australian historical Society
Vol. XXI.
Part I.

Sydney’s Ferry Boats.

The Society does not hold itself responsible for statements made or opinions expressed by authors of the papers published in this Journal.

By HAROLD NORRIE, M.B., Ch.M. (Past President).

(Read before the Society, October 30, 1934.)

With the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge the dream of a century was realised, and in the short time which has elapsed since that great event Sydney has settled down to an entirely changed set of conditions with regard to her transport problems, and is taking the change as a matter of course.

Prior to March 19, 1932, Sydney possessed the finest ferry services in the world. Circular Quay was one of the busiest places in the city, the hub of Sydney, as it had been for nearly a hundred and fifty years. With the cutting of the silken ribbon all that was changed. An arch of steel had linked the northern with the southern shore, and the whistling ferries blowing ‘ ‘ cock-a-doodle-doos ’ ’ as the mighty structure was declared open were like so many doomed gladiators shouting Ave Caesar Ave, Morituri te salutant.”

We alone of this generation have seen the rise and fall of the ferries : we alone can realise how the ferry services of Sydney progressed and reached the zenith of their importance/ Others will see their retrogression.

One thinks of the line: —

“And one by one crept silently to rest."

Gradually many of the others will follow, but before they do, before they are forgotten, before a new generation comes which knew them not, I come to sing their Swan-song to you who have known them and loved them as I have. I am well aware that there are many omissions and many shortcomings in this paper, but I shall welcome any information from members and others which will assist me in compiling a further paper on the subject.

Before any description can be given of the ferries of the past thirty years—“our ferries” so to speak—the story of the development of ferry services during the preceding century must first be told.

Transport across Sydney Harbour by boat dates from the very earliest days of the settlement, and it was not long before a more or less regular service of ships’ boats travelled between Sydney and North Shore, to aid settlers in seeking succulent grass for their stock and the coarser grass for thatching, both of which grew there in greater profusion than on the southern shore.

But the young colony was not very long in being when the outpost at Rose Hill was established, and communication between there and Sydney had to be maintained. Being a nautical community, this was arranged for at first by ships ’ boats, and any attempt at road communication was frowned on by those in command.

But ships’ boats belonged to the ships, and, as these had to be sent away within a short time of their arrival, the uncertainty of having a boat available when required constrained Governor Phillip, in spite of his instructions not to permit shipbuilding, to construct one locally, for the special purpose of establishing regular communication with the distant settlement at Parramatta.

Instructions issued to Phillip dated April 25, 1787, read; -

Whereas it is our royal intention that every sort of intercourse between the intended settlement at Botany Bay or other place which may be hereafter established on the coast of New South Wales and its dependencies, and the settlements of our East India Company, as well as the coast of China, and the islands situated in that part of the world, to which any intercourse has been established by any European Nation, should be prevented by every possible means ;

It is our Royal Will and Pleasure that you do not on any account allow craft of any sort to be built for the use of private individuals which might enable them to effect such intercourse, and that you do prevent any vessels which may at any time hereafter arrive at the said settlements from any of the ports before mentioned from having any communication with any of the inhabitants residing within your government, without first receiving a special permission from you for that purpose.

Accordingly on December 30, 1788, the keel was laid of a ten-ton ferry, to be known as The Rose Hill Packet, in a boathouse built for the purpose about on the site of the present Custom House, that was afterwards allotted to Rev. Richard Johnson as the only place available for divine service.

Built of local hardwood, the Rose Hill Packet was rather heavy and unwieldly, and when after being launched on October 3, 1789, she took up her run, she was more frequently known by her nick-name, The Lump, than by her official title. Unfortunately no picture of Australia’s first shipbuilding venture is extant, so we know nothing for certain of her appearance. Indeed very little is recorded of this remarkable vessel; she is noted as needing repairs in September, 1800, but after that she entirely disappears from the records.

It would seem, too, that Phillip still further disregarded the Royal Will and Pleasure in the years which followed, for not only were several keels laid for Government vessels, but, from whatever sources they were obtained, privately-owned boats became available for hire within five years of the establishment of the colony. Of these, those who regularly plied between Sydney and Parramatta were obliged to be licensed and their owners to enter a bond for the due performance of their duties. The amount of this bond was £8O for the licensed waterman himself and £25 for each man employed by him. Prior to the introduction of these regulations, passenger boats like the Government punt for the transport of heavy cargo came and went at the caprice of their owners or depended on the vagaries of the wind and tide. But with the licensing of approved boatmen they were ordered to leave each end daily at 11 o’clock a.m.

Despite the Royal ban, shipbuilding continued, with the boats being made larger to meet the needs of increasing traffic. So much was this the case that on March 16, 1811, Governor Macquarie issued an order that:—

Vessels arriving from the Hawkesbury, Parramatta or Kissing Point must go to the Market Wharf in Cockle Bay instead of the Hospital wharf as heretofore.

There would appear to have been little or no change in the general condition of things except that, not only were licensed ferrymen plying to Parramatta River ports, but more or less regular services were run to the North Shore by the famous “Old Commodore” Billy Blue. In fact in cases where it was only necessary to make a personal visit to town, unimpeded by baggage, people came from as far afield as Pittwater to Sydney by way of Blue’s Point instead of the long way by road via Parramatta. The more adventurous even came by way of Manly when conditions were favourable.

The first regular Manly ferry, however, appears to have been that established by one Barney Kearns, or Kerrins, who plied for hire at regular intervals from Middle Harbour (Balmoral) to Bilgooley (Balgowlah) in other words, North Harbour; Condamine Street, throughout its length, being then part of the road to Pittwater.

Exactly when this service was commenced is somewhat uncertain, but it was a going concern with a fixed rate of one shilling and sixpence per head and a regular time-table in 1830. (There is some evidence also of a ferry of some sort between Folly Point and the other side of Middle Harbour about this time —perhaps some member will be able to give me some information on this point.)

The year before that, however (1829), saw a definite move made to shorten the distance between Sydney and Pittwater, as the result of a public meeting held in 1828 to urge the Government to establish a vehicular ferry across the harbour at its narrowest point, viz., “between the Five Docks and Kissing Point.” Reporting this meeting, the Australian Quarterly pointed out that “the whole project could be carried out for the sum of £130, including the appurtenances.” In a footnote the journal adds : “Some people were of the opinion that a punt should be established between Sydney and Billy Blue’s Point, but we hasten to point out that we are planning for the present and not for our great-grandchildren posterity must look after itself. ”

The old Bedlam ferry replaced the original Kissing Point ferry soon after its inception, but its appearance in 1854 would be little, if any, different from that of an •earlier day. Contemporary reports of the complaints  made by the users of the ferry concerning the sins of omission and commission by the puntman are probably responsible for the issue of the notice in the Gazette during 1834 calling for tenders for “the leasing of tolls and ferries, including Bedlam Ferry.

Arrival of the “Sophia Jane” in Sydney Harbour, May 15, 1831. -(From painting by Dickson Gregory.)

Then steam came to Sydney. This was the most spectacular and epoch-making event which occurred on Sydney Harbour between the launching of The Lump and the recent opening of the Bridge. The laurels have been awarded to the Sophia Jane, which was, as the Sydney Gazette of May 17, 1831, said at that time, ‘‘the first vessel to turn a paddle in Sydney Harbour ’ ; but credit must be given to local enterprise, local skill, and local labour for having really put steam on the harbour. This was only twelve years after the first ocean-going steamer Jiad made a trip of any length, and seven years before the first British steamer had crossed the Atlantic.

The Smith Brothers were the first to take their courage in both hands and send to England for an engine. In the meantime they proceeded to have a boat constructed in which to install it. A wooden vessel of some forty tons and copper-fastened was built by Millard, of Neutral Bay, and launched on March 31, 1831, six weeks before the Sophia Jane arrived. Reporting the event, The Australian of April 1, 1831, stated:—

Yesterday the first steam vessel that ever appeared in this country was launched off amidst flying colours and the acclamation of some hundreds of spectators in boats whom the novelty of the scene drew to the spot, from Mr. Millard’s the builder’s slip at Neutral Harbour North Shore at the top of the water : and soon she floated in her native element. This maiden specimen of steam naval architecture does infinite credit to Mr. Millard. She is a beautiful model and appears to be well constructed for a clipper of light draught, she measures near 400 tons [Obviously a mis-print for 40]. H. N.l, and will carry a 10 h.p. steam engine .... she is to ply with goods and passengers between Sydney and Parramatta and will prove a valuable acquisition to both places. We wish her owners Messrs. Smith & Brothers every success which the enterprise deserves. In about four weeks more the Surprise so she is christened will be ready to enliven the Parramatta River.

Unfortunately this last prediction was not realised. The final touches, together with the fitting of engines, occupied not four, but eight weeks, with the result that the Surprise , the first steam ferry, was not the first steam vessel in Australian waters. *

The little “clipper’ ’ was 80 feet in length and drew only two and a half feet of water. She ran her first trip on June 2, 1831, and took three and a half hours to go from Sydney to Parramatta. Later on she did better, averaging about four and a half miles per hour. She ran a regular ferry service between the two places on days during the remainder of that year, at fares of two shillings and two shillings and sixpence (first class)  each way. On Sundays and holidays she ran harbour trips. This practice of running harbour excursions on Sundays by this and other later vessels roused the indignation of a correspondent in the Colonist , who wrote that :

These Sunday trips are run by a company of ungodly men who are willing to fill their pockets with the fruit of their own profaneness.*

*Colonist, March 12, 1833.

The Surprise, however, did not fulfil the hopes which, her coming had raised, so after the end of 1831 she was taken off the river and refitted for the trip to Hobart, whence she departed on February 1, 1832. There she became Hobart’s first ferry boat, and was also used for towing.

The Sophia Jane must be mentioned again at this juncture, though she was not at any time regarded as a ferry boat, yet, like many of her contemporaries, she made trips on the Parramatta River and on the Harbour. Built in 1826 by Barnes and Miller, pupils of the famous James Watt, she was intended for the English Channel trade. She was described as “one of the fastest vessels ever built; she frequently towed ships of the largest class.” Her length is given as 126 feet, beam 20 feet; tonnage, 250 by measurement and 150 register. She was of fifty horse-power, and in smooth water could steam eight miles per hour. She was mostly engaged in this country in the Newcastle trade, and in towing. After ten years’ service here she was broken up, and her engines were fitted into a locally-built hull, slightly longer and of less beam, and  renamed the Phoenix.

This latter vessel was not used as a ferry any more than was the Sophia Jane, but comes within the scope of this paper in that another boat, the Kangaroo, was built for the Parramatta River trade, because the Phoenix had been built for the Newcastle trade. The differences between the rival proprietors, however, were mutually settled, and the Kangaroo went to Melbourne to start Melbourne’s ferry services. It is interesting to note in passing that she carried on this work for sixty years before being broken up.

The success of the Surprise, that is to say, of a vessel built purely for harbour traffic, would seem to have been the starting point for the establishment of regular ferry services in Sydney, for scarcely had the Surprise been taken off the run than one of the Singletons conceived the idea, that a less expensive method of propulsion might succeed where steam had apparently failed. Early in 1832 he laid the keel of a boat 80 feet long and 127 feet beam of 37 tons measurement, drawing two feet of water, and capable of carrying twenty tons of cargo.

She was named the Experiment, and was propelled by paddle-wheels driven by horse power. For her owner she was a costly experiment, as after the construction of some £1800 on construction, etc., and running for two months, he sold the hull for £4OO. Nevertheless, she was able to do the trip from Sydney to Parramatta in three and a half hours or less, and her subsequent history shows how well she was built. She was bought at the end of 1833 by Edye Manning and fitted with a 12 horse-power engine. She was commissioned as a steamer on April 9, 1835, and ran as a passenger and cargo boat and as a tug for the next five years, with only two days “off” for overhaul. In 1846 she went to Brisbane to inaugurate the Brisbane to Ipswich service, and, after three years thus engaged, was made a hulk and her engines transferred to the Hawk. In the meantime, in 1833, as the result of a meeting held on April 13 of that year, the Australian Conveyance Company was formed, and it was decided to immediately build a boat at the cost of £2OOO for the Parramatta service. The new steamer was named the Australia, and was of 12-18 horse-power. She was launched in 1834, and so successful was the project that in February, 1836, the company paid a dividend of 38 per cent. Time, however, was not the vital factor in those distant days than it is now, and, in spite of the rapid transport afforded to riverside dwellers by the advent of steam, sailing craft were still used to a considerable extent. These vessels could carry produce and cargo more cheaply, and thus gave definite challenge to the steamers.

Another factor which entered into the position at this time was road transport. In spite of the bad condition of the Parramatta Road and the immensely greater safety of river transport owing to its immunity from bushrangers, the road claimed its share of inter-urban traffic. About this time, too, the establishment of a vehicular ferry across the Parramatta River at the Five Docks (Abbotsford to Kissing Point) had given road communication on the northern side of the harbour a definite fillip. In 1834 the Government notified this ferry among others for tender, thus further bringing it under public notice. The result of these factors in combination, however, was to extend the settled area and to arouse keener competition, and the time factor now began to enter. In addition, North Shore began to wonder why it was so far from Sydney.

The Ryde punt enters the picture in the year 1836, and in the following year another new steamer, the Rapid, joined the fleet. She was an iron steamer built of plates brought out from England, and fitted with a copper boiler. She was the first double-ender in Sydney, and her relatively high horse-power (twenty) enabled her to do the trip from Sydney to Parramatta in the amazingly short time of one and a half hours. After a long and useful career, during which she had her share in other services than the Sydney—Parramatta run, she went ashore at Glebe Point. Here her engines and boilers were removed in 1853, and, like Pegotty’s House in Charles Dickens’ story, she became the home of an old boatman. Suggate, the ferryman, and his family lived there for many years, until the Council removed her in order that the sea wall might be completed.

Two other boats came on the scene at about this time, viz., the Kangaroo and the Raven. Mention has already been made of the causes which led up to the building of the former, and her subsequent transfer to Melbourne to take up running between Melbourne and Sandridge (now Port Melbourne). A somewhat similar set of conditions led to the Raven being built. She, too, was intended for service on Sydney Harbour, but after satisfactory arrangements had been made to avoid unnecessary competition, the Raven went to Brisbane. Wrecked on the way back to Sydney on one trip, she was repaired sufficiently to enable her to be towed to Sydney, but on arrival here, as it was found that the hull was too badly damaged to be worth repairing, she was dismantled and the engines were fitted subsequently to a vessel called the Ballarat, built at Pyrmont in 1854.

The year 1840 is to be remembered also, in that it was in that year that Jules Joubert first came to Sydney. Although he did not at once enter into active control of a ferry service, his association with Hunter’s Hill and its ferry services makes the date memorable.

In 1841 the keel was laid for a vessel which marked the inauguration of a definite regular ferry service between Sydney and the North Shore, and from then onwards the question of trans-harbour transport would seem to have been dominated entirely by steam. In 1842 the Princess, a double-ended steam paddle punt fitted for the carriage of vehicles as well as passengers, commenced running between Dawes Point and  Blue’s Point “at regular intervals between dawn and dusk. Fares passengers 3d, Horses 1/- carriages and carts 2/6d.”

In spite of the great convenience which this service must have been to the people of North Shore, the “regular service ’ ’ only lasted about fifteen months. The reason for this may have been that, whereas the trip to Parramatta wharves took longer, it always included cargo in each direction, the trip across the harbour might be only for one or two persons and might involve a return trip without a passenger at all. Moreover, in the interval between trips the larger boats could tow sailing craft up or down the harbour, and thus turn to account time which was a source of loss to the Princess. Thus, after bravely carrying on for a little over a year, she was taken off and her engines removed. They were afterwards installed in a flour mill at East Maitland, a recent announcement in the Press having recorded the termination of a life of usefulness.

The demand for steam shipping continued, however, and the same year saw the importation and assembling of a new iron vessel, the Emu, a goodly steamer of 65 tons, 94 feet long, 14 feet beam and 6 feet deep, drawing three and a half feet of water, and propelled by two 14 feet paddle wheels driven by a 30 horse-power engine. She was a great success from the beginning and a keen rival to the Australia, so much so that when another competitor, the Comet, entered into competition, the Australia was withdrawn from the Parramatta trade and commenced a service to Balmain, Five Dock, and Farryowen (Iron Cove).

The Comet was a wooden vessel built at Clarence Town in 1843. She was 99 feet long, 15 feet beam, 6 1/2 feet deep, and drew three feet of water. Her 35 horse-power engines drove 14 feet paddle-wheels. She ran on the Parramatta River until 1852, when she was bought by a syndicate of which the late T. S. Mort was a member. In the following year she was resold for £3100 and sent to Melbourne.

This syndicate would appear to have created somewhat of a corner in harbour transport in the ’fifties, a condition of affairs brought about no doubt by unprofitable or illogical competition ten years or so earlier. For example, soon after the Comet was put in commission, the Native, 60 feet long and 12 horse-power, was launched in 1844 with disastrous results, until the rival vessels came under the same proprietary.

About this time, too, a double-ended paddle boat called the Waterman, 50 feet long with an 8 horse-power engine, ran to Balmain. The Australia was already catering for this trade to some extent, but by 1845 we  find the Gypsy Queen running to Johnstone’s Bay, while in the same year Thomas and James Gerrard had a steamer built for them by Chowne to run from Windmill Street to Blue’s Point. This was the Ferry  Queen, a small paddle-wheel steamer for the conveyance of passengers only, but catering for the transport of vehicles and cattle when occasion demanded by towing one or two punts alongside. With her advent uninterrupted ferry communication with the North Shore may be said to have commenced.

So successful was this venture that two years after the Ferry Queen was commissioned another vessel of 12 tons, The Brothers, was built for the service, while a little later the screw steamer Agenoria was built and put on the run as well as doing harbour trips and towing.

For the next five years or so the boats then available seem to have been sufficient to cope with the requirements, but in 1851 a further movement took place. Changes in ownership in the meantime had been effected. Waterhouse had bought the Ferry Queen from the Gerrards, and a Mr. Hall had commenced an opposition service with an iron vessel, the Herald, in 1849. The Herald, however, found towing more profitable than ferrying at times, with the result that there was always a glorious uncertainty that one might have to wait the return of the boat from towing a ship out through the Heads before one could cross the Harbour.

Circular Quay, Sydney, in 1866. The auxiliary vessel is the “Great Victcrian” and the paddle-wheel ferry steamer is the “Herald.” —(Photo, by H. R. Allerding.)

In 1851, however, the Agenoria went to Melbourne, where she ran for many years. The Gypsy Queen took up the Dawes Point to Blue’s Point run, to be joined by the Victor in the following year, while the Ferry Queen and the Herald catered for the Milson’s Point traffic when nothing more profitable offered.

On September 21, 1852, “a new steam ferry boat, the Star, was launched from the slip at Balmain.”* With 25 horse-power engines high pressure (35 lbs. per square inch), she would seem to have gone mainly into the Parramatta service, for she is noted as one of the steamers which would conform to the new time-table published in the Sydney Herald in 1853 notifying the public that “The hours of starting this week will be as follows:—From Parramatta 8 a.m. and 1.30 p.m., and from Sydney at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Phoenix Wharf.”

*Vide Evening News, September 21, 1902 : “From the papers  of 50 years ago.”

The year 1853 marked the beginning of the activities of the syndicate previously referred to. They bought the Emu and the Comet, together with the engine and boilers of the Rapid, for £5500; put a new boiler in the Emu and ordered two new boats in frame in England, the sale of the Comet for £3IOO being a nice offset to this expenditure. In the following year the first of the new boats, the Black Swan, was ready, and early in 1855 the Pelican also took her place on the harbour. In 1856 the Victoria was purchased. Alterations and repairs were effected, which added £IOOO to her cost price of £3575, but she was evidently a good proposition, because a further sum of nearly £3OOO was spent on lengthening her in 1860.

This syndicate also bought the Star, though they did not keep her very long. Nevertheless, during the period she earned nearly her original cost, and was sold for over £6OO more than her purchase price. Other vessels operated by the syndicate later were the Peri and the Pearl. Both of these were purchased in 1865, and I mention them here merely in passing, as we shall see them later in another activity. It might be fitting to refer here to the difficulty which sometimes arises in arriving at the fate of some of these boats, as often there were two or more boats of the same name. For example, an Emu was converted into a schooner in 1846. I cannot trace this boat at all, except that she was obviously not the steamer we have just been considering. One Emu is identified definitely by the record in the Newcastle Herald of December 5, 1934, A 1 from files of 50 years ago,” stating:—

A message from the master states that the paddle steamer Emu has become a total wreck at the entrance to the Bellenger River.

This vessel was built in England in 1842 for Messrs. Manning and Byrnes. Another Emu, a vessel of 131 tons, was wrecked at Crowdy Head in 1888, she being a much larger vessel; there was also a tug Emu —a paddle-boat some time in Sydney, but mostly at Newcastle, and only lately gone out of service. Again, there was the double-ended paddle-ferry boat which came from Victoria and ran to Manly. She was laid up in Neutral Bay for many moons, but was refurbished during the ’nineties and was re-named the Brightside.

Similar confusion seems to have arisen with regard to the Ferry Queen, some old records referring to her as the Faery Queen. A steamer called the Fairie Queen, owned by one W. Manton, was built in Melbourne in 1841, but was never in Sydney. Gerrard Brothers’ boat was not built until 1845, and, if by any chance was named the Faery Queen to commence with, the “ae” was soon changed to “er” to read Ferry Queen.

Later on I will refer to the Courier, which ran to Watson’s Bay. She was a screw steamer some 90 feet in length, and commenced running in 1888; she is still afloat, and is used for towing in the harbour. In the same year, however, as the Sydney vessel was commissioned, a much larger vessel was built in Melbourne for the “Bay” trade, and is still running carrying passengers. In view of the number of boats which commenced life in one port and finished in another, it is easy to see how these mistakes arise.

Reverting to the cross-harbour traffic, 1855 saw a more or less regular service maintained to Milson’s Point by the Herald and the Ferry Queen, while the Dawes Point service continued as before. The necessity for two lines of boats to North Shore was due, not so much to increasing population on the north side of the harbour as to the ships which lay over there either waiting for cargo or taking ballast; but by 1860 the population had increased sufficiently to induce James Milson, Charles Firth, Francis Lord, William Tucker and Thomas Laurie to form a company, The North Shore Ferry Company, to run a regular service between the recently formed Circular Quay and Milson's Point. Legal difficulties cropped up to militate against the new company, but these were overcome in the following year by the conversion of the company into a  limited liability company, and thus the parent of the present Sydney Ferries came into being.

This was to be a passenger ferry pure and simple, and the service was commissioned by the “Commodious ferry steamer Kirribilli” carrying sixty passengers and running a regular time-table, between dawn and 7 p.m. (fare, three-pence) and between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. (fare, sixpence).

This boat was followed soon afterwards by the Alexander, capable of carrying seventy-five passengers, and within the next few years the Nell, Gomea, Galatea, and Coombra were added to the fleet. Other steamers added later were the Nautilus (1873), Parramatta (1874), and in 1878 the company was reconstructed under the name of The North Shore Steam Ferry Company Limited, which took over the following vessels from the old company:— Gomea, Galatea, Nell, and Coombra; and also acquired the Darra and Florence and the vehicle-ferry Bungaree which, by this time, had commenced to run from East Circular Quay to Milson’s Point supplementing the efforts of the Transit, which had commenced a vehicular service during the early ’sixties.

Built originally as a steam yacht, the Florence had been running an intermittent service for the previous five years as a ferry to Mosman and Neutral Bay. In 1879 the new company showed its enterprise by  ordering the first double-ended screw-propelled vessel ever built in Australian waters. The principle of screw propulsion had largely superseded paddle-wheels for single-ended craft following the test made by the British Admiralty in 1845 between two 800-ton vessels, Battler (screw) and Alexto (paddle), when the Battler towed the Alexto backwards at the rate of two and a half miles per hour, though her engines were going full speed ahead.

Early in 1879, however, the first double-ended screw boat was launched at Liverpool for the Liverpool-Birkenhead service. The same year the Wallaby, designed by the late Norman Selfe, was built in Sydney, and provided accommodation for three hundred and eight passengers. She was a peculiar model, having no outside seats on the lower deck, the walls of the cabins fore and aft being flush with the “skin” of the ship, while the main deck was extended beyond this line in the form of a wide sponson. She was also the first, and for many years the only ferry, to have both cabins fitted with glazed windows. All the other boats were glazed only in the after or ladies’ cabin, the for'ard or smoking cabin being fitted with large open “ports,” and which sometimes were covered in wet weather by canvas curtains. She was declared by “experts” not to have been a success, but as she is still running -perhaps they were mistaken. At all events, two years later the company built the Alathea on the double-ended screw principle, but finding after an accident to one propeller that the speed was increased from six and a half to nine knots when running with only one propellor, she was converted into a single-ender. This was regarded as a victory for the experts, and no further double-ended screw boats were built until the ill-fated Kangaroo was constructed in 1890.

In passing it might be mentioned that Mr. Selfe’s brother, the late Henry Selfe, tried to persuade the Balmain Company in 1887 to build a double-ended screw boat, but the idea was turned down after vigorous discussion, while almost the exact design was incorporated many years later in the Lady Mary.

The Cygnet, Ganet, Halcyon, and Pheasant, all single-ended screw boats which, with the Alathea, formed the Parramatta River fleet, were built respectively in 1882, 1883, 1884 and 1887, but these, with the exception of the Ganet, took no part in the communication with the North *Shore. This service was extending, and it necessitated the construction of larger, double-ended paddle-steamers.

The Cammeray was built in 1884, and the Waratah and Bunya the following year, while the Victoria and St. Leonards followed a year later. Up to this time the bulk of the North Shore traffic was landed at Lavender Bay, and various suggestions, including hydraulic lifts and a funicular railway, were put forward to avoid the inconvenience of passengers having to negotiate the long flights of steps. The problem was solved in 1886 by the construction by the Government of a cable tramway from Milson’s Point to the heights of North Shore at Ridge Street. This was afterwards extended to Crow’s Nest, with the idea of eventually joining  up with the newly constructed railway from Hornsby to St. Leonards.

The extension of the railway to Milson’s Point in 1893, however, settled the question in another way, but caused so great an increase of traffic to Milson’s Point that soon the Milson’s Point and Lavender Bay services were divided. Before this, too, the fare had been reduced to one penny each way. An all-night service (fare, one shilling) was inaugurated in 1844, and reduced in 1895 to sixpence.

While this great progress was going on in the development of ferry services to the North Shore, there was marked activity in other waterside suburbs, necessitating ferry services in other directions. Parramatta, though by now served with a railway, still clung to its waterway; moreover, there was still a huge hinterland on each side of the river which could only be served conveniently by means of river craft.

Mention has already been made of Jules Joubert, who came to Sydney in 1840. He, finding that the ordinary trading boats 'did not cater adequately for the requirements of Ryde, Hunter s Hill, and Clarke s Point, purchased in 1860 the steam yacht of the late Sir P. N. Russell, the Ysobel, and ran her as a ferry to these parts. Later we shall meet him again in connection with ferry services to “The Hi 11 .,, Meanwhile, on April 7, 1866, “An Act (Vic. 29) to incorporate the Parramatta River Steam Company ’ ’ was passed, and this company, under the leadership of Mr. Charles Jeanneret, came into being to run a passenger service from Parramatta to Darling Harbour. While this was conducted with paddle-boats they ran right up into the town, as they only drew two and a half to three and a half feet, but when they were replaced by screw boats the deeper draught made it necessary to terminate them at Queen’s Wharf. In order to connect this new terminus with the town a tramway was laid down between the wharf and the Park Gates, authority for such being granted under an Act (Vic. 45) passed in August, 1881.

The steamers engaged in this run have already been enumerated, and no addition to those mentioned was made until the construction of the Bronzewing in 1901, except a small boat which was put on to maintain a supplementary service up Tarban Creek in 1866, and which was replaced by the Una in 1898. When the Sydney Ferries took over the Parramatta Ferry about 1906 the terminus was transferred to Circular Quay.

With the establishment of the Parramatta service by Jeanneret, Ryde was served better than ever before, and allowed Joubert to concentrate on the shorter run from Hunter’s Hill, which by this time had increased considerably in population. 

A small paddle-wheel steamer, the Womerah, ran on the Lane Cove River in the 'seventies, and in 1877 she was replaced by the Egeria, a small screw boat. In 1884 Joubert placed the Pearl in commission, and this service was gradually augmented by the addition of the Rose and Shamrock, among others, until Joubert sold the ferry to the Balmain New Ferry Company about 1906, and the single-enders were replaced by double-ended boats of the 'Lady' class. Up to this time, or shortly before, the Lane Cove boats, like the Parramatta ferries, landed their passengers at Darling Harbour, but soon after the change of ownership they, too, were brought round to Circular Quay. In the good old days a frequent service was maintained, and on week-ends and holidays large numbers of trippers visited the Avenue picnic grounds or sought the  upper reaches of the Lane Cove River by means of the launch ferry which ran from Fig Tree to* Fairyland and Fidden’s Wharf.

The Balmain New Ferry Company was bought out by the Sydney Ferries Limited, and this company still maintains the service. At this juncture we must go back to the Balmain services of an earlier date. Reference has already been made to the paddle-steamer Waterman in the forties and the Gypsy Queen somewhat later, but even before this the Experiment had been running to Balmain on Sundays. James Entwhistle and William Marshall ran a service in partnership under the name of the Balmain Ferry, but on March 19, 1853, this partnership was dissolved, and Mr. Henry Perdriau carried on with the Waterman , of which he was part owner, and other boats.

An advertisement in the Sydney papers of 1855 read:—


Fast Iron steam ferry boats between Crooks Wharf Balmain and Erskine St, Wharf. Fare 2d after 7 p.m. 3d. G. Bonamy.

Another advertisement in the same year announced:—

The steamer Star will commence on Wednesday to run as a ferryboat on the new route between Waterview Dry Dock and the Phoenix Wharf, Erskine St, leaving the Dry Dock at 9 a.m. calling at Grays Wharf and Darling Street, and will continue running throughout the day to half-past six. The hours from the dry dock and half hours from Sydney. Sharp P.O. time.

A paragraph in the Sydney Morning Herald of July 24, 1856, records that:— 

The Balmain Steam Ferry Company added another vessel yesterday to its already compact little fleet and her builder, Mr. Booth of Balmain, appears to have done full justice as far as strength and model are concerned. Her dimensions are 76 ft. long 14'6" beam and 5' draught. She will be propelled by a 25 h.p. condensing engine from Messrs. Duff and Co. Glasgow. At the launch Miss E. Buchan christened the vessel with the usual ceremony naming her the Premier.

Increasing population called for further extension of the ferry services and for larger and faster boats; more-over, the entry of the ’buses running to the Railway Station in competition was another factor. The result  was that by the ’eighties double-ended paddle-steamers capable of carrying two hundred, three hundred and up to four hundred persons, were being built. Among these were the Telephone , Water view and Bald Rock , whilst later the Lincoln and Memel were added to the fleet, and the service was maintained until the “New” Company took over and gradually replaced the paddle-wheelers with screw boats of the “Lady” class. The first of these was the Lady Mary, followed by the Lady Hampden, Lady Manning, and others. One of these, the Lady Chelmsford, has recently been converted to Diesel, and the experiment seems to portend a new era in ferry development in Sydney.

While these changes were taking place, the service which had been begun with the Australia after her withdrawal from the Parramatta run, a new service had been commenced, namely, to Drummoyne, Fivedock, Leichhardt, Glebe, and Balmain. The boats employed in this service were many and the time-tables varied and spasmodic.

The Rapid was one of them, and we have already seen her end. The Pyrmont ferry and the filling in of Blackwattle Swamp had a considerable effect on the nearer portions of the area served by this ferry, and it was not until the establishment of the line run by the late Mr. Henley, father of Sir Thomas Henley, that a really regular time-table with suitable boats was run. This service reached its zenith during the ’nineties, when it was maintained by the New Era and the Birkenhead. The establishment of the electric tram service, and its extension to the suburbs served by the ferry, gradually led to its decline.

While all these changes were taking place up stream, other and even more momentous changes were being effected in the expansion of other services. In the late ’fifties Cremorne had been “discovered” as a picnic resort, and steamers ran there regularly on Sundays and holidays from Phoenix Wharf and from Woolloomooloo, and while old Tom Mullhall, the boatman, ran the only “regular” ferry to Mosman on week days (at £1 a trip) in 1859 and 1860, in the latter year the Black Swan and the Peri ran regularly on Sundays and holidays from Woolloomooloo for threepence each way, while the Herald and The Brothers took passengers from Circular Quay for one shilling return.

In 1864 an attempt was made to establish a ferry to Neutral Bay without much success, but in 1871 the Herald ran more or less regularly on week days. The year 1873 saw the S. Y. Florence calling there en route to Mosman as already mentioned, making a trip about every two hours, while the late Mr. Harnett carried on an intermittent service for the next six or seven years with various steamers, including the Alcona, Golden Rose, Speedwell, Zeus, and Matilda. This service was taken over by Chapman and Shipley in 1878 and run with the Katie and Pacifis. In 1881 Jeanneret ran the Eclipse and the Osprey. Three years later the North Shore Ferry Company entered the Mosman trade, and acquired the Chapman and Shipley interests for £800. The following year, 1885, the Neutral Bay Ferry Company was started in opposition with the Ganet and the Florrie, but ran only for about a year. The North Shore Ferry Company took over and replaced the existing boats with the Lily and the Letus, which maintained the service until they were replaced by larger boats in the early nineteen hundreds.

How well these wooden vessels were built is evidenced by the fact that most of them have lasted to the present time. The Katie was still towing coke lighters when I saw her last, the Ganet is anchored in Hen and Chicken Bay, and the Florrie was running until comparatively recently on the Clarence River with the Neutral Bay sign still up. This little vessel had a remarkable history; built originally by Rock Davis, at Brisbane Water, she was intended for the mail service from Newport to Gosford(In the days before the construction of the Hawkesbury bridge and railway connection between Sydney and Newcastle, the mails went first by road via Peat's Ferry and later via Manly, Newport and Gosford.) Now Davis had the boat and Jeanneret had the wharf at Newport. A stalemate thus having been created, Jeanneret threatened to bring up another boat from Sydney, but having none suitable he eventually bought the Florrie. When the railway was extended to both sides of the river the link was completed by the General Gordon, carrying mails and  passengers; the Newport-Gosford service was no longer necessary, and the Florrie came to Sydney, to run up Tarban Creek.

Following on the development of the northern suburbs, larger and more modern boats were added to the North Shore Company's fleet. The double-ended screw principle having been proved, the Kangaroo was built in 1891 for the Milson's Point service. She was fitted, however, with triple expansion engines, and, the trip being too short to enable her to use them to the best advatnage, she was placed on the Mosman run. She was an ill-fated ship, having been burned twice to the water's edge.

The Waringa, Wallaroo, and Carabella soon followed, and these, with the paddle steamers then in commission, served the needs of the “Shore" until the Kirribilli and the Kurraba were put on in 1901. With these steamers may be said to have commenced the “Golden Age" of ferry steamers on Sydney Harbour. They emerged as the prototype of the fast, commodious, electrically-lighted, glassed-in (upper and lower deck) comfortable ferry which found its highest expression in the magnificent two thousand-passenger boats, Kuttabul and Koompartoo. What a contrast from the draughty, open-cabined, old paddle-wheeler, lighted by a noisome oil lamp which cast furtive shadows as it swung to and fro, while a lurid glow came up from below where the engine-room flare lit up the engine gratings like the bars of some dungeon prison of the Middle Ages!

The amazing growth of the northern suburbs during the past thirty years made larger ferries and more frequent services necessary, and some idea of the enormous number of people travelling by them may be gathered from the fact that, in addition to those travelling by vehicle punts, etc., over forty million passengers per annum were carried on the cross-harbour ferries in the year immediately preceding the opening of the Bridge. And what a fleet of boats was necessary to transport them— Kummulla, Kareela, Kanimbla, Koree, Kubu, Koscuisko, Kai-Kai, to name only some of them, all having passed into the Limbo of Forgotten Things!

So far no mention has been made of water-borne traffic to the south shore of the Harbour, but it, too, must have its place in this story. The posting of a look-out and Signal Station at South Head in January, 1790, with the establishment of a fishery under the control of “Pilot 5 * Barton in 1792, and the erection of a fire-beacon in 1793, made some sort of communication essential, and as the road was not constructed until 1811, this must have been carried on by boat. Like the Parramatta establishment in the first instance, this was probably effected by ships’ boats, but, like that run again, locally built boats must soon have been utilised for the purpose. I have not been able to ascertain what these boats were, but as the southern foreshores did not lend themselves to cultivation the need for ferry services was not felt after the building of the road. Governor Macquarie, however, who was responsible for the road, was also responsible for starting the fashion of picnics at Watson’s Bay, and so when steam boats commenced to run “tourist” trips on Sundays, Watson’s Bay was sometimes included in the list of places visited.

Various tugs took passengers there during the ’fifties and ’sixties, and regular trips were run on Sundays and holidays “to this delightful rendez-vous,” in which a prominent part was taken by “the favourite steamer, "Herald.” The Black Swan was another of the boats engaged in this service, and no doubt others will be remembered by some members of this Society.

When the building erected originally as a Custom House, and which still forms part of the Vaucluse Council Chambers, was converted into an hotel, it had many attractions to offer trippers, including a menagerie and a bowling alley. Early in the ’eighties a regular service was inaugurated with morning and evening trips daily, and more frequently at week-ends. The Swansea and the Golden Rose were prominent in this activity, and two steamers more than sufficed for the purpose even when regular day trips were instituted. Later in that decade an opposition company, under the aegis of the late Sir John Robertson, was started under the name of The Watson’s Bay and South Shore Steam Ferry Company. This company ran the Bee and the Oceana, and made calls w T hen required at Darling Point, Double Bay, Rose Bay, and to ships lying at anchor. In 1887 the Courier was added to the fleet, and soon after her advent, the opposition—that was Harmer’s original ferry—disappeared. By this time the population of the “Bay” justified a more or less through service, and, as the cable tram to Ocean Street and a ’bus service to Point Piper had made their appearance in the very early ’nineties, the South Shore wharves were discontinued.

Various interruptions, however, occurred at intervals to disturb the time-table. The Courier, for instance, was taken off every time a P. and 0. mail steamer came in, being used thus to land the passengers and mails. She was frequently let for picnics, and Watson’s Bay had to go without or be satisfied with a tug or other down-and-out which could be hired for less than the Courier was making. With the subdivision of the Vaucluse Estate, however, the increasing traffic called for larger boats and better conditions. The little old Bee gave place to the Bald Rock that was purchased from the Old Balmain Company. (The Bee went to Brisbane under her own steam to engage in river traffic there.) About 1901 or 1902 the King Edward was placed in commission, and the Oceana was sold to the Manning River Ferry Company. She was wrecked on the Manning bar on her way to take up her new duties. (To give an idea of the size of these boats, I must point out that the dimensions of the Oceana were 64 feet long and 16 feet beam, whilst she drew about five feet of water and was fitted with a 10 horse-power engine. She carried about two hundred passengers when fully loaded. The Bee was about half the size and the Courier about twice the size of the Oceana .) Later additions to the Watson’s Bay steamers were the Vaucluse, the ill-fated Greycliffe, and the Woollahra. The whole fleet was afterwards taken over by the Sydney Ferries Limited, and various boats of their fleet have maintained the service since, though at the present time there is no regular time-table to Watson's Bay. Of the older boats, the Bald Rock went to Melbourne for the Williamstown run; the Courier is still on Sydney Harbour, stripped of her cabins and fittings, towing lighters. Alas, how are the mighty fallen!

There remains now only Manly to consider within the scope of this paper. Like Watson’s Bay, Manly began its communications with ships' boats dating from the time of Captain Phillip, but as Manly itself and the intervening country was not suitable arable land, the place was only used as a “port” by the few who went to Pittwater by other than the road or by sea via Broken Bay. The ferry established by Kerrins in 1830, already noted, would seem to have been the first regular service, and, while the ungodly may have visited Manly on the Sunday and holiday excursions by the various steamers engaged in that trade, it would appear that the village did not get regular trips even on Sundays until the ’fifties, when the Newcastle boats made a trip there much as they do now on Saturdays to the Hawkesbury. Later in the decade other boats entered into the running, making early and late trips.

The Brothers ran in 1854, as also did the Black Swan, Pelican and Herald in the next two or three years. A syndicate was formed to exploit the possibilities of a regular service every day, with an improved time-table for week-ends, and the boats engaged therein were principally the Black Swan and Bredalbane.

In 1858 the regular steamer ran so successfully that she earned £I6OO in three months, not including holidays. As the result of this venture a public meeting was called for March 1, 1859, to complete the formation of a company to be known as the Brighton and Manly Beach Steam Ferry Company, with a capital of £15,000 in £lO shares.

Three weeks later “The fast Iron Paddle Steamer Phantom” was offered for sale in the Sydney papers. She was described as:—

" A double header with five rudders, steams 14 statute miles per hour, suitable as a ferry boat to North Shore, Balmain, Cremorne, Manly Beach, Parramatta, or Macleay River. Unequalled in the Colonies. Length 120 ft. beam 13 ft. draught 3 ft. 5."

Her shallow draught made her an unpleasant boat in which to travel across the Heads, and how she came from Melbourne under her own power is a miracle —it could have been no pleasure trip. In satisfying the demands of the Manly service she was joined in the early ’seventies by the Mystery and, later still, by the Emu, of which mention has been made.

Passing rapidly over the years, we come to the formation of the parent of the present Port Jackson Ferry Company, which combined ferrying and towing services. Their tugs comprised the Port Jackson and Irresistible (screw) and the Commodore (paddle) ; the ferries were the Fairlight and Narrabeen, to be joined later by the Brighton. On Sundays and holidays the tugs were pressed into the ferry service, too. In the early ’nineties competition arose between the Port Jackson Company and the newly formed Manly Ferry Company. Almost anything which would float was utilised to convey passengers to Manly at absurdly low fares. Such competition could not last for long, and, a compromise having been effected, the two companies amalgamated to form the present company.

The new steamer Manly was constructed on the latest lines and capable of making a fast trip between Sydney and Manly, and from that time on progress has been rapid both as regards the ferry and the suburb. The Kuringai followed the Manly, and these, with the paddle-wheelers, sufficed for a while, but soon the demand for faster and larger boats necessitated further additions to the fleet and the withdrawal of the slower paddle-steamers. The later boats included Barranjoey, Balgowlah, Burrabra, Bilgola, Bargoola, and the two latest additions, Dee Why and Curl Curl.

Before concluding, some reference should be made to the vehicular ferries over various portions of the Harbour. We have already seen the establishment of the punt at Abbotsford and its gradual movement down stream, until it became the Bedlam ferry, to be superseded in its turn by the Gladesville Bridge. Hyde punt came next, and it is still running, though it, too, will be relegated to the limbo of forgotten things when Huntley’s Point Bridge is completed. The Spit was crossed by means of a hand punt, later changed to steam, but now bridged by a serviceable if ugly structure. The long queues which once waited to cross the Harbour on the Dawes Point-Blue's Point and Fort Macquarie-Milson’s Point punts now wait no longer. The Princess came and went; the Herald towed her vehicle punt; the Transit made history in her day; and the Bungaree , Warrane, Barrangaroo, Benelon, Kamilaroi, Killara, Kedumba, Kalong, Koondooloo, Kara Kara, and Kooraangaba all carried their living freight, and now they, too, have passed. Soon Charon and his ferry will follow, when increasing traffic makes necessary a bridge across the Styx!

Perhaps a new era may be about to dawn in connection with water transport on Sydney Harbour because of the introduction of small mobile units propelled by internal combustion or Diesel engines, and capable of a high speed between points. These vessels may do for water traffic what the taxi and the motor 'bus have done for land transport by taking the place of the large, and, to some extent, unwieldly steamer, just as the motor vehicle is eliminating the cumbersome tram.

My thanks are due to various contributors to the Royal Australian Historical Society Journal on marine subjects, to the Society’s Library, The Mitchell Library, the management of the Sydney Ferries, and Manly Ferry Company for much material for this paper, and in a very special manner to Mr. J. K. S. Houison for such material and assistance that has made him almost a joint author. In spite of the wealth of material examined, there are many gaps which make the story far from complete, and from the available material much has had to be omitted on account of the exigencies of time and space.

Vol. 21 Part. 1 (1935) Royal Australian Historical Society. (1918). Journal and proceedings Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-596605917


WHAT pleasanter or more picturesque subject could a writer wish for than the present? It is our intention in this sketch to gather up the dis- jointed memoranda of a century - bits descriptive of the harbour, its islands, headlands, bays, and inlets; fragments of information as to the events and changes connected with it, during the past hundred years. We shall not confine ourselves to chronological order, but entering the Heads, we shall make a detour of the northern shore and its inlets, and work our way round by the harbour's western and southern limits to Sydney Heads again. At each halting-place we shall bring together the incidental memoranda concerning that spot, whether it be of the days of Phillip or of our present Governor.

Sydney Cove at the Commencement of the Century.

This article would not be complete without some reference to the bays immediately "out- side the Heads." Although we do not intend giving any extended notice of these - as our present paper has more particularly to deal with the bays of Sydney Harbour proper - we may make some brief allusion to those illustrated in this issue.

First in order, as regards time, position, and importance, is Botany Bay, the oldest Australian port associated with European discovery. This "one spot of classic ground," as the poetical Baron Field styles it, is certainly surrounded with many memories. These we have endeavored to bind up in a sheaf in a former article, entitled "The Old Landmarks of Botany Bay," which appeared in our March number. 

Our present view (see page 12) is taken looking seawards. The aspect of the shores has considerably altered since Backhouse jotted down his opinion of it just fifty years ago. He says, "Wishing to hold a meeting with the few settlers on the shores of Botany Bay, we walked thither and called at their dwellings. These are chiefly small huts, on the edge of a marsh, built by some veteran soldiers who were located there a few years since. The soil being of a nature requiring to be turned over, and exposed to the action of the air for two or three years before it becomes fertile, and these men having no capital and not being generally industrious, many of their cottages have been deserted, and their lands have passed into other hands. Botany Bay, with its gay shrubs, might wear an imposing aspect to the first navigators of these seas, after a tedious voyage; but its shores are shallow, and not convenient for landing; and most of the land on the north side is dreary sand and marsh, of little real value. The pieces that are worth anything are of very limited extent, and are in few hands." 

What would Backhouse think of land values now - if he could drive along the pleasant road to Botany Heads, and see the palatial villas that speak of the enormous value of "real estate " in this once despised quarter?

In a previous paper we referred to some of the memorials on the north head of Botany, notably the monuments to La Perouse and the Abbe le Receveur. The fortifications, of which we present an illustration on page 9, situated at the entrance to the Bay, form part of the general scheme of our Colonial Defences, and are constructed with a view to prevent the landing of an attacking force that might make a flank movement on the metropolis. Some years ago a very successful series of torpedo experiments was carried out at the mouth of Botany Bay, ad-jacent to Bear Island, and proved the effect-iveness of this branch of defensive warfare. Botany Head is also the scene of the con-nection between New South Wales and New Zealand by telegraph cable. This line was successfully completed in February, 1870, and has proved exceedingly useful m conjunction with our American Mail Service.

Little Bay, on the open coast-line north of Botany, is pictured on page 13. Its chief feature is the range of hospital buildings, erected partly to take off the pressure on the infirmary resources at Sydney by receiving the convalescent patients, and partly as an isolated system of wards for contagious or infectious diseases. It has proved of immense service in connection with one or two rather serious out-breaks of typhoid fever in the city and suburbs; but its usefulness as a quarantine ground is not likely to enhance its attractions as a pleasure resort.

The bays of Coogee and Bondi are here mentioned only as being two of the most popular recreation grounds in the vicinity of Sydney. We shall hold over detailed description of South Head also; as, from the intended mode of treating our subject, it will fall into its proper place towards the conclusion, when we are dealing with the southern outline of Sydney Harbour.

The same may be said of the central portion of our double-page sheet of illustrations - Farm Cove - a spot full of old reminiscences, which we refrain from refer- ring to now, in order to avoid repetition when the course of our article brings us round to Sydney Cove, and this adjacent bay.

Having thus brought our readers up to the portal of Port Jackson, we introduce friend and stranger to " our beautiful harbour." 

"What do you think of our harbour ?" is a question which I was asked several times during my week's sojourn in Sydney, says that amusing litterateur, " The Vagabond," in one of his occasional papers.

Sydneyites are often jocularly twitted with their propensity to ask this question of new arrivals, and their anxious desire to obtain a favorable opinion. "Well, Sydney harbour is something to be proud of and when a people own something of which they are fairly entitled to be proud, half the fault of boasting is condoned.

In this instance there is no necessity for word-building and coining phrases with which to paint its loveliness. Its own beauty is its best interpreter. Much, of it still remains "adorned the most," in its natural, unadorned condition. Other large portions have yielded their savage charms to the arts of the landscape gardener and the villa architect. Still other parts have been conquered by the com-mercial utilitarian, whose practical, wealthproducing " improvements " have rubbed out many of the ancient landmarks. But yet enough, and more than enough, re-mains to surprise and delight the new-comer, and by its fascinations, to still closer bind the admiration of those who have long dwelt among its surroundings.

Before setting out on our detailed voyage of discovery, it may not be out of place to glance at some general characteristics of the harbour, and to briefly quote the impressions it has made on various authors and travellers.

"First we have the opinion of Governor Phillip, the pioneer explorer of Port Jackson. He pronounces it to be a harbour, in extent and security, superior to anything he had ever seen, and the most experienced navigators who were wi th him fully concurred in that opinion.

Dr. John White, who accompanied the " First Fleet," as Surgeon-General to the settlement, writes : "Port Jack- son I believe to be, without exception, the finest and most extensive harbour in the universe, and at the same time the most secure, being safe from all the winds that blow. In a word, Port Jackson would afford sufficient and safe anchorage for all the navies of Europe." 

Another companion of Governor Phillip, Captain Tench, says: "We continued to run up the harbour about four miles in a westerly direction, enjoying the luxuriant prospect of its shores' covered with trees to the  water's edge."

Monsieur Péron, the French naturalist, who visited Sydney in 1802, says: " How much reason had we for astonishment on beholding the flourishing state of this singular and distant colony! The beauty of the port was the admiration of everyone."

Charles Darwin, in 1836, visited New South Wales in the 'Beagle, during the voyage of that vessel round the world, and comments as follows: " Early, in the morning a light air carried us towards the entrance of Port Jackson. Instead of beholding a verdant country, interspersed with fine houses, a straight line of yellow-ish cliff brought to our minds the coast of Patagonia. A solitary, lighthouse, built of white stone, alone told us that we were near a great and populous city. Having entered he harbour, it appears fine and spacious, with cliff-formed shores of hori-zontally stratified-sandstone."

Mrs. Meredith, in 1839, wrote: " The entrance to Port Jackson is grand in the extreme. The high, dark cliffs, we had been coasting along all the morning, suddenly terminate in an abrupt precipice called the South Head, on which stand the lighthouse and signal-station. The North Head is a similar cliff - a bold, bluff promontory of dark horizontal rocks - and between these grand stupendous pillars, as through a colossal gate, we entered Port Jackson. The countless bays and inlets of this noble estuary, render it extremely beautiful; every minute, as we sailed on, a fresh vista opened on the view - each, as it seemed, more lovely than the last."

Frank Fowler, in his " Southern Lights and Shadows," touching so lightly and charmingly on the varying phases of colonial life, speaks of his arrival in this fashion: ''It was at breakfast-time on a warm, cheerful morning in December, when our 'long dun wolds are ribbed with snow,' the Kate and I cast anchor in Port Jackson.

Myriads of emerald cicadas were splinter-ing the silence with their shrill, cricket-like chirrupings, as they glanced from bough to bough beneath the burning sun. It wanted three or four days to Christmas, but every tree was full of leaves, every bush alive with blossoms."

South Head Forts. - Ready for the Foe.

Fort Macquarie and Pinchgut. (From an early Sketch by R. Barnes, Esq., Sydney).

James Inglis ("Maori") now the Hon. James Inglis, Minister for Public Instruction, published, in 1880 his exceedingly interesting volume of sketches; entitled, " Our Australian Cousins," and carries on the hymn of praise in this style: " In the broad and noble reaches of this truly magnificent bay, the navies of the world might ride at ease. To explore the intricacies of every successive opening, and appraise the beauties of the countless nooks and windings, each more beautiful than the other, would be the task of many summers of holidays. 

It is indeed a noble refuge. "Well may the natives of Sydney pride themselves on its possession."

Peter 'Possum, in his Portfolio, has a reference to the same subject, declaring: " Lovely are its deep indenting waters, covered with dancing dimples, swathed in sheets of gold; rolling in emerald green, heaving in violet blue; blushing beneath the parting gaze of the setting sun, or looking up to him pale and trembling in the morn, when all night long the thunder has pealed and echoed through the dark."

Now we come to James Hingston, the genial "J. H." erstwhile contributor to the Melbourne Argus. In that chatty volume of his, "The Australian Abroad," he says; ''If we remember our Bunyan aright, we enter the land of Beulah before we get to the city Beautiful. Sydney harbour suggests that idea. Sydney stands amid that harbour as a 'fair vestal throned in the south ' - as a Venus risen from the sea - a sort of golden city washed by silvery waters, fringed in all their little bays and inlets and windings and turnings with an emerald verdure. Little islands dot the waters everywhere. The entrance we have passed through has been hidden from us; a turn of the wheel, and we are - in fairy landl!"

James Anthony Proude, in "Oceana," says: " Port Jackson, the harbour proper, is the largest and grandest in the world. A passage about a mile wide has been, cut by the ocean be- tween the walls of sandstone cliffs which stretch along the south-west Australian shores. The two head-lands stretch out as gigantic piers, and the tide from without, and the fresh water flood from within, have formed an inlet shaped like a starfish, with a great central basin and long arms and estuaries which pierce the land in all directions, and wind like veins between lofty sandstone banks."

Again, referring to a steam-launch excursion round the harbour, he writes: " There are a few spots marked with white as we look back over the story of our lives - with me chiefly landscapes of wood and water, or  interviews with some superior man. This day stands among the brightest in my memory on both accounts, for I had seen Mr. Dalley, and next, I saw Port Jackson."

Lastly, the ever-amusing " Vagabond " describes the harbour as " grand, magnificent, immense, beautiful, stupendous, splendid, deep, sharky, rocky-altogether one of the biggest things of the kind in the world. I hope the Sydney people will not think I mean to flatter them if I say that Port, Jackson is a fine harbour, and beautiful withal. I rather think they believe this themselves."

Here we have a concentrated expression of opinion, on the one subject the thoughts of "many men, of many minds" - and there is a wonderful harmony of sentiment; the witness is one - the testimony agrees - and the burden - of the whole is, that the subject of our article, is well entitled to the adjective "beautiful."



It will have been observed that most of the authors quoted use the old term " Port Jackson," which may still be regarded as the harbour's official title. It will also be seen that all of them, who make any allusion to the reason why the port received its name, fall into the popular error that it was so called after the seaman who announced its discovery from the mast-head. The journal of Captain Cook gives no warrant for any such assumption. He merely records that on the 6th of May, 1770, sailing north from Botany Bay, about noon, "We were abreast the entrance of a bay or harbour in which there appeared to be good anchorage, and which I called Port Jackson."

So frequently has the popular version been cited, that over twenty-five years ago, a correspondent wrote a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, drawing attention to the fact that in a very old church at Bishop Stortford, in Hertfordshire, there was and no doubt is - an inscription " To the memory of Sir George Jackson, Bart," and after several other particulars, it is stated on the tablet that "Captain Cook, of whom he was a zealous friend and an early patron, named after him Port Jackson, in New Zealand; and Port Jackson in New South Wales."

This seems to incontestably settle the question how the harbour obtained its name. 

Even more interesting than the origin of its nomenclature is the process by which Sydney, harbour was formed. Dr. J. E. Taylor, F. G.S., ventures the following geo-logical solution of the matter :- " Every arm is deep enough for large ships to come almost alongside the shores, plainly show-ing how the steep heads and walls of rocks above water-mark are continued down-wards for some distance below it. If we could drain all this water away from the bays and creeks of Port Jackson; or, better still, if we could tilt or bump up this part of Australia a couple of thousand feet, what a magnificent series of valleys with precipitous and wall-like sides we should have! There would be nothing like it in all Australia, except the anomalous hollows and valleys possessing precipitous sides which we find in the Blue Mountains. That is just the point, and it affords us a clue to the geological and geographical origin of Sydney Harbour. The rocky materials which form the Sydney Headsand, indeed, all theo area on which the city stands - are of the same geological age and origin as those which build up the Blue Mountains. 

Botany Bay (looking Seawards).

The whole of that part of New South Wales, from the smaller Zigzag to the Sydney Heads, represents a 'down-throw fault '- that, is slipping down of this part of the earth's crust. It occurred ages ago; hundreds of feet of dislocation took place, although, possibly, the displacement went on but slowly. The valleys, and gorges, and hollows in the previously continuous and unbroken sheet of AEolian 'Hawkesbury sandstone' were thus let down to and below the sea level.

The waters of the Pacific found their way up, and filled what had previously been only land valleys - and in this way the ramified arms of Sydney Harbour originated - pretty much after the way in which we account for the numerous marine lochs off the western coast of Scotland, and the still more numerous and branching fiords off the coast of Norway."

But to commence our shore-line pilgrimage. Glancing down the harbour in the direction of its entrance, having as our standpoint the site of the ill-starred Garden Palace, we catch a glimpse of the distant "Heads." Standing on the spot where, eight years ago, its lofty dome shed down a many-coloured light on the statue of our Queen, we see about half-a-dozen miles away, a light blue square-cut mass, like the abrupt termination of a gigantic wall, raising its bold rampart high above the over-lapping points and intervening sheen of the harbour. It is the sharply-outlined North Head, with face almost as perpendicular as if "well and truly laid" with square and plumb-line. Closer acquaintance shows us that this majestic promontory, facing for ages the ceaseless roll of the Pacific, is formed of dark, horizontally stratified sandstone; and that it is about three hundred feet from where the surf is ever creaming over the rocks at its base to its barren crown. Some have traced in a portion of its outline a fancied resemblance to the stern-cut features of the "Iron Duke." Trifling as the distance appears, it is in reality two miles and a quarter between this outer North Head, and the South Head, on which the Macquarie Lighthouse stands. Of course the actual entrance to the harbour is much reduced, measuring between the Inner South and North Heads rather over a mile.

More than one disaster has resulted at the latter bluff through vessels "missing stays." Thirty years ago the Catherine Adamson, from London, was totally wrecked near the Inner North Head, and as all assistance had to be rendered from seaward by pilot and lifeboats, twenty-one of the passengers and crew fell sacrifices, and this only two months after the heart-rending horror of the loss of the Dunbar at the Gap, with a hundred and nineteen lives.

Rounding this tremendous mass of sand-stone headlands, forming the northern bastion of the harbour portal, the next point of interest-and a sad point it is -is the Quarantine Station. This is a beautiful sheltered little nook, and apart from its mournful memories, as being the final earthly goal of so many just permitted to touch the shores of this bright Land of Promise, it would be a choice camping-ground for happy pic-nickers. It is marked in Capt. John Hunter's plan of Port Jackson, surveyed in 1788 as "Spring Cove." Extensive ranges of shore-hospitals now occupy the place once overgrown with scrub and "ti-tree," and year by year the solemn stones marking the last mile in the journey of life have increased in number.

Off the steep coast-line of the cove is moored the old hospital hulk Faraway, having much of the odd look of a Chinese junk, and occasionally some emigrant ship or ocean-going steamer lies within the proscribed limits of the Quarantine Ground, flying the suggestively sickly-looking " yellow flag." The brine-laden breezes constantly passing over this battle-field of health and disease doubtless prevent the spread of any infection, but the fear that the refuse flung overboard from some of the small-pox vessels anchored there might cause the outbreak of pestilence has more than once caused a scare among visitors and residents of the adjacent "village," and excited a strong desire that the scene of Quarantine restrictions should be removed to some far distant locality, and the associations attaching to this " plague-spot " of our harbour be obliterated.

What is this "village" to which we have just alluded? It is the title which the dwellers therein delight to apply to the sea-side paradise familiar to all colonists as "Manly." The spot where many a sundried occupant of a "back block" station gets a periodical smell of the salt sea, and a glimpse of its rolling breakers, and takes into the far interior a renewed supply of ozone.

Manly shares with Sydney Cove the honor of being one of the two places in Sydney harbour named by Governor Phillip during his boat excursion to inspect the port, before the "first fleet " sailed into it. The name was not applied to it, as some have erroneously stated, on the occasion of the Governor receiving the spear-wound. That adventure did not transpire until 1791, whereas in the account of Phillip's voyage actually published in 1789, we have the record of the naming of Manly.

In passing near a point of land in this harbour, the boats were perceived by a number of the natives, twenty of whom waded into the water unarmed, received what was offered them, and examined the boat with a curiosity which impressed a higher idea of them than any former accounts of their manners had suggested. This confidence and manly behaviour induced Governor Phillip, who was highly pleased with them, to give the place the name of "Manly Cove." 

The next historical account we have of Manly Beach is in 1791, when Governor Phillip made the effort to re-capture two natives, who had been caught, and kept under restraint in order to teach them the " benefits of civilisation." These natives loving their liberty better than the white man's "tucker," had given their well-intentioned custodians "leg bail," and had re-joined a tribe of their countrymen at Manly Beach. The Governor hearing they were there, went down the harbour with a boat-party, and landing, advanced towards a large body of the blackfellows, with the most pacific designs, but one of them, misunderstanding his intentions, picked up a spear with "his toes, and threw it with such force that it pierced the Governor's breast and went through his shoulder. The alarmed party of white men retreated to the boat, fearing that the wound must prove fatal, as it was found impossible to drag out the barbed point.

Reaching Government House, however, the weapon was extracted by Dr. Balmain, and in six weeks the patient had quite recovered.

Tradition says that within the memory of white settlers a sea-creek flowed between the ocean beach and the harbour-beach at Manly, intersecting the low-lying land about what is now known as " The Corso," and altogether insulating North Head from the mainland. If such had been the case, and there was, as stated, at certain tides water enough for the old time " coasters " coming from the North to make a short cut into Sydney Harbor, we would probably find some detailed reference to it made in the pages of our early historians. Although some of the earliest Governors seem to have made the inner beach their starting point for various land excursions to Pitt Water - as it was then named in honor of the great statesman - we do not find that the sylvan beauties of Manly and its glorious sea-scapes attracted the attention of visitors or settlers for a great number of years, probably owing to there being no communication, save by occasional fishing boats.

Although there were a few scattered white settlers in olden time, sufficient to cause the Government to have a township surveyed on the heights above the Middle Harbour " Spit," there was no attempt to direct the tide of population to what is Manly proper. Mr. H. Gilbert Smith must be regarded as the pioneer of progress in that direction, and to him belongs the honor of founding "The Brighton of the New World." Mr. Smith was an observant and far-seeing man, and having the means to purchase a large tract of the flat land between the two beaches, he had it sub-divided; and, as residents accumulated, he built numerous cottages and the three oldest hotels. At first a sort of fitful communication was kept up by steam-boats; then came the era of the old Phantom, whose erratic behaviour in a heavy swell caused many a false prophet to arise - honest enough according to his own convictions who predicted that she would be, some day, a coffin for some shipload of pleasureseekers. At the present time the traffic arrangements, under the direction of the Port Jackson Steamship Company, are as perfect and convenient as could be desired.

For many years Manly Beach and Middle Harbor had the monopoly of harbour holiday excursions; and in those days there was more of the wild wood about it than can be discerned at present. It was quite a bush ramble to reach Fairy Bower, the popular tea-garden of the place; but though much of the sea-side beauty can never be destroyed by bricks and mortar, the spirit of "land-grabbing" has done, and is doing, its best to transform "Our Village " into a business town. As signs of the enterprise of the people, the rapid increase of lovely villa homes, and the improvement of the public reserves may be noted. 

Some spirited Manly residents were the first to project the idea of building an " Aquarium," and though when success was proved, the idea was rapidly caught up and carried out in other places, the Manly  Aquarium was the initial venture of its kind in New South Wales. 

The Roman Catholic portion of the community, wise in their generation, have secured a tract of some sixty acres of the North Head peninsula, stretching from near the Quarantine Ground to the ocean frontage, and the splendid palace of the Cardinal, with its collegiate buildings attached, costing over a hundred thousand pounds, attest the forethought of that religious body.

Another feature in the landscape is "The Castle," where resided William Bede Dalley, undoubtedly one of Australia's greatest men. It is situated on Tower Hill, so called from the old "camera tower," which still stands contiguous to the residence. Froude, in his " Oceana," makes mention of his visit to this home, and the impressions it conveyed to him.

Ivanhoe Park is the scene of the first " Wild Flower Show" held in Australia another idea initiated by Manly Beach people, and which has been imitated far and wide. Manly as a centre, and the tablelands and gullies radiating for miles north and west, is undoubtedly a Paradise of Australian wild flowers. If the profusion of forms delighted the soul of Sir Joseph Banks when he stepped ashore at Botany, what would he have said had it been his good fortune to have landed at Manly! Only those who have visited one of these annual exhibitions of what a few miles of sea-coast can produce in the way of Aus-tralian floral treasures, can form any con-ception of our wonderful wealth of wild flowers. But it is very much to be feared that the conversion of such large tracts into private property and "town lots," and the raid which is annually made on these flowering shrubs so that each "show" may outdo its predecessor; and the "Van- dalism which prompts the wholesale destruction of bush flowers - root and branch - by city gatherers, will eventually rob Manly and its surroundings of one of its chief charms.

Another attraction to Manly, but of a different character, is found in its fishing grounds. If it be a paradise for the lover of bush blossoms and marine scenery, what shall we say for those who ply the hook and angle? Many are the well-known "grounds," where schnapper, and bream, and "flathead" and "groper" abound; and numerous are the legends of marvellous draughts of fishes taken at these places.

But we must pass on, much as we regret leaving Manly and its associations, or we shall never get round such a big subject as Sydney Harbour.

Steering out of North Harbour, passing "Forty Baskets " a famous fishing beach - and Grotto Point, we encounter Middle Harbour, one of the many arms of Sydney Harbour; and, as Frank Fowler says, "it is a very 'Briaraeus in arms." ' Another old-time visitor, with less of the classical in his comparison, likened it to a starfish, or rather a cuttle-fish, squid, octopus, what you will! With Port Jackson proper for for its body, and all those sinuous, land-locked windings for its "feelers," the similitude is not an inapt one.

Looking at Captain Hunter's century old plan of the harbour, one cannot but be struck by the tortuous development placed before him. No doubt the heads of some of the Middle Harbour nooks have some-what silted up since Hunter's time. The "clearings" at the head of these bays, induced by population, have tended to disintegrate the soil, and as each of these nooks had its fresh water fall or rivulet discharging into it, the bays would naturally shallow. But the general configuration is the same. The inlets have been likened to the Norway "fiords," but the shores are hardly vertical enough for the comparison to hold good.

Since the extension of the tram system to Bondi, Coogee, Botany, and other ocean beaches, and the opening up of so much picturesque scenery by the Illawarra line, the popularity of the Middle Harbour pleasure grounds has somewhat abated. Clontarf, Balmoral, and Pearl Bay, the three principal holiday sites, no longer attract, on great gala days, the enormous crowds that used to make the echoes ring again with their boisterous enjoyment, but this is rather a gain to those in search of the picturesque.

At Little Bay.

Clontarf, a low, verdurous plateau, fringed with the white beach, and backed up by enormous trusses of rugged cliff thickly foliaged - was for a long time the most popular resort for down-the-harbour excursionists. Twenty years ago it was the scene of one of the most memorable and sensational episodes connected with Australian history.

On the 12th March, 1868, a grand harbour fête had been arranged in connection with the visit of Prince Alfred to the colony. The picnic was given to create a fund towards clearing off a debt on the Sydney "Sailors' Home." Six large steamers loaded with guests had already landed their passengers, and twenty-five yachts, gaily dressed with bunting, were anchored in lines off Clontarf beach. Shortly after the arrival of the Prince and Earl Belmore, the former, in company with Sir William Manning, was walking across the green towards the Galatea Band, when a man named O'Farrell, walked rapidly across at right angles, and drawing a revolver, shot the Prince in the back. Before the shot could be repeated, the would-be assassin was grappled with by Mr. William Vial, a well-known coachbuilder in Sydney; and after the first shock of consternation, O'Farrell was in danger of being lynched on the spot. Although a plea of insanity was set up by his able counsel, the intended assassin was found guilty, and was executed at Darlinghurst on the 21st of the following month.

Balmoral, another beautiful nook of Middle Harbour, situated on the other side from Clontarf, for a long time maintained its popularity as a pleasure ground, but its glory has waned in favor of other resorts which, as Sydney residents find, can be more easily reached by drives.

Pearl Bay, situated further up the harbour, is, for scenery, one of the most desirable picnic grounds in this locality, and now that the crowds, composed of lovers of excitement more than lovers of nature, have been attracted to more intoxicating scenes, this beautiful spot is likely to hold its own again.

The " Spit," as the long narrow neck of sand projecting from the western side is called, is the natural crossing-place for those wishing to reach Manly Beach, Narrabeen, or Pitt Water, from the North Shore.

Hunter's Bay, a curved indentation on the west side and close to the entrance of Middle Harbour, was named after Captain Hunter, of the Sirius, who succeeded Phillip in the Governorship of the colony. In 1788 he made a most exhaustive survey of Sydney. Harbour land all its branches. It was on this same Hunter's Beach that the keel of the Dunbar floated, a few day's after the memorable wreck of that ill-fated vessel at the Gap outside the Heads. Several bodies drifted in with the tidal current, and the beach was strewn with wreckage and the remnants of merchandise. The keel of the Dunbar lodged on this spot, was, on the outside, frayed into fibre, evidencing the forces to which it had been subjected.

Middle Head, or as it is called in Hunter's chart, Middle Cape, is that bold promontory facing the direct entrance to the harbour, and for ever breasting the ceaseless in-roll of the Pacific. It is the site of, probably, our most important fortification, as all vessels making up Sydney Harbour could for a considerable distance be raked fore and aft by its fire. Guns of very heavy calibre are mounted here and the place is altogether well worth inspection. The splendid Military-road, one of the finest drives in or out of Sydney, leads to it from the North Shore ferry.

A sweeping indentation, with scarcely any beach, and backed by bold and precipitous cliffs, bears the name of Obelisk Bay, and forms the curve between Middle Head and George's Head. Speaking of Middle Head, a visitor in 1874 refers to the aboriginal rock-sketches found there, and says: " On the rocks on which the highest fort is constructed, are some sketches on stone by the aborigines. Their date is unknown. The number has been larger, but some fell a sacrifice in making the fortifications; care, however, has been taken to preserve the rest. They, consist of outlines, cut on the horizontal rock, of fishes and kangaroos, the latter being very fragmentary. One fish, is, perhaps, 12 feet long, but those most correctly drawn do not exceed a foot or eighteen inches in length. The drawings sometimes overlap each other, like the designs in the pattern-sheet of a fashion-book."

George's Head is the scene of the first "aboriginal reserve " in the colonies. The first Governor made many attempts to win over and civilize members of the native tribes in the vicinity of Sydney. In 1815, however, a systematic effort was made to induce the Broken Bay tribe to settle down permanently at George's Head. Allotments of land suitable for cultivation were surveyed for sixteen native families, under Boongarie (or Bungaree), King of the Broken Bay tribe. This chief was remarkable for his docility of disposition, and his useful services to the new colonists. One of those crescent-shaped brass plates, on which were engraved his name and title, was given to him by Governor Macquarie, and Bungaree was accustomed to display this "black's plate," hanging on his breast, with a great deal of pride. A boat named the " Boongarie " was also given to him, and every effort made to reconcile him and others to the orderly life of civilisation. Bungaree and his wife, "Queen Gooseberry," were well-known characters about Sydney for very many years, but it may be very reasonably doubted whether the "civilising " process was an improvement on his wild natural life. He died in 1830, and was buried on Garden Island, in Sydney Harbour. The aborigines of the colony seem to have the element of restlessness inborn with them, and this attempt at black settlement - like many others which have been made since - proved a failure.

Farm Cove, from the Botanical Gardens, with View of Government House. The Macquarie Lighthouse. The Hornsby Lighthouse. A View from the New Spit Road. On the New Spit Road

SYDNEY : ITS HABOUR AND BAYS. (SEE ARTICLE ON PAGES 8 To 13)SYDNEY: ITS HARBOUR AND BAYS. (1888, September 27). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1881 - 1894), p. 10. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63621208

Manly [a view from the beach including pier and steam ferry], [1854-1872] / Samuel Thomas Gill, Item: c066540001, courtesy Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales

Manly Beach, circa 1870s - Beach Steamer timetable and rail tracks for goods. Signs in the background read “The Pier Family Hotel” and “Ivanhoe Park Hotel and picnic grounds.” - From the Collection of the Josef Lebovic Gallery, Kensington, Sydney

Three Ferries Named Narrabeen (1883 To 1984) + One Named Barranjoey (1913-1985) - Some Historic Manly Ferries Songs - threads collected and collated A J Guesdon, 2020.