Some Notes on Ship-Building in Australia, In Reply to Mr MacFarlane

Author(s): Atkinson, J


Answers to the Queries in Mr. McMorlands letter
dated 11th July 1821.
Ship building. Is very imperfectly understood in the
Colony, I believe there are not more than One or Two
Persons in New South Wales who can draft a Veſsel
and superintend her construction from first to last
there are some very good working Shipwrights but
they Know nothing of the theoretical part of the art,
and consequently their Veſsels are ill constructed
sail very badly and a vast deal of Labour and
Materials are unavoidably thrown away for want
of any regular plan; The Ordinary Cash Wages
of a working Shipwright is from 8 to 10 p diem
Coasting Trade This part of the Colonial Commerce is
becoming daily of more importance; the Government
having lowered the Price and Duty on Coals, a
very considerable Trade could be carried on if
the Colony poſseſsed proper Veſsels. Those bet
adapted would be Brigs of 120 to 180 Tons, built
full, so as to carry a good Cargo with a
moderate draught of water. The entrance of Hunters
River at Newcastle is obstructed by a Bar, but
there is about 15 feet over the Bar at low water
and within there is secure and convenient anchorage
for Ships; the use of the Sides there and in all
the Harbours on this Coast is 6 feet Sring Tides.
The Coals are at present put on board in large

Launches, but Wharfs and Jettys could be easily
constructed which would much facilitate the
busineſs; the total cost of Coals at Newcastle
including [¿] is [¿] p Ton delivered on board. A Bushel of
Coals weighs 65lbs. the average price of Coals on
board the Veſsels at Sydney may be taken at
30 p Ton. This claſs of Veſsels (Brigs of 120 to
180 Tons) are also best adapted for the general
coasting Trade; for bringing Grain from Van Diemans
Land, Timber from Newcastle, New Zealand or other
places and for trading Voyages to the Islands in
the Pacific which may be considered a branch
of the Calonial coasting Trade. The commodities
drawn from thence, are Salted Pork of indifferent
quality, very fine Cocoa Nut Oil and [¿]
Sinnet rope made of the Cocoa Nut husks, Pearl
Oyster Shells. Sandal wood which is a scented
wood used by the [¿] and Chinese to burn
as Incense in their Temples, the latter Article
is new however very scarce and never contemplated
as an object in any Voyage, the Commodities
given in exchange are British and India manufactures
of trifling value. The Veſsels used for bringing
Grai from the Hawkesbury and Liverpool are
small innconstructed Sloops and Schooners. The
banks of the Hawkesbury and Georges River are
extremely high in some places 200 feet: and the
course of the Rivers are extremely crooked consequently
sailing Veſsels are ill adapted for their navigations
and are sometimes a fortnight performing

Voyage to Windsor. Steam boats would answer
most admirably if constructed to carry Luggage
only, as there would be few paſsengers the
distance overland being only 36 miles. A Veſsel
built to turn well to windward with good
accomodations might answer very well as a
Packet between Sydney and Hobart Town or
Port Dalrymple; but Veſsels that will carry
Cargo are most wanted in this country.
To secure the Oil caught by a Colonial Veſsel
from paying the higher Duty it seems neceſsary that the Owners or nominal
Owners should reside in Great Britain, there
are now two Brigs employed in the Fishery
on this coast which are registered in London
and owned by a Gentleman who resides in London,
but is a Partner in a House in Sydney;
these Veſsels have been very succeſsful.
Small Ships are probably best
adapted for thi Fishery, they should
be Barque rigged and have a between Decks.
Preservation of Veſsels. The [¿] is very destructive to
the bottoms of Veſsels; and it usual to Copper
them whenever the Oners can afford it.
Tobacco - Has been planeted of late in considerable
quantities and succeeds extremely well; but I
believe there is no one in the Colony who
thorougly understands the curing - the present
Price of Brazil Tobacco is 5/. P [¿] - paying
a Duty of 9.
Cotton Sugar and other Tropical productions would no
doubt succeed well at Port Macquarie and
to the Northward but have never yet been

Beche le mere - Is a marine production found on the
beaches abut the northern and North-eastern coast
of New Holland, it is much prozed in China
as an Article of food and is principally used
in making Soups. It is otherwise called Trepan
Sea Slug - or Sea Cucumber. It is not sought
after by the Colonists at present, but the Malays
visit the Gulf of Cparpentaria every year in
seach of it; and carry it to Macapar for sale.
Buildings. the town of Sydney is principally built of
Freestone but there are many Brick houses in
the country the Houses are either of Brick or
Wood, and in all cases are covered with
Fuel. In the country invariably Wood. In Sydney
Coals are getting daily more into use.
Timber. Many of the Woods of the country are well
adapted to Shipbuilding, Viz the Blue Gum,
Blackbutted Gum, Stringy Bark, Iron Bark
Turpentine [¿]. The whole of these woods are hard
and heavy and are generally more or leſs rotten
at the heart, but make most excellent Plank.
The Stringy bark makes very good Spars but is
rather heavy. iron-bark makes the best [¿]
in the world. The Turpentine Tree makes good
Oars and Handspikes. Sawyers Wages very high
and a Person coming here to establish a Timber
Trade would do well to bring a small Sawing
Machine to be worked by Steam or with 4 or 6

Bullocks, taking care that it is adampted to
cut hard woods; as I am informed the common
American Saw-Mills would not answer.
Mechanics. The following Trades are in much request
and obtain liberal wages. Millwrights, Smiths
Shipwrights and Boatbuilders, Carpenters and
Joiners. Wellwrights. Cabinet makers, Masons
and bricklayers, and in general all the useful
Mr. McMorlands plan of emigration would probably
answer very well could be depend upon his
aſsociates, but it would be difficult to keep
peace among so lare a party, where every one
would think he had an equal right to an
opinion. He would have little difficulty in
disposing of a Veſsel of the claſs he mentions.
Casks if adampted to hold oil would fetch
£3 a Ton here, the best way of bringing out
his Capital would be in such Articles are
most used in his own busineſs which are
generally in demand here, and which it may
be presumed he will know which to get
cheapest, Viz Canvas, Ropes Lines and Twine
small [¿] and [¿], Pitch, Tar, [¿]
Varnish, Paints and Oils, Copper Sheets
Bolts and Nails, Carpenters and other Tools
Nails various taking care that the Tools and
Nails are fit to use on hard woods.

Woolen Cloths and [¿] cloathing are generally in demand,
some Calicoes and Printed Cotton would probably
sell well. Sheet Bar Bolt, and Nail rod Iron
[¿], Agricultural Tools, and [¿] also.
A person coming outto establish a Shipbuilding
concern, should bring two or three good hand
under an engagement to serve him at least
three years after their arrival, at the average wages of the
place, deducting the expence of their paſsage,
this would afford him an opportunity of taking
some of the Colonial born Youth as Apprentices,
they are extremely desirous, and do not want
ability to learn. This principal object would
be repairing Ships that may come in damaged,
but he must always have a Veſsel on the
Stocks to employ his people on when no Job
offered. Boats and Barges of all Kinds are
much required, particularly sailoing Barges, that
could go into the small Cricks and Bar
Harbours on the coast. Mr M's sons and
Family could not fail of profitable employment,
Mechanical Trades and Agriculture are however
the most lucrative employment, but Industry
in any way of busineſs could not fail of its
reward. Sydney would be the best place
to establish a Timber and Shipbuilding concern, both
on account of its central situation, and also
because Timber is more plentiful and of better
quality in New South Wales than in Van Diemans

Land, the most eligible place to select a Town must
depend altogether upon a persons pursuits. If Grazing
be the principal object, the country beyod the Blue
Mountains is superior to every other, Plenty of good
situations for cultivation can be found upon and in
the neighbourhood of Hunters River, Shoalhaven River
or Jamis's Bay The best Lands in Van Diemens
Land are now nearly all occupied, and future emigrants
must go quiet into the remote and interior parts
of the Island.
J Atkinson
Sydney 25 May 1822


Cite this Document

APA Style:

Some Notes on Ship-Building in Australia, In Reply to Mr MacFarlane. 2023. In The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved February 2023, from

MLA Style:

"Some Notes on Ship-Building in Australia, In Reply to Mr MacFarlane." The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2023. Web. February 2023.

Chicago Style

The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing, s.v., "Some Notes on Ship-Building in Australia, In Reply to Mr MacFarlane," accessed February 2023,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. 2023. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Some Notes on Ship-Building in Australia, In Reply to Mr MacFarlane

Document Information

Document ID 275
Title Some Notes on Ship-Building in Australia, In Reply to Mr MacFarlane
Year group 1800-1850
Genre Administrative prose
Year of publication 1822
Place of publication Sydney, Australia
Wordcount 1479

Author information: Atkinson, J

Author ID 345
Initials J
Surname Atkinson