David Hoy… what an extraordinary life

David Hoy died in Hobart on 9th February 1857, six years after his wife Janet “who died esteemed and much lamented” on January 17th 1851.

His death is recorded on the cemetery index of  St Andrews Presbyterian Church. On the 11th of February, two days after his death a notice was posted in the Colonial Times, announcing a sale of his furniture.

He was 72 years old and had an eventful life since his birth in Scotland in about 1787.

In the Hobart Town Gazette, on Saturday, 7th October 1826, this announcement appeared:

SHIP BUILDING: the colonists will learn with pleasure, that a very handsome brig, built by Mr David Hoy, and called the Apollo, burden 105tons, was launched last week in grand style from the banks of the Derwent. Mr Thomas Atkins, Mr Mason and Captain Laughton, are the spirited individuals who have accomplished this accession to our colonial importance.

David, trained in Boston as a shipwright,  is recognized as turning round the fortunes of the tiny village of Strahan in Macquarie Bay on the west coast of Tasmania. First settled in 1815, like many other Tasmania settlements there was a penal colony on Sarah Island in the Bay, infamous for the dreadful and inhumane treatment of prisoners. However, growing in the area was the Huon pine, which produced the perfect wood for ship-building,  it was particularly resistant to wood rot and therefore ideal in boatyards.

Ship-building started in 1824 and in 1827 8269 logs of Huon pine were collected, as well as other woods. This was the same year as David arrived; he was by then a Master Shipwright, and helped develop Strahan as a centre for ship-building, using convict labour, of course. David is credited with ushering in a surge of productivity and Sarah Island became at that time  the largest shipyard in the whole of Australia.  113 different ships were produced, mainly between the years of 1828-1832. Some of the ships were massive, including a 250 ton barque, six brigs, at least seven schooners and more than 70 other boats. David himself was responsible for designing and building 96 boats.

Sarah Island (credit M.Murphy)

The Sarah Island shipyard closed in 1833 and by 1838 David had moved to Hobart where he married Janet Millar, she was born in about 1785 and may have had a son 17 year old Alexander. Alexander was born and died in Port Arthur and is buried on the Isle of the Dead. Janet definitely had another son called James who was born in 1826; he died early too at the age of 40, and she had a daughter who she was visiting when she died, also of apoplexy.

David was involved in a mutiny in 1834… but that is for another story!

David continued his success as a shipwright in Hobart… and this takes me to what triggered my interest in him; in 1847 he built a barque, The Lady Denison. This was bought by my great-great-grandfather Samuel Moses and his partner, Louis Nathan.  He must have known Samuel, he must have shaken his hand when they did the deal, maybe they took wine together… maybe the Scottish Presbyterian and the Jew were friends?

David’s signature in 1834


  1. storiesthataretrue

    Lois: your interesting comment on my blog motivated me to check out yours…and discover you’re also a writer. I should have known 🙂 Wonderful posts, and I’m so jealous that you live somewhere green. At the moment, more than halfway through the Antarctic winter, I could do with a proper English downpour and the sight of rolling emerald hills! All the best, Gemma


    1. Lois

      Thanks Gemma… the Antarctic… wow! That sounds very exciting for all sorts of reasons. Thank you for your comments – I’m enjoying looking at your blog too! Good luck again with your book!


    2. Lois

      Hi Gemma, I thought of you the other day when someone mentioned that a relative was in the Antarctic too. I didn’t catch the name but the person I was talking to was trying to tell me about ice angels. I couldn’t quite get what she meant although they sounded fascinating… do you know what they are?


  2. storiesthataretrue

    I hadn’t heard the term before but after googling it I think they mean the teeny tiny gastropods that look like super small squid but without any tentacles. I have an extremely blurry photo of two of them in my post about getting to climb down an observation tube and see under the sea ice my first season down here: http://storiesthataretrue.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/stuck-in-a-moment-that-you-cant-get-out-of/ Is that what they were talking about?


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