David’s story…

From  being the Master Shipwright at the shipyards at Macquarie Harbour Penal Station, David Hoy moved to the Port Arthur dockyards, following the depearture of John Watson in 1835. The new ‘modern’ prison station had  opened in Port Arthur and the Sarah Island convicts  were transferred  from the penal settlement which closed in 1833.

(Credit Wikipedia)

The dockyard in Port Arthur had been established in 1835, developing from a smaller repair and building yard which had started in 1831. Under David’s supervision and direction many ships were built, including in 1837 The Fanny, the biggest ship to have been built in Tasmania at an enormous 255tons. The shipyard went from strenth to strength and in 1841 a blacksmith’s shop was opened on the site and production reached it’s zenith.

However, by 1843, ship building was beginning to come under competition and Port Arthur’s yards were producing fewer and fewer ships. David’s salary was reduced by half and he was demoted to Superintendent in 1844. Shipbuilding continued and there was somewhat of a revival in the late 1840’s when other ships were built including colliers, steamers and schooners and the Lady Denison,  built in 1847, and sold to Nathan, Moses & Co.

How devastated David must have been in 1848 when the shipyard was closed, his house, Sunnybanks built in 1834, and that of the Clerk of Works, Lithend, were used first as offices and then later turned over to civil officers for their accommodation. David retired on the closure of the dockyards. Apparently the yards were not efficient, not necessary and the convict labour was needed elsewhere. Although he died nearly ten years later, he may have been comforted if he could have known that despite several attempts to demolish the shipwright’s house, Sunnybanks stills stands today. It is the oldest building in Port Arthur and is part of Tasmanian heritage and in use as a maritime museum.

Remains of the prison on Sarah Island (credit Scott Davis)

Ships David built or completed, at Sarah Island:

  • May 1829: Charlotte, a one masted sloop, 29 tons, carvel built with, a single deck and a square stern
  • August 1829: completed the Tamar, a two masted brig, 100tons, carvel built, with a single deck and a square stern
  • Octobr 1829: Clyde, a one masted sloop, 17 tons, carvel built with a single deck and a square stern
  • 1829: Badger, a two masted schooner about 20 tons
  • August 1830: Isabella, a two masted brig, 124 tons, carvel built with a single deck and a square stern
  • May 1831: completed William the Fourth, a three masted barque, 199 tons, carvel built with one deck and a square stern.
  • January 1832: completed Adeleaide,  a two masted brigantine, 93 tons, carvel built with a single deck and a square stern
  • February 1832: Penelope, a two masted schooner of 35 tons, carvel built with one deck and a square stern
  • May 1832: Shamrock, a  one masted cutter, 31 tons, carvel built with a single deck and a square stern
  • September 1832: Shannon, a two masted schooner, about 32 tons
  • 1832: completed Industry, a two masted schooner, 17 tons, carvel built with one deck and a square stern
  • 1833: Tasmania, a two masted schooner, 18 tons, carvel built with one deck and a square stern
  • January 1834: completed Frederick, a two masted brig, about 120 tons
A modern photo of a barque, the Alexander von Humboldt (credit Hans Georg Schröder)

Ships David built or completed at Port Arthur:

  • 1837: Fusilier (believed to have been originally built as a buoy boat) 24 tons
  • December 1837: Fanny, a three masted barquentine, 285 tons, carvel built with two decks and a square stern
  • February 1838: Booth, a  two masted schooner, 9 tons, carvel built with a single deck and a square stern
  • November 1839: completed the hull of the Derwent, paddle steamer of 49 tons,carvel built and finished with a single deck, square stern and sloop rigged with a single mast
  • 1841: completed the Terror, a two masted schooner, about 17 tons, carvel built with a single deck and a square stern
  • March 1842: completed Lady Franklin, a three masted barque, 269 tons, carvel built with two decks and a square stern
  • 1842: completed the Swallow, a two masted schooner, 23 tons
  • 1842/3: Black Diamond, a  two masted schooner, 22tons, carvel built with one deck and a square stern
  • July 1843: Eleanor, two masted schooner, 118 tons, carvel built with one decks and a square stern
  • August 1847: completed Lady Denison, a three masted barque, 158 tons, carvel built with one and a quarter decks and a square stern
  • February 1848: completed Pilot, a  three masted schooner,90 tons, carvel built with one and a quarter decks and a square stern (she was later sold to a builder, David Hoy for £430 – is this the same David Hoy?)
  • October 1848: completed Lucy, a two masted brig of 108 tons, carvel built with one deck and a square stern

A ship I shall return to is the Frederick; as she was making her way out through the Gates of Hell, the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, she was seized by the convicts she was carrying. The Frederick had not long been completed and on board was David Hoy! He and others were abandoned on the shore and the convicts made their way across the pacific and arrived in  Chile  in February 1834.


  1. Carl D'Agostino

    Took a minute or two for the geography to set in. Americans think we are the center or the world you know. So do the French and British but they live in the shadow of the past. I have built models several sailing ships over the years. USS Constitution, Mayflower, Santa Maria and viking ship.


    1. Lois

      A good point… and a common failure in my writing is that I am so engaged with the character (real or fictional) that I don’t think enough about the setting… and as you say, we are so culturally conditioned to suppose ourselves at the heart of things that we forget about other perspectives. Thanks very much for your comment, Carl – I shall apply it to my writing today!
      Also interested to read that you are a ship-builder too – my husband is; at the moment he is constructing a model of a river-class frigate H.M.S. Fal which his father served on during the war. He’ll be interested to hear about your models!


    1. Lois

      Yes i do… so there are sometimes mistakes … I always try and correct them when I find them though! It’s like being a detective, can be frustrating but also can be very exciting and you never know where the research is going to lead or who you are going to meet… a bit like writing


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