Boat Building Tools and Materials ; 7979 & 7989


Wingham Museum


Boat Building Tools and Materials

About this object

Family Trade
This collection of boat building tools and materials consists of a caulking mallet and 8 caulking irons of various shapes and sizes plus samples of hemp and cotton oakum. Caulking is the process of sealing the gaps between the planks and joints of timber built boats using creosote or pine tar soaked hemp or cotton to seal and make the joins waterproof.

The tools were used by Bill Ryan, a second generation boat builder on the Manning River at his Brown’s Creek boat yard. Bill’s father W O Ryan started building wooden boats on Scott’s Creek, Oxley Island in the early 1900s. After completing his apprenticeship as a Loftsman, a mould and template maker for boat parts, Bill returned to the Manning and worked with his father and brother Paul before setting up his own boat yard at Brown’s Creek in 1943.

Bill Ryan’s boat yard built many of the wooden boats that once worked on the Manning River including cream boats such as the Sunrise II and fishing trawlers for local use as well as some of the Illuka NSW fishing fleet and numerous other passenger ferries and leisure craft. During World War 2, Ryan also had contracts with the Australian and American armies to build boats for the war effort.

These tools are unusually well-provenanced and likely date back to Ryan’s apprenticeship. They are traditional boat building tools and help to illustrate the pain-staking work that goes into building and repairing wooden hulled boats to keep them afloat.

Boat builders and boat yards were an essential service to support the once thriving river trade on the Manning River. Before the development of road and rail infrastructure boats were the only link many river communities had to the wider region and for farmers the only way to transport their produce to markets or factories for processing.

Bill Ryan’s son John, a carpenter and shipwright, continues the family trade to this day, repairing wooden hulled boats at the family property at Brown’s Creek using similar caulking tools to these.

Bob Berry and Terry Tournoff
14 July 2014

Object number

7979 & 7989

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