Steering wheel from drogher PS Jumbo (Stone Ferry) ; 1891; 01314


Kempsey Museum


Steering wheel from drogher PS Jumbo (Stone Ferry)

About this object

Constructed of cast iron with restored wooden handles, this steering wheel is from the drogher PS Jumbo, the last drogher to operate on the Macleay River.

The PS Jumbo worked the Belligen River for over 25 years carrying gravel, timber, logs and other freight before she was sold to the North Coast Steam Navigation Company for work on the Macleay in 1935.

The rear mounted paddle wheel driven drogher was later sold to Kempsey Shire Council to carry stone and other road maintenance materials up and down the Macleay River and became known as the ‘Stone Ferry’. Her role was cut short in 1947 when she sank whilst tied up at East Frederickton Wharf.

There was some controversy around the sinking as the drogher with its flat bottom had tilted at low tide and instead of rising with the tide simply remained in the same position with the high tide water flowing into her. Efforts to refloat her failed and the Shire Engineer’s decision not to salvage the vessel resulted in his resignation a short time later.

Kempsey Shire Council invited tenders for the purchase of the submerged drogher and eventually accepted an insurance payment, selling the PS Jumbo to the Lawson Construction Company. She was later refurbished but became beached at Spencers Creek, Jerseyville, where remains can still be viewed today.

Carrying stone was a heavy and at times hazardous task, Cec Mackay who skippered the drogher from time to time recalls an incident in 1938 when the PS Jumbo laden with stone, heeled over in windy conditions and sank. To refloat her, the stone had to be unloaded by shovel and carted ashore by wheelbarrow.

Droghers were the work horses of rives and the PS Jumbo was no exception. Her steering wheel serves as a reminder of the many droghers that once carried goods on the Macleay and other North Coast rivers and of the hazardous nature of their work. Their flat bottomed hulls enabled them to access shallow rivers and their tributaries.

The PS Jumbo was instrumental in carrying road making materials including stone to otherwise poorly accessible parts of the Macleay valley. Ironically the building of roads across the region would have led to her redundancy had she not sank beforehand.

Garry Munday, Tom Plunkett and Debbie Sommers
31 October 2014

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