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JOHN WALKER & CO., MARYBOROUGH, QLD: LAUNCH of ‘SAURIAN’ DREDGE

The red ONE PENNY Queensland postcard is canceled with an indistinct Maryborough postmark and is addressed to N.S. Arundell Esq, c/o Messrs J.T. Annear & Co., Maryborough (Figure 1).

Figure 1

The printed reverse is an invitation as follows: Launch of the New Dredge “Saurian.” The favor of your company is respectfully requested on Saturday next the 12th instant, at 10 o’clock a.m., to witness the launching of the above named Vessel from our Shipbuilding Yards.
JOHN WALKER & CO. Maryborough, 8th February, 1881. Please produce this Ticket at Entrance Gate, Kent-street. (Figure 2).

Figure 2

The company of J.T. Annear was found in the book Queensland “ Men of the Time” and gives reason as to why a company representative was invited to the launch. John Thomas Annear, M.L.A. was born at Budock, Penryn, Cornwall, England, on June 3rd, 1842 and was educated at the C. of E. School at Budock. He arrived in Queensland in 1863 and settled in Ipswich, where he carried on contracting until 1867, when he went to Maryborough, where he was successful in obtaining the contracts for many of the important buildings. He is now a member of the firm of J.T. Annear & Co., railway contractors who carried out the Maryborough and Gympie Railway. Mr. Annear was an alderman of Maryborough for 14 years, and served as mayor for a year. He has represented Maryborough for some years and was again elected at the election of 1888.

This paragraph was the only biographical reference that I found on the addressee, but to my surprise, in spite of the fact that the John Walker & Co. is and was a major Maryborough Queensland firm for almost 1½ centuries, John Walker’s biographical information is sparse. He was born in 1823 in Cheshire England. He arrived in Victoria in 1859, settling in Ballarat, he established the Union Foundry with T. Braddoch (or Braddock), W.T. Sandry and J.F. Wood.. He opened a branch in Maryborough, Queensland in 1868. He sold the Ballarat business to J. Hickman in 1879, and retired in 1881. The Ballarat firm made retorts for the local gas company, machinery for the Ballarat Meat Preserving Company and heavy castings for sugar mills in Queensland. John Walker died 2 August 1907.

The surprise re the paucity of personal data about John Walker was compounded by the fact that 2 of the Company’s 4 partners in Maryborough are accorded biographies in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. The accountant and financial manager at the Union Foundry of John Walker & Co. in Ballarat, William Frederick Harrington was sent to inspect the Maryborough branch in regards to its shaky financials. He saw the potential for growth in Queensland and he became a partner of the Maryborough firm, and by 1884 Harrington was chairman and managing director until his death in 1918.

Alfred Goldsmith, engineer, in 1884 joined Harrington, T. Braddock and J.F. Wood and the company became John Walker & Co. Ltd. (then Walkers Ltd. from 1888), as the four partners of the firm, for John Walker had retired in 1881. It was Alfred Goldsmith who developed the firm’s manufacture of sugar and mining industry equipment, then expanded into ship building and the construction of dredges for the State Government. A contract to build ocean-going cargo vessels was negotiated with the Federal Government in 1918. Walkers Ltd supplied locomotives for most of Australia’s railway systems during Alfred Goldsmith’s term on the board from 1904 until his death in 1928.

It was Herbert Stephen Goldsmith, Alfred’s son, who became general manager of the firm in 1921. At the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the number of staff fell from the hundreds to 64, and it was Herbert who negotiated a contract to produce diesel engines under licence to a British company. During WWII , Herbert guided a massive recovery and the company’s employees soared over one thousand, most of whom were engaged in ship building, especially in the construction of frigates and corvettes for the Royal Australian Navy. In the buoyant postwar expansion, Cameron’s Ltd, an iron foundry at Mackay, Queensland was acquired, and new premises were built for Walkers at Maryborough where one of Herbert’s sons became manager.

As early as 1886 the firm was receiving the benefit of an extensive and effusive write-up in the Brisbane Courier on Wednesday 12 May, filling three long columns penned by a ‘Traveling Reporter’ on page 3. A much shorter write-up in the same newspaper, but equally effusive, was found on Monday 14 February 1881 which was highly relevant to the Queensland postcard. What follows is a summary of its contents: “Launch of the Queensland Government Dredge Saurian. The launch of this fine vessel, built by the Maryborough firm of John Walker and Company to the order of Queensland Government, took place from the shipyard attached to the Union Foundry in the above town on Saturday last. Admission to the yard was by cards of invitation of which some 500 or thereabouts must have been issued. The Saurian is the sister ship of The Octopus (made by another firm). She is made with propelling as well as dredging machinery and is calculated to raise 200 tons per hour of silt from a depth of 30 feet. At 10 precisely, a little girl of eight, a daughter of Mr. (William) Harrington, the managing partner of the firm, instructed by her parents, broke the traditional bottle of champagne against the bow.”

A nice confirmation of the contents of the postcard. The third paragraph concerning the J.T. Annear Company suggests the reason for the invitation which was extended to that firm.

I acknowledge that the Australian Dictionary of Biography supplied information on William Harrington and the Alfred Goldsmith family.

 
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