The Register of Australian and New Zealand Ships and Boats

Luna Park ferry Sunrise Star built by Bill Ryan in 1926
as the Manning River cream boat Sunrise.
Photo: Stanton Library FILE 003\003699


Boat builder

Bill Ryan of Taree



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In 2007, Eric Richardson of the Manning River Historical Society wrote the following story on Bill Ryan:

In 1902, at the age of 16, Bill Ryan was indentured to Denis Sullivan, shipbuilder of Coopernook. After his indenture Bill went to sea for several years before returning to boat building. He was a fine tradesman and became senior loftsman at Newcastle and Walsh Island designing steel and timber boats as well as two harbour ferries.

Returning to the Manning in 1920 to the family farm, Bill couldn't resist the call to boatbuilding and started his own business from home, building a number of creamboats, fishing boats and dinghies to ply the Manning. Six of those boats are still operating (2007).

When the Japanese entered the war, the RAN needed small work boats in a hurry and went about commandeering all the seagoing pleasure craft as well as a large number of fishing boats. By mid 1942 a significant shortfall became apparent, and private boatbuilders like Bill Ryan were compulsorily contracted under manpower regulations to build boats to fill the gap. Ryan, deciding that his yard at Oxley Island was not adequate moved to Taree where he established a new yard in Brown's Creek.

In early 1943, Ryan's had contracts with both the Australian Navy and the Americans and had 85 men employed. In order to meet quotas and deadlines he needed to esnure a supply of quality timber.

Recently, when researching the timber industry on the Manning, Arthur Cooper came across a copy of a contract between Ryan and Harry Hudson a landowner and grazier of Harrington, and Joseph Smith, sawmiller, and Claude Goodsell, engineer, both of Mitchell's Island, for the supply, cutting and delivery of timber for building boats.

Also present was a document and a price list for the work of cutting and supplying the crooks and knees needed in the operation.

Although the hey day of shipbuilding on the Manning appeared to end during the first decade of the 20th century, the evidence of a thriving wooden boatbuilding industry lasting well into the 1950s and 60s merits much further study. Pondering the lives and eventual resting places of the Manning's wartime mosquito fleet is a worthy future research project. Anyone interested?

Shipbuilding at Taree 1 Dec 1943.
Photo: Australian National War Memorial 069761


Mori Flapan's note:

I currently have very little information on the boats built by Bill Ryan during WW2. I believe he may have built 65' motor trawlers and 45' Army tugs. Any information on the boats built by Bill Ryan, especially those during WW2, would be gratefully received. Please contact me by email using the link below.

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