Ned Jack is undoubtedly one of the best known names in Tasmanian boat building and design. He was born in Hobart in 1859 and began work at an early age as an apprentice boat builder, firstly for Mr T Moreland, then at a business at Battery Point owned by Mr L Macquarie, who had also been apprenticed to Mr T Moreland, An apprentice in those days had to work long hours and be particularly keen in order to succeed. Ned Jack received excellent training and showed great aptitude for his work.
Hobart shipbuilders were respected internationally for their whale boat building expertise. Mr Macquarie and Ned Jack built a fully equipped whale boat for display in the Tasmanian pavilion, at the first International Exposition in Melbourne in 1880.
In 1885 Ned Jack and Fred Moore were persuaded by Mr W J Bain to start a business in Launceston, where at the time there was need of a good boat-building and repairing establishment. This was a great opportunity for these talented young men. They set up business in the old brewery yard adjacent to Royal Park, later moving to more spacious premises at Charles Street. As the business grew, they moved almost opposite to Canal Street, before eventually settling at the Trevallyn boat yard which still exists today as Tamar Marine. Their first vessel, commissioned by Thomas C Archer, was the 55 LONE, built in 1887 for the river and coastal passenger trade. The SS LONE was wrecked when the Gorge flooded in 1929.
Ned Jack and Fred Moore had dissolved their partnership by 1897 when Ned's son Edwin (Eddy) joined the firm and they built their first trading steamer, the WARATAH. Although initially built for work at Lakes Entrance, Victoria the WARATAH traded on the River Derwent until relocating to Freemantle, Western Australia as a police launch in 1929. In the first fifty years E A Jack Pty Ltd built an estimated one thousand vessels, at a rate of up to twenty-five in a year; from lightweight sculls and yachts that raced in many parts of the world, to fine motor launches; from small workboats and oilers, to large steamers. The largest vessel constructed by Ned Jack to this time was the 184 ton, 110 ft steamer, YAMBACOOMBA, commissioned by Thomas Gunn to run his King Island trade. It was later used for carrying coal from Newcastle until it was wrecked on the ski 1 1 ion at Terrigal on the New South Wales coast in 1917.
In that era there was neither the fanfare nor newspaper reports for the many small workboats being built and launched on the Tamar River, as there was for the government vessels, or the privately commissioned luxury motor launches, built for clients locally and around Australia.
Ned Jack had many orders for new motor launches from around 1912, with a coming trend to replace the old yachts of the Tamar with a more comfortable form of transportation. Among the fine motor launches turned out was ROOANNA, which was restored in recent times by craftsman and shipwright, Gary 'Spratt' Turner at Kettering. Gary has also been the shipwright of choice for RIAWE's maintenance.
It appears that with the number of motor launches being constructed, Ned Jack developed a standard mould for this type of vessel, and simply adjusted the length to suit the application. This was evident when RIAWE was on the slip at Kettering alongside 52 ft PARAPPA (191 5), and compared to the 26 ft river ferry Sydney a shorter version of RIAWE, or the 43 ft
BUNDARRA (1925) a private motor launch, for Percy Baxter of Geelong, built of Huon pine, with a raised deck of cruiser type, teak wheel-house and cabins, with blackwood cabin panels and table. The sleek hull construction and shallow draft is a signature Ned Jack design when compared to the broader beam, commercial, wooden vessels of recent times.
Vessels were also built for international work. One such was commissioned by the Reverend Frank Reid, who had opened a new mission on the island of Epi, in the New Hebrides in 1923. His access overland on the rugged island was extremely arduous, and he determined that the mission would be better served by a sturdy boat which could reach the communities from the sea. An appeal by the Launceston Presbyterian church raised the necessary £232.00 for Ned Jack to construct a suitable 28 ft motor launch.
Named the R M FRASER, she was fitted out with a mast, sails, a forward cabin and a 7.5 hp Kelvin engine. A sea-going boat with a cruiser stern, she was carvel planked, the hull was copper sheathed and built of myrtle.
The official launching and dedication service took place at Ned Jack's yard in March 1925. Ned Jack performed the trials on the Tamar River before shipment to Epi aboard the KORANUI.
The Daily Telegraph, at the time, described the R M FRASER as a 'fine example of Mr. Jack's careful and capable workmanship' and 'reflects great credit on Tasmanian skill and efficiency'. The boat house on Epi was destroyed in a hurricane in 1932. It is not known if the R M FRASER survived that destructive storm.
A columnist at the Hobart newspaper 'The Mercury' writing as 'The Kingfisher', in October 1928 penned the following; 'for many years there has not been a boat builder in Australia to eclipse him [Ned Jack] in designing and building boats of every description. In fact I doubt if there is, or ever has been, a man in Australia whose versatility in this respect equals his'.
Quite a reccomendation! This view is supported by the existence of numerous sturdy Ned Jack vessels still afloat around Tasmania, continuing to give pleasure to the many owners and lovers of wooden boats.
A motor launch was commissioned to be built by Captain John King Davis for Douglas Mawson's Antarctic expedition vessel RRS DISCOVERY. The 24 ft motor boat was constructed entirely of Huon pine and driven by an 8 hp oil engine. It was transported to Cape Town on the EURIPEDES, for the Discovery's final voyage to the Antarctic, in August 1929, which lasted two years. The launch carried up to twelve men and was used for towing the dingy and the whale boat ashore. The cabin was removable. The boat was named BANZARE derived from the acronym of the expedition (British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition).
During WWII, Ned Jack built six naval patrol boats and three small hospital boats for the Royal Australian Navy. The Government of the day reported; 'his contribution to the war effort was in keeping with the high standard of service he has given the north (of Tasmania) for more than half a century'.
Some of the last boats he built were the 247 ton LOATTA in 1938 and the 297 ton Naracoopa in 1940, commissioned by the Holymans for their King Island trade. The MFV NARACOOPA was lost with all hands (three crew) following an explosion and fire, while working as a fishing boat in Spencer Gulf in 1968.
Ned Jack died in 1946 aged eighty-seven
WRITTEN BY: Lindon Haigh 2016.