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INTOMBI off Cable Beach WA in 2009

WA Chamberlain (Snr and Jnr)

WA (William) Chamberlain was a West Australian builder known for the wide range of craft built at the yard. He was born in 1851, and once he had completed schooling, he was apprenticed to W Jackson in the ship building industry as a young teenager. He is understood to have begun his own business when he was 19, having become a tradesman.

In 1882 he built BLANCHE, a cutter for the Shark bay pearler William Thomas. In 1884 he launched CLEOPATRA for Captain Fothergill of the Cleopatra Hotel. It was a steam launch intended to carry passengers and its work included trips to Rockingham.
In 1874 he built and raced the yacht GEM with success beating the then invincible EMMA. GEM was later raffled in 1876 at Mr Moloney’s Hotel, tickets were sold to 56 members at £1 per member.

In 1878 an advertisement notes “ Every description of boat built on the shortest notice and the most reasonable terms, and the strictest attention given to orders from abroad. First class tradesmen employed.”

By the early 1880s the yard was building cutters for the pearling trade on both Shark Bay and offshore in the north west from Broome. He continued this work through to the early 1900s. Some of these luggers included the EDITH, LOUISA , ANXIETY, SWALLOW, LILLY BLANCHE, MALENA, ARTHUR GEORGE, WHITE HEATHER and BLUEBELL. JOE CHAMBERLAIN was built for his son Alex Chamberlain and in 1905 had a walkover win in the Broome Regatta. Two vessels have their details recorded as follows;

1888: ' built large lugger for Capt. Fox 45ft LOA, 37ft 6in Keel, 11ft Beam, 5ft depth of hold, built of jarrah and red pine with red gum frames, capable of carrying between 11& 12 tons . Also building new yacht on the lines of NAUTILAS for Mr McKail of Albany to be named EILEENA , and other cutters for pearl trade.'

1889: ‘ launched lugger G.H.R. to order of Mr G.H.Roe manager for Messrs. Streeter & Co London (Jewllers) LOA 37ft ,on the keel 33ft, beam 10ft 10in, to carry 10 tons, she is 7th boat for pearling trade’

Other work recorded for the yard includes:
1884: built 2 steam launches
1886: £157 tender for water police boat accepted
1886: 1st class EUNICE built for Mr Rice Saunders to be raffled, 100 members @ £1 ea, builds new yacht for Mr Mumme NAUTILUS 24ft on keel and 8ft6in beam meets with early success.
1887: builds steam launch ATLANTA for Adelaide Steamship Company for use in Bunbury 50 passengers plus cargo
1889: 6 10-ton cutters dispatched for Shark Bay , 3 more being built
1890: built & designed new yacht for Mr Mumme to be named SULITUAN ( NAUTILAS spelt backwards) LOA 32ft on keel 26ft beam 9ft 6in
1896: building punts (40x 15 ft) for harbour work, whale boats , wine casks & vats

This shows the diverse nature of his work, which was carried out as his yard in Fitzgerald Terrace, ( now Marine Terrace) in Fremantle. In the early 1900s his son William Jnr carried on the business in Fremantle in partnership with George Cooper, but this business Chamberlain and Cooper had ended by 1910.

Two other sons Alexander and Charles had also originally worked in their father's business, but later moved north to Broome to be involved in the pearling trade, and also the occasional construction of a lugger. William Jnr joined them after closing the business in Fremantle.

Based on material from TROVE newspaper searches and ‘They Kept this State Afloat’- Rod Dickson 1998.