THE OLD DAYS
A NOTABLE VESSEL
Towards'the ; en'd'of last month Mr. J. H. Biles, of London, a:retired-coa-sulting naval' architect, and iformerly of the shipbuilding firm of Sir.Ji.H. Biles and;. Co;, while on 'a visit tp New Zealand, said he was greatly impressed with Wellington's potentialities as a shipbuilding centre. He said that shipping and shipbuilding generally went hand in hand, and that Wellington, equipped with a -building industry, would probably develop in time to be as important a centre in one respect as in the other. It is not so. very long ago since Wellington actually was" turning put .large-sized ships; for in last Saturday's "Post" it was recorded that in 1884 an order for the construction of one of the largest iron steamers turned out by the colony up till that time had: beetf let vto the ; Te "iro Foundry,-Wellington; The ship was to be capable of carrying 300 tons of cargo and would be powered with compound surface-condensing engines, being intended for the Black Diamond Line's West Coast trade. ?, AN ENTERPKISEsre MAN.
In an interview with a "Post" reporter, Mr. CM. Luke, the sole remaining member of tho original firm of Messrs. Luke, Sons, and Williams, which built the,ship mentioned above, recalled some interesting details of shipbuilding in Wellington many years ago , before reclamations were made. '' The .order for the chip," said Mr. Luke, was given by the late Captain W. E. Williams,, who was one of the most enterprising of men. Captain Williams's brother, Mr. B. Williams, was a partner of the firib The ship was what was-in those days deemed to be a large one. Mild steel had just come into vogue, and ..the first and only vessel south of the Line at tfiat tiie which had been built'of mild steel was the Union Company !s greyhound: Kotqmaliaiia. "Captain Williams, with his.usual enterprise, stipulated that thenew ship, which was to be named the Matai, was to be built of mild steel. It is believed that this was the,, first ship built of mild steel south' of.tho Line." i The mode of travelling from th^ West Coast in those days was chiefly by steamer, the alternative being by coach over,iße^,ey;;E6*:Vontuiued.. ffhte s.s. GrSf(i6n|;togetKer^^^ith^•,tnb>^Matai, watered largely, ■forr1-this^4raffic, and were.two ■ favourite- steamers; The;firm of-Luke,;-Sonsi-aM. -Williams -had- built the steamer •.Wekay; wjijch.was Jauached sjß_-years ago: last'Septembdr^ It': was a coincidence- thafr'shp :Hv,as casi^up... on the beach, about.'two miles from Napier, having'served' lief ■'purpose, well; for - a period of' sa*'years£; -Thati st6ameivwas built^of^irqa,: ;asd:<a jbeezingS^nachine was placed .on board ;for tendering, big ships; with, frozenvmeat,: .The shipping of'meat t<\ Great Britain..haaithen only beeu iuauguratea,..;, ' V ■'■•'. ■':;-.■ "/'v
■...-...Cghanot?,;^. the: FipaM*; ■,•■." • Duriig tlte teaTly-.stagea; 'df-'the construction of the; Matai Mr. B.; Williams retired froni ;thS-sflrm, .:' tho'business being carried'<on:'.by the/late' Mr. S. Luke and his-.four :' sons,' ' William, Samuel, C. M., and John. / Other ships were constructed by tho firm on the Wellington foreshore prior to tho reclamation work being carried out, when the site was destroyed as. far. as shipbuilding was concerned. The firm carried oil other* operations, however, lengthening the Wakatu by 35ft and increasing her 'power, the works being n.ear to where the Opera House now staiids. For many years the works were carried, oil\with. Messrs." C.' M. and J.'.P. (subsequently Sir John) Luke as joint directors; Mr. Pearce Luke was manager for a p"eTiod. Twenty years ago the firm, then known as S. Luke and Co., Ltd., merged with J. J. Niven and Company, and Messrs. O. M. and J. P. Luke. ceased to take part in the administration of the business, although their.; interests still remained with the company. ■", Mr. O. M. Luke is the only remaining member of the old firm. The present firm of Luke Bros., shipbuilders andtgeueral engineers, is composed oftheespns ; o£\ the late Sir John, together with * Mr. S. Luke, the second son of the; late Mri William Luke.
'..' In the days when Messrs. Luke, Sons, and /Williams;; were operating there were at least three, other shipbuilding firms in Wellington—Bobertson and Co., T3d.' Seager,:and":E. W. Mills. The lastnamed ..firm was ultimately, absorbed by Wjlliani. Cable and Co'.j now at Kaiwarra. Nearly .sixty years ago the firm .of E. W. Mills built .the iron steamer Patea, a .ship whi^j! traded for some years' 'between ,'W.ellingtoii, Wangauui,' an4;Patfea.VsCossrs. Cbffey aiidDickson were anpther'firm of those days- when building used to go on along the shore of the Oriontal Bay.district. That firm was engaged largely in, constructing small wpoden boats. Ib was'thought,"; sai3 Mr. Luke, that tho Matai waa the'first ship to be^built' in New Zealand under Lloyd's Eegister requirements-as Class Al for 100 years. An inspector remained with the ship ; throughout the entire building operai turns, supervising the work.
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THE OLD DAYS, Evening Post, Volume CXVII, Issue 114, 16 May 1934
THE OLD DAYS Evening Post, Volume CXVII, Issue 114, 16 May 1934
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