Half-ship model, TSS 'Kempsey', wood / metal / perspex, made by Scotts Shipbuilding Co, Kinghorn, Scotland, 1907
This shipbuilder's model of the TSS 'Kempsey' acts as a legacy and representation of the full-scale version which no longer survives. Models such as this were produced for shipbuilders to assist in their full-scale construction, helping to provide the builder with an idea of the vessel's fittings, riggings and sail plan, as well as the ratio of length to beam, the fining of her entry, stern and so on.
The 'Kempsey' is an example of a vessel that steamed both the North Coast and South Coast Rivers of New South Wales. From 1907-1908 she worked for Nicholas Cain's Coastal Cooperative Steamship Company in competition with the North Coast Steam Navigation Co Ltd, until she was sold to the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company a short time later. It was during this changeover that she was renamed TSS 'Tathra'.
Unlike the majority of steam ships employed on the New South Wales Rivers, the 'Kempsey' proved unsuitable for river trading. She was considered to be too unstable, particularly given her very narrow beam of 27ft (8.3m) and ability to travel at high speeds. Once, on a return journey from Kempsey when berthing at Jerseyville, she heeled over and actually lay on the wharf. This meant all subsequent trips required her to carry a good deal of permanent ballast!
On January 4, 1912, after the 'Kempsey' had been sold to foreign interests, her vessel was destroyed and all its crew lost near Ambrym Island in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu).
Glasgow University Archive Services, "Records of Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd", http://www.archives.gla.ac.uk/collects/catalog/gd/gd319.html (Downloaded 17/4/2007)
Richards, M., "North Coast Run: Men and Ships of the New South Wales North Coast" (Killara, 1977) pp.44-46
This shipbuilder's model of the TSS 'Kempsey' was made by Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd in Kinghorn, Scotland in 1907.
Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd was the first shipbuilding company in the world. It was established in 1711 when John Scott established a small business to build herring buses and other craft. By 1790, the business expanded through the acquisition of the Greenock Foundry in Greenock, Scotland by Scott's two sons, from which time the company traded as Scott, Sinclair & Co. In 1859, they became known as the Greenock Foundry Co, but also traded intermittently as John Scott & Sons and Scott & Co.
In 1899, the firm was incorporated as a limited liability company, Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, and it absorbed the Greenock Foundry Co 5 years later. In 1965 the company took over Scott & Sons (Bowling) Ltd and in 1966, the Greenock Dockyard Co Ltd. In 1970, the company merged with Lithgows Limited, Port Glasgow, Scotland to form Scott Lithgow Ltd, Greenock. This new company was nationalised in 1977 as part of British shipbuilders and it was sold to Trafalgar House in 1984.
Scott Lithgow continued to trade until 1992 when operation ceased.
This particular model was expertly restored by the donor in 1981 before it came to the Museum.
The TSS 'Kempsey' was commissioned for ownership and use by Nicholas Cain's Coastal Cooperative Steamship Company. This company began in 1904 after Cain dissolved his partnership in the timber trade with Allen Taylor. When leaving this, Cain took with him a small wooden vessel (193 tonnes) called the 'Hastings'.
Cain concentrated his company on the Hastings River and Camden Haven, carrying at first timber, but later expanding into passenger services as well. This meant that Nicholas Cain's Coastal Cooperative Steamship Company provided competition to the North Coast Steam Navigation Co Ltd, as Cain expanded his services into the Macleay River, at which time the 'Kempsey' became a part of his fleet. She arrived in 1907 and was placed in command by Captain Greer, who took her on her maiden voyage to Kempsey.
While this voyage was a real event, it was also marked with a rather unfortunate outcome. The ship ended up proving to be excessively tender and when berthing at Jerseyville on her return, she heeled over and actually lay on the wharf. In fact, Cain realised that the ship actually proved completely unsuitable for river trading.
The sense of rivalry that existed between the North Coast Steam Navigation Co Ltd and Nicholas Cain's Coastal Cooperative Steamship Company was reflected by the 'unofficial' racing of vessels between ports. One example of this was an outward journey race between the 'Kempsey' and 'Burrawong' from the Macleay Bar to Sydney. It was reported at the time that the 'Kempsey' blacked out her lights that night and was not sighted by the 'Burrawong', which went up to Sydney Harbour just after daylight, whistle tooting. The whole shipping world knew of the race, wondering how far back the 'Kempsey' was. However, when the 'Burrawong' came into dock, she discovered the 'Kempsey' was already there!
After the 'Burrawong', the NCSN Co Ltd replaced the vessel with the 'Yulgilbar', a fine steamer considered to be far too superior to compete with the 'Kempsey'. Cain, therefore, began looking for a way out. Thus, he relinquished the Macleay while the NCSN Co Ltd withdrew from the Hastings.
In 1908, Cain sold the 'Kempsey' to the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company and they renamed her TSS 'Tathra'. The Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Co Ltd was created from an amalgamation of smaller companies (including the Kiama Steam Company and the Kiama Steam Navigation Company) by an act of Parliament in October 1858. The Company operated for 97 years. In 1955, it was delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) because of liquidation.
The Illawarra Company traded with the 'Kempsey' for sometime, until she proved too cranky for open jetty work. Eventually, they chartered her to a firm of Island traders, late in 1911, in which this saw her demise. On January 4, 1912, when near Ambrym Island in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), the 'Kempsey' took a lot of water aboard in heavy weather, became unmanageable and was either swamped or capsized. All 24 members of crew died in the event.
This particular model was purchased, along with the TSS 'Merimbula', from a professional model maker in 1982.