Half-ship model, TSS 'Merimbula', wood / metal / [linen], made by Ailsa Shipbuilding Co, Troon, Scotland, 1909
Sea and river transport provided the most effective means of travel for people and cargo along the South Coast of New South Wales up until the early 20th Century. At this time, roads were either non-existent or extremely poor in quality and vehicles were scarce. This meant that the only affordable and available means of commuting was either by horse or foot.
This ship model of the TSS 'Merimbula' is therefore representative of the beginning of passenger services by water on the South Coast, which provided an effective service for people to such destinations as Sydney, Eden, Bermagui, Tathra and Merimbula. The 'Merimbula' not only opened up new routes to people, but also enabled a better flow for trade, as she was also fitted with refrigeration equipment and large storage space for cargo. This proved integral to the economic development of the South Coast and the greater New South Wales region. The 'Merimbula' was particularly known for trading such items as wood (cedar) and coal.
The 'Merimbula' has been described as the most beautiful vessel to steam Australia's waters. She had state rooms, large dining areas and a social hall which could be enjoyed by 106 passengers, along with an exquisite body and superstructure that was 209.6 ft long (11,011 gross tonnage). For the first time in the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Co Ltd's history, the 'Merimbula' was able to relieve them of their infamous reputation for 'waiting an hour for a pig, but not a minute for a passenger' (hence their nickname the 'Pig and Whistle Fleet').The 'Merimbula' signified the pinnacle in design and service. It was the largest ship built for the Illawarra company.
However, while the 'Merimbula' instigated passenger service, it was also responsible for ending it. After she went ashore on Beecroft Head (near Jervis Bay) in 1928, she was briefly replaced by the TSS 'Eden' until a new ship, the 'Cambaga' (which held only cargo, not passengers) was commissioned. Steam passenger transport became obsolete with the advent of better roads and a railway line which had been constructed down to Nowra. This also meant that cars and buses became more prolific.
This shipbuilder's model of the 'Merimbula' represents an important scale sized representation of a vessel that no longer exists. The model would have been produced for the shipbuilder to assist in its full-scale construction, helping to provide the builder with an idea of the vessel's fittings, riggings and sail plans, as well as helping to show the ratio of length to beam, the fining of her entry, stern and so on.
Glasgow University Archive Services, "Records of Ailsa Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd", http://www.archives.gla.ac.uk/collects/catalog/gd/gd400.html (Downloaded 16/4/2007)
Interview conducted by Andrew Grant and Mike Richards with Arthur Birch (30/12/1982)
Lorck, W., "The Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company's Illustrated Handbook: A Guide for the Tourist and Holiday Maker" (Sydney, 1905)
This shipbuilder's model of the TSS 'Merimbula' was made by Ailsa Shipbuilding Co Ltd in Troon, Scotland in 1909.
Ailsa Shipbuilding Co Ltd was established in 1870 by the third Marquess of Ailsa (1847-1938) as the Culzean Launch and Yacht Works, Culzean, South Ayrshire, Scotland. From there it moved to Girvan, South Ayrshire in 1883 and subsequently to Troon, South Ayrshire in 1886. From this time, the company was known as Ailsa Shipbuilding & Engineering Co, taking its name from the Marquess of Ailsa (a famous yachtsman and partner in the company who designed and built many of his own yachts). The partnership was registered in 1901 as Ailsa Shipbuilding Co Ltd with the Marquess as Chairman.
In 1902 the company took over S McKnight & Co Ltd (the Ayr, South Ayrshire shipyard which had been founded in 1883). Although activity in Ayr ceased after WWI, it was revived briefly from 1945-1947 when the yard was sold to Ayr Engineering & Construction Co Ltd.
Following the death of the Marquess the company came under the control of the Hutchison family but was nationalised as part of British Shipbuilders in June 1978. It was then linked with Ferguson Brothers (Port Glasgow) Ltd as Ferguson-Ailsa Ltd. In 1986 the yard was purchased by an Australian entrepreneur, Greg Copley, from the Perth Corporation, where the yard traded under another name again, Ailsa-Perth Shipbuilders Ltd from 1991.
The full-scale 'Merimbula' was built as a steel, coal-fired, twin screw steamer. She was capable of carrying 96 saloon (first class passengers) plus second class passengers, in addition to cargo (the ship was fitted with refrigeration equipment). The interior of the 'Merimbula' was also very lavish with state rooms, large dining areas and a social hall.
This particular model was expertly restored in 1981 by Mr Jacob de Beer before it came to the Museum.
The TSS 'Merimbula' was commissioned for ownership and use by the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Co Ltd after the loss of the SS 'Bega'. It was purchased at the same time as the TSS 'Kempsey' and was designed to carry passengers and cargo along the South Coast region up to Sydney. It operated from 1909-1928 when the vessel went ashore on Beecroft Head, near Jervis Bay.
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 and South Coast Steam Navigation Co Ltd fleet originally comprised five seagoing vessels, providing regular services from Sydney to Wollongong, Kiama, the Shoalhaven River, Ulladulla, the Clyde River, Broulee, Merimbula and Twofold Bay. For a large portion of their operation, the Company was brandished the 'Pig and Whistle Fleet' by residents for their almost complete disregard for passengers. They had a reputation for waiting an hour for a pig, but not a minute for a passenger. This reputation dissipated for some time while the 'Merimbula' and 'Eden' were in service, but re-emerged after both vessels were removed from use.
It has long been reported that the destruction of the 'Merimbula' marked the end of passenger services in the South Coast region. This, however, is incorrect. The 'Eden', which was laid up, was suddenly dragged out of Mort Dock in 1928 and taken straight down to the Market Street Wharf where it was put back into service. The 'Eden' carried on ferrying passengers until a new ship, the 'Cambaga' was commissioned. This ship did not carry passengers and signified the return of the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Co Ltd to completely discounting the local people. Also happening simultaneous to this was the construction of better roads and a railway line down to Nowra, which also meant that people relied less on sea travel.
This particular model was purchased, along with the TSS 'Kempsey', from a professional model maker in 1982.