The ship on the crest is the Flying Childers, built in Hobart by John Watson in 1847. It was used as a whaling ship, then in coastal trading, and finally trading overseas until its loss in 1870. It represents the importance of shipping to Hobart's growth.

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The Watson's
Legendary Tasmanian Shipping Men

An Australian Story

During the late 1840's whaling activities were at their height in Hobart. Quite apart from the requirements of the home fleet the port also had to service foreign whaling ships which happened to drop in. Hobart shipbuilders, chandlers, and the merchants worked at top speed to meet the requirements of these ships - and made profit in the process. No doubt, word of this thriving port circulated throughout England and drew my ancestors to pack up their worldly possessions and leave for Van Diemans Land.

One of the most outstanding pioneers of the shipbuilding industry at Battery point was John Watson. After his arrival in 1833 he began his Tasmanian career as a shipbuilder in the government yards at Port Arthur, where under his firm but humane guidance the young convict boys from Point Puer learned the trade of boat building. John Watson's influence on the shipbuilding trade in Hobart should never be underestimated. He apprenticed young lads to his yards to teach them the trade, always insisting upon a high standard of workmanship. Quality shipbuilders such as John McGregor, John Lucas and James Mckay all received their training from him, thus ensuring a continuation of quality workmanship.

Watson's brother George was another well known identity in the Van Diemans Land shipping world. Captain George Watson arrived in Van Dieman's Land on the Resource on 28 December 1830, accompanied by his wife and Masters G. J. H. & A.Watson. The 'Resource', 417 ton with 4 guns, left London 26 Jul 1830 carrying goods and 37/50 passengers. Sailing via Rio and Cape Town it arrived in Hobart Town 28 Dec 1830.

In an application for a grant of land 31 March 1831 Watson said that he was a native of England, aged 30 and had bought with him 1000 pounds in cash and 2000 pounds in goods. He was granted 1000 acres immediately and another 1560 acres the following November when he had converted his goods.

It was in this setting that John Watson and his brother Captain George Watson, merchant shipowner - one the shipwright, the other the sailor - induced young men to build ships and take them to sea. They did this with the convict lads from Point Puer at Port Arthur and with the roughest and toughest of the adult convicts there. Before John Watson took charge of the Port Arthur Government shipyards these men were mostly unmanageable. With John Watson they worked well and won their liberty, many continuing to work as shipwrights in the thriving Blue Gum Clipper industry.

While John Watson built the Blue Gum Clippers it was his brother George who navigated them. George Watson was a sturdy supporter of the native youth as seamen and it was his aim to persuade young men to go to sea and get officers' tickets so as to uphold the honour of Van Dieman's Land on the high sea

Family interests in mercantile and shipping spanned a quarter of century in Hobart and made a deep impression on my great grandfather, George Chale Watson, George Watson's eldest son. He left Van Dieman's Land after being educated in Launceston, making his way to Victoria and then on to Queensland to fulfill his dream of becoming an explorer. Sprinkled within his journal are many references to his boyhood days when he spent time on board boats that visited Van Diemans Land. He had fond memories of time spent with the Sea Captains who enjoyed the hospitality of his family household. The knowledge that he gleaned helped him survive during a treacherous voyage around the Polynesian Islands and, much later in life he found himself meditating reflectively upon the days spent with an old and valued friend of the Watson household, Captain Young. Young set sail for China in a clipper brig, the Grace Darling but just wo days after setting sail on his return voyage a devastating typhoon swept the China Seas and the Grace Darling, Captain Young and her ship's company were never heard of again.

Over a century later, standing on a cliff overlooking the South China sea, near the cliffs that claimed so many of those early ships, I thought I could hear the cry of the Grace Darling's crew. Like my great grandfather before me I could not help but wonder about the law of sacrifice that saw men die in their efforts to bring tea for members of the 'civilized world to indulge in'. Yet, as I sit here writing, in that civilized world, I can see that such actions and sacrifices will not be forgotten. My great grandfather held the memory of Captain Young in his heart, thought of him during many silent hours, turned to him at a time of crisis on the Petrel and immortalized his courage by writing about him. His writing, in turn helps me to piece back together the fragments of my family history so that I can see just how my ancestors have contributed to the life I enjoy today. This section is dedicated to their sacrifices. My writing breathes life back into them. .

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