O'May Family


Two O'May ferries at the Bellerive wharf, 1888 (W.L. Crowther Library, SLT)

The O'May family, ferry owners 18631939, emigrated from Scotland in 1856 and settled in Bellerive. In 1863 two sons set up a ferry service across the Derwent. Unlike other ferrymen they kept their boats in good order and were reliable and punctual, and they prospered, buying progressively larger ferries, especially for Bellerive.


The O'May family at their Belleirve home, 1897 (AOT, PH30/1/5228)

The family dominated trans-Derwent ferries, though with ups and downs. Lindisfarne residents were seldom happy with their service and on three occasions (1891, 1920, 1926) started rival ferries, unsuccessfully; in 1910 the O'Mays joined a partnership to develop vast tracts at Rosny, but land sales were few and the ferries suffered; there was competition, and from 1927 the 'ferry wars' against rival Merv Gorringe. After a saga of mysteriously destroyed boats and burnt jetties, the O'Mays triumphed in 1929. In 1939 the government set up the Hobart Bridge Company which took over all ferries; after the floating bridge was opened in 1943, ferries declined.

Further reading: D O'May, Ferries of the Derwent, Hobart, 1988; A Alexander, The eastern shore, Rosny Park, 2003.

Alison Alexander