Risby Timber Company

Risby's timber yard in Battery Point, 1900. Secheron is in the background (AOT, PH30/1/4949)

The Risby Timber Company until its demise in the mid-1990s was one of Australia's oldest family-run firms. Boat builders Thomas and Joseph Risby established a sawmill in Hobart in the mid-1840s. Thomas left, but Joseph had the business on a sound footing when his three sons took control in 1885, trading as Risby Brothers. By 1900 Risbys had ten vessels and their enterprises extended from the south-east to the west, with a depot and mill at Strahan (1897), followed by numerous bush mills in the Derwent Valley. They sold timber and timber-related products, and moved to different sites in Hobart as business expanded, particularly during the do-it-yourself boom of the 1970s. After the main Westerway mill burnt down in 1957, Risbys developed a state-of-the-art sawmill at Austins Ferry. Among numerous timber-based ventures, the company became embroiled in the conservation-forestry confrontation at Farmhouse Creek in 1986. The company closed in 1994.

Further reading: J Dargavel (ed), Sawing, selling and sons, Canberra, 1988; D Brownlow, 'Risby Bros Pty Limited', Honours thesis, UT, 1968; K Pearce, manuscript on the Risby Timber Company and family, AOT.

Kim Pearce