Wilson and Sons

The schooner Evaleeta at Port Cygnet. She was built by Walter Wilson in 1923 for the timber trade
(AOT, PH30/1/1288)

Wilson and Sons, shipbuilders, was founded by John Wilson (18421912), who began building wooden boats in 1863, at his home in Cygnet. The first boat was the Huon Belle, launched in 1864. Wilson often went into the bush to select the right tree for his boats, and with only simple hand tools designed and built thirty large timber boats, mainly trading ketches for the brisk business of carrying cargo and passengers in Tasmanian waterways. He launched his first steamer, the 28.6-metre Huon, in 1882. Four of his sons became shipwrights in the business, and the firm's reputation for sound design and quality workmanship, and the attractive lines of their boats, led to success.

The development of railways and steamships, then in the 1920s roads and trucks, meant transport moved to these areas and the demand for wooden trading boats declined, so the Wilsons began to build yachts, motor sailers and commercial fishing boats. In 1981 the fourth generation entered the business, which continued successfully in 2004.

Further reading: A Graeme-Evans & P Wilson, Built to last, Woodbridge, 1996.

Alison Alexander