The Collaroy was built as a (1853
356-ton paddle-steamer in Liverpool in 1853, of length 158' and
beam 22', with feathering paddle floats powered by an oscillating
steam engine of 140 h.p. Built speculatively for J Thatcher and
Partners of London; sold to Australian Steam Navigation Company
in 1854; sold to the Newcastle Steamship Company in 1879; Home
port became Sydney, from where she was engaged on the Sydney -
Newcastle NSW coastal trade from 1854 until 1881.
On 20 January 1881 she ran aground and was wrecked at Narrabeen NSW; the wreckage purchased by J Robertson c1881. Refloated 9 September 1884, repaired and converted to four-masted barkentine (?or three-masted schooner?) about four years later, Engines and paddles removed c1888 during re-fit, subsequently ran aground and wrecked on Californian coast at entrance to Humboldt Bay, June 1889.
Economic settlement in the Hunter River Valley NSW began in September 1797 when Lt John Shortland found coal outcrops in the river banks; a penal station was established at Newcastle in 1801 to work the coal, was abandoned in 1802 and re-established in March 1804. River trade developed after the final closure of the penal settlement and the planting by free settlers of fruit, wheat, vines, tobacco cotton and stock along the river. Cultivation in the Lower Hunter developed when a road was built from Windsor to Maitland (the Putty Road) in 1823, with Maitland displacing Newcastle as the major town. The first paddle-steamer to serve the district was the Sophia Jane in 1831; she was followed by a succession of others.
In 1840 Hunter residents grouped to form the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company, which with its six steamers in 1851 was re-organised into the Australasian Steam Navigation Company with an expanding business less locally focused. A new local company, the Hunter River New Steam Navigation Company, was set up in gentlemanly opposition in 1855, commencing operations with three steamers.
Both businesses expanded, and amongst other purchases the A.S.N. purchased the 180 ton Illalong and 356 ton Collaroy, both in 1854; each were to see long service. The Collaroy was one of the early sea-going paddlers, built of iron sheathed in timber by John Laird of Birkenhead for J Thatcher and Partners of London. With a 140 hp. oscillating steam engine and feathering paddle floats, she sailed and steamed to Australia where she was sold to the A.S.N. for £40,000 and used in the cargo and passenger traffic between Sydney and Newcastle.
The Collaroy, a general cargo-carrying paddle-steamer capable of conveying passengers, was one of the vessels advertised by the A.S.N. running to Newcastle, Raymond Terrace and Morpeth in 1877.
In 1876 a third company, the Newcastle Steam Ship Company, was floated to vie for the lucrative coastal trade. The N.S.S.Co. purchased the Collaroy along with the A.S.N.'s other Hunter-run ships to in 1880, when the A.S.N. withdrew from Hunter River operations. The N.S.S.Co. during 1880 was advertising:
The Collaroy plied the river ports of
the Hunter from her home port of Sydney for many years until through
negligent navigation she was wrecked on a Sydney beach just south
of Long Reef near Narrabeen on 20 January 1881, giving its name
to that beach and the later suburb.
The Illustrated Sydney News and , xx January 1881 (p.16) reported the Collaroys beaching:
Stranding of the Collaroy.There are few steamers better known on the eastern coast than the Collaroy ; and when the news of its stranding near the Long Reef, with which not a few Manly visitors are familiar, reached Sydney, it was at first received with expressions of incredulity, such is the high reputation which the vessels of the Hunter River
head pointing south-south-east, on the southern end of a long beach that forms the segment of a circle, and stretches northward from Long Reef. Had the vessel hit the coast 100 yards further south she would have very quickly broken up. The place where she is onshore is the most sheltered in the locality. As the tide rose the sea beat her further on the beach, just where and did much for the profits and good name which theAustralasian Steam Navigation Company gained. Some two years ago she was purchased by the NewcastleSteam Navigation Company, and since that period has been steadily employed in the Newcastle trade, performing her trips with singular regularity at the rate of five per week. Some four months since she underwent
Company have obtained for immunity from maritime disaster. But the evil tidings were unfortunately confirmed by later accounts, from which it appeared that the vessel had helplessly gone ashore during a heavy fog. The passengers, however, were successfully landed and sent on to Manly, six miles north of which is the scene of the disaster. Here the Collaroy lies, with her the low-lying road to Pitt-water takes a sweep near the sea ; and had the Collaroy been able to get a trifle more than her length inshore she would have been athwart the Queens highway. The vessel has had a career of some twenty-five years, unbroken by accident of any kind, and from her earliest days down to the present she has been regarded as a trustworthy, sea-going craft extensive repairs ; all her plates were sounded, and anythat were thought to be defective were removed. She was fitted with a new superheater, new sponsons, paddle-boxes, funnel, and donkey-engine. The vessel is only partly covered by insurance, should she break up it will be a serious loss to the company. The master and mate have had their certificates suspended for three months.
It has been suggested that Robert William Newell, possibly a part owner of the Collaroy, recovered materials from the wreck and used them in the construction of his Peakhurst home. Prolonged salvage attempts failed and the N.S.S.Co. sold it to the under-writers who re-sold her to J Robertson for £1,030; after much effort Robertson refloated the Collaroy on 9 September 1884. The opening of the Sydney-Newcastle railway in 1887, and especially the opening of the Hawkesbury River Bridge on 1 May 1889 giving an unbroken rail link, dramatically reduced the coastal steamer's trade. In 1888, attracting little trade, the Collaroys engines were removed and she was re-rigged as a three mast schooner. Working the trans-Pacific timber trade, the Collaroy meet her end argound and cast away on the Californian coast in June 1889!
The Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company was formed with the merger of the H.R.N.S.N.Co. and the N.S.S.Co. at the start of 1892, effectively ceasing operations in 1953 under pressure from road competition, though it traded until August 1956 when it transformed itself into the Southern Shipping Company Limited, ceased the regular Sydney-Newcastle runs and tried operating further afield.
Andrews (1980, p43) includes a photograph (from the Mitchell Library collection) of the paddle-steamer Collaroy hard and fast aground on the beach at Narrabeen, NSW. Gibbs (1969, p29) includes a photograph (from the Carl Christensen collection) of the "big barkentine Collaroy hard aground near the entrance to Humboldt Bay, California in June 1889", clearly shewing four masts.
Sources: Gibbs (1969), Andrews (1980), The
Illustrated Sydney News and
, xx January 1881.