PS ‘Williams’

The PS ‘Williams’ was a passenger steamer and tug, built by Scott & Co., in Greenock, Scotland, in 1854.

The paddle steamer PS ‘Williams’ was built of iron and was originally a combination:  Paddle Steamer sporting two funnels / 2 Masted Schooner.  During her lifetime, she operated as a passenger excursion steamer, a cargo vessel, and a tug.  Her first owner was the ‘Hunter River Steam Navigation Co.’ where she was engaged to service the Hunter River, as well as the run between Sydney and Newcastle in New South Wales.

The PS ‘Williams’ succeeded the PS ‘Mystery’ in her service of traversing Port Phillip Bay.  During the Summer months she was engaged as an excursion steamer.  During the winter months, she operated as a tug . . .

PS 'Williams' (2)

Paddle Steamer – PS ‘Williams’ c 1870’s

Gross Tonnage:  327

Net Tonnage:  219

Length:  155 ft 2 in (47.29 m)

Beam:  20 ft 8 in (6.3 m)

Draft:  12 ft 1 in (3.68 m)  



21 Oct 1854 → the PS ‘Williams’ was first launched

Dec 1854 → the PS ‘Williams’ was completed

27 Jun 1855 → first registered in Sydney, Australia by the:  ‘Hunter River New Steam Navigation Co.’

1855 → the PS ‘Williams’ was the first steamer to safely navigate the Paterson River, NSW

Dec 1859 → the PS ‘Williams’ sank after a collision with her sistership PS ‘Hunter’

– she was successfully raised, repaired, and new boilers installed in Morpeth, NSW

16 Apr 1860 → the PS ‘Williams’ was found responsible for the collision with P&O’s steamer SS ‘Emeu’

Oct 1862 → acquired by the ‘Australasian Steam Ship Co.’

She was acquired to maintain the Brisbane to Rockhampton run following the loss of their steamer ‘Prince of Wales’

1864 → PS ‘Williams’ upheld the New Zealand run during the short-lived gold rush

May 1872 → the PS ‘Williams’ was sold to a Melbourne Hotelier, James Deane

This marked the beginning of her career as a tug and excursion steamer on Port Phillip Bay, Victoria.

She was modified to become rigged as a 1 Masted Cutter, to suit her new roll:

Gross Tonnage:  322  (reduced)

Net Tonnage:  203  (reduced)

Length:  166 ft (50.6 m)  (increased)

Beam:  22 ft 4 in (6.81 m)  (increased)

Draft:  11 ft (3.35 m)   (increased)

The PS ‘Williams’ featured a promenade deck (with space for dancing to a first-class band), an enclosed saloon (with comfortable seats) and onboard catering.  She ran between the ‘Gellibrand Lightship’ and ‘West Channel Light’ in 1 hr 51 min, averaging 11 knots (19 km/hr).

9th Nov 1872 → excursions from Melbourne to Queenscliff and Sorrento commenced

1 Apr 1875 

” . . . The members of the Brewers’ Travellers Association took a trip yesterday to Portsea in the steamor Williams.  About 450 persons went down, and the weather being quite calm and fine, dancing was kept up during the whole passage, to the strains of Zeplin’s band.  At Portsea the diningroom of Farnsworth’s Hotel was cleared for dancing, which was kept up till 5 o’clock, when the return Journey was commenced.  The vessel arrived at Sandridge pier at a quarter-past 8, and dancing was continued all the time . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – ‘Argus’ (Melbourne, Vic) – published 1st April 1875

Argus - Collision of Williams & Golden Crown - 25 Jan 1877

Argus – 25 Jan 1877

25 Jan 1877 → the PS ‘Williams was involved in a collision with the PS ‘Golden Crown’ at the Queenscliff jetty

For an article reporting the investigation into the collision, click here

Jul 1883 → she participated in the attempt to salvage of the ship ‘George Roper’ which had run aground during thick fog on the ‘Point Lonsdale Reef’ at the Port Phillip Heads.  She was unsuccessful:

” . . . Later reports from the scene of the accident show that the Williams went out to pick up the vessel, and took here in tow seven miles outside the Heads, when the weather became very thick and foggy, and no land in sight.  Suddenly the captain saw water breaking in front of the ship, and at once altered her helm ; also, suddenly the Williams struck the reef,m but got off clear.  The ship, however, struck, and remained hard and fast.  The captain of the Williams then found that the steamer was making water.  He was therefore compelled to leave the ship.  He set all the pumps to work and came up the bay, all the time the water was gaining . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ – Article “Stranding of the Ship George Roper and the Barque Jules Marie” – published 5th July 1883

For the full article, click here

Oct 1885 → the paddle steamer PS ‘Williams’ was sold to the ‘Melbourne Coal, Shipping & Engineering Co Ltd.’

1894 → The PS ‘Williams’ is reported in the registers as “broken up” . . .

Sources:  Websites:  ‘Flotilla Australia’, ‘The Clyde Built Ships’, ‘Shipwrecks of Port Phillip and The Rip’


View other important events in the history of The Steamers of Port Phillip Bay . . .

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