PS Mayflower

The PS Mayflower was built in Moama on the Murray River in NSW in 1884 opposite Echuca by Wilson & Burkett for Daniel Alexander and is the oldest original paddle steamer in South Australia.

She now resides in Mannum South Australia and forms part of the Mannum Dock Museum maritime fleet.

Early days

PS Mayflower in 1900Registered in Sydney in 1884 (registration no. 89328), the Mayflower measures 47'6" x 12'9" x 3'7" and features a 3.5 hp high pressure steam engine.

Carvel planked in red gum on steel frames, the PS Mayflower has a flat bottom and light draft enabling it to work on many of the Murray River tributaries however it was low powered and this caused problems when making headway up stream against the current.

A new vessel was launched at the building yards of Messrs. Wilson and Burkett, Echuca East, yesterday afternoon. The vessel, which was built to the order of Mr Alexander was christened the 'Mayflower'. Her length overall is 50 feet and breadth of beam 12 ft 1 in, with a depth of hold of 4 ft 8 in. The bottom planking is 2 in. redgum, and the top sides 11/2 in. kauri pine. She draws 5 in. forward, and 6 in. aft. Her carrying capacity when fitted with machinery and cabin accommodation will be 20 tons.

Riverine Herald 5/12/1884

Daniel Alexander, a West Indian Negro, used the boat as a bottle-oh boat. She had a hard time making her way upstream against the current.

Known as 'Black Alex', a legendary figure in Murray River history, he was an impressive figure and many stories have detailed his impeccable strength while he claimed to be the greatest swearer and talker on the river.

A smash occurred on the steamer Mayflower upriver near Euston on Monday (7/7/88). The crankshaft of the engine snapped short off, rendering progress impossible. The broken shaft was at once brought to the Mildura Engineering Works, where it has been repaired.

Mildura Cultivator 12/7/1888

Black Alex and his Australian wife operated the PS Mayflower where they collected bottles and carried firewood during 1890 before the craft was seized in May by the National Bank when he ran into debt. One night, Black Alex took the vessel back and made his way along the Murray to Swan Hill where he was arrested.

The vessel was taken over by his bankers and eventually sold to Billy 'Pirate' Wilson'.

The 1900s

PS MayflowerIn 1900 the PS Mayflower was sold to H & A Creager, a fishing family from Renmark.

Harry Creager Senior used the vessel as a residence and fishing steamer. After his and his wife's death, the vessel became the property of two of their sons, Harry and August.

Harry and August lived on and fished from the vessel for a number of years after their marriages and brought their new brides to live on the steamer.

A top cabin was built on by August after his marriage in 1913. Hilda Creager said, "He had put odd doors either side of the cabin and August told her it didn't matter as you couldn't see both sides at once".

August and Dorothy Creager's daughter 'Dolly' was born in the top cabin on the Mayflower on the 13th July 1914.

In 1919, August purchased the Enterprise and moved his family o board that vessel however Harry and Annie Creager lived and fished from the Mayflower until his death on 21st July 1929.

In the early 1940s the vessel was sold to Norm Collins, Lyle Nickles for a short time where it was moored somewhere in the Abbottsford Bridge in the Cowanna Bend Area.

In the 1950s Captain Paddy Hogg became the new owner and in 1956, Murray River entrepreneur Alby Pointon from Mildura purchased the vessel and converted to a passenger, diesel operated vessel. Alby operated the PS Mayflower as a cruise vessel known as the 'PS Mayflower Showboat' carrying a maximum of 60 passengers.

Later in 1968 the Mayflower was sold to Tommy Barr Smith and used as a houseboat. In 1975 it was sold to R Cooke of Woodville and in 1978 Stanley and June Wilson purchased the vessel.

In 1984 Brice Douglas purchased the vessel for private use and sold the vessel to the Mannum Dock Museum through a generous donation from Pam O'Donnell and Robert O'Callaghan.

Recommisioning

PS Mayflower restorationThe PS Mayflower is currently being restored back to its 1913 era by a dedicated group of volunteers (photo) and will be recommissioned at the Biannual 'All Steamed Up' event at the Mannum Dock Museum on November 19th-20th November 2016. This event will also feature the PS Oscar W from Goolwa, the PS Industry from Renmark and the PS Marion as well as many small wooden and classic boats, working engines and over 30 blacksmiths to join in the celebrations.

The PS Mayflower is listed on the Australian Register of Historic Vessels number 89328.