WILLIAM RICHARD RANDELL
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The RANDELL family disembarked at Holdfast Bay from the sailing vessel Hartley in 1837, the year following Proclamation: - At that time, William Richard was only 13 years old: - Nevertheless, when interviewed in 1903, at the age of 79, W. R. Randell retained-"a vivid recollection of being carried through the surf at Glenelg on the shoulders of a sailor", when "there were thousands of blacks about, especially on the Adelaide plains", and "there was not a single house in Adelaide".
Early records relating to the Randells are sparse: - Nevertheless, the overall impression is that William Beavis RANDELL, the family patriarch, came to South Australia as 'chief miller' for the South Australian Company. - In what appears to have been a classic bureaucratic bungle, however, all the mill machinery and the steam engine to drive it, were unloaded into storage on Kangaroo Island where they lay idle from 1837 to 1840: -The 'miller' without a Mill, meanwhile, who, in Devonshire, had also been a general farmer, was appointed to the position of 'Manager' of the South Australia Company's flocks.
In 1840 the milling equipment was eventually transhipped from K.I. to Adelaide and a mill was built adjacent the Hackney Bridge on land that is nowadays known as the 'Old Mill Reserve'. -But William Beavis seems never to have managed this Mill, though he did build a house near the Hackney bridge and his sons were employed in the mill for time to time: - The S.A. Company chose instead, to lease-out the mill to a number of different millers and William Beavis remained the full-time Stock Manager for the S.A. Company, until he retired from that position in 1844.
THE BIRTH OF A DREAM
Around 1847 William Beavis built a home at Gumeracha on land he had purchased some years previous. He named the property 'Kenton Park' and bred cattle there on his own account: -Besides the house acres, the Randells also had right-of-way to a strip of land, not at all uncommon in the early days of pastoral leases, which stretched all the way from Gumeracha to the River Murray. William Beavis, and his sons, regularly drove cattle to and from, as well as up and down, the west bank of the River Murray: -As time passed, William jun., became very much enamoured by the river, and similarly by the exploits of Captain Charles Sturt.
A young William Richard began to ponder on the adventurous notion of placing a cargo steamer on the Murray and, in the early 1850s when the colony of South Australia was losing most of its manpower to the gold-diggings at Ballarat & Bendigo, William Richard was dreaming of steamboats carrying produce to the diggings, and to the settlers, who otherwise had only the slowest of transport, the bullock wagon, on which to transport their produce and supplies: - WR's dream became somewhat of an obsession with him, and he eventually confided his thoughts to his father. William Beavis, however, threw cold water on the idea and told William jnr. to stick to things he understood: -Also, at about this time, William Sen., built a family flourmill at Gumeracha, it appears that the sons rented the mill from their father and ran the milling business. - In this mill, William Richard began to gather his first hand information about the intricacies of steam engines.
Finally, in 1852 and at the age of 28, William Richard decided to turn his dream into a reality: - He employed some carpenters at Gumeracha and without any prior experience, indeed he had never even seen a steamboat, he began to build the framework for a small steamer. - The hull was later carted, with great difficulty, over the ranges and across the plain to the Murray river, where it was re-assembled under his supervision and became known as the 'P S Mary Ann'.
The 'Mary Ann' measured 55ft long by 9ft wide. It was powered by a single 8hp engine and could carry 20 ton of cargo. The cylinder for the engine was obtained in Adelaide and was made by a German engineer, Mr Claus Gehlken, of Hindmarsh. The boiler was made in the shape of an iron tank, square in section, with a single furnace passing through the middle. The side, bottom & top plates were flanged and riveted together and the end plates were bolted to the shell thus formed, sheet lead being used to make the joints. - When in use, the boiler is reported to have assumed alarming proportions and, for safety sake, a chain was wrapped around its middle, wooden wedges were then driven in between the chain and the sides, in an effort to control the 'bulging': - Even with the chain in place, however, when proceeding at speed, the sides and top of the boiler were reported to swell in and out like a concertina.
William Richard, in this small vessel and with no previous experience in navigation, navigated the River Murray as far upstream as it was possible to go. -In so doing, he rightfully earned the title of 'First Steam Navigator of the River Murray'; - a title which he greatly cherished.
P. S. MARY ANN
If W. R. Randell ever did make any drawings or plans on how he built his 'Mary Ann' steamboat, none have survived to the present. ... Nonetheless as part of the Commemorative Celebrations held to mark the 150th anniversary of the first steam navigation on the River Murray. The Mildura based 'Rivers & Riverboat Historical Society' did build, what they called, a 'Mary Ann replica', in which they took part, along with numerous other restored & replicated steamboats, in the Government sponsored Commemorative Voyage up the River Murray, which took place during 2003.
The above named 'Mary Ann replica' was built using modern 20th-century, metal-hull boat building technology. She did, however, conform to a number of the more widely known features of the original 'Mary Ann', such as length, breadth (beam), and was likewise propelled by a steam-engine driving side-mounted paddlewheels also, as on the original, she had her gunwales raised (a precautionary afterthought taken by Randell after an especially scary, rough-weather crossing of Lake Alexandrina). - Unlike the original, however, with its infamous 'square' boiler and rudimentarily engineered steam engine. The replica utilised a modern 20th-century steam engine & 20th-century tube boiler. The end result was a vessel that rather resembled a very large lifeboat from an early 20th-century passenger liner, with stuff added. .. .. .. I therefore feel obligated to point out that, when you take into account Randell's well documented lack of boat building expertise, plus the particularly rustic conditions under which he toiled. The Mary Ann replica, especially the hull shape, bore scant resemblance to anything that Randell COULD have built; notwithstanding that a vessel replicating the sort of hull, and power-plant, that Randell COULD have built, would never pass modern maritime safety standards and so it could only be created in scale model form.
The Mary Ann's Fate; Courtesy of Government of South Australia Department for Environment & Heritage.
Reference material listed below provided the bulk of the information contained herein; They are recommended reading for anyone interested in W R Randell and his place in the history of South Australia.
a.. Family Portrait of WILLIAM RICHARD
RANDELL 'First Steam Navigator of the River Murray and its Tributaries'
... by his Granddaughter, MABEL KINMONT; 1951:
b.. TORRENS VALLEY HISTORICAL JOURNAL
-November 1996 / Number 44
... Journal of The Torrens Valley and District Historical Soc.; Research & Publications officer Mr B Arnold
c.. 'RIVERBOATS' -by IAN MUDIE; -Rigby 1961, Sun Books 1965:
d.. THE ADVERTISER -Adelaide, May 2,
1903; -'THE PIONEER OF THE MURRAY'
... On the occasion of William Richard Randell's 79th birthday:
e.. RESEARCH DOCUMENT; -the burning of
the P S Bunyip and its legendary association with the Bedstead
... by researcher Peter J Reilly, 1997 / 99
a.. b.. and c.. \are available from;
Gould Genealogy & History.
4/247 Milne Road, Modbury North SA 5092.
PO Box 675, Modbury SA 5092.
Telephone (08) 8396 1110.
Fax (08) 8396 1163.
Compiled 1997-9 by Peter J Reilly
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