Industry : Misc 2

Showboats & Cruises


S.S. DECOY (Perth)

(1905-1909) Built in Scotland in 1878 the S.S. Decoy was to Melbourne in crates the following year. After being reassembled it was sent to South Australia, spending the next two decades towing barges around the Murray River system, followed by several years in the gulf. It was acquired by Perth’s Swan River Excursion Company in 1905 and given a second deck to allow for some 800 excursionists. Over the next three years it was utilised by organisations, businesses and for private functions, concerts and dances. Day and “moonlight” excursions during summer typically involved live music and sometimes variety entertainment. Several entrepreneurs, including George R. Lawrence, also operated shows – either onboard or at select destinations. When its owners went bust in early 1909 the Decoy was sold and returned to the Murray River where it continued towing barges until 1932.

Among the best known variety artists to have been connected to S.S. Decoy entertainments were Charles Ridgway (later Charlie Vaude), Robert Mason (later Marshall Palmer), and the Shaw family (see Shaw’s Entertainers).
Image: S.S. Decoy, ca. 1906; Source: Paddle Steamer Decoy.


S.S. GIPPSLAND (Brisbane)

S.S. Gippsland [CM 25 July 1947, 1](1938-1940) Brisbane’s first show boat, the S.S. Gippsland operated for 15 months providing cruises, pleasure trips, variety and cabaret shows, and dances. Under the brief ownership of Bulimba boat builder James Crouch, the vessel initially served as a Brisbane to Redcliffe pleasure cruise before being used on the more lucrative Dunwich (Stradbroke Island) and Bishop Island runs. Among the variety performers known to have been engaged to entertain passengers and patrons were Nat Hanley, Bert Corrie, Jeanette Gerard, Jolly Jack Tars, Princess Mahelona (Hawaiian artist), Guilford and Hammond, Johnny Romano, Hill Billy, Gladys Anderson, “Bing” Hammond, Toby Ryan, Neil O’Brien, Horrie Leighton, Harry Maughan (pianist). The Gippsland also offered community singing events.

1: Launched in 1908 from the Paynesville (Victoria) slip yard, the S.S. Gippsland spent the years 1908-1927 operating as both a tourist and small cargo vessel around Lakes Entrance, Gippsland, Victoria. After briefly operating as a mother ship for trawling fleet (1940-41) the steamer was acquired by the Royal Australian navy and as used as a minefield repair ship. She sank on a reef off New Guinea in 1947 while being used to search for treasure.
2: Although Brisbane’s best known and possibly its longest-running show and cruise boat, the Miramir, was launched in 1934 it did not begin providing on-board entertainment until sometime after WWII. The S.S. Gippsland operated as a showboat roughly between November 1938 and March 1940.
Image: Courier Mail (Brisbane) 25 July 1947, 1.


S.S. ROSE (Sydney)

SS Rose

(ca. 1898-1905) Under the management of A.J. Thompson, the steamer S.S. Rose operated as passenger transport and excursion vessel on Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River around the turn of the century. In addition to servicing the Thompson family’s Clifton Gardens pleasure grounds at Mosman, the Rose offered presented concerts as part of its Sunday cruises to Middle Harbour. Boxsell’s String Band was one act known to have been engaged. Performers booked to perform at Clifton Gardens would also provide entertainment during the trips to and from the resort. In 1901 Thompson even secured a theatrephone machine to entertain patrons on the lower deck.

1: The origins and eventual demise of the S.S. Rose are currently unclear. Whether a steamer named the Golden Rose, operated by L. Lawrence and active on Sydney Harbour as early as the 1880s, was the same vessel is unclear.
2: Another boat named the S.S. Rose operated around Newcastle and the Hunter River from the 1880s through until at least the early 1900s.
3: A. J. (Alexander Joseph) Thompson was the fifth child and second son of Captain David Thompson who purchased Clifton Gardens in 1880. Alexander was manager of the resort from the late 1890s.
Image: Evening News (Sydney) 30 Mar. 1899, 1.
Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on October 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm  Comments Off on Industry : Misc 2