Mosman Voices - oral histories online

Charles Rosman

Interviewed by Nancy Johnson on 26 June 1996

Nancy Johnson. Back to your ferries. Did you build any of them out here?

Charles Rosman. They were built by a man at Cronulla, near La Perouse there. I finished up with ‘The Royale’, it carried 300 passengers, and ‘The Radar’ she carried 250, and then ‘The Regal’, 150 passengers. Of course they were more out of my line because they took nine months to build – you know, double-deckers and that sort of thing. In my early days engines were running at only 10 or 12 horsepower, they finished up with engines of 300 horsepower. Out of my line.

Nancy Johnson. I believe ‘The Radar’ had some timbers in it from an old warship.

Charles Rosman. She was built just after the 1st World War. Of course, such a lot of our men went away to the war, and well – didn’t come back, timber getters and that. You couldn’t get timber, and she had 13 different sorts of timber in it, built from anything at all. Some of the seats were walnut, some were oregon, every timber you could think of. She was already built, ready to go into the water, the engine leads were in it, the seats, everything there, but no deck. They couldn’t get any timber for the deck. Beech is the best timber because when it is scrubbed it comes up nice and white, just like white wool. The builder went out into the bush where they cut it, it comes from up Taree way somewhere, and he’d get it cut the way he wanted it to suit the boat and load it on to a lorry. When the lorry would come out the government would grab it. That happened three times. So the boat was ready to go in the water for six months. A chap rang me up; he was dismantling one of the war ships. The warships have steel decks and they have timber on top, about three inches thick. This fellow rang me up from Drummoyne and he said that he was dismantling the boat and he said there is a lot of teak in it, but of course a lot of it is worn, the edges cut off it all round, top and bottom. He said that a lot of it was like brand new timber. So I rang the builder that was building the boat and told him and he went up there in a speed boat and bought the lot within a quarter of an hour, and that’s how she finished up with a teak deck. One of the only boats in Sydney that had a teak deck because teak comes from Burma – it is hard to get. It only grows in Burma. One of my granddaughters is called Radar, she’s living in one of my flats at the moment, she’s about 22 now. She’s named after a boat.