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Captain Alexander Newton's Pelican Shipyards 1846 - 1879, Manning River, Harrington, Mid North Coast, NSW | by Black Diamond Images
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Captain Alexander Newton's Pelican Shipyards 1846 - 1879, Manning River, Harrington, Mid North Coast, NSW

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Alexander Newton, a Scottish shipwright, whaler and ships master began his shipbuilding career in partnership with John Ferrier and later William Malcolm at Scotchtown, near Kempsey, on the Macleay River.

By 1846 however the business had fallen into financial difficulties and Newton and Malcolm moved to Harrington on the Manning River east of Taree to establish the successful Pelican Shipyards. (Called 'Baruah' until the 1850's).

The yards were located on Pelican Island approximately 5km west of Harrington. The Newton/Malcolm shipyards were the largest shipbuilding enterprise in the Southern Hemisphere and became world renowned building 14 sturdy ships between 1847 and December 2nd 1856 when William Malcolm died.

By 1878 Newton had built an additional 15 sailing ships and one steamship, the side Paddle Wheeler Tug, 'Huntress' **.

The magnificent 309 ton barque 'Alexander Newton' was the largest boat built by Captain Alexander Newton Snr at Pelican Yards and the largest boat built on the Manning. The vessel was launched as 'The Father' * in January 1876 but was subsequently renamed the 'Alexander Newton' *. Alexander Newton himself captained the vessel as did his three sons Alexander Newton Jnr, William Newton and Robert Newton on its many voyages until it was wrecked off Portland in New Zealand in 1894.

The first ship built at Pelican was the 'Rosetta', a 3 masted Barque, launched in 1847.

Like so many wooden ships of the era its life was cut short, being wrecked on Elizabeth Reef off Lord Howe Island in 1850.

The Rosetta was launched at Pelican shipyards on the same day the as John Nicholson built Fanny Fisher was launched and when the two boats crossed the treacherous Manning River bar together. It was nevitable that a race was on as to which boat would arrive in Sydney first. The honours went to the Fanny Fisher.

The last ship built by Alexander Newton Snr was the 'May Newton'. Launched in 1878 she was lost out of Strahan in Tasmania with all hands in 1892.


The 30 ships built at Pelican Shipyards at Harrington 1846-1879

N - Newton Built Ship

NM - Newton & Malcolm Built Ship


Alice Maud - (Brigantine) 1872-1874 N

Barquah - (Schooner) 1851-1852 NM

Clan Alpine - (Rn = Josephine) (Schooner) 1854-1865 NM

Crescent - (Schooner) 1855-1873 NM

Defiance - (Rn = Lookout) (Brigantine) 1866-1895 N

Demi - (Rn = Elizabeth Cohen) (Brigantine) 1850-1857

Ellen - (Schooner) 1859-1902 N

Erin - (Schooner) 1852-1857 NM

Gleaner I - (Schooner) 1848 - ? (Register Clossed in 1868) NM

Gleaner II - (Brigantine) 1854 - ? (A hulk by 1875) NM

Hannah Newton - (Brigantine) 1867-1873 N

Henry Moses - (Rn = Thomas and Henry) (Brigantine) 1850-1924 NM

Huntress - (Cutter - Side Paddle Steamer) - 1857-1872 ** NM

Jessie - (Schooner) 1856-1874 NM

Louis and Miriam - (Brigantine) 1848-1869 NM

May Newton - (Schooner) 1879-1892 N

Pelican - (Schooner) 1874-1866 N

Princess Alexandra - (Schooner) 1865-1913 N

Queen - (Schooner) 1865-? N

Rachel - (Barque) 1865-1889 N

Rachel Cohen - (Schooner) 1871-1924 N

Rebecca Jane - (Brigantine) 1871-1880 N

Rifleman - (Schooner) 1862-1871 N

Roderick Dhu - (Schooner) 1851-1865 NM

Rosetta - (Barque) 1847-1850 NM

Sable Chief- (Rn = Specimen) (Brigantine) 1853-1856 NM

Sir Isaac Newton - (Schooner) 1858-1879 N

The Father - (Rn = Alexander Newton) (Barque) 1976-1894 * N

The Son - (Rn = Mary Campbell) (Brigantine) 1869-1888 N

Volunteer - (Schooner) 1860-1864 N


Note - ship loss/wreck/deregistration dates approximate in a few cases as vessels may have not been deregistered until some time after an unknown loss date.

Reference - Down to the Sea in Ships by Manning River Historical Society 2002

Without doubt the Manning River has been one of the a major centres of shipbuilding from the launching of the Tarree by William Winter on September 12th 1834 till the modern day fibreglass Stebercraft vessels being built in Taree today.


Alexander Newton Snr died in September 1886 and the remaining Newton family formed a partnership. Ownership of both the Alexander Newton and the May Newton was taken over by Alexander Newton Jnr, who managed the partnership and the Pelican property.


Pelican Shipyards had closed down by 1879, the closure coinciding with the establishment just south of Harrington in 1875 of John Wright's Shipyards at Tuncurry on Wallis Lake. John Wright's yards transitioned from wind power to steam driven ships with the Wright yards eventually assuming the mantle of the largest wooden shipbuilding company in the southern hemisphere. Wright Shipyards, although effectively wound down by 1954, survived until 1958.


Image source - Interpretive Sign at Pilot Hill, Harrington, Mid North Coast, NSW (Produced by Harrington Lions Club)

Information courtesy Rebecca Linton's book published in 2004 - "Crossing the Bar, History of Harrington". The images were made available for the signage by the Lower Manning Historical Society.

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Taken on June 26, 2019