The Collectors: Boats - Eric Mitchell and Barry Purtell

2008-2009

For Eric Mitchell the jewel in his collection of model boats was a 2.5 metre (7 foot) replica of the SS Erringhi, the last of the Hawkesbury River traders. Not only the collector, Mitchell was also the maker of over 60 model boats, the passion for which spanned almost an entire century.

His particular preference for ‘the Erringhi’, as it is known, is easy to understand given the personal connections Mitchell had to the boat. Mitchell’s father Herbert Henry Mitchell (1871 – 1948) was the captain of the Erringhi for 38 years.

As a young boy Mitchell would spend school holidays and weekends on the Erringhi. He recalled, ‘We lived on the Erringhi on the weekends, leaving Sydney on Friday nights. We would go as far as a few miles below Windsor….The Erringhi was 100 tonnes and Dad would sail in all weather and went full speed where he could and that was 12 knots. It used to scare me going that fast on the river at night, but he never ran aground.’

Mitchell remembered the transporting of fruit from the Hawkesbury, then NSW’s biggest fruit producing area, to Sydney and returning with all the empty crates, the moving of livestock; horses, pigs and cattle, and building supplies of bricks and timber taken to Pittwater for the construction of houses.

The SS Erringhi of the Hawkesbury and Gosford Steamship Co. was built on the Clarence River and registered in Newcastle in 1907. She was one of the last big ships trading on the Hawkesbury River. Her specifications were:

length 110 ft

beam 21 ft

depth in water, draught 8 ft 6”

displacement 95 tonne

speed 12 knots per hour

The SS Erringhi was withdrawn from trading on the river in late 1937, due to the destruction of the Hawkesbury fruit industry by fruit fly and to the commencement of motor transport in the area.

The SS Erringhi was towed out to sea and sunk in 1950.

This exhibition is complimented with models by Barry Purtell and navigational lights.

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