The Wombat

The first job that was taken on by Barton Hutton as manager, in 1938 was the refurbishment of the lighter Wombat. A lighter is a flat bottomed ship or barge used for carrying heavy loads. Having been purchased from the Ulverstone Marine Board some years prior as a dredge, she was converted to a cargo barge for running wool, timber and cargo down river to Beauty Point to be loaded onto the ships heading to Melbourne and overseas. As the bottom plates had rusted out, she had to be completely replated below the water line. This was a large undertaking, as the whole bottom was pneumatically riveted. This was during the years of the great depression so the competition for work was fierce. A meeting between two other local engineering companies in Launceston was undertaken and the tender price and distribution of work was colluded between the firms. Barton didn’t wish to be a part of any such dealings so he worked out on his own price and placed the tender. The night before the tenders were due to close the other managers had called to Barton’s home that evening and pleaded with him not to put in his price, but it was too late. The following week Barton was informed that he had won the job. This must have been a sickening but exciting feeling because he didn’t have enough men to undertake the task at hand. He was then forced to travel to Melbourne to find a gang of men capable to undertake the job at hand. Luckily, work in Melbourne was scarce as well, so it didn’t take him long after wandering down at the docks to find a crew willing to do the job. Mr. George Henderson, an experienced boilermaker with a lot of marine work under his belt, came over, with a crew of men from Melbourne to assist. During the progress of the work over at the Dry Dock, sabotage of Glasgow Engineering’s equipment became a common occurrence during the night. One can only guess who and why this was done, but it was certainly making the job a lot harder to do and was causing many holdups. Barton Hutton was required to purchase a .22 revolver and hire a night watchman to keep the job site secure during these times of the great depression. Overcoming all the hurdles that had presented themselves with the job, it was still completed in a timely and cost effective manner. The total cost of the Wombat refurbishment was £3000. The Wombat carted cargo for a few more years, before being taken over by the Allied Works Council and turned into a ship. She was then fitted with two Vivian Engines and ran cargo up to the islands during the war. After the war she was purchased by J.S. Lee & Son and was used for carting timber from Smithton to Melbourne.

1993 P 1951
Wombat loading timber
Defender Leederry And Wombat
The Defender Leedary and the Wombat at the wharf
The Wombat
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