Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company

The Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company (PJ&MSC) was a publicly listed company that operated the Manly ferries in Sydney, Australia. After being taken over by Brambles Industries, the ferry service was eventually taken over by the State Government and is now part of Sydney Ferries.

An advertisement for the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company circa 1940

The company is notable for coining the expression about Manly being "Seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care" and for promoting development in the Manly and Pittwater / Broken Bay areas.


The history of the PJ&MSC is entwined with the history of Manly itself. Manly had been envisaged as a seaside resort by Henry Gilbert Smith in the 1850s. Initially Smith had chartered a paddle steamer to Manly and other vessels visited on an ad hoc "excursion" basis. Smith built a wharf in 1855 and eventually acquired an interest in steamers himself and soon more regular services to Manly had commenced.[1]

By 1873 Smith had sold the lease to the wharf and his share of the steamers to the operators of the ferries. The business was later acquired by John Randal Carey (who later founded the Sydney Daily Telegraph newspaper) in 1875 and together with three other businessmen formed the Port Jackson Steamship Company Limited on 23 January 1877.[2]

By 1901 the PJ&MSC's shares were trading on the Sydney Stock Exchange.[3]

After some disquiet about the level of fees being charged by the company (and having been encouraged by Manly Council which had advertised for an alternative provider) a group of Manly residents established a competitor company, the Manly Co-operative Steam Ferry Company, in 1893.

A period of intense price competition ensued that saw passenger numbers increase substantially. This resulted in the Co-operative experiencing financial difficulties and in 1896 its service collapsed and was taken over by the Port Jackson Company.

In 1907 the company was re-incorporated as the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company Limited (reflecting the merger some years earlier and sensitivity to Manly residents).[2]


  • John Woods (1896–1900)
  • John Randal Carey (1900–1902)
  • S. C. Sadler (1903–1904)
  • Archibald Howie (1904–1908)
  • J. J. Eyre (1908–1913)
  • Hunter McPherson (1913–1932)
  • Sir Archibald Howie (1932–1943)
  • Handel Norman Pope (1943–1950)
  • H. W. Knight (1950–1964)
  • R. W. G. Hoyle (1964–1972)

Operations: ManlyEdit

Dee Why passes the under construction Sydney Harbour Bridge
A paddle steamer approaches the wharf

For many years, ferry was the main mode of transport connecting Manly and the Sydney central business district (Circular Quay). Sydney's growing population (including growth in the 1850s due to the gold rush) saw the demand for the ferry services increase.

During its life, the PJ&MSC operated a number of types of ferries including paddle steamers, double-ended ferries with a wheelhouse at each end, coal-fired and oil-fired steamers, diesel powered ferries and hydrofoils. Some of the ferries even featured padded lounges and a wine bar. Among the many ferries were the Baragoola, Dee Why, Balgowlah and South Steyne.

Hydrofoils were introduced in 1965 to provide a high-speed service to Manly in an attempt to boost revenue. While they proved popular, their mechanical unreliability led to their demise (they were ultimately replaced by the JetCats in the early 1990s).[4]

In addition to its ferries, the PJ&MSC built and operated other attractions to encourage patronage on its Manly run. One such feature was a large shark proof ocean swimming pool, enclosed by a boardwalk (built in 1931), extending from the wharf across to the western side of Manly Cove.[5] Adjacent to the pool was a bathing pavilion which housed a diving and harbour plunge pool, a dance hall and dining rooms.[6] The pool was destroyed by a large storm in 1974.

Other attractions included the conversion of an old cargo wharf into an amusement pier (Manly Fun Pier), and the HNLMS K XII, a World War II-era submarine, previously operated by the Royal Netherlands Navy, and set up adjacent to the sea pool as a museum ship.[7]

Relationship with Manly CouncilEdit

During its life, the company had a complicated relationship with Manly Municipal Council. There were several disputes over various matters including the lease of the wharf, cost of fares and freight delivery.

In 1918, seven of the council's alderman who had accepted free ferry passes from the company were charged and found guilty by a magistrate of contravening the Local Government Act and disqualified to act as aldermen. As the council only had a total of nine alderman, there was a period the council did not have a quorum and therefore did not function. The convictions were overturned on appeal.[8]

Operations: Pittwater / Hawkesbury RiverEdit

In 1942 the PJ&MSC acquired Palm Beach business of WJ Goddard & Sons, including general stores, marine and ferry services.[9]

The company soon acquired some new ferries and was operating services between Church Point, the Basin, Scotland Island, Brooklyn, Berowra, Bobbin Head and Patonga.

In 1943-44 the company purchased the Currawong estate (including the guest houses) at Little Mackerel Beach and the Narrabeen Ice Works.[9]

In 1950, with the company facing financial difficulties, the Currawong estate was sold to the Labor Council of New South Wales and some of the Pittwater ferry services were also disposed of.

Decline and saleEdit

Better roads (including the Warringah Freeway), the upgrading of the Spit Bridge in 1958 and the spread of cars generally translated into declining ferry patronage and profitability.

On 19 April 1972, the PJ&MSC was acquired by Brambles Industries.[3] Brambles main interest in the business, was the 50% shareholding in Tidewater Port Jackson Marine, which operated six platform supply vessels.[10] Following a threat by Brambles to reduce the Manly ferry services, the NSW Government arranged for the Public Transport Commission to take over the service as from 1 December 1974.[11]

A few government restructures later, the former operations of the former PJ&MSC now are again privately operated by Harbour City Ferries (now Transdev Sydney Ferries) under the Sydney Ferries brand.


Name Period of service Fate
Fairlight 1878-1912 Sold to Brisbane for use as a lighter
Brightside 1877-1908 Scrapped 1908
Brighton 1883-1916 Sold as store ship, Port Stephens
Narrabeen 1886-1917 Hulked 1917
Manly (II) 1896-1924
Kuring-gai 1901-1928 Papua New Guinea store ship World War II, rusted remains near Hexham
Barrenjoey (rebuilt as North Head 1951) 1913-1985 Currently ashore in Cairns, Queensland
Baragoola 1922-1983 sank, 2022.
Burra Bra 1908-1943 Requisitioned by the Royal Australian Navy as an anti-submarine training vessel and target tow. Sold in 1947 and broken up in 1951.
Balgowlah 1912-1951 Sold in 1953, broken up and hulk converted to lighter. Lighter scuttled near Iron Cove Bridge
Bellubera 1910-1973 broken up and hulk scuttled off Long Reef in 1980
Binngarra 1905-1930 Papua New Guinea store ship World War II, scuttled off Sydney 1946
Dee Why I 1928-1968 Sold Stride's Shipbreakers July 1968, broken up and hulk scuttled off Long Reef May 1976
Curl Curl I 1928-1960 Sold Stride's Shipbreakers July 1963, broken up and hulk scuttled off Sydney August 1969
South Steyne 1938-1974 Converted into a floating restaurant, currently laid up in Berrys Bay
Manly III 1965-1980 Sold to Hydrofoil Seaflight Services, Queensland[12]
Fairlight II 1966-1984 Scrapped 1988[12]
Dee Why II 1970-1984 Scrapped 1988[12]
Curl Curl II 1973-1991 Sold 1992 to Ustica Lines, Italy & renamed Spargi[12][13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lennon, Troy (2 November 2007). "Rough seas for the Harbour's first fleets". The Daily Telegraph page 60.
  2. ^ a b Prescott, Anthony M (March 1984). "The Manly Ferry – A history of the service and its operators, 1854-1974". University of Sydney (Faculty of Arts - thesis). Archived from the original on 15 July 2007. Retrieved 13 February 2008. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b "Centenary of Federation Research – Companies in Australia from 1901" (PDF). Australian Stock Exchange. May 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 July 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
  4. ^ "Wheels and Keels" (PDF). State Transit Authority – Community Relations Unit. February 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
  5. ^ Metherell, Terry; George and Shelagh Champion (2005). "Manly Council Local Studies Collection - Manly Wharf Fact Sheet" (PDF). Retrieved 26 January 2008.
  6. ^ Casey, Marcus (23 December 2000). "Slip sliding away". Daily Telegraph.
  7. ^ "The Submarine K XII". Manly Daily. 18 November 1998. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
  8. ^ George and Shelagh Champion (April 2003). "Manly Council Local Studies Collection – The Ferry Pass Scandal" (PDF). Retrieved 26 January 2008.
  9. ^ a b Prescott, Anthony M (November–December 1982). "The Pittwater and Hawkesbury River Ferry Services of the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Co. Ltd. 1942-1974" (PDF). Australasian Shipping Record vol. 13, no. 6, pp. 311-317 (reproduced at www.historyworks.com.au). Retrieved 13 February 2008. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ Brambles as ferry owner? Truck & Bus Transportation December 1971 page 144
  11. ^ "Heritage Database – Historical Notes - Baragoola (M.V.)". NSW Heritage Office. Retrieved 13 February 2008.
  12. ^ a b c d Down Under Foils Classic Fast Ferries June 2002
  13. ^ Curl Curl II Ferries of Sydney