Walter Jones (1888-1992)



Wal Jones with a model of the "Surpise II" in 1986, aged 98.
Photo : Jean Purtell, taken by Patricia Mifsud

Walter Jones was born at Colo in the Hawkesbury district NSW in 1888, late last century and lived the majority of his life in this district. He was one of twelve children born to Thomas, a farmer, and Eliza Jones. The family lived at Colo, Wheelbarrow Ridge & Wheeney Creek. Wal's working life was connected with riverboats and the Hawkesbury and Colo Rivers.

In 1902 he worked with his cousin John Jones a shipwright, constructing the steam launch, Daisy. Wal's first job was at a Cornwallis dairy, milking cows for 10 shillings per week in 1906. In 1907 he moved to the Darling Downs District Queensland, for work. In 1911 he returned and worked on the Livingstone, a boat his Uncle William Jones built early in the 1900s. The boat traded between Colo & Windsor and picked up fruit from various farms along the route. In 1916 Wal took over running the boat.





The "Surprise" being unloaded in 1942
Photo : Barney Morley

As the trade developed Wal Jones took on a partner and invested in additional vessels. The most well known of these was the Surprise II and the Warragamba which made traded up the Colo & Macdonald Rivers.(Riverboat crew included Barney Morley, Frank Simmons, Joe Jurd & George Blundell) Basically local produce was the cargo, including watermelons, corn, pumpkins, oranges and cabbages. Pigs were also carried onboard. Produce was often take to Sackville or Brooklyn and then loaded onto Cec Hall's trucks and taken to the Sydney markets. Supplies and mail were often delivered along the way. Passengers were also picked up if there was room.

He built the steamboat S. S. Surprise on the Parramatta River in 1924 and ran his river cargo business for over half a century.

Following his retirement Wal Jones moved to the Central Coast. 1962 The Surprise II was sold to Reg Handy in 1962. Wal was still very active even up to his 102nd birthday.In 1994 Wal Jones one of the last Hawkesbury riverboat captains, passed away, aged 104 years.

Sources :
The Mosquito Fleet : Hawkesbury River Trade & Traders 1794-1994 / Jean Purtell (Deerubbin Press, 1995)
On the record : Oral history interview Wal Jones 1984 (Hawkesbury City Council Library Service)