William & Margret Melvin

William Melvin, or Melville as he was some-times called, was originally a sawyer but he became a builder of small boats. He also built one registered ketch in the district. His arrival at Brisbane Water in the early 1850s came about as the result of answering an advertisement by William Ward of Kincumber, a timber merchant and storekeeper who had work for a number of pit sawyers. The picture on the left is an original of the couple late in life grom Gwen Dundon

In 1853 when he was only 19, Melvin married Margaret Scaysbrook, a daughter of Mr and Mrs Michael Scaysbrook of Kincumber. The bride was three years younger than her husband. The marriage ceremony was conducted in St Paul's Church of England and the witnesses were Patrick Scaysbrook and Mary Ann Ward who later became the wife of shipbuilder Rock Davis.

Margaret was born at Parramatta in 1837 and came to the Brisbane Water district when she was a baby. The family breadwinner Mi-chael Scaysbrook worked in the Kincumber area as a sawyer and also cultivated some land. In later life Margaret would tell of her childhood days in the bush, including the occasion when she was sent to Avoca to find some of her father's cows. She was wearing a pair of new boots which hurt her, so she hung them by the laces around the neck of her old dog which accompanied her on her rambles. Just then a wallaby hopped across the track and the dog and boots went after it. It was the last she saw of her boots, `and they were hard to come by in those days.'3 The large Scaysbrook family of the pioneering days is still well represented by descendants in the Brisbane Water area.

Sawyer turned to building boats

The Melvins lived in various parts of the district while William worked at pit-sawing. Initially they were at Kincumber where their only child Margaret Jane was born in the first year of their marriage, but then they moved to Erina and later to a stone house near Veteran Hall, this sojourn being followed by a further shift to Davistown. It was at the latter place that Melvin eventually took up small boat building. Some of his sailing craft were among the fastest to com-pete in Brisbane Water regattas of his time.

The sequence of events in William Melvin's life are rather vague but he was still working as a sawyer in 1871. Two years later he was en-gaged in building the 12 ton ketch Eleanor for mariner James F. Merrett of Cockle Creek, work on her being completed by the beginning of January 1874. Merrett mortgaged his ketch to the shipowner and shipbuilder Captain Adam Houlsby who not long before this arrangement had sold out at Davistown and returned to live in Sydney. In 1875 Melvin joined his son-in-law William James Woodward in building the 44 ton ketch Emily which was bought from them by a Brisbane owner (see Woodward for details).

Some reminiscences of Mrs Melvin were quoted in the Gos-ford press at the time of her death. She said that her husband had been a born musician and played the violin with a great sweetness of touch. His greatest pleasure was to have a few friends listening to him, or to play a lively Irish jig to the danc-ing of Mrs Harry Pickett or some other excellent dancer. He was noted for the splendid boats he turned out and the last he built was disposed of by art union, joining the little fleet in Arthur Lewis's Royal Hotel boatshed at Gosford. The hotel maintained the boats for the use of patrons, many of whom came to the district especially to indulge in the productive fishing outings that were popular with Sydney people.

William and Margaret Melvin's daughter Margaret, Mrs Woodward of Kincumber, died in 1895. Her parents survived her and lived out the last years of their lives in the Green Point area. William Melvin died on 6 January 1911 aged 77 and his wife on August 6 of the same year. They were buried in Holy Cross cemetery at South Kincumber under the name of Melville although the deaths were registered as Melvin.

biography from Gwen Dundon's "Shipbuilders of Brisbane Water NSW"