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The Clutha River Board and its steamers
by W J Cowan, 2023

A comprehensive article by Bill Cowan, not only about the river steamers but the wider history of Tuapeka Mouth and the river.


He concludes (page 22)

...a river steamer service which in its time and before the creation of suitable
roads and improved motor vehicles, provided a vital transport option to settlers in the
Clutha Valley. This was a service, though, which was handicapped throughout its life by
fluctuating river levels and natural river hazards. Some ‘dreamers’ early on hoped that the
steamer service could be extended up-river as far as Clyde or Cromwell, but this was not to
But in its day, and provided the river level was high enough, the steamer service fulfilled a
basic transportation need. The writer’s grandfather, J A Moore, was head teacher at

Tuapeka Mouth during 1904-06. He was then appointed as assistant teacher at Arthur
Street School in Dunedin. But how would he travel to Dunedin? By spring cart to Lawrence
there to catch a train for Milton and then another for Dunedin? No, there was a much easier
way: carrying his suitcase and books he walked a quarter of a mile to the Tuapeka Mouth
jetty, strode aboard Clyde there tied up, bade his well-wishers farewell and steamed off
down the Clutha to Balclutha there to board a train for Dunedin. That was travelling in

Read the full account:

The Clutha River/Mata-Au, once known as the Molyneux from its junction with the Kawarau
River at Cromwell to the sea, is the second longest river in New Zealand and the longest in
the South Island. Wikipedia tells us that it flows south-southeast a distance of 338 km
through Central and South Otago from Lake Wanaka to the Pacific some 75 km south west
of Dunedin. One or two more facts: the Clutha is the swiftest flowing river in New Zealand
and also conveys the highest volume discharging an average flow of 614 cubic metres per
second. In the early years of settlement there was an expectation that the Clutha might
serve as an inland waterway, at least as far as Roxburgh but the furthest reported voyage of
a river steamer was only a few miles above the Black Cleugh at Rongahere.
The Clutha River Board which had been in existence since 1876, having been created by the
Clutha River Conservation Board Act of 1875, was entrusted with making the river safe for
river traffic. Certain land had been set aside in 1870 as endowments for the Board whose
initial members were the Mayor of Balclutha, and the chairmen of the Balmoral, Pomahaka,
Matau and South Molyneux Road Boards. Their duties included, according to Waite (1948),
the removal of snags from the river bed and the construction of jetties at various places.
Erosion was to be countered by the building of groynes. The great flood of 1878 caused the
Clutha to open new mouths effectively closing Port Molyneux as a port. The local harbour
board was abolished with the Clutha River Board taking over its area and responsibilities.
Initially the River Board was known as the ‘Board of Conservators’ and was referred to as
that for a number of years. At the Board’s annual statutory meeting for 1877, their engineer,
George S. Duncan C.E., presented his report of a flying survey of the Clutha from Tuapeka
Mouth to Inch Clutha regarding the improvements needed ‘to render the present channel of
the river more practicable for navigation’.
Duncan made these points:
1. The river has an average width of from 600-700 ft with a velocity at its lowest level
of from 4 – 6 m.p.h. Navigation has already been undertaken by steamers of about
four feet draught and rafting operations of logs to Balclutha are managed except
when the river is low.
2. Throughout the Clutha’s course it is studded with islands and gravel banks which by
dividing its flow into various branches have caused shallows and rendered the
channel extremely tortuous. Examples of these are near the Clydevale punt crossing,
above the Echilfechan rocks and at the eastern end of Totara Island.
3. The principal obstructions which render the river most dangerous to navigation are
rocks sunk below the water surface and large snags or logs which have become
permanent ‘fixtures’. Rocks feature on the stretch from Tuapeka Mouth to the
Pomahaka confluence while snags are imbedded in the channel as far as Inch Clutha.
4. These snags gradually accumulate, around their roots and branches, large deposits
of shingle and gravel. The worst example is at Totara Island where the waterway has
been rendered extremely tortuous and contracted.

5. The Echilfechan rocks, situated just above the Pomahaka’s confluence, extend the
full width of the river dividing the stream into channels varying from 30 -60 feet in
width with the current speeding-up through this area.
Duncan then outlined to the Board the steps that should be taken in order to minimize the
worst obstructions to navigation. It was decided to employ day labour during the winter to
undertake this work beginning with the channel opposite Beggs.
Before the River Board’s steamer service was established there had been a succession of
river boats. One of the earliest was Tuapeka built at Port Chalmers in 1863 and which served
for eleven years before sinking opposite Kaitangata after hitting a snag. Tuapeka regularly
travelled up-river as far as Tuapeka Mouth mainly as a cargo-carrier. She was followed by
other steamers which included Clutha, Iona and Balclutha.
Iona was withdrawn from service in 1880 creating hardship for up-river settlers who relied
on the river ‘highway’. This withdrawal may have influenced a member of the River Board,
Mr Robson, to move during the March 1881 meeting, ‘That with the view of opening-up and
improving the navigation of the river steps be taken to procure a small steamer – not to
exceed 25 tons burthen - to be used in dredging sand bars and removing snags and when
not thus employed to be used otherwise as the Board may think fit’. Though the Board was
enthusiastic about purchasing a steamer it needed to be assured that it had the legal power
to do so and so an opinion was to be sought.
By the following month the legal firm of Haggit Bros. and Brent reported that they could see
no reason against the purchase of a steamer. During July the Board decided to purchase a
steamer at a cost of £2 800 after having been in contact with John Darling Engineer and
Agent for the Union Steam Shipping Co. in London who would design and supervise the
construction of a suitable vessel. Messrs Fleming and Ferguson of Paisley, Scotland, built this
steamer which was delivered to Dunedin in sections per the steamer Otago and assembled
by the well-known firm of Kincaid and McQueen near the Rattray Street wharf. She was
launched on 3 July 1882. Matau worked the river from 1882 until 1901 when, during the
following year, her hull was towed up-river and sunk at the Upper Clydevale Station to form
a groyne. (In recent years efforts have been made to raise Matau without success).
Matau was built entirely of steel plate and measured 100 ft long with a beam of 22 ft and a
depth of hold of 4ft weighing 25 tons register and able to carry up to 50 tons. There are
seven bulkheads on each side adding up to fourteen watertight compartments. She was flat-
bottomed and designed to draw as little water as possible, about 10 inches on an even keel,
being driven by a stern paddle wheel 10 ft in diameter of the fixed-float type. Her power
plant consisted of a steam boiler located near the bow supplying steam to a pair of high-
pressure cylinders of 14 inch diameter with a stroke of 3 ft 6 ins. Normal working pressure
was 120 lb per sq inch providing 140 nominal horsepower. The boiler was fitted with a
steam donkey-pump and there was a winch driven by a two cylinder engine used for
handling cargo.

This vessel had a rather inauspicious start to her career. A trial trip, with about 40 invited
guests, was planned for 1 August and was scheduled down the harbour to Port Chalmers
leaving Rattray Street wharf at 11 a.m. However, for unexplained reasons, she left two
hours later with Captain G. McKinnon in charge. After having made a brisk start it became
obvious that something was amiss in the engineering department as speed began to slacken
noticeably. The problem lay with the boiler feed pump designed to supply the boiler with
water. This was soon repaired and progress soon picked-up until Blanket Bay was reached.
Here a nut attached to the feed pump’s check valve failed resulting in steam escaping in
clouds which completely enveloped Matau and her hungry passengers. But this was a
problem which couldn’t be readily fixed. As the boiler water level couldn’t now be
maintained the furnace fire was quickly raked-out and the crew and passengers settled-back
to await developments whatever they might be. The anchor was dropped and hope rested
on the steamer Maori, soon to pass this way, being able to pick them up. In spite of shouts
and entreaties a Chinaman working a nearby plot of land failed to heed their plight and just
kept on working.
The afternoon Port train was hailed by everyone hauling out a handkerchief and waving like
mad. Whether this would have had any effect on the train passengers was not to be known
because shortly afterwards Maori rounded the point and drew alongside. There was no
thought of ‘sticking with the ship’, and soon all of Matau’s company was safely aboard
Maori which transported them all round to Port. Here they enjoyed a delayed but
sumptuous meal at Dodson’s hotel before returning to Dunedin by the 5.15 p.m. train.
(Speeches had been kept to a minimum).
Unlike the delivery voyages of later steamers Matau had an uneventful trip down the coast
and up the Clutha. She was reported as giving ‘entire satisfaction’ on her travels up river as
far as Tuapeka Mouth. There was a large quantity of grain to be shipped from Clydevale to
the Clutha Railway Station. Matau’s berth was opposite the Railway Station and only a few
yards away from the nearest railway siding thus facilitating the handling of cargo to and
from railway wagons. Later the Board erected a small goods shed near the jetty to house
stores, plant and freight. In 1916 land was bought for a new goods shed.
However adept as Matau proved to be in handling cargo, her pleasure trips continued to be
plagued with misfortune. On 21 October she loaded 90 passengers at Balclutha intending to
sail as far upriver as Clydevale. The pleasure party left at 9 a.m. undeterred by cold, sleety
blasts and drenching rain. Upriver the weather began to moderate at the same time that the
engineer discovered the boiler’s feed pump was failing to supply sufficient water. Shades of
the recent Otago Harbour trip! The vessel hove-to for three quarters of an hour to regain
steam before resuming the voyage. Progress was fine, until within a mile from Whitelea,
steam couldn’t be maintained any longer. Using the little remaining steam, Matau was
driven into the bank just below the mouth of the Kaihiku and everyone headed ashore.
A comprehensive picnic was held being augmented by rowing parties and a cricket match
between Kaitangata and Balclutha teams. At 4 p.m. the anchor was weighed with the run
home only occupying 25 minutes. Apparently the leaking pump was fixed quite readily. In
early November, hopefully with memory of her sins now well in the past, Matau was

reported as working very satisfactorily. A few days before she had carried 60 tons of cargo
up river drawing only 2 ft 6 in. Another trip brought 60 excursionists up country and on
another, 200 were carried from Kaitangata. Even with this number aboard, there was
sufficient room for dancing. (Matau was licensed to carry 230 passengers).
To give some idea of the steamer’s work, on 27 November 1882 she steamed up to Tuapeka
Mouth with 10 000 feet of timber for the new bridge being built there by Mr Archibald
across the Tuapeka River. After being unloaded she took on board 240 sacks of grain from
Messrs Keenan and Grieve before calling into the Upper Clydevale Station where she loaded
100 bales of wool. The following day she took another load of timber to the Mouth.
Though not part of this story mention needs to be made of the various surveys undertaken
in the 1880s to determine the possibility of establishing a river steamer service on the
Clutha to at least Beaumont. Some visionaries dreamed of a service far beyond to such
destinations as Alexandra and Clyde dispensing with the need to extend the Otago Central
Railway which was then entering the Strath Taieri. However optimistic some of the surveys,
the results came to naught with up river navigation never extending more than a few miles
beyond Rongahere.
During 1891 the Board decided on a change of policy and leased-out Matau to a company
titled , ‘Messrs McKinnon and Co,’ to operate the river service. The ‘McKinnon’ was, of
course, Captain Gordon McKinnon who seemed to rmanage the operation on an ‘as
required’ basis. This can’t have been satisfactory as the Board at their July 1891 meeting
decided to resume possession of the steamer and terminate the present arrangements with
McKinnon and his Company. It was considered essential that the steamer should operate on
fixed dates, either once a week or fortnight. When not involved in these trips Matau could
be occupied in clearing the channel, its original purpose.
In the following year, in an effort to maintain satisfactory navigation to Tuapeka Mouth, the
Board had a large gang at work creating a stone groyne about one and a half miles above
the Clydevale punt. This action was intended to remove a shingle bank which was blocking
navigation; this work proved to be very effective in allowing the steamer to reach the
Mouth and transport grain to Balclutha. A large goods shed had been built here just a
hundred yards or so up river from the site of the yet to be established punt. This site had its
problems resulting in the Tuapeka Mouth landing being relocated a couple of hundred yards
up stream from the mouth of the Tuapeka River and not far away from the old sawmill
landing. Here a substantial wharf was built and served by the relocated goods shed. Goods
sheds were built at these other landings on the Clutha: Rongahere, Upper Clydevale, Lower
Clydevale, Greenfield, and Cox’s.
Once again the Board looked at the idea of seeking others to work Matau either on tribute
or at a weekly wage. By September 1892 three applications had been received for working
the steamer on tribute: two at 14% of the receipts and one at 7%. However, after due
consideration, the Board decided to retain the working of the steamer in their own hands.
The positions of master and engineer for Matau had recently been advertised. Three
applications for master were received Mr J Butler being appointed at a salary of £13 a

month. Mr J Sheddan was appointed engineer, out of four applicants, on a salary of £12 a
A feature of the river excursion trade during this era were those organised by the River
Board and the New Zealand Railways working in conjunction. One such excursion, operated
in February 1893, left by a special train from Dunedin at 8 a.m. carrying 230 passengers.
(Passenger numbers were restricted because of Matau’s carrying capacity). The
excursionists reached Balclutha about 10.30 and then spent about five and a half hours
travelling up-river by steamer until Clydevale was reached. An hour was spent here by
various picnic parties before returning to the steamer which made a rapid trip down-river to
Balclutha. The return train reached Dunedin shortly after 10 p.m. and it was reported that
‘the trip was thoroughly enjoyed by all’.
In late July, 1893 the Clutha Leader devoted some space to considering Clutha River
navigation. It discussed how two problem sections had recently been resolved; i.e. the
narrow channel not far from the Clydevale punt and the two shallow channels between the
Balclutha railway bridge and jetty. Monthly trips could now be run as far as Tuapeka Mouth.
Recently however, the Board decided to test the capacity of the channel beyond Tuapeka
Mouth. They steamed Matau for a distance of six miles above the Mouth and but for a
storm which suddenly blew-up would have travelled another two or three miles or within six
miles of Beaumont. At this time Messrs Tyson and Dunlop’s sawmill at the Black Cleugh was
in full operation offering considerable traffic.
How fast could Matau steam down river? In mid-September 1895 she had cause to travel-up
river to Tysons’ sawmill to take on board some pit props. Matau then headed up-stream for
a few miles to the rapids before turning for home at 3.50 p.m. She arrived at the Balclutha
railway station jetty at 6 p.m. having covered 38 miles in two hours ten minutes. On this
passage she had reached a top speed of 20 m.p.h.
Some knowledgable local folk estimated that the expenditure of about £500 would be
sufficient to enable steamers to reach Beaumont. With a rush of blood to the head the
Leader extolled the virtues of such an opportunity: Traffic from Moa Flat, Millers Flat,
Roxburgh, Alexandra and even Cromwell would be tapped by such a service employing a
fleet of steamers; shades of the Mississippi! Imagine the benefits of such a trade to
It appeared a practice for the Board to make an annual up-river inspection using their
steamer and with a stop-over at Tuapeka Mouth on the outward journey. These inspections
proved one point about the navigation: the rocks impeding navigation were fixed and easily
identified but the shoaling was constantly altering requiring various groynes to be
constructed to direct the river’s energy to sweep away the various sandbanks. (Mark Twain
in his writings on piloting river steamers on the Mississippi, highlighted the challenges of
coping with the ever-changing topography of this mighty river and the difficulty of knowing
what was where and how it had changed).
What types of traffic were being conveyed by Matau? This table outlines the goods shipped
on this vessel during the calendar year of 1897:

General goods. 280 tons
Coal 454 “
Chaff 187 “
Manure 216 “
Potatoes 50 “
Timber 102 133 super ft.
Wheat 7 323 bags
Oats 15 566. “
Barley 200 “
Wool 1 776 bales
Rabbit skins 98. “
Sheepskins 39. “
Posts 2 964
Strainers 291
Bricks 5 600
Stones 600 yds
By mid-1899 it was becoming obvious that Matau was not coping adequately with the traffic
being offered. This resulted in the Board engaging Mr E Roberts of Dunedin, consulting
engineer, to arrange for the construction of a larger steamer. During May he was invited to
travel on the steamer from Clydevale to Balclutha when, during the two-hour trip, he was
able to study the capabilities of Matau and discuss with Board members the requirements
for a new steamer.
At this time an interesting decision was reached by the local warden Mr R S Hawkins,
regarding dredging on the Clutha interfering with steamer navigation. A Mr E.R. Smith had
recently applied for a special dredging claim of 80 acres on the Clutha’s bank below the
Rankleburn (Rongahere) punt. The River Board had lodged an objection asserting that
dredging operations could affect navigation on this stretch. The warden, in granting the
application pointed out that the river traffic beyond Tuapeka Mouth was negligible only
attracting £44.8.0 of business during the last two years. He also maintained that dredges
brought benefits to the districts in which they operated by providing employment and the
need for goods and services.
In November 1900 during her last year in service Matau had an exciting trip to the Black
Cleugh with a cargo of timber for Lioness dredge. It took the steamer two and a half days to
travel the 40 odd miles upstream on a river which was in flood. (Captain Butler later
described the voyage as the worst he had experienced in his 25 years in service on the
Clutha). When returning downstream the rapids were passed safely, but at high speed, until
shortly below the Mouth Matau was caught in an eddy circling a large rock and in spite of all
efforts became unmanageable.
She was dashed with great force then onto a hidden reef which holed the steamer’s bottom
in three places. Thanks to the skill of the Captain and that of his crew the steamer was
floated off her dangerous position and the leaks were temporarily stopped. The pumps
were then able to cope with the remaining leakage and the steamer then made Balclutha
without further incident.

Matau made one of her last trips up river to the Black Cleugh in late March 1901 bringing 40
tons of machinery for Lioness dredge. She behaved well though such was the weight of her
cargo that the deck was often under water.
On 30 September 1901 the new steamer, as yet unnamed, was launched on the reclaimed
land near the foot of Stuart Street in Dunedin. She was built by John McGregor and Co’s
Otago Foundry and was considerably larger than Matau at 120 ft long, 27 ft wide and 5 ft
deep. The hull and deck were built of three-sixteenths of an inch thick steel. Motive power
was provided by a pair of compound, condensing, steam engines of 200 indicated
horsepower. The locomotive-type boiler situated at the bow operated at 160 lb per square
inch. The engines drove independent paddle wheel at the stern enabling them to assist with
the steering of the vessel.
The hull was divided into fifteen water-tight compartments with a stand-by water pump to
deal with any accidents which might occur, and on the Clutha these would be inevitable.
The deck houses were placed at the stern and comprised, on the starboard side,
accommodation for the crew, engineer and the cook’s galley. On the port side was situated
the captain’s cabin, the ladies’ cabin and a lavatory. All the work on the new vessel was
performed locally with one exception: the powerful winch used for handling the deck cargo.
The official trial trip of the now-named steamer Clyde took place on the last Saturday of
October and was run to Kaitangata from Balclutha with about a hundred invited
excursionists aboard. During this trip she was officially christened by Miss Stewart, daughter
of Mr D. Stewart, Chairman of the River Board. The fact that Clyde was not christened at her
launching was thought, by some, to be responsible for an early incident or two which
bedevilled her. On a trial trip in Otago Harbour she had knocked down a pile and when an
attempt was made to steam down the coast to Clutha, on her delivery trip, she had been
driven back by foul weather. Today the weather was perfect with bright sunshine and only
the faintest of breezes. Good speed was maintained with the distance of eighteen miles
being run in less than two hours. This trial trip was pronounced a complete success with the
River Board taking formal delivery of Clyde from the builders.
In late November Clyde was obliged to sail up-river as far as Rongahere with cargo; various
Board members decided to travel as passengers to inspect the navigation and study the
performance of the new steamer. Clyde set sail from the traffic bridge with 50 tons of cargo
some of which was discharged at Beggs. Twenty tons was loaded on board at Clydevale and
50 tons were discharged at the Upper Clydevale landing with Tuapeka Mouth being reached
at 7.30 p.m.
The steamer left Tuapeka Mouth at 9 a.m. and a brisk run was made to Rongahere where
the landing was situated near the school. Twenty five school children were welcomed
aboard and made a close inspection of Clyde during the half hour she was berthed. On the
return journey 150 bales of wool were loaded at Clydevale and Greenfield with the steamer
arriving back into Balclutha about 3.30 p.m.

All the groynes, it was noted, were doing their intended work in keeping the channel open.
The new steamer ‘behaved admirably’ making good time up-river in spite of the Ecclefechan
rapids and the confines of the gorge between Tuapeka Mouth and Rongahere. Twenty miles
an hour was the speed achieved on the homeward journey.
In January 1902 Matau was put up for sale at the Balclutha jetty, complete or separately in
terms of engines, boiler or hull. In the event she wasn’t sold and was subsequently towed
up-river by Clyde, filled with stones and sunk to act as a groyne at the Upper Clydevale
station. In recent years efforts have been made to raise Matau without success.
The 1904 tour of inspection by the River Board was made during May and is of interest
because steaming times, to the minute, were recorded and graphically demonstrated the
difficulty of steaming against Clutha’s powerful current. Clyde left Balclutha Saleyards at
8.10 a.m. on Friday, 20 May and arrived at Beggs, 10 miles upstream, at 10.50. The steamer
left at 11.10 and arrived at Clydevale, 22 miles, at 1.50 p.m. departing at 2.30. Tuapeka
Mouth, 29 miles was reached at 5.15 and here Clyde tied-up for the night.
On Saturday Clyde left Tuapeka Mouth at 9.15 a.m. arriving at Rongahere, 32 miles at 10.25.
There was a brief stop here of ten minutes before arriving at the lower rapids, 37 miles, at
noon. At 12.30 p.m. a start was made on the return journey with much faster progress being
achieved downstream. The steamer berthed at Clydevale at 2.03 leaving nine minutes later
arriving at the Balclutha jetty by 3.55. The actual steaming time for the return journey was 3
hours, 16 minutes at an average speed of 12 m.p.h.
During 1906 the Board decided to buy an ‘oil’ launch to operate on the Clutha, mainly to
deliver mail on a regular basis to the upriver settlements. Considerable discussions around
the Board table were held to determine a suitable timetable for the launch as well as
sorting-out staffing issues. Though the cutting-up of Greenfield and Beggs station had
recently taken place these actions hadn’t been reflected in extra traffic for the steamer;
Clyde had run at a loss of £95 for the year ending 31 July 1906. Annual operating expenses
for the launch were estimated at £998 and it was argued that such a service should be
introduced gradually and extended as business built up. This timetable was suggested for an
integrated service:
Monday: Launch Balclutha to Tuapeka Mouth and return
Tuesday: Clyde Balclutha to Clydevale and return taking no heavy cargo to intermediate
Wednesday: Launch Balclutha to Tuapeka Mouth and return
Thursday: Clyde Balclutha to Tuapeka Mouth staying overnight
Friday: Clyde Tuapeka Mouth to Balclutha in the morning; Launch Balclutha to Tuapeka
Moiuth in the afternoon staying overnight
Saturday: Clyde Balclutha to Beggs and return; Launch Tuapeka Mouth to Beggs to meet
Clyde then take mails and passengers to Clydevale and return to Balclutha in the afternoon.
The launch would be free to make weekend trips to Port Molyneux going down river on
Saturday afternoon and returning on Monday morning in time to start on her up-river trip.

The above timetable was not acceptable to a majority of the Board as the original intention
was that the launch would operate from upstream every morning instead of from Balclutha.
The Board decided at their September meeting that a timetable be fixed for the launch and
it should be continued for six months. The launch would leave Tuapeka Mouth or Clydevale
every morning for Balclutha returning in the evening. The Post Office was asked what
subsidy they would provide to the Board for carrying mails between Balclutha and up-river
settlements as far as Tuapeka Mouth. The Colonial Treasurer was also to be asked
requesting a similar subsidy for this new river service.
Sadly, in spite of all the discussion and anticipation regarding this new service, it never got
started. A launch was constructed for the Board by Knewstubbs of Port Chalmers but failed,
during a trial run, to meet its design specifications. This resulted in the vessel not being
accepted by the Board; it was subsequently employed as a fishing boat. Future river services
were confined to the two steamers and there was no more talk about instituting a launch
With the Board in some financial constraints during 1907 an approach was made to the
Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward, at Balclutha, as he was travelling north by train, of the
advisibility of the Government taking over the Clutha steamer service and operating it in
conjunction with the railways. This approach certainly didn’t find any support from the
N.Z.R. or the Close Settlement League of Tuapeka Mouth who protested against any action
whereby the steamer would be taken over by the Government. The League had two
concerns: there might be an increase in freight charges and any take-over might delay the
construction of a railway to Tuapeka Mouth.
Two of the factors which prompted the Board to take this initiative was the constant friction
between the Board and the N.Z.R. over the supply of trucks associated with demands by the
Railways for demurrage. (This was a charge made by the N.Z.R. for trucks remaining
unloaded after a time limit set by regulations). The steamer was now paying its way and
there was the prospect of increasing traffic with the cutting-up of the Clydevale Estate. The
Board contended that the N.Z.R. could work this traffic more efficiently than the Board. The
outcome resulted in the Government taking no action on the Board’s request.
The River Board’s annual inspection excursions were always keenly anticipated by the public
and the February 1908 trip was no exception. (Among the passengers on this trip were some
local families who had made their first river trip, some forty years before, on the pioneering
steamer Tuapeka with Captain Murray). On Clyde seats were provided on the upper deck
and on the lower deck a dining saloon, to cater for about sixteen had been arranged near
the boiler. Morning tea was served about ten o’clock. Tuapeka Mouth was reached about
7.00 p.m. in a thick drizzle.
So where did everyone stay for the night? Mrs Anderson’s house beside the landing hosted
half a dozen ladies and two men who passed the night away warmed by a cheery wood fire
as they listened to a selection of gramophone records. The remaining ladies were
accommodated in Mr Fraser’s hotel. As for the remaining male passengers they went where
they liked: the hotel, some on the straw in the shed and others rested aboard Clyde.

All the passengers had a good night but there was an unwritten agreement that on these
occasions there must be ‘no tales out of school’. At breakfast the next morning there were
no complaints regarding any aspect of the accommodation. The stretch up-river was
regarded as one of the most attractive on the trip with wooded hills on either bank. Near
Rongahere Clyde forged her way through a narrow, rock-bound gut known locally as ‘Hell’s
Gate’ where the river was said to be 100 ft deep!
The steamer tied up at the Black Cleugh for an hour at the spot where Tyson and Dunlop
once had their large sawmill and near the Gorge where it was reputed many a gallon of
whisky was put on the market ‘that the exciseman never saw’. At the Cleugh there was a
settler living nearby with a fine garden. The steamer’s party went exploring, some went
cycling up the Gorge before a decision was made to head for home about mid-day as the
coal bunker was getting low.
Returning down-river was like being on a train with speeds of from 12 to 15 m.p.h. Captain
Butler was a busy man what with keeping a sharp lookout and turning the wheel this way
and that as the vessel threaded her way past rocks and hazards. Clydevale was reached
within the hour and Balclutha at half-past three.
Clyde continued to have a busy year; e;g in June 1908 she was bringing down large cargoes
especially from Tuapeka Mouth. One load consisted of over 900 bags of wheat and oats
while for some weeks the average cargo per week has been over 2 000 bags.
With the increase in traffic and Clyde suffering from wear and tear the Board was
considering the need, during 1908, for another steamer and had written to some UK
builders for costings of a new steamer. Yarrows of Glasgow made an interesting response: in
their opinion the day of the stern and side wheel steamer was over. They had been replaced
by screw-propelled vessels where the propellors worked in tunnels. The advantages claimed
were less draught because of the lighter machinery which meant that a greater load could
be carried. The vessels would also be faster by up to one and a half knots. say two miles per
hour. (River steamers using screw propulsion were operating successfully on the Wanganui
At their August meeting the Board decided to approach the MPs for Clutha, Bruce and
Tuapeka with the view of placing the matter before the Government and requesting a grant
of £5 000 towards the construction of a new steamer.
The 1909 annual voyage of inspection brought together the Board members, other VIPs and
others some of whom were leaving the excursion at Tuapeka Mouth as they wished to
the opening there of the new Presbyterian Church. Compared to last year’s trip which was
marred by rain the trip up-river proved ‘most delightful’. Talk about a bucolic scene what
with happy sheep and cattle grazing peacefully, happy harvesters at work and a general air
of contentment abroad. Even the Ecclefechan rapids held no fears with Clydevale reached in
early afternoon.

After an hour’s stop Clyde continued on her way though there were hold-ups at Buchanan’s
groyne and Clydevale Upper where the Clutha took control over the voyage resulting in the
winch needing to be used to pull her off a groyne. Tuapeka Mouth was reached about half
past six where there was a scramble to find accommodation for the night. There were about
four choices: staying on board, Mrs Anderson’s house nearby, the goods shed and Mr
Fraser’s hotel.
So how did these folk spend their evening in this pre-TV era? Mrs Anderson’s occupants
were invited to the goods shed for a concert and dance. Various performers contributed
songs and others recited before the floor was cleared for dancing. Mr Sam McKay played
the violin as the various dances were performed: the dreamy waltzes, the intricate
movements of the quadrille and the Highland fling. All in the goods shed!
Tuapeka Mouth was left behind at a quarter past eight on the Saturday morning and the
Black Cleugh was reached in a couple of hours. There was a forty-five minutes stop there
before the trip up-river continued to within a mile of the rapids beyond which navigation
was impossible. Downstream Clyde cruised along at about 15 m.p.h. in contrast to the up-
stream crawl of four or five. At Tuapeka Mouth the mate ‘Tim’ Tsukigawa took several
photos of the party and the rest of the trip was uneventful.
The passengers spoke most appreciatively of the attention and kindness shown by the crew
on this occasion: Mr Bob Porter, chief steward, who kept up an almost continuous supply of
food, breakfast, dinner and tea interspersed with morning and afternoon teas, the captain
and first mate, Mr A S Browne the secretary and the engineer Mr John Sheddan who
explained the mysteries of the engine room.
During June 1910 the River Board made a trip by steamer to Tuapeka Mouth accompanied
by Messrs Hugh McRae and William Scott. Mr McRae was a naval architect who, to his
credit, designed and supervised the construction of the Otago Harbour ferry Waikana. He
had been instructed by the Board to prepare a rough plan for a new Clutha River steamer.
Mr Scott was an Arbitration Court member who travelled widely throughout the country
enquiring closely into its many trades and industries. His comments resulting from his up-
river trip are worth noting. He was most impressed by the amount of traffic offering at the
various landings, mainly grain by the tens of thousands of sacks. William found it
incomprehensible that one steamer was expected to cope with the traffic. There was a need
for at least two fast steamers and even if the proposed valley railway were to be built it
could only serve one side of the river while a steamer could serve both banks. With some
encouragement and the creation of suitable on-shore facilities, he considered there was the
potential for a good passenger trade during the summer.
Downstream from Balclutha at Port Molyneux there were some developments at this one-
time port which were worth noting though they had little relevance to the steamer service.
In June 1910, the same month Clyde was fitted-out with an acetylene gas plant to provide
lighting for night working, a group of concerned residents bought, for £20, from the River
Board the old jetty shed. This was a shed with a history. It had been erected originally at
Clydevale during the 1860s where it lingered only briefly before being brought down river

on the first river steamer Tuapeka. The shed was re-erected at the mouth of the Puerua
and used as a flaxmill by Captain Murray and a Mr Miller.
After a change of ownership and with the price of hemp falling the building was sold to. Mr
G.F. Reid who had an interest in steamers plying between Dunedin and Port Molyneux. He
arranged for Mr Andrew Melville to shift the shed, using his bullock team, to its present
location at the Port where it was to be used for general storage.
As a consequence of the 1878 flood when the river changed its course the shed lay useless.
The River Board made several small repairs to the shed over the years though it is debatable
whether they actually owned the building at any stage. Nevertheless, the building was now
owned by the local people who would put it to good use.
The narrative now moves ahead a year to the launching of the River Board’s new steamer
Clutha. Shortly after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 14 June 1911 the new steamer ‘ glided gracefully
down and leaped into the waters of the Upper Harbour’. A motor launch then towed Clutha
round to Kitchener wharf where she was tied up. She was then to be taken to the Rattray
Street wharf where her builder, John McGregor and Co., had to complete certain works.
Clutha would then be sailed round the coast to Balclutha there to be handed over to the
River Board. That was the theory, in practice things didn’t work-out quite so smoothly.
The new steamer was constructed of steel and measured 120 ft in length with a beam of 26
ft. nearly identical to Clyde’s measurements, at 159 tons and costing £6 283. With 60 tons
of cargo aboard her draught wouldn’t exceed 2 ft 6 in; with 80 tons aboard the draught
would only increase by 3 in. The compound engines, of 220 i.h.p. total, were placed aft
driving two independent paddle wheels which were fitted with the more efficient feathering
floats. The boiler was placed at the bows and was of a locomotive design and fitted with
forced draught. The vessel was fitted with two balanced rudders operated by steam steering
gear in the wheel house. It was expected that a speed of 11 m.p.h. would be attained on
The deckhouse was situated immediately forward of the engine room and contained a
dining saloon, ladies’ cabin, galley and rooms for the captain, engineer and crew. The
woodwork consisted of varnished kauri pine with rails fitted around the top of. the deck
house which could serve as a promenade.
Gear for handling cargo consisted of a derrick post with a 48 ft derrick and powerful steam
winch. To cope with possible hull damage caused by the dangerous nature of the Clutha
River the vessel had a continuous fore and aft bulkhead with six transverse bulkheads. A
powerful Tangye steam pump was fitted-up in the boiler room able to pump from any hull
During the first week of July Clutha was taken on a trial run to Port Chalmers and return.
Several ladies were present along with River Board members and the builders’
representatives. The weather was fine and the outing was particularly enjoyable in sharp
contrast to Matau’s inaugural outing. On returning to Dunedin an informal gathering was
held in the Clutha’s where a number of speeches were endured.

Clutha set sail for her home port Balclutha on Friday afternoon, 14 July but didn’t get very
far before the boiler feed-pump failed and she had to return to Port Chalmers. The following
day she made a second attempt at about the same time. The steamer made a fine passage
on a calm sea as far as Coal Point reached about 7 a.m. on Sunday. But crossing the bar into
the Clutha river was a totally different story; indeed this was an experience which could
have resulted in Clutha making a one-way trip into Davy Jone’s’ locker!
It came about thus. Entering the bar the steamer encountered a strong ebb tide with heavy
rollers. A heavy breaker caught her aft quarter and with the current catching her bow she
swung around broadside-on and lay helpless in the sea trough with heavy waves breaking
over her. Attempts to bring her under control were fruitless as every heavy wave lifted her
rudders out of the water. The boiler fire was partially extinguished though the stokehold
was protected; however, the men in the engineroom were waist deep in water which also
entered the wheelhouse.
Captain Butler was at the wheel and had almost given up hope of saving his vessel when
conditions changed slightly and Clutha being brought under control was able to enter the
As they entered the Clutha John McGregor, the steamer’s builder and chief engineer on the
trip, came up to the Captain, grasped him by the hand and said ‘in pithy language’, “Jack,
any fool can put a ship ashore, but it takes a man to get her off”.
Being too late for the tide Clutha made for Kaitangata arriving there about 9 a.m. leaving in
mid-afternoon hoping that the tide would carry her over the ‘shallows’ at Bowlers. The
Clyde had ventured down to this spot to give the new steamer a tow over the worst parts as
the river was reported as being exceptionally low. Unfortunately, the new steamer ‘took the
ground’ at this point and remained fast. It would be some time before the Clutha rose high
enough to allow Clutha to enter her home port.
Finally, after a delay of nearly six weeks, owing to low river levels, Clutha arrived at
Balclutha on Thursday 31 August, unannounced , at 1 p.m. Using Clyde’s assistane Clutha
was soon free of Bowler’s grip and within half an hour was tied up at the Balclutha wharf.
There was some concern that she was drawing nearly two more inches of water than the
specifications permitted.
At the River Board’s September meeting this concern about Clutha drawing more water
than specified was addressed. The specifications stated that the draft must not exceed 2 ft 6
in with a 60 ton load; at the present time, empty, she was drawing 2 ft 10 in aft and under 2
ft forward. The architect Mr McRae was to meet the board and that arrangements would be
made for a test with a 60 ton load aboard. Clyde was formally taken off the builders’ hands
on Friday, 22 September and no doubt everyone breathed a hearty sigh of relief, not least,
John McGregor and Co!
At the same meeting a decision was made to buy a suction pump and steam plant to
remove shoals which were blocking the steamers’ passage. A 16 h.p. Robey steam engine
and a sixteen inch pump capable of shifting 120 yds per hour were bought and installed on

Clutha. In the subsequent years this gravel pumping service was to prove a good source of
income; e.g. in 1913 the P.W.D. required 20 000- yards of gravel.
The first up-river trip was taken as far as Lower Clydevale on Tuesday, 24 October 1911, but
two rudders broke giving the captain a considerable challenge in negotiating the various
hazards. Apart from the rudder problem the new steamer behaved ‘satisfactorily’. By the
following January the Bruce Herald could report that Clutha was working splendidly with a
good turn of speed up river. She could run to Beggs in half an hour less time than Clyde and
reach Tuapeka Mouth in two hours less. Early in 1912 the suction pump and engine ordered
by the Board arrived at the Balclutha wharf. This plant was to be used for removing sand
bars when the Clutha was low.
Though the up-river excursions organized by the River Board tended to follow the same
routine it is worth describing the first excursion using the new steamer Clutha because it
was not without incident. A party of nearly 50 left Balclutha on Friday 5 March 1912 on a
beautiful fine day reaching Tuapeka Mouth at 4.30 p.m., certainly a faster run than usual.
The evening was enlivened by a concert staged in connection with the opening of the
Tuapeka Mouth Coronation Hall.
The intention the following day was to steam up the Clutha as far as the Black Cleugh to
enable the excursionists to enjoy the delights of the Blue Mountain Gorge. However, after
about a mile had been covered an awkward turn in the river had to be negotiated. Here the
strong current, probably near the spot known locally as ‘Hells Gate’, caught the bow of the
boat which was swung around and carried onto a sandbank in mid-stream.
The river was about eighteen inches lower than when Clyde made her last excursion in 1910.
Clutha drew six to eight inches more than the older steamer and was therefore more
difficult to manoeuvre. A wire rope was quickly run ashore in the ship’s boat and fastened to
a manuka tree. After some tension had been applied to the rope by the steam winch, the
tree unfortunately gave way and a new anchorage had to be made using a beam sunk into
the river. This action freed the bows but the stern remained securely aground.
Now the cable was secured around a rock and after considerable hauling and slackening
Clutha swung into deep water about half past one. But the difficulties were far from over.
The powerful current caught the steamer and swung her round onto the beach just below
where she had been originally grounded. Freeing her, with the aid of a 20 ft beam occupied
another half hour before she was once again in deep water. Because of this delay no further
progress up-river was contemplated and the bows were turned downstream with Balclutha
being reached without further incident.
Though the excursionists seemed to enjoy the experience, the Clutha Leader suggested the
stranding experience might have caused those, who regarded the river as offering the
cheapest and best highway for Clutha Valley trade, to think again. The difficulty lay, not in
supplying steamers to cope with the traffic but rather in the difficulty of maintaining a river
fit to carry the steamers on a regular service. Maybe a railway was the answer after all.

The Clutha River Board’s retiring Chairman, D T Fleming, had some relevant remarks to
make at the Board’s February, 1914 meeting held to elect a new chairman for the following
year. He described the last few years as very important for the Board as since 1906 its work
had more than doubled a result of the subdivision of the large up-river estates. To meet this
increase the Board had been obliged to buy a new steamer as Clyde had required extensive
repairs. The new steamer Clutha cost about £6 500 while repairs to Clyde totalled £500. In
addition to this expenditure the Board had bought a gravel pump for £780 to help keep the
navigation open. He quoted some freight revenue returns which demonstrated the increase
in traffic since 1885:
1885 (£) 672
1893 581
1895 534
1900. 758
1905 778
1906 891
1907 1296
1908 1068
1909 1553
1910 1666
1911 1832
1912 1636
1913 2305
One item of concern was that claims for damages against the Board were becoming more
frequent. Often there was carelessness shown by the consignors: goods were often sent
unadvised and with incomplete addresses. Often no consignment note was supplied with
goods left in the various sheds.
On the crewing front there had been a fatal accident involving a crew member in which no
blame was attributable to the Board. Members deeply sympathized with those bereaved by
this accident. Captain McGillvray had been employed during the past year to support
Captain Butler whose health had caused concern during the year. Captain Tsukigawa had
given good assistance during the year having taken full responsibility for managing the
dredging operations using the gravel pump. The Board’s offices were now located on the
Freezing Work’s premises and this was proving very satisfactory. Mr P. McInerney was
elected to the position of Chairman. Other Board members at this time were: Messrs. J R
Mitchell, J M Begg, J C Anderson and D T Fleming.
The Board was faced with a significant problem during December 1914; Clyde had sunk
under mysterious circumstances, not far from the railway bridge and this was a considerable
embarrassment. Over the years both these steamers had suffered sinkings of one kind or
the other generally caused by hidden snags or rocks. What made this incident more serious
was that Clutha was heavily involved in shifting, during the busy season, a considerable
amount of freight and couldn’t really be spared for salvage duties.

Clyde lay on a ledge and it would be a challenging rescue even using traction engines to aid
the lifting power of Clutha as proposed by Captain Butler. There was a drop of fully fifteen
feet on the river side of the ledge. If Clyde slid into that she would probably stay there.
Thankfully nearly all the deck cargo had been salvaged with the artificial manures being sent
to the freezing works where they were to be dried and treated to restore their value as
In late January 1915 an abortive attempt was made to raise Clyde. Two of Messrs Leonard
Bros’ traction engines situated on the river bank were attached to several cables passing
underneath the steamer. There was power to spare but a lack of leverage to ease Clyde out
of the hole she had created on the shelf. The result of three or four pulls was a movement
of about two inches and the snapping of some of the cables. Captain Butler was undeterred
and he was determined to do better the following day. The Bruce Herald reminded readers
that spectators needed to keep well out of the range of the cables when they were under
strain during the salvage operations.
It would be the following June before the sunken steamer was raised. After spending about
£500 in two abortive attempts, the salvage operations were entrusted in April to Mr John
Hislop of North Balclutha. His plan was to drive piles on each side of Clyde place a staging
across to hold ten winches to allow a straight vertical lift raising both ends of the vessel at
once by the use of cables from the winches.
On a Monday everything was ready with Clutha’s lifting gear also requisitioned. After two
hours of winding by the winches the vessel had been raised three feet at the bow on the
port side and five feet on the starboard. The work continued the following day and by
Tuesday evening the Clyde’s deck was safely above the water line. A thorough clean-out
then began with water in the compartments being pumped out and the silt removed. After
an examination by the marine inspector it was decided that Clyde be taken down to the
Clutha’s mouth there to be careened, overhauled and the leaks repaired. It was estimated
that the cost of this operation would be under £200, a most gratifying outcome for all
Steamer sinkings in the Clutha River were, to express it crudely, a ‘dime a dozen, in other
words depressingly regular. The Otago Witness of 20 October, 1915 carried a graphic photo
taken by D W Morgan of Clutha sunk at Tuapeka Mouth near a jetty. (Whether this was the
main jetty or the one once used by the nearby sawmill is debateable). Whatever, Clutha was
well and truly submerged with Clyde standing by. No details are available as to how the
vessel was raised. There is the story of another sinking at Tuapeka Mouth whereby Captain
Tsukigawa woke in the middle of the night to the sound of rushing water. His ship was
sinking fast! With considerable presence of mind he untied the mooring ropes allowing the
Clutha’s strong current to push the steamer downstream where she beached on a sandbar
just above the local punt.
During June 1919 a Rivers Commission was appointed by the Government in response to
Matau and Stirling landowners, whose properties had been seriously damaged by the flood
of January 1918. (Anyone interested in the history of the Clutha flooding in European
settlement times is commended to read this article). Captain Tsukigawa gave evidence

before the three-man Commission which was chaired by the well-known, Public Works
Department Inspecting Engineer, F W Furkert. The Captain had been employed in the river
service for fifteen years and during this time had found the bottom of the river coming up
particularly in the lower reaches. Previously the steamer Clutha could go up to Tuapeka
Mouth and return with a load of 600 bags of oats. Now Clyde with 9 inches less draft
couldn’t go up. Steamers could no longer travel down the Kaou branch because of shallows
opposite the Freezing Works. Circling Manuka Island there used to be 5 – 6 ft of water, now
this was reduced to 2 – 3 ft.
There had been some big changes after the last flood though the river had not got worse
‘everywhere’. It was better at Beggs though the Matau branch was being silted-up by the
bar at Inchclutha. He pointed out that the run of the currents was quite different depending
on the height of the river. A month later the Commission held a meeting at Lawrence where
opinions were expressed that dredging, and to a lesser extent sluicing, had certainly caused
the Clutha river bed to rise through shoaling.
John Keenan of Tuapeka Mouth had a knowledge of the river extending over twenty years.
He explained that shoaling at Tuapeka Mouth was causing difficulty in working the local
punt. Ferrying an item of heavy machinery across the Clutha recently had caused the punt
to graze river bottom. It was almost impossible now for the steamer to travel up-river when
it was dead low and there was now real difficulty in settlers receiving their coal supplies.
Normal river steamer service was tragically interrupted by a boiler explosion aboard Clutha
on Tuesday, 11 November 1919, opposite Manuka Island which resulted in the death of the
fireman, David Reddie. He had been employed in this role for the last twenty years and was
regarded as a very capable and experienced man. An inquiry was subsequently held by the
Marine Department which established that the explosion was caused by insufficient water
in the boiler.
In July 1921 a petition was delivered to Hon. J. G. Coates, Minister of Public Works, signed
by up-river settlers, requesting the Government arrange for sufficient dredging to be done
on the Clutha to maintain a navigable channel. There was now some doubt that the
Government would commit itself to construct a railway up the valley and in the meantime
the settlers, particularly those living on the Crown settlements alongside the river, including
Greenfield, Clifton and Beggs, were dependent on the steamer service.
There is an interesting example here of how quickly district sentiment can change. The
petition was emphatic that the haulage of produce and supplies by road was ‘out of the
question’ yet two years later the district had agreed to Coates’ proposal that a well-
designed road be constructed up the valley from Balclutha in lieu of a railway.
As an example of the freight and passenger fare charges of the day, in November 1924, the
Board set the following:
Balclutha: to and from Coal (per ton) Lime (per ton). Passsengers
these landings:
Tuapeka Mouth. 9/6 7/3 6/-
Upper Clydevale. 8/9. 6/9 5/-

Clydevale/Greenfield 8/- 6/6 4/-
Pomahaka 8/- 6/3 3/6
Beggs (Pukeawa). 6/9 5/9 2/6
Pukepito 6/9 5/9 2/-
Te Houka 6/9 5/9 2/-
From the end of 1925 a rebate of 2/6 a ton on fertilizer was offered by the Board to
consignees whose output of wool and other produce was carried by the steamer.
By mid-1926 the question was raised: should the service be discontinued during the winter?
The Board’s response was that it intended to keep the boat running as long as there was
cargo being offered and there was a reasonable depth of water. The freight being carried
was 300 tons down on last year’s total; less grain was being grown and road transport was
cutting into business. (Pukeawa farmers were all using lorries). In 1925 freight traffic had
raised £1 771 but expenses totalled £2 522.
And so Board business and steamer operation proceeded from year to year. As an example
of River Board business let’s consider the main outcomes of their February 1928 meeting
attended by four members plus the secretary Mr D T Fleming. During the four months
ending last January the steamer Clutha had earned £829 from freight haulage with working
expenses of £749 resulting in a surplus of £79. Captain Tsukigawa reported that November
and December last had been busy months mainly with lime and manure for up-river ports.
Down-river traffic was very light though wool traffic had recently improved. The grain
season would begin soon, there was more lime to go-up river and later there would be
sheep and lambs for the Finegand freezing works.
A brick arch had been placed in the steamer’s firebox and this was causing coal to be burnt
more efficiently saving nearly a ton of coal per week. The Captain was soon to experiment
with coal ‘nuts’ and this was expected to cause an even greater saving. A holding pen for
sheep traffic was to be built at Tuapeka Mouth and the Captain was authorized to clear
away a shoal near the shed at Lambourne.
In early 1929 the Board considered buying a lorry to be operated in conjunction with the
steamer service. This vehicle would be used between the various farms and landings as a
feeder service. It was explained that none of the lorry traffic from the area came to the
steamer and a good deal of it was carried past the railway. (The Balclutha firm of (Leonard
Bros. carried a considerable amount of wool from farms in and around Clydevale directly to
Dunedin). The Board had bought a vehicle by 1931 as there is mention of it carting sixteen
bales of wool from Clydevale to Balclutha. At this time about 150 farms were occupying the
district served by the steamer.
During 1932 there were a number of transport operators competing locally with the
steamer. These included Bowers, Sheppard, Somerville and Leonard. The Somerville family,
who operated three trucks, were based at Waitepeka and had been carting from the Clutha
district to Dunedin before the railway was built. In March this year it was noted that during
the last six months the steamer had only run three times no doubt caused by low river
levels, a perennial problem.

During 1932 the various steamer landings were listed as:
Tuapeka Mouth (including Cooks
Upper Clydevale (including Wharetoa and Coxs)
Pomahaka (including Clifton)
Te Houka
In October 1933 wool bale traffic statistics were provided by the Board:
1925-26 1 256 bales
1926-27 1 328
1927-28. 1 280
1928-29 1 293
1930 1 147
By the 1937 season this total had reduced to 974 bales and for the next to 655.
As another example of the infrequency of the steamer service it was noted that in
December 1934 Clutha had made only eight trips during the last four months though it was
anticipated another eight trips would be made before the end of the present season.
In 1934 a venture, not involving the River Board but certainly the Clutha River, was first
mooted. This involved converting the redundant Otago Harbour Board dredge 222 into a
gold recovery dredge and operating it near Clydevale. This dredge had a 90 ft ladder which
would permit dredging to a depth of 50ft and her performance was bound to be watched
with keen interest. No difficulty was expected to be experienced in passing under the
various bridges as provision was to be made to remove some of her top hamper. Any gravel
shoals she encountered on her journey up-river would be ‘eliminated’ by dredging. No
doubt, the River Board saw the potential of this dredge being able to carry some channel
clearing for the Board when it wasn’t engaged in gold recovery.
Unfortunately, these grandiose plans didn’t come to pass resulting in dredge 222 never
leaving the Otago Harbour. In 1936 she passed into the hands of Dunedin shipbreakers,
Messrs McKay and Borlasse, who removed her of all her fittings and machinery leaving only
the hull. On 20 October she was towed outside the Heads and sunk at the Mole by means of
two gelignite charges where she joined the hulks of Moana, Paloona and Kahika in about six
At this point it is reasonable to ask: what was the fate of the Clyde? This vessel was out of
service by 1928 and was being dismantled. (Deck cabins were removed to form a crib at
Kaka Point). Five years previously the Board had proposed to refit her as a dredge but this
didn’t eventuate. By early 1938 her remains on the river beach on the lower reserve were
fast becoming a blot on the landscape and it was decided that these be blown up for scrap.

In the mid-thirties the balance sheets demonstrate the steamer service continued to
operate at a loss: (i) Year Ending 31 March 1