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Nautical School-ship – Sobraon, 1892-1911 1

    “An Act for the relief of Destitute Children” (30 Victoria, Act No. 2, 1866)—the Industrial Schools Act of 1866 —received assent on 12 September, 1866 and came into force on 1 January, 1867. 2 This Act authorised the Governor to proclaim “any ship or vessel or any building or place together with any yards, enclosure grounds or lands attached thereto to be a ‘Public Industrial School’.” Any vagrant or destitute child under the age of sixteen could be directed by two Justices of the Peace to attend an Industrial School and to remain the responsibility of the Superintendent until the age of eighteen, unless apprenticed out or discharged. A child could be apprenticed out from twelve years of age but if twelve or over when admitted, was required to attend the School for a year before becoming apprenticed. Each child was to receive instruction in the religion of his family. The Superintendent was authorised to discipline any child who absconded from the School. Males and females were to attend different Instructions. Parents could be required to pay for the upkeep of their child while attending the Industrial School. 3

    On 25 January, 1867 the Colonial Secretary purchased the wooden sailing ship the “Vernon” and at a cost of more than eight and a half thousand pounds it was fitted up as an Industrial School. 4 The ship, moored in Sydney Harbour between the Government Domain and Garden Island was declared a Public Industrial School on 6 May, 1867. 5

    On 10 May, 1867 James Seton Veitch Mein was appointed Commander and Naval Instructor of the “Vernon” 6 and on 17 May, 1867 he was made Superintendent of the “Vernon”. 7

    Admissions to the “Vernon” commenced on 20 May, 1867 8 and by July, 1868 113 boys had been admitted, 14 of whom had been apprenticed out. 9 Boys as young as three were admitted to the Ship. “An Act to amend the Industrial Schools Act of 1866” (34 Victoria, Act no. 4, 1870) was assented to on 17 October, 1870. This Industrial Schools Act Amendment made provision for boys who were younger than seven when sent to an Industrial School to be placed in a Female Industrial School until the age of seven. 10 Subsequently, young boys admitted to the “Vernon” were cared for by the Biloela Public Industrial School for Girls on Cockatoo Island. On 28 February, 1878 there were nine boys at Biloela. 11

    On board the “Vernon”, boys received a combination of moral training, nautical and industrial training and instruction, and elementary schooling. The curriculum was well-defined. 12

    From 1 April, 1878 Frederick William Neitenstein was appointed Superintendent of the Vernon, 13 establishing a system which rewarded good behaviour with privileges rather than by administering corporal punishment. 14 In 1878 trades teaching was abolished. 15 In 1880 the teaching of vocal music was introduced and a brass band was established. By 1881 the “Vernon” boys received an education in the same subjects as children received at any other Public School as prescribed by the Department of Public Instruction. 6 The School had its own gymnasium, a spacious recreation ground, an entertainment hall and a recreation hall on land. 17

    From its commencement, the “Vernon” served as both an Industrial School and a Reformatory. (Although legislation was passed in 1866 to authorise the establishment of reformatories no reformatory for boys was established until 1895).

    After the passage of the State Children Relief Act , 1881 (44 Victoria, Act No. 24, 1881) the majority of destitute boys were boarded-out rather than being sent to industrial school and those committed to the “Vernon” were increasingly boys with criminal charges. 18 By 1892 many had been transferred from charitable organisations. 19

    Not until 1904 did the school have a sea-going tender, the HMS “Dart” – a steam and sailing schooner. 20 On 5 June 1906 the HMS “Dart” was proclaimed an Industrial School in accordance with provisions of the Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act of 1905. 21

Sobraon vessel. Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_a026_000001.jpg
Sobraon vessel. Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_a026_000001.jpg

    On 8 November, 1892 the “Vernon” was replaced by the “Sobraon”, which was treble the size of its predecessor. During 1893 it had an average number of 263 boys. 22

    The Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act of 1905 (Act No. 16, 1905) came into force on 1 October, 1905. As the probationary system it established was introduced, the number of children committed to industrial schools and reformatories declined. 23

    The numbers of children sent to the “Sobraon” quickly decreased. The enrolment for 1910 was 231, a 5% decrease on the enrolment for the previous year. These boys were discharged to their parents or guardians or apprenticed out and by the end of July, 1911 the remaining of the boys were sent to the Mittagong Farm Home for Boys and the Brush Farm Home for Boys. The “Sobraon” was abandoned. 24

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The Sydney Morning Herald, Mon 12 Dec 1898 25

ST JOHN’S BALMAIN.

Boys on Sobraon’s deck. Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_a026_000004.jpg
Boys on Sobraon’s deck. Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_a026_000004.jpg

      A confirmation service was held by the Archbishop of Sydney on Monday last, when the rector (Rev WA Charlton) presented 26 candidates, most of whom were boys of the NSS Sobraon. In the afternoon the Archbishop, Miss Snowdon-Smith, the Misses Saumarez-Smith, the Rev R Griffiths (chaplain), paid a visit to the NSS Sobraon, accompanied by Rev WA Charlton (hon chaplain to the ship), Mrs Charlton, Mrs GC Murdoch (Mayoress of Balmain), Mesdames Day, GC Elliott, Hughes, Riding (of New Zealand), Johnston, the Misses Hughes and Johnston. The party was received by Commander and Mrs Mason. After an inspection of the ship the visitors were afforded the pleasure of hearing some very excellent part singing by the boys under the baton of the chief schoolmaster, also of witnessing an athletic display and company drill, and were afterwards entertained by Mrs Mason at afternoon tea. The Archbishop expressed the pleasure the visit afforded him, and complimented the commander and officers upon the efficiency attained. The choice selections of music played by the band reflected great credit upon the bandmaster.

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The Sydney Morning Herald, Sat 25 Feb 1899 26

POLICE COURTS.
———◦———


    Sent to the Sobraon.—At the Central Police Court yesterday, before Mr FS Isaacs, SM, two boys, aged respectively 10 and 11 years, named Sydney Williams and Bertie Brooks, were charged with being children under the age of 16 years found sleeping in the open air. The boys were ordered to be sent to the NSS Sobraon.

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Report of the Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr 1899 27
————————

The Commander and Superintendent, NSS “Sobraon,” to The Under Secretary of Public Instruction.

Nautical School-ship “Sobraon,”
Sydney, 29 June, 1899.

    Sir,
     I have the honor to submit, for the information of the Minister of Public Instruction, my Annual Report concerning the Nautical School-ship “Sobraon” covering the twelve months terminating 30th April, 1899, in compliance with the 14th clause of the “Sobraon” regulations.

PART I.

THE FIRST STAGE — BOYS ON BOARD.
 

  2.  The past twelve months complete thirty-two years since the inauguration of the Institution, and find the oldest of Australian Industrial School fully maintaining its successful record of reformative work.

    A high and very competent authority last year, in commenting of my Report, said: “It is not necessary to have startling disclosures; on the contrary, the steady even flow is a good proof that matters are going on satisfactorily.” Profiting by this very wise ruling, it affords me pleasure to record an entire absence of any sensational events, but a quiet and uneventful twelve months o regular work and steady progress.

    The Admissions (159) show a falling off to the extent of 40 as compared with those of last year, which accounts for a similar shrinkage in the enrolment (478).

    The discharges (157) leave the actual number on board at the commencement and termination of the year very evenly balanced. The daily average of 311 in no way overtaxes the ship’s capacity.

    It is difficult to account for the somewhat marked reduction in the number of committals, the more so to anyone noting the very large number of half-clothed, dirty, and neglected children which are to be found at every wharf and street corner in and about Sydney. No greater kindness could be rendered to these youngsters than by placing them under much needed restraint. The community would also be relieved of an ever-present danger and costly nuisance.

    The total expenditure is somewhat lower than that of the precious year, although, the divisible average being smaller, a proportionately higher cost per head by a few shillings, viz, £24 3s 2d, is shown.

    Thanks to a liberal policy sanctioned by the Minister, much useful work has been carried out upon the “Sobraon” shore premises. The boys’ swimming bath has been extended to double its former sizel. Dredging, cleaning, and providing several hundreds of tons of sand has now rendered it the cleanest and most inviting enclosure for bathing purposes within the harbour. A boat-shed, slip, and fine sail-room had also been constructed. A very substantial sea-wall and reclamation works are now being carried out. All such durable and necessary structures entail considerable expenditure, and such might with justice be distributed in cost over very many years to which their advantage and use will apply. Forming, however, a charge upon the last and current years’ Votes of the Institution makes it necessary for somewhat increased expenditure being shown.

    It has been possible, by practising strict economy, to meet these charges as the work progresses.

  3.  The well-established health record of the ship has been unimpaired, and although two unpleasant epidemics of measles cause considerable anxiety and extra work to all members of our staff, we were fully rewarded by the very satisfactory and rapid progress which all the patients made towards good health, no case terminating fatally, or leaving injurious effects.

    Newcomers were responsible for the infection, and such experience points strongly to the necessity of providing for a medical examination prior to admission among other and healthy boys. Not only is this desirable as a protection against infection, but it would also furnish an insight into cases of serious disability for shipboard experience which are now frequently overlooked.

    At the present time a boy having a wooden leg is an inmate.

    There can be no doubt that the liberal scale of diet, made up of wholesome and nourishing food together with regularity in meal-hours and exercise, also perfect sanitation, form the secret of obtaining good health amongst numbers whose previous unenviably experiences tended in a contrary direction.

    Included amongst the Appendices will be found a dietary scale, giving details of each boy’s provisions; and comparison drawn with that of any similar institution will remove all doubt as to the “Sobraon” being at an advantage in this important connection.

  4.  The general conduct of the inmates has proved most gratifying, and in every way satisfactory. No instance of absconding has occurred, although there is never a week passes without some special indulgence being granted of freedom being the ship’s premises. A good tone pervades the entire establishment, and during over twenty-one years’ continuous connection with the shop it has never been my unpleasant duty to report the slightest disturbance or riot. The system of appealing to all that is good in boy-nature, and tendering as a reward of these qualities compensating advantages to the individual continues to develop the best results, and to materially assist in producing useful petty officers as encouraging examples to less experienced hands. It will be more readily apparent after a perusal of Table B, in which antecedents of those admitted are given, that the task of reformation sought to be accomplished here is not devoid of necessity for much watchful care and constant supervision. With direct evidence that a large proportion were, prior to reaching the ship, classed as incorrigibles, and if not themselves vicious, at least in close companionship with the worst of characters, it cannot but be satisfactory to the Department that creditable, orderly, and deferential behaviour now supplants a former condition of savagery and a total absence of respect for person, age, or authority.

    Every lad upon joining the ship has it made unmistakably clear to him that he starts a new career for himself, unsaddled by any previous misdemeanour, and that he is regarded as being in every way acceptable. To participate on equal terms with numerous comrades, meriting kindly treatment and in inducement to adopt a truthful and honest course, firstly, as being the most profitable procedure to pursue, and, later, as being the more honorable one.

    I regret to state that a feature touched on by me in precious reports still obtains, viz, the tendency on the part of many parents to regard the State ship as being intended for the purpose of their special convenience, and as a mean of easy relief from distasteful parental obligations. A reference to the miserably inadequate sum figuring in Table H, under heading of “Parents contributions towards maintenance,” and which for twelve months is under £300, claims some notice. In the midst of a city justly proud of its democratic privileges and independent freedom, it seems somewhat inconsistent to find evidence of pauperism where moral obligation, if not legal compulsion, should appeal against saddling the State with the entire cost of maintenance, educating, and reforming the children of many persons well able to contribute towards that purpose. Several well-to-do parents, who admit the improvement accomplished in their children, should consider it a cheaply-gained advantage under payment of 10s a week. Were the low charge of 2s 6d a week obtained upon the daily average, the result would be £2,021 10s according to the Public Treasury, as compared withj £291 18s actually received. Probably this important point will not be overlooked under much-needed amending legislation.

     Recreation has been well provided for, and in addition to the daily time set apart for amusement, many excursions to all parts of Sydney and harbour have been enjoyed. Attendances at theatre, pantomime, circus, concert, and sport gatherings, have, through the kindness of various managers and committees, been, with Ministerial sanction, availed of as rewards to deserving boys. The last excursion took the form of a picnic to Clarke Island and Middle Harbour, where the boys were conveyed in a special steamer; 300 attended and thoroughly enjoyed the freedom. All behaved in an exemplary manner.

  5.  The following work gives an outline of industrial labour performed on board by the boys when out of school, with its approximate monetary value:— 

Sailmakers’ Work—

£

s.

d.

Making 75 hammocks, at 3s

11

5

0

Making 3 awnings

4

10

0

Making 50 bags for boys’ clothes at 2s

5

0

0

Making 3 man ropes

2

10

0

Making 60 hammock lashings

4

0

0

Making 3 sets boats’ cushions and covers

10

0

0

Making 50 pudding bags, at 1s

2

10

0

Making 1 cutter’s sail and cover

3

10

0

Making fenders, yoke-lines, covers, and belts

5

0

0

General repairs, awnings, sails, bags, hammocks, screens, cover, hose, tarpaulins, buoys, &c

211

6

0

Carpentry—

 

 

 

General repairs, decks, boats, ship and shore premises

120

0

0

Glazing and polishing

30

0

0

Tailoring—

 

 

 

Making and repairing clothes, towels, &c

120

0

0

Painting—

 

 

 

Ship and boats

200

0

0

Masts, yards, and booms

20

0

0

Shore premises

20

0

0

Riggers’ Work—Tarring, repairs aloft and to boats’ gear, fenders and general seamen’s work

200

0

0

Gardening—Planting, mowing, keeping trees and bush-house plants in order, feeding animals

50

0

0

Cooking—Preparation of meals, stewarding, waiting, &c.

250

0

0

Musician’s Work—Keeping instruments clean and in order, copying music, and services of band when playing out

120

0

0

Laundry—(All done by boys, each of whom washes his own clothing—8 pieces—weekly)—

 

 

 

170,000 pieces at 1d

708

6

8

Hammocks and blankets, 4,200 at 3d

52

10

0

Photography—Applied to records and recreative purposes, magic-lantern, &c.

100

0

0

General Work—

 

 

 

Coaling ship weekly

52

0

0

Washing and cleaning decks daily

150

0

0

Lamp trimming and cleaning

60

0

0

Cleaning and keeping in order boats,, play-ground, dormitory, sheds, bath, ship’s hull, rifles, swords, aviaries, landing-places, store-room, &c.

 

150

 

0

 

0

Work on steam launch and water supply

200

0

0

Sale of chain cable to Messrs Smith and Kepsen (cash)

103

0

9

Total value of work done and services rendered

2,965

8

5


   6.  From the routine list, to be seen among the Appendices, it will be gathered that no idle time is spent. When not engaged during the day in school or at some of the numerous drills, a specially selected working partyy finds abundance of employment in and about the ship, rigging, boats, and extensive shore premises.

Sobraon gymnastic club with band. ML: Q371.9305/1, Report of the Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr 1899. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Sobraon gymnastic club with band. ML: Q371.9305/1, Report of the
Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year
Ended, 30 Apr 1899. Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    Excellent results continue to be accomplished in the school-room, thanks to painstaking efforts of the chief schoolmaster, Mr A Thompson, who is well supports by Messrs Leer and Mitchell. During January the annual examination was made by Mr Willis, Metropolitan Inspector, the high average of 78 per cent, marks being awarded, with a summary as follows:—Organisation—“Very good to excellent”; Discipline—“Excellent,” and General Management—“Very satisfactory.” A new and pleasing departure took place this year in the distribution of a large number of valuable prizes given by gentlemen interested in promoting emulation and rewarding meritorious aplication on the part of the boys in school and at drill. A suitable date having been fixed upon, the Hon CA Lee, MP, Minister for Justice, very considerately attended, and, in the presence of a very large number of ladies and gentlemen, handed the prizes to the successful boys with a few well-chosen words of encouragement. Having initiated this procedure, I look forward to its continuance, as all must be alive to the advantage of offering practical inducement to excel in the acquirement of such invaluable knowledge. It must not be lost sight of that the time spent in school is but half that applying to hours available in Public Schools; also that truancy mainly accounts for the presence here of “Sobraon” pupils. Many of our elder lads are unable to read or write prior to reaching the Institution. None leave for apprenticeship until such rudiments are mastered. A Table included in the Appendices affords some idea of the standard attained.

  7.  Swimming instruction has with regularity been imparted, and much progress rewards our efforts. With the much needed extension sanctioned by the Department, “Sobraon” inmates now possess greatly increased capacity within a most perfectly equipped swimming bath at any tide. Apart from the healthy and pleasurable experience secured, the knowledge of being able to swim is regarded as necessary to all before leaving for service.

    The gymnastic, cricket, football clubs show no diminution, but, on the contrary, are kept well patronised, and turn out many well set-up athletes. The closing season has left a capital record of victories scored against several Public School teams. All these contests gave evidence of the ambitious desire to gain laurels, wisely tempered with good taste in acting gracefully in the disappointment of a reverse of fortune.

    The winter evenings admit of concerts and magic lantern lectures, when the ship’s company obtains welcome support to its own resources from numerous artists amongst the public who are always willing to afford amusement to the “Sobraon” boys.

  8.  Classification under the mark system provides to every boy opportunity for defining his own standing with compensating advantages, and such appeals to the common-sense instincts of all experiencing the kindly and human methods of obtaining reformation. As showing the proportionate strength of our various Class Table, I cannot do better than quote what applies to-day amongst the 320 inmates. Classes I to IV contain the names of good-conduct petty officers, who, I may here add, render most valuable and loyal service to the main staff; total, 50 or 5/32. Class V includes well-behaved lads entitled to participate in the majority of the ship’s privileges, but without monetary recompense, and numbers 200, or ⅝. Class VI obtain a fair proportion of indulgences after leaving the lowest grade, and equal 60, or 3/16. Class VII represents defaulters who have forfeited, through misconduct, their recreation and, temporarily, their rights to any privileges. They are kept as much aloof from the other boys as possible, are well drilled, and kept under close supervision; they discharge the disagreeable duties necessary about the ship. These number 10 or 1/32.

    All classes are subject to revision weekly, and promotion or reductions depends upon the marks recorded by officers, in books furnished for that purpose.

  [9.]   A pleasing incidence of considerable thoughtfulness on the part of the boys was displayed in the form of assistance given to an unfortunate apprentice, who, owing to an accident, had his leg amputated in the Grafton Hospital. The boys subscribed a sum of money as a contribution towards payment of a premium by which the sufferer was to be taught the trade of tailor or shoemaker.

    Acts of this kind form gratifying evidence of unselfishness, and a much to be desired consideration for others.

  10. Correspondents still favour me with inquiries as to the possibility of placing their children voluntarily under the ship’s training, which fact may be construed as complimentary testimony that “Sobraon” experience is not regarded as carrying any objectionable stigma or hardship. Undoubtedly this view is a correct one, and no greater kindness can be shown an uncontrollable or neglected child than that of placing him under some disciplinary restraint. I am always averse to advising the surrender of parental influence where it can be exercised advantageously under desirable home-like conditions, as no substituted agency should command greater influence over youthful subjects. I give hereunder a few instances, omitting names for obvious reasons:—

    JC, of Petersham:—“Sir,—As I have a boy whom I am most anxious to place on board the training ship “Sobraon”, I should feel very much obliged if you would kindly give me full particulars as to how I can find the necessary information?”

    WM, Henty:—“Sir,—I have a son who is completely beyond control, and is likely to get into serious trouble. I would be glad to know if you would receive him on your ship, provided the Regulations permit you to do so, and subject him to the same discipline as the other boys? To have him committed by a magistrate would injure me in my position.                        *                      *                      *  Being quite ignorant of the Regulations re training-ship boys, I would be greatly obliged for your advice. The lad is 13 years of age, and fairly well educated for his age, but through bad company has made this application necessary.

    HA, Glebe:—“Dear Sir,—I read e report of your noble Institution, and wish to place a boy nearly 14 under stricter discipline than I, in my bad health, can exercise.    *   *   * Can I, without exposure, put him under your care, and pay for him. Yours respectfully, HA.”

    BLE, Cundletown:—“    *   *   * A widow lady who has to work for her living   *   *   *   has a son who is somewhat unmanageable, and cannot be restrained, simply because he has not been favoured with the benefit to be derived from a father’s rule. She cannot get him get him to work. He is 15 years of age, and every day is either out swimming, or elsewhere. He is a strong boy, is not vicious or normally bad—only wants to be taught obience and the necessity of bowing to authority. Could you take him, say, for six months?   *   *   *   If you can do this I will be willing to take him after that time. It is absolutely necessary that he is placed somewhere where he will have to be obedient, and that habit encouraged in him.   *   *   *   .”

    LL, East Maitland:—“Sir,—Would you be good enough to inform me in what way I could place a respectable boy, aged 17 years, under your charge? The matter stands thus: Up to to-day he has obeyed me. I require him to go to the High School, finding it is necessary to finish his education. He refuses, and is unable to get employment of a suitable kind. I will not allow him to leave school without employment. He has a high moral character; his family are in a good position.”

    IO, South Melbourne:—“Sir,—   *   *   *   I have a boy 13 years old. He is well built, just fit for to amke a good sailor, only at present a little unruly. I have been reading so much about the good training that boys get on board the ‘Sobraon’ that I would like to place him on board, if possible. Of course I will pay for him if he could be taken.”

    CG, Darlinghurst:—“I have a boy here, about 14 years of age, whose father cannot keep him from getting into mischief and truanting. He is very anxious to know if, by paying a reasonable sum, he could have him placed on your ship, and under what conditions?   *   *   *   If you cannot receive him under any such conditions, would you kindly let me know if there are any of the institutions for boys known to you that can do so?”

  11. The costly material obtained for mooring the vessel has not entirely accomplished all that could be desired towards permanency and sense of security, owing, in my humble opinion, to the novel method of securing all cable outside the vessel instead of through the hawse-pipes. The engineer-in-Chief has recommended reverting to the use of a buoy, which meets with Departmental approval, and will shortly be placed in position.

  12. The clerical work of the Institution shows no falling off, and, as mentioned in my last Report, unduly taxes the time of one clerk and myself in keeping abreast of a large correspondence, together with necessary attention to daily receipt and issue of stores. Whilst no effort is spared to do justice to these matters, the accuracy aimed at cannot be assured, nor can much desired supervisory work be accomplished.

PART II.

THE SECOND STAGE — APPRENTICESHIP.

  13. Application for the services of “Sobraon” boys continue to come daily to hand, and many desirable homes now await lads when eligible to leave the ship.

    This is a healthy indication that points to the large majority going to employment giving a satisfaction.

    From over 400 reports just received, the percentage of 93 are giving satisfaction, and from the small balance fully a third have proved failures owing to want of tactful management on the part of over-exacting employers.

    I claim that, considering the class from which the ship recruits its material, there results are not only encouraging, but they are indicative of the practical utilisation of many promising lives which were previously abandoned as hopelessly incorrigible. It must not be forgotten that many of our boys proved failures under other institutional handling, and not withstanding the prevailing desire for experimental new departures, the ship’s system furnishes results that only the supercritical can take exception to.

  14. During nine years ended last month no less a sum than £13,553 6s. 7d. has been handed to the ship’s apprentices for services rendered; and some thousands of pounds to-day stand at credit of lads serving apprenticeship.

    This is a gratifying fact; but even more profitable gain is provided through the medium of employers who, acting up to the conditions of the indenture contract, impart useful instruction, which later enables young men to earn a respectable livelihood by honest toil. The few years spent happily in the country generally bears fruit in eradicating former undesirable preference for city life, and many of our boys elect from choice to remain away from temptations responsible for early failings and long-to-be-remembered hardships.

    During the past twelve months it has only been possible to make one short visit from the ship. The necessity for a prosecution of an employer in the South Coast district, who had been unduly severe in punishing an apprentice, having arisen, I attended at the Court proceedings, and a verdict, with substantial damages, was recorded against the master, the lad had, previous to law proceedings, been removed to a more suitable home, and I am pleased to say gives every satisfaction.

    Whilst in the district I found time to visit and chat with several apprentices, all of whom seemed pleased to see me.

    I have long considered the want of such periodical inspection by a ship’s officer who knows the boys, and in whom they have confidence in confiding, to be the weakest part of this Institution’s dealings. Where it is possible to have as one of the staff an inspector who with regularity could visit apprentices in their homes, and also furnish any necessary information regarding fitness and applications seeking boys, wiser allotment, under reliable insight, would be secured. The protection of State wards renders such precautionary measures a matter of justice to those thus placed in isolated and sparsely-populated districts.

    It is true the police have for years past most efficiently and conscientiously discharged supervisory work over our boys; but such not only taxes their fully occupied time somewhat excessively, but frequently gives rise to most unfair resentment from the very people who share in the benefit of their well-intended mediation. I have quite a number protests from masters who are short-sighted enough to construe the police inspection of their State charge, and his surroundings, as an intended reflection upon themselves. The great advantage attaching to inspection by a ship’s officer comes from his carefully-acquired knowledge of the character pertaining to each different lad—and few coincide. Close daily contact on board ship over one and a half year discloses this. He is, therefore, in a position to form a more correct opinion as to how far the complaint or friction is attributable to either contracting party. I would, however, be more than ungrateful were I not to take this opportunity of thanking the Inspector-General, Mr E Fosbery, JP, and his efficient staff for the immense amount of work done for this Institution in many directions. The kindly counsel and encouragement given to lads serving in all parts of New South Wales proves invaluable, and the old adage of “a friend in need” proving “a friend indeed” is very applicable to the country constabulary and all State charges.

  15. As has always been the case, interference on the part of the relatives still gives rise to much friction between employers, this Institution, and its protégés. [sic] I regret to say it rarely proves possible for a lad to complete his engagement after his whereabouts becomes known to his relatives, who, either from shortsighted or sordid motives, write and visit the boy until the master’s influence and authority is completely undermined; also the boy is rendered so unsettled as to become useless in his situation. There are, of course, exceptions to this, where sensible parents recognise the wisdom of non-interference.

    A very mistaken impression seems frequently to go unjustly abroad that my sympathies are indiscriminately opposed to all relatives, and that I wish to resent their very natural interest in their children. This is quite a fallacy where the parents have the slightest claim to respectability; further, I am quite alive to the fact that no more valuable assistance could be enlisted than that of a well-disposed parent’s influence and wise counsel.

    A few from many letters in my possession will show that this is at times recognised by relatives as being the view upon which I act:—

    ADO, Sydney:—“    *   *   *   For securing such an excellent situation and refined home for FJO, as well as for the very great kindness and consideration which you have displayed all through the matter, we owe you our deepest gratitude. Indeed, I feel compelled to say that from my experience of you, I consider that the Institution presided over by you is fortunate in having one who, whilst possessing the qualities of a strict disciplinarian, is imbued with the best instincts. Kindly convey our sincere thanks to the Rev WA Charlton for his extremely kind endeavours therein.”

    SH, of Newcastle:—“From letters received from my son, I am satisfied in my own mind that he has been placed under a good master in Mr Elliott, and, more, appears to be happy and contented. For this consideration, do, I pray, accept my heartfelt gratitude in return.”

    MS, of Sydney:—“Allow me to thank you for your kindness in allowing me to correspond with my boys, and also for the kindness you have shown them in the past.”

    AH, of Newtown:—“I am keenly thankful Cyril is doing well; glad, too, that Mr Ffrench is an exact man; it will be so helpful to my boy. I need hardly tell you that my mind is at rest now about my boy’s surroundings.”

    EC, of Surry Hills:—“I have received a letter from my son JW, and he is very happy and contented; and I am very thankful to you for your kindness towards me, for it has relieved my mind very much and I can rest contented now.”

    EGP, of Enmore:—“I have pleasure to inform you that my son Henry has successfully obtained adnission to the Permanent Artillery Band, and I must kindly ask you to accept the thanks of Mrs P and self for the interest you took in the matter.”

  16. No statement of mine can so well illustrate the sentiments of masters and boys as a few letters penned by bothy, which I therefore submit from some hundreds in similar terms:—

    Mr FV Wareham, Byron Bay:—“In reply to your circular re WS, I beg to state as follows: 1. WS, is a splendid boy at any work I set him to do, and appears very ambitious to learn. He works well and is quick and cheerful; takes quite an interest in everything about the farm; is very kind to animals, and looks after their wants without having to be told to do so. I have never known any man or boy I have hired that I like so well. He has naturally a good disposition. He is also kind and attentive to the little children. He is a very good boy, and if he goes on as he is during at present he must make his way in the world, especially if he remains in this new and rich district. 2. Three shillings have been paid into the Savings’ Bank, and 3s more will be paid in about Monday next. I enclose a note from him.”

    Mr AW Perkins, Bexhill:—“    *   *   *   I have found the boy industrious and anxious to get on, and he has now to his credit in the Savings’ Bank 21s 4d. I have requested him to write to you, and he acceded to my request. The only ‘Sobraon’ boys are with S Parkes, Bexhill, and H Sparke, Cooper Creek, that I know of, and both seem to be well satisfied with them, and the boys seem to be getting along all right.”

    Bandmaster Hutchinson, Paddington:—“Colonel Smith was speaking to me yesterday about the boys from the ‘Sobraon.’ I have had nothing but good reports, G especially, and wanted to know about R and the others, he being very anxious to make up the band. Can you oblige me by sending the boys along, also one other likely to pass medically.”

    Mr W Black, Alstonville:—“I have to report E.M. A good and obedient boy during the time he has been with me. I am very satisfied with his behaviour.”

    Mr R Bryen, Granwell:—“Re conduct of boys. They have been two good boys up to the present. Both of them do their work well, and are getting very useful on the farm. The amount of wages paid to your and the boys’ credit in the bank—C, £4 1s. 6d., and CK £2 8s. 3d.”

    Mr D Orman, Bective:—“    *   *   *   As for the apprentice, I could wish for a better lad, both in work and every other way. I have banked £9 17s. To his credit, being wages to date.”

    Mr W Holden, Stewart’s River:—“I have much pleasure in informing you that the lad entrusted to my care has given good satisfaction and has proved useful and industrious, and is easily managed. I am much pleased with him, and like him well. I think he is satisfied with his home, as I never hear him complain.”

    Mr J Smith, Tweed River:—“AN has conducted himself quite satisfactorily during the past year, and if he does as well this year I will be satisfied. Of course, I have treated him as my own boy. I have deposited £4 2s. To his and your account.”

    Mr J Haddin, Albion Park:—“I am pleased to tell you that LW is still a very good boy. He has £3 17s. 9d. Deposited to his and your credit. He has written to you to-day.”

    Mr T Murphy, Koorawatha:—“I am happy to inform you that the apprentice you allotted to me is proving a very worthy lad. He is respected as the best boy in the district. I let him go to Sydney to see his friends. He has £1 4s. To his credit.

    Mr G Nowland, Quirindi:—“The apprentice has conducted himself splendidly. £1 17s. To his and your credit. The lad will write to you next week.

PART III.

THE THIRD STAGE — EX-APPRENTICES.

  17. I now come to the interesting period that permits of judging the time spent under the “Sobraon” training has accomplished its mission, or proved barren of permanent good results.

    It is with great satisfaction that I find a proportionality high average to that shown in connection with apprentices as continuing and being applicable to successes amongst those becoming free agents.

    The “old boys” still continue to display their recognition of what the ship has done for them by paying numerous visits, almost daily; and steady correspondence from those precluded by distance from attending contains much genuine assurance of the writer’s appreciation and gratitude. This being the case, does much to encourage and stimulate the ship’s staff in the discharge of duties which, at times, seem difficult to accomplishment.

    A very large proportion of our young men, completing some years of country service, become enamoured of the desirable, healthful, and free mode of life, and elect to remain away from more dangerous influences, which course I always use my advocacy towards bringing about. Wages paid over exactly nine years represents the respectable total of £13,576 17s. 1d., and were it possible to insure wise application in its disposal would, with the useful teaching obtain from employers during service, go to form the nucleus of a small competency that might be acquired by industrious perseverance and saving habits.

  18. Again I have to thank the Comptroller-General’s courtesy in furnishing a complete record of all ex-“Vernon” or “Sobraon” inmates entering any gaol in New South Wales under conviction during the year just ended. The total of forty-eight names discloses a small number by ten than applied to the pervious year, which is mainly due to closer inquiry and identification than was formerly assured, each committal being brought under my notice at the time of entering any gaol for corroboration to his being an ex-inmate. They class as follows:—

During apprenticeship

6

After

32

Discharged to relatives by Governor-in-Council

10

Total

48


    The dates of their leaving the Institution register from 1873, or twenty-six years back, up to 1898. The Minister for Justice, Hon CA Lee, MP, in reviewing this return, kindly lays stress upon the fact of one lad only being included who had left the ship within the past twelve months. I am able to add that this young man was provided with employment at the advanced age of 17½ years, not as one in whom confidence was reposed, but as the alternative of turning him adrift in the city when 18. It is but fair to the Institution to point out that from the total of forty-eight the large proportion of ten must be deducted in order to arrive at the number of those proving failures under the system, that number having been removed by Executive authority prior to experiencing the full course of the ship’s training, and restored to the custody of their relatives. A comparison drawn between thirty-eight failures and 3,942 admissions gives 9, or under 1 per cent. On the other hand, it will be seen that those returned to their relatives are reverting to evil habits, viz, ten, provide a fifth of the total relapses.

    I find the number of male prisoners committed during 1898 to have been 15,066; so that the boys from this Institution contribute but an infinitesimal fraction of the aggregate.

    These figures are beyond contradiction, and, were it not for the unsatisfactory proportion coming in evidence from those only partially experiencing the ship’s reforming influence, would leave little to be desired.

    A few illustrations from many hundreds recorded in my Ex-Apprentices’ Register may prove interesting:—

    PH—Sent here at 8 years of age, being too young for the ship experience, was transferred to the State Children’s Relief Department. Having proved a failure under that system, he was recommended to the “Vernon.” Served his apprenticeship with credit, and has been in steady employment at the Victoria Barracks for the past four years. He visits occasionally to inquire after a younger brother serving apprenticeship at Kiama.

    AER—Committed from Newcastle Bench in 1889, after two previous convictions, and sent to the ship as being incorrigible. Was apprenticed in July, 1893, and creditably served his full term of apprenticeship. Frequently visits the ship, and has assured me that the best thing ever happened to him, was being sent to the ship. His former employer, Mr F Buckle, has secured him lucrative employment at Paddington, where he continues to favourably acquit himself.

    WW—One of four brothers sent here, all of whom have turned out well. He was apprenticed sixteen years ago. On 11th July last he visited the vessel, having just returned from Western Australia, where he had been profitable employed in mining. He spent the night on board, and left Sydney the following day to join his brother, who was engaged in farming on the Tweed River. He is a fine, strong young man.

    JC—Sent from Glen Innes in 1892, his father being an inmate of Callan Park Lunatic Asylum and the lad sadly neglected. Was apprenticed to Mr P Hiney, of Orange, for four years. Having obtained a week’s holiday, he visited the ship in July last, and assured me that he regards having been sent to the ship as a very fortunate thing for him. He receives a most excellent character, and returned to his former service on the following Saturday.

    LWD—Left the ship in October, 1886; is now a prosperous tradesman in the town of Warren. He has at the present time in his employ two “Sobraon” apprentices, both of whom he writes me most encouraging reports.

  19. When brought face to face with the lasting results each year being added to through the medium of this Institution, I feel assured of the countenance and the support of all charitably disposed members of our liberal community, as no undertaking will so readily commend itself to practical minds as that which tends to convert depraved youthful humanity into respectable law-abiding citizens. The ship, or shore reformatory, be it either, is but a means towards an end, its object being to secure, not short-lived popularity, but permanent and far-reaching results; and its success or failure can only be determined by closely analysing the proved characters of those who pass under its influence. That we continue to keep closely in touch with all former wards will be evidenced by a glance at the registration of 380 visits paid, and information gleaned from “old boys” in conversation during the past year. Many pleasing reminiscences are revived by young men calling on board to discuss with me their previous experiences of the ship and their after career, which confidences, freely reposed, go far towards enlisting my ready sympathy and forbearance with less experienced novices coming daily to profit by the initiatory influences of the system.

PART IV.

MISCELLANEOUS.

20. Prayers are said during the morning and evening of each day. The boys land in Balmain on sundays and march to their respective churches; the afternoon of that day, together with an hour each Tuesday, is devoted to religious instruction. During the year a large party of boys from both Protestant and Roam Catholic denominations were confirmed by the Right Reverend the Primate and His Eminence the Cardinal.

Sobraon school room. ML: Q364/N, Report of the Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr 1906. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Sobraon school room. ML: Q364/N, Report of the Superintendent
of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr
1906. Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    Too many thanks cannot be given to the Rev WA Charlton, the Reverend Dean Healey, and others, who are all most assiduous in their thoughtful and painstaking efforts towards spiritual teaching of the boys. The staff as a body benefit by the refining influence thus introduced amongst the lads. In this connection my thanks are due to the kindly-disposed and philanthropic ladies, Mrs Ford and the Misses Hughes and Maguire, who ably second the Church of England clergymen by weekly visits. Their presence does much to encourage respectful behaviour and attentive decorum amongst the pupils. Similar praiseworthy help is rendered to the lads of Jewish persuasion by the Rev Phillipstein, who kindly attends on Tuesdays to instruct them.

    The worthy rector of St John’s is almost invariably to be found in evidence amongst the youngsters whenever they enjoy a day’s holiday for sports. In such numerous ways I am indebted to this gentleman, who is universally respected by all my charges.

    I would also desire to place on record the great assistance rendered this Institution by the Visiting Surgeon, Dr CU Carruthers, JP, who, during our epidemic of measles, was most unremitting in his attendance upon the patients and solicitous regarding their progress. The fact of no serious after effects developing in any instance speaks volumes for the treatment prescribed.

  21. It is not easy to record the names of all generous patrons and contributors towards the pleasure and amusement of the inmates, but amongst the numbers I have to thank the Hon JA Hogue, MP; Mr JC Maynard, JP, Under Secretary of Public Instruction; Mr Bridges, Chief Inspector; Colonel Bell, Consul, US America; Major Rennie; the Hon JH Carruthers, MP; Hon CA Lee, MP; Mr R Hickson, MICE, Under Secretary of Public Works; Messrs Turner and Conway, Principals of Fort-street Model and Cleveland-street Superior Public Schools; the lessees of our theatres and circuses and societies who have entertained the boys; the Committees of the Balmain and Anniversary Regattas; Messrs Southwell, SN Fairland, Pattison, Piercy Ethell, Blundell, Louis Phillips, and Captain Connor; also several officers who, if not personally named, none the less command my very grateful thanks.

  22. The last year has recorded the same large number of visits from influential ladies and gentlemen interested in scrutinising the methods adopted and general surroundings of the Institution. Foremost amongst whom must be named our late Ministerial head, the Hon J Garrard, MP, who both in office and over a term of very many years has always taken a keen and practical interest in the ship. His very complimentary assurance written to me, conveying satisfaction with the manner in which the ship’s staff carried out their duties whilst under his administration, was very gratifying. His successor, the Hon JA Hogue, has on several occasions favoured the ship with a visit, as also has the Under Secretary and the Chief Inspector, also the principal officers of the Public Instruction Department. From all I receive most valuable encouragement and assistance. My greatly-respected predecessor and former colleague, Captain Neitenstein, again claims recognition as an active sympathiser and supporter of the ship’s work, who frequently spares time to bring representative visitors to inspect the establishment. He has surrendered none of his former interest in the inmates, whom he continues to frequently assist in many ways.

  23. A few extracts taken from the Visitors’ Book, as entered by the leading authorities whose opinions command weight, will point to the popularity of the Institution, and tend to dispel any false impressions as to over-exacting or unduly severe procedure being applicable to the system of accomplishing reformation.

    Lord Jersey, writing from Middleton Park, Bicester:—“It is always a pleasure to know that a good work continues its useful career, and your report on the year’s work of the “Sobraon” shows that the advantages which it confers on the State increase. It is not necessary to have startling disclosures; on the contrary, the steady, even flow is a good proof that matters are going on satisfactorily.”

    The Right Reverend the Primate, after a recent visit, writes as follows:—“The good order, the admirable discipline, the cheerful vigour of the boys were good to see; the drill and physical exercises were excellently performed; the music was very creditable, both to the bandmaster and the band-boys. I congratulate you also on the beautiful condition of the ship and its various departments. Wishing for you and your staff God’s blessings upon your important work, and hoping that the ‘Sobraon’ may continue to confer, by the careful education and training given in it, great and permanent benefit to all the boys.”

    Public Service Commissioner, Mr GA Wilson:—“Very good work is being done here.”

    Mr R McMillan, Editor, Stock and Station Journal:—“The most pathetic, suggestive day I ever put in.”

    Messrs WM Hughes, WA Holman, TA Byrne, Alfred Edden, EH Dight, T Waddell, Members of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales:—“Deeply impressed, beyond mere words.” “Am delighted with all I saw.” “A credit to the Colony, and especially to the Captain and all concerned in the work of the ship.” “A noble institution, and splendidly managed.”

    Dr FHL Zillmann, Ph. D:—“Having had experience of Elmira Reformatory and Boy’s Prisons, in New York, I am happy to say that I have never seen anything superior in all that goes to make up efficient discipline.”

    Mr Piercy Ethell:—“Visited the ‘Sobraon,’ and was extremely interested with everything. The main feature which struck us was the perfect discipline on board and the absolute cleanliness everywhere.”

    Mr Thomas Walker:—“As a visitor from the ‘Old Country,’ I have been very interested by what I have seen on the ‘Sobraon.’ The discipline, order, and general smartness of the boys is everything to be desired.”

    The Hon CA Lee, MP, Minister for Justice, accompanied by Captain FW Neitenstein, JP, CGP:—“I am so pleased with all I have seen on board to-day that I will convey my impressions by letter to Captain Mason, whose good work is self-evident.” The Comptroller-General kindly adds: “I concur in the Minister’s remarks.”

    The Right Hon GH Reid, PC, Premier of New South Wales:—“Always in good order; never in better form than now.”

    The Hon W Best, MP, Minister for Lands, Victoria, accompanied by twenty Members of the Victorian Legislature:—“We are delighted with all we have seen; the Institution is a credit to the Mother Colony.”

    Rev H Benwell, RN, with other gentlemen:—“With some experience of similar institutions, I think that the ‘Sobraon’ as nearly as possible approaches perfection. I cannot express my pleasure at my visit to the ‘Sobraon.’”

    Captain AS Mullock and Captain Reynolds:—“Discipline splendid; drill excellent; never saw better in any part of the world; altogether a splendid institution.” “Splendid discipline; more perfect than I have seen in any other ship.”

    Messrs Rayment:—“A grand work indeed is done here under the able superintendence of Captain Mason, which will have an undying influence for good, both on the boys and the Colony’s future. The backbone of nation.”

    R ME Jull, of West Australia, accompanied by Mr C Napier Bell, CE, and others:—“A splendid institution; a standard of excellence; the best thing of its kind in these colonies.”

    Mr LW Stanton, Chairman, Board of Inspectors of Schools, South Australia, accompanied by Mr William N Neale, Inspector:—“Discipline excellent; the whole establishment evidently a grand success. It is clear that work of the highest value is done. The discipline is of the very best.”

    Colonel A Hume, Inspector of Prisons, New Zealand:—“I am extremely pleased with the discipline and organisation prevailing on the ship. The state of the ship reflects the greatest credit on Captain Mason and his officers, who are doing really good work for the Colony. I am delighted in having seen the ‘Sobraon,’ and extremely obliged for the courtesy shown to me by those connected with this splendid institution.”

    Mr C Delohery, SM, accompanied by Mr LW Marriland:—“Found the ship in perfect order; the boys clean, happy, and in the best of health. Captain Mason and the officers under him deserve the greatest of credit for the most efficient manner in which they perform their duties.”

    The Hon Edmund Barton, QC, MP, Messrs RE O’Connor and Bruce Smith M’sLC, Mr Howard Willoughby, of Victoria:—“Extremely interested; order and discipline apparently perfect; much impressed and pleased.”

    Mr WM Barker, Solicitor:—“Extremely interested and impressed, and consider the benefit of the system cannot be over-estimated.”

    Mr WF Roydhouse, New Zealand:—“Certainly the most interesting institution I have visited in New South Wales. The methods pursued cannot be other than reforming in the highest degree.”

    Mr EL Demestre:—“Very much interested. A most valuable institution; evidently perfectly managed.”

  24. I am just in possession of intimation that Regulations have been adopted by the Liverpool Municipality for the protection of young children. Those over 11 years of age obtaining license will be allowed to sell articles in the streets up to 9 pm. The guardians of other children hawking in the streets will be prosecuted. Similar legislation in much needed in New South Wales to remove a crying evil.

  25. The year just closed shows no change in the constitution of the Staff. Mr Williams, seaman, who served on board for some years, I am pleased to state, obtained promotion to a position under the Department dealing with explosives. All officers continue to display a conscientious, painstaking observance of their duties, and merit my acknowledgment of their loyal support.

  26. In bringing to a close this review of the year’s work, I would desire respectfully to convey my recognition of much-encouraging confidence reposed in me by the Ministerial head, the Under Secretary, and all Departmental officers, which has made my task pleasant, and its results productive of good to the community.

L have, &c,
WH Mason.
Commander and Superintendent.

APPENDICES.
———
(A.)

ADMISSIONS AND DISCHARGES.

Admission

159

Discharges

157

Total change in ship’s company

316

(B.)

ANTECEDENTS OF BOYS ADMITTED, SO FAR AS CAN BE TRACED.

Previously under State control (incorrigible, &c).....

50

Previously before Police Courts....

66

Three times before the Courts.

17

Four times before the Courts

5

Five times before the Courts...

1

Not previously before the Courts..

70

(C.)

BIRTH-PLACES OF BOYS ADMITTED.

New South Wales

125

New Zealand

6

England

5

Victoria

5

Queensland

3

South Australia

4

Tasmania

4

Scotland

2

Unknown

5

(D.)

RELIGION OF BOYS ADMITTED.

Church of England

79

Roman Catholic

47

Protestants, other than Church of England

28

Hebrew

2

No religion

3

(E.)

PARTICULARS OF PARENTAGE.

Class 1.

Neglectful parents

59, or 37%

Class 2.

One parent—

 

Father dead; mother re-married

4

Mother dead; father re-married

1

Father dead; mother neglect to control

18

Mother dead; father neglects to control

15

 

38, or 24%

Class 3.

Parents deserted, unknown, or dead

17, or 10%

Class 4.

Parents of bad character—

 

Mother prostitute; father deserted

5

Mother prostitute; father dead

2

Mother prostitute; boys illegitimate

2

Mother prostitute; father neglects to control

2

Mother prostitute; father drunkard

1

Mother drunkard; father neglects to control

1

Mother drunkard; father dead

2

Mother deserted; father dead

3

Mother in gaol; father drunkard

1

Father drunkard; mother dead

4

Father deserted; mother dead

4

Father drunkard; mother neglects to control

2

Father deserted; mother neglects to control

5

Father in gaol; mother neglects to control

2

Father in gaol; mother dead

3

Parents divorced

2

Parents unfit to have charge of their children

4

 

45, or 28%

(F.)

AGES OF BOYS ADMITTED.

Under 1 years

53

12 to 14 years

53

Over 14 years

53

(G.)

POLICE COURTS COMMITTING.

Sydney and suburbs

100

Country

59

(H.)


TOTAL EXPENDITURE, INCLUDING ALL REPAIRS AND ALTERATIONS.

£

s.

d.

£

s.

d.

1..... Provisions

 

 

 

4,142

0

4

2..... Salaries (including pay of thre teachers)

 

 

 

2,599

0

 

3. Clothing and boots

 

 

 

577

2

2

4. Charges of Fitzroy Dock for repairs, &c.

 

 

 

466

13

11

5. Store, rope, paint, repairing boats, and keeping grounds in order

 

 

 

380

13

6

6. Fuel and light

 

 

 

269

19

6

7. Bedding, hammocks, blankets, and bags

 

 

 

179

0

10

8. School appliances, library, reading-room, and “good-conduct pay”

 

 

 

132

10

3

9. Band instruments, music, and repairs

 

 

 

54

11

1

10. Medicines, hospital expenses

 

 

 

56

17

1

11. Laundry, including scrubbing-brushes, towels, brushes, and water

 

 

 

67

4

0

12. Crockery, knives, forks, mess utensils

 

 

 

49

0

10

13. Petty expenditure

 

 

 

31

0

0

 

 

 

 

9,005

14

3

Deduct parent’s contributions

291

18

0

 

 

 

Deduct half value of stores in stock

1,200

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,491

18

0

Net cost

 

 

 

7,513

16

3

Cost per head of boys maintained on ship only—

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calculated on year’s enrolment (478)

15

14

4

 

 

 

Calculated on daily average (311)

24

3

2

 

 

 

Expenses in connection with apprentices:—

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proportion of salaries, visiting, stationery

350

0

0

 

 

 

Apprentices’ outfits

199

10

6

 

 

 

Apprentices’ travelling expenses

116

12

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

666

2

10

New constructive works to shore premises

 

 

 

600

0

0

Total expenditure for the year

 

 

 

8,779

19

1

Cost per head of apprentices, £1 13s. 4d.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number of boys under the Superintendent’s legal control, 700

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost per head for the year, £12 10s. 10d.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(K.)

GROWTH AND PROGRESS OF THE INSTITUTION, AS COMPARED WITH THIRTY YEARS.

Item.

1869.

1899.

Remarks.

Admissions

 61

159

Increase of 98.

Discharges

42

157

Increase of 115.

Enrolment

196

478

Increase of 288.

Daily average

126

311

Increase of 185.

Cost per head

£31 16s. 8d.

 £24 3s. 2d.

Decrease of £7 13s. 6d.

(L.)

SCHOOLMASTER'S REPORT. 

Sir,

    I have the honor to report that the number of new enrolments for the year ending 30th April was 159. These were classified as follows:—27 were placed in 3rd class, 40 in 2nd class, and 92 in 1st class; 25 boys were admitted of ages varying from 7 to 16, of whom some knew the alphabet, and the remainder could not read Primer I satisfactorily; 35 others could only read Primer II in an indifferent manner.

    Each class has been worked in two or three sections throughout the year. 157 boys left during the same period, of whom 60 had been in 3rd class, and 57 others in 2nd class.

    The annual school inspection took place in January of this year, and the result showed a general improvement on last year’s work. This improvement was most marked in reading and writing, all classes gaining a higher percentage of marks in those subjects.

    The conduct of the boys whilst under instruction has been in every respect throughly satisfactory, the boys obeying orders promptly and willingly, and the greater number taking a genuine interest in their work.

    The numerous privileges extended by the Regulations of the ship to well-conducted boys have proved of great help in the work of the school, by encouraging the better-disposed lads to greater efforts.

I have, &c
Alex Thompson,
Schoolmaster.

The Commander and Superintendent, Nautical School-ship “Sobraon.”

————————
TABLE I.

CHANGES IN THE ENROLMENT DURING THE YEAR..

Item.

1st Class.

2nd Class.

3rd Class.

Enrolment on 30th April, 1898

114

99

106

Admission to 30th April, 1899

92

40

27

Promotions, February, 1899

——

62

34

Total enrolment for the year

206

201

167

Losses to each class by promotion

62

34

——

Discharged

40

57

60

Enrolled on 30th April, 1899

104

110

107

TABLE II.


Average daily enrolment in 1st Class

116.5

Average daily enrolment in 2nd Class

93.0

Average daily enrolment in 3rd Class

100.0

TABLE III.

* CLASSIFICATION OF 92 BOYS ADMITTED TO FIRST CLASS.

Ages.

Upper First—
Reading, I Book.

Middle Fist—
Reading, II Primer

Lowest First—
Reading, I Primer

Total number
admitted

Between the ages of 15 and 16 years

7

4

3

14

Between the ages of 14 and 15 years

4

1

2

7

Between the ages of 13 and 14 years

7

4

0

11

Between the ages of 12 and 13 years

4

3

3

10

Between the ages of 11 and 12 years

5

9

4

18

Between the ages of 10 and 11 years

4

7

6

17

Between the ages of 9 and 10 years

0

3

3

6

Between the ages of 8 and 9 years

0

4

2

6

Between the ages of 7 and 8 years

1

0

2

3

 

32

35

25

92

* This is the classification on arrival.

TABLE IV.

CLASSIFICATION ACCORDING TO ABILITY IN READING, WRITING, AND ARITHMETIC.

 

* Well.

Indifferently.

Not at all.

Total.

Reading.

 

 

 

 

On board 30th April, 1898

155

144

20

319

Admitted to 30th April, 1899

27

107

25

159

Discharged to 30th April, 1899

110

47

0

157

On board 30th April, 1899

160

147

14

321

Writing.

 

 

 

 

On board 30th April, 1898

175

124

20

319

Admitted to 30th April, 1899

33

101

25

159

Discharged to 30th April, 1899

117

40

0

157

On board 30th April, 1899

200

107

14

321

Arithmetic.

 

 

 

 

On board 30th April, 1898

103

196

20

319

Admitted to 30th April, 1899

27

97

35

159

Discharged to 30th April, 1899

85

72

0

157

On board 30th April, 1899

100

207

14

321

* Approximately equal to Third Class, or Good Upper Second Standard.

(M.)

DIETARY ARRANGEMENTS.

Ration authorised to be issued to boys on board the Nautical School-ship “Sobraon”:—

20 oz bread

 

1 pint milk.

2 oz sugar

 

1½ oz soap (best yellow).

1½ oz jam or butter, at Superintendent’s option

1 ration

12 oz fresh beef, or 16 oz mutton.

½ oz tea

 

16 oz potatoes.

½ oz salt

 

6 oz vegetables for soup.

With extras, as authorised.

Alternative Ration authorised to be issued to boys on board the Nautical School-ship “Sobraon”:—

20 oz bread

 

1 pint milk.

2 oz sugar

 

1½ oz soap (best yellow).

1½ oz jam or butter, at Superintendent’s option

ration

24 oz fresh fish.

½ oz tea

 

16 oz potatoes.

 ½ oz salt

 

6 oz vegetables for soup.

With extras, as authorised.

Ration authorised for boys on “Sbraon” (weekly ration):—

2 lb flour

   

½ lb raisins

1 ration

1 lb fresh fruit or canned fruit, at 

1 oz suet

 

Superintendent’s option.

Breakfast—Tea, bread and butter, or jam.

 

Tea—Tea, bread and butter, or jam.

Dinner.

 

 

Monday, Thursday

First Division.

Second Division.

Third Division.

Soup, roast meat, boiled potatoes

Stew, potatoes, and vegetables, pudding

Se-pie, potatoes, and vegetables

Tuesday, Friday

Stew, potatoes, and vegetables, pudding

Sea-pie, potatoes, and vegetables

Soup, roast meat, boiled potatoes.

Wednesday, Saturday

Sea-pie, potatoes, and vegetables

Soup, roast meat, boiled potatoes

Stew, potatoes, and vegetables, pudding.

Daily averageSunday

Roast fresh meat, boiled salt meat, vegetables, potatoes, cake or pudding, fruit.

 

 
    Each boy has 1 pint of milk with his dinner daily; and occasionally on Fridays fresh fish is substituted for meat.

    During the four winter months milk is provided with oat or maize meal for breakfast, in addition to bread and butter; and, for the same period, pea-soup is added to the usual scale for dinner three times weekly.

(N.)

Work and Drill Routine.

Morning.

Monday

9 to 10

General drill

 

10.10 to 11.45

1 division, work

 

10.10 to 11

2 divisions, rifle drill

 

 

) 1 division, compass, lead and log line, numbers of flags

 

11 to 11.45

) 1 division, rule of the road, names of spars, ropes, parts of boat and sails, launch for steering and steam instruction

Tuesday

9 to 11.45

1 division, work

 

9 to 10

2 divisions, squad drill

 

10.10 to 11

Boat drill, two divisions pulling

 

11 to 11.45

Making sail, step and unstep masts, salutes, keeping close to ship; when weather permits, sails to be loosed in afternoon

Wednesday

9 to 10

General drill

 

10.10 to 11.45

1 division, work

 

10.10 to 11

1 division, cutlas drill; 1 division, man boats, shove off, come alongside properly, toss oars, &c

 

11 to 11.50

2 divisions, gymnastics and dumb-bell exercise

Thursday

9 to 10

3 divisions, boat exercise and flag instruction

 

10.10 to 11.45

1 division, work

 

10.10 to 11.45

2 divisions, land at Cockatoo for drill in marching, wheeling, &c, without arms. (Occasional long pull in winter.)

Friday

9 to 10

General drill

 

10.10 to 11.45

1 division, work

 

10.10 to 11

Balance step, extension motions, saluting, squad drill

 

11 to 11.45

Seamanship and launch instruction as on Monday. (Occasional long pull in winter)

Saturday

Until 11.45

Cleaning ship, arms, &c

 

9 to 9.15

Lieutenant’s inspection

 

9.15 to 10.15

Commander inspects all boys, decks, grounds

 

10.30

Land for church, or service aboard


Notes.

    Boys at drill to stand easy 1 minute in every 10.

    Watch boys to be selected weekly from 5 and 6 classes, one division in each watch in turn.

    Cricket club practice on [Cockatoo] Island, on Friday, from 3 to 4.40.

    Athletic club practice on Island, on Monday or Thursday, from 3 to 4.40. Recall to be hoisted 5 minutes earlier.

    When painting or special work is in operation this time-table to be suspended.


Afternoon.

Monday

 

Mending clothes, which are to be thoroughly overhauled by Divisional Officers. Boys are not to loiter after repairing clothes, but to be at once sent up on deck. Disengaged boys to barge and sailing instructions.

 

1 to 2

Barge to be cleaned.

 

2.15

Change watches.

 

3 to 3.45

Beginners to swim.

Tuesday

1 to 2

3 divisions, swimming, or physical drill with arms.

 

2 to 2.45

1 division, clean all boats.
2 divisions, gymnastics and dumb-bells.

 

2.45 to 3.45

Religious instruction. * Boatswain to overhaul any of his gear. Seaman to overhaul their boats, cushions, fenders, oars, &c. any Officer absent from his boat should arrange with another seaman to do his work.

Wednesday

1 to 2

General singing instruction.

 

2 to 3

Special drill party and cleaning arms.

 

3 to 3.45

3 divisions, swimming or physical drill with arms.

Thursday

1 to 3

I division, work, including cleaning arms.

 

1 to 2

2 divisions, physical drill with arms, bayonet exercise, aiming drill, &c.

 

2 to 3

Boat exercise, wheeling, line abreast, line astern, learning to come alongside, shove off (proper words of command to be given).

 

3 to 3.45

Swimming, or balance step, extension motions, saluting.

Friday

1 to 3

1 division, work, coaling ship, cleaning dormitory and swimming bath.

 

1 to 2

Special club party; † remainder, seamanship, launch instruction.

 

2 to 3

Boat exercise.

 

3 to 3.45

Swimming exercise, or physical drill with arms.

Saturday

 

Recreation—Cricket, athletics, harbour excursions, visits ashore for deserving boys.

 

1.15

Dinner and recreation.

 

2.30

Sunday-school.

 

4

Muster.

 

NOTES.

    Inspection at 8.45 am. Divisions and prayers at 9 am.

    Recreation (10 minutes) at 10 am, when all boys go over lower masthead. Commander’s Court of Inquiry at 12.50.

    Muster at 1 pm. Muster, dismiss school, work and drill parties at 3.50 pm.

    * When religious instructors do not attend, boys not required by seamen in boats to be busily employed at either drill or work.

    † At 2 pm all the special drill party to be marched into school.

(Eight Photos.)
————————————
Sydney: William Applegate Gullick, Government Printer.—1899.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 27 Jun 1900 28

TENDERS FOR CLOTHING.
———◦———

Sobraon boys in their hammocks. Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_a026_000002.jpg
Sobraon boys in their hammocks.
Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_a026_000002.jpg

    Particulars are given in the “Government Gazette” of tenders for the manufacture, supply, and delivery of clothing for the use of the Public Service for the year commencing July 1, 1900. The successful tenders are: Uniform clothing for police J Vicars and Co; uniform clothing of Sheriff’s officers and officers of NSS Sobraon, Hatfield Brothers; uniform clothing for attendants, boatmen, water police, quarantine and other officers, Part I. The Parramatta Woollen Mills, Limited. Part II. Eilenberg and Zeltner, contractors; tweed clothing for patients in hospitals of insane, J Vicars and Co; officers’ regulation clothing and caps, Part I. Hatfield Brothers, Part II. Charles Anderson; clothing for State Children Relief Department, Sarah Gate. Uniform clothing for boys on board the NSS Sobraon, Sarah Gate.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Mon 27 Jul 1903 29

PERSONAL.
———◦———
VICE-REGAL.

    Lord Tennyson returned to Sydney on Saturday morning from Melbourne. Lady Tennyson will attend Miss Muriel Hall’s concert this evening. On Thursday she will visit the new lodge of the Girls’ Friendly Society in William-street. Lord and Lady Tennyson will pay a visit to the NSS Sobraon on Friday, and on the following night will attend the reopening of Her Majesty’s Theatre.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sunday Times, Sun 25 Sep 1904 30

SOBRAON BOYS.

    What is the purpose of the Sobraon? Is the ship an educational establishment for ordinary boys, like Fort-street or any other public school, the only difference being that it is on the water? Or is it an institution for the training of lads picked off the street, and who, on account of the vicious surroundings amid which they are being reared, would be almost certain, if left alone, to drift into criminal courses? If the former, the Government has no more right to shanghai these boys and detain them on the vessel than it has to make a raid on the families of Potts Point and kidnap a hundred or two of youngsters. If the latter, the Minister for Public Instruction is stultifying the whole object of the institution by proposing to allow boys with good records to join their parents on Xmas Day. 5there is no escape from the dilemma. If the lads were being decently brought up, although in poverty, the imprisoning of them is abominable. If they were being improperly brought up, the visit to their old homes, instead of benefiting them, is likely to have the worst results.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Examiner, Sat 24 Mar 1906 31

ON A TRAINING CRUISE.
———◦———

    HMS Dart, which has been secured by the New South Wales Government as a tender to the nautical schoolship Sobraon sailed from Port Jackson on Monday morning with her first contingent of embryo sailors. The lads, 50 in number, have been in their places on the Dart for some days. The idea is to supply that part of the nautical training which of necessity deficient in the curriculum of the Sobraon, the actual life at sea. The present trip is not to be a long one. It is intended really more as a means of providing the boys with their sea legs. The vessel will run down to Jervis Bay, and put in a couple of days there at boat practice, fire drill, and other instructional exercises, returning to Sydney about the end of the week.

Sobraon boys in their hammocks. Image: The Australian Children’s Newspaper, Thu 30 Mar 1899, p. 8. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Sobraon boys in their hammocks. Image: The Australian Children’s
Newspaper, Thu 30 Mar 1899, p. 8. Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    The 50 boys (says the SM Herald), were selected because of their physical fitness, their desire to follow the sea for a livelihood, and on account of other considerations, such as good conduct, while all the time the requirements of the routine of the NSS Sobraon had to be considered. Captain Mason, commander of the Sobraon, went with the boys. The ship’s officers for the trip are:—Sailing master, Captain Andrew Thomson; mate, Mr RS Willcock; engineer, Mr William Ames; assistant engineer, Mr Angus Mackay; boatswain, Mr J Robinson. There are also four seamen. The Dart will depend upon her sails as much as possible—it is to be a sailing trip for the purpose of imparting instruction in the ways of that class of vessel. The Dart is fitted with steam power, but resort will be had to that means of propulsion only if the wind fails. It is intended to make a fresh start from Sydney on Monday next, when the boys will, by reason of this week’s experience, be better able to attend to their duties on board while at sea. The object of these outings is to fit the lads to take their place in the mercantile marine, where there are many openings for boys of the class the Sobraon turns out as a result of its admirable system of training.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sat 24 Mar 1906 32

CRUISE OF THE DART.
———◦———
SOBROAN BOYS AT SEA.
———
THE LADS BEHAVE SPENDIDLY.
SHOW THEIR GRIT.
———

At the helm of HMS Dart. ML: Q371.9305/1, Report of the Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr 1899. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
At the helm of HMS Dart. ML: Q371.9305/1, Report
of the Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship
“Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr 1899.
Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    Captain Mason, superintendent of the NSS Sobraon, has handed to the Minister for Public Instruction, Mr BB O’Conor, a brief report concerning the recent cruise of the tender Dart, with 50 Sobraon boys aboard. The outing was intended merely as a preliminary to something bigger, and it is proposed to send the Dart out next week for daily sea training.

    Captain Mason, who went with the Dart, informs the Minister that the boys acquitted themselves very creditably. Many of them suffered from seasickness in varying degrees of severity, but in no single instance did any fail to carry out his duties on that account. The vessel was steered and fired wholly by the boys, soundings also being recorded by the lads, who were told off for duty in turn. Captain Mason’s former estimate of the suitability of the Dart for the purpose for which she has been secured by the State Government has been confirmed by this experience, and he is convinced that, provided the money necessary to do justice to the training is voted by Parliament, it will be well spent both in the interest of the State wards and the general public.

    Having made a cruise, which permitted of seasickness running its course, Captain Mason adds, he proposes next week a short cruise of daily sea training in order to accustom the boys to handling a vessel under sail. A longer cruise will then follow. The captain reports in the most favourable terms concerning the adult members of the staff, all of whom, he says, displayed anxiety to assist and instruct the boys.

    Captain A Thomson, the officer in charge of the Dart, in the course of his report, which the superintendent has forwarded to the Minister, stated that at 9 am on March 19 the Dart cast off from the buoy off Cockatoo Island, proceeded under steam to sea, south Reef was rounded at 11, and the vessel steamed off for 15 miles. Then all sail was set, and the fires were banked, the Dart proceeding thence under sail alone. At 9 am on Tuesday, she was off the entrance to Jervis Bay. The wind died away, and the Dart steamed in, anchoring in the bay at 10.45 am. While moored the boys were put through various kinds of boat and ship drill. Early on March 21 preparations were made for the homeward run, and Jervis Bay was cleared at 9.30 am. The wind was strong from SSW, with a high confused sea, the ship labouring heavily. Sails were set, and the vessel proceeded under sail and steam till within three miles of Sydney Heads, finishing the trip under steam.

    “The boys have exceeded my expectations,” the officer in charge adds, “by the way they worked under very trying conditions.” Some of the lads were very seasick, but most of them showed their grit by sticking to their posts while ill. A number of the boys gave great promise of becoming good helmsmen and smart seamen. Mr Ames, the engineer, gives a very favourable report of the boy stokers under his charge, who alone carried out the duties of raising and keeping steam.

    The vessel, adds Mr Thomson, gives all promise of being a good safe sea boat, and behaved well with a heavy swell, and appeared a stanch craft in every way.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 1 Nov 1906 33

THE NSS SOBRAON.
———◦———
REPORT OF THE SUPERINTENDENT.
——

    The annual report of Captain WH Mason, commander and superintendent of the NSS Sobraon, was tabled in the Legislative Assembly last night by the Minister for Education, Mr BB O’Conor. The report deals with the 12 months ended April 30 last. The daily average of inmates during the year was 425, the highest yet recorded. Enrolment was 570, the number of boys admitted 137, and the number discharged 142. Of the boys admitted, 103 had been either previously under State control or before the Court. The lads are almost entire Australian born, while as to parentage, no less than 62 cases are entitled to be classed as neglectful, in 16 cases the parents had deserted, were unknown, or dead, and in 26 cases the parents were distinctly criminal and unfit to have charge of their children. Of those admitted, 80 were under the age of 14 years, and 57 over the age. Seventy-nine of the lads came from the metropolis, and 58 from the country districts. The conduct of the boys on board has been “exceptionally creditable.” Captain Mason is “quite satisfied that no assemblage of 425 boys can be found where resort to the humiliating procedure of corporal chastisement is less necessary.” The general health has been good, and one death only took place during the year. “Coming to the important matter of finance,” the commander says, “I can claim an absence of any extravagance whatever. When it is stated that 8s 6d per week per boy covers all moneys disbursed whether for maintenance, new constructive work on board, and at shore premises, together with cost of education, it will be obvious that every economy compatible with efficiency is being studied.” The cost per head of boys maintained on the Sobraon or the tender Dart, calculated upon enrolment, was £16, 11s, 4d; or upon daily average £22, 4s, 4d. The total expenses for the year amounted to £9606, 18s, 2d. The sum received for maintenance was £367, which Captain Mason considers ridiculously below what it should be. School work progressed satisfactorily, and the carpentry shop was continued during the year, large quantities of school furniture being turned out.

    Referring to the work accomplished by means of the tender Dart, Captain Mason writes:—“It is with much satisfaction that I am at last able to invite attention to a report from Captain Thomson, sailing master of the tender Dart. Time covered by actual sea training was only four months, but non the less splendid results have already been recorded. No less than 44 boys have been rendered capable as ordinary seamen, stokers, or assistant stewards. Two well-grown lads were shipped upon a fine steamer as able seamen. All have received discharges according to their merited degree of capacity. The time covered is perhaps too brief to justify conclusions, but of this I am convinced, the boys will develop resourcefulness, manliness, and independence of character to a greater degree than any other occupation can engender. Their wages have been substantial, ranging from 30s to £7 per month, with necessaries found.” The commander thinks that in Captain Thomson, sailing master of the Dart, the boys have “a good specimen of a capable British sailor.” The demand for boys has been in excess of the number available. Captain Mason urges the necessity for termination the “dual ownership” of the Dart, “which applies to the vessel as a loan only to the New South Wales Government.” He thinks the Dart could be purchased outright; for a nominal sum, and he suggests that “it might be considered desirable at the same time to alter the vessel’s name to ‘Henry Parkes,’ out of respect to that great statesman.

    A decrease has taken place in the number of applications for lads for country service. The apprentices, which some few years back numbered 420, are now only 150, which is a matter of great regret to the superintendent. The percentage of ex-apprentices who become good citizens is very high, the “failures” being few.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 15 Nov 1906 34

KIERAN MEMORIAL.
———◦———
UNVEILING CEREMONY ON THE
SOBROAN.
——

    What one speaker aptly termed “a fitting finale to a sad event” took place on the NSS Sobraon yesterday afternoon, when a memorial tablet to the late B[ernard] B[ede] (Barney) Kieran, the world’s champion swimmer, was unveiled by Sir Francis Suttor, MLC. Among those present were Mr JW Turner (Department of Public Instruction), Commander GP Ward (training ship Port Jackson), Messrs AT Hendry (Royal Life-saving Society), WW Hill (secretary, NSW Swimming Association), WG Todd (Sydney Ferries Limited), W Bethel, JW Holliman, E Durnan, and A Solomon, as well as nearly 100 Warspite lads from the training ship Port Jackson. The tablet is in the form of a shield made of bronze and silver, and set in a handsome polished oak frame. Along the top is a scroll bearing the words “Kieran Memorial Shield”; in the centre are the bronze figures of two swimmers supporting a wreath, enclosed in which is a photo of Kieran in bas-relief, also carried out in bronze. The tablet also contains facsimiles of medals Kieran won in England, as well as an inscription setting out his performance in the mother land.

    Sir Francis Suttor, who performed the unveiling ceremony, said it was pleasing to know that the deceased lad’s memory was held in such high respect by everyone who knew him, not only for his prowess as an athlete, but also for his many other estimable qualities. He congratulated the committee on the way they had distributed the sum placed at their disposal. The tablet would be placed in such a position that every boy coming there would always be able to see it, and appreciate it, as a proof of the estimation in which one of their own fellows in his time had been held by the public of the State. The committee had something like £100 still in hand, which would be used to provide swimming contests between the boys of the Public schools and those of the Sobraon, while portion would be set apart for the purpose of keeping the lad’s grave in order. Sir Francis warmly welcomed the Warspite boys, and concluded by referring to the great assistance Kieran had always received frm Captain Mason and the staff of the ship.

    The tablet was then unveiled, the boys singing the hymn “Abide With Me,” to the strains of the band.

    Messrs Turner, Hill, Hendry, and Commander Ware also spoke, the last named gentleman mentioning that the Sobraon had belonged at one time to Messrs Devitt and Moore, the owners of the Port Jackson. Mr E Durnan, the Canadian oarsman, by special request spoke a few words and received an enthusiastic welcome. Captain Mason called for three cheers for Sir Francis Suttor, which were heartily given.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Shoalhaven News and South Coast District Advertiser, Sat 5 Dec 1908 35

A DAY ON THE NAUTICAL SCHOOL SHIP—
THE SOBRAON.
————
(By “Beth.”)

    Of the many pleasant functions and outings that fell to the lot of the visiting delegates to the Women’s Conference recently held in Sydney, there was not one that afforded keener pleasure, or held more instructive value, than the visit paid by those ladies to the school ship, the Sobraon.

    A short run from No. 6 Jetty, Circular Quay, to Cockatoo Island was merely an initiatory proceeding, and, as bevy of curious women, we waited on the latter landing stage, wondering how we were to negotiate the remainder of the journey. Solution was offered almost immediately by the sibilant sound of swish, swish, swish, in even rhythm, “Steady, lads, steady,” and a long, white boat, manned by twenty-five sailor boys, ruddy of cheek and strong of arm, came alongside, and this was our royal barge. A regal reception, truly, and once safely over the side, and all comfortably settled on the rugged and cushioned seats, the trip to the ship’s side was a pleasure too short-lived, and formed one of the most pleasant incidents of an eventful afternoon.

    The sea was choppy, but willing hands and a strong arm, kindly lent and often by a petty officer, saved many of us an involuntary dip into the dancing and sportive sea. At last, all safely landed. What a sigh of relief that gentleman must have uttered as he watched the last of his passengers pass up the ship’s ladder.

    “So pleased to meet you,” and Captain Mason, gallant, chivalrous, with cap in hand, met us at the head of the gangway, and, bending low, bade welcome to his fair invaders. “Oh!” from every lip, and surprise the first impression of each visitor.

    “What lovely boards and what a white deck,” said one woman, who betrayed by her remark the presence of that innate domestic trait, which instinctively recognises good scrubbing. Our host laughed. “We’ve solved the domestic servant problem here.” he said, “for all the work of the ship is done by the boys. But come along and see for yourselves.” So we followed, forming on our way, at each fresh manifestation of cleanliness, law and order, the highest opinion of the commander as a man, an officer, and a master.

    Firstly, we stepped into the hospital, a cosy little ward, tenantless at present, but inviting in its simplicity and its cheerful furnishings. Over the bed hung a large framed photo of the late BB Kieran, the noted swimmer. “Our Barney,” said the letterpress affectionately, and “Our Barney” is quite an idol, whose good deeds live after him. The boys talk of him as a wonder, and his memory is kept evergreen, and he is remembered as the hero of a hundred feats.

    In a passage just off there are hung a number of blackboards, on which are painted, besides the rules and regulations, the dietary of the boys of the Sobraon. The menu is appetising, wholesome, and excellent, and this pleasant fact reflects credit on the kindly and humane commander. The inspection of the laundry and bathrooms afforded an object lesson in labour and time-saving methods, one quickly appreciated by the many practical women present. The floor of this apartment is tiled, and in the centre is a very large tank, in which is boiled all the washing of the lads. The service is a steam one, and is up-to-date in every way. Rows of tubs, also tiled, serve as baths, and over each are three shower sprays, ensuring an abundance of clean water, both for bathing and laundry purposes.

    Passing from here, we came to the schoolroom, a bright, well-lit apartment, on the walls of which were hung pictures and maps, modelling in clay, nature study curios, and scores of other interesting souvenirs of school work.

     The lads were all sitting at their desks, in charge of the bandmaster and several other officers, and we soon realised that we were in for something special. The baton of the conductor beat one bar of time, and the catchy, haunting melody of “Red Wings” was the first item on the programme that was excellent from every point of view. Every song was sung so well, and the high trebles of the smaller lads ringing clear and sweet, led the more curious of us to look for faces. And this is where the human note is touched, and where one looks for the hand of Fate, who leaves her mark indelibly. Strong faces, and good faces, and yet why were they here? But that is a long story, and we may not stay to particularise too closely. Weak faces and ordinary ones; weak chins and those that told of determination. Good mouths and ugly ones. Evidences of a will that chafed at brooking. Eyes that looked defiantly, and others that appealed, and pleaded for palliation. The look of the timid, and other shiftless glance of the weak. And yet, after all, human beings; God’s own children, with a destiny to work out, a life to live, and all of them as yet on the threshold.

    But they have in the person of Captain Mason a friend, with an ever ready hand to help the fallen and the weak; an advisor, with a kindly word of appreciation for efforts that show the good endeavour, and a Christian man, always willing to smooth the way for these young pilgrims, who have, unfortunately for themselves, set out on life’s journey inauspiciously, badly equipped, and worse informed. The boys know and recognise that their commander is their true friend first and the superintendent of their boat afterwards, and as this gentleman has had thirty years experience in handling the boy problem, and can show 92 per cent of successes, this proves beyond the shadow of doubt that he is the one man for his difficult position—one which he has held with credit to himself and renown to the training school.

    After the impromptu concert we were taken all through the ship, down to the dining-room, where everything is in the pink of perfection and detail. The tables, when not in use, are slung up into the rafters of the ceiling, a plan obviously commendable because of its space-saving value. All the table ware is of white and blue enamel, and the kitchen, with its big ranges and copper cooking utensils, is an up-to-date feature, where the food is cooked and served with expedition, and under the most modern conditions.

    On the tables in the recreation room were spread out the school exhibits of the lads. Sloyd work, paper work, models, photo frames, and may other interesting objects, all mutely bearing good testimony for these human little derelicts, and evidencing plainly and conclusively what can be done when an influence for good gets a fair chance. Cases of medals and cases of trophies are everywhere displayed, their presence affording affirmation of the prowess of the boys in the world of sport. Trophies for swimming and cups for shooting; and the most prominent and most valued of these prizes are a trio kept in a glass case, in company with a model of the old ship Vernon—the Rawson Cup, the Dalgety Shield, and the Sydney Ferries Trophy. These had to be competed for, and, after keen rivalry, the Sobraon laddies hold them now for all time. A case of knots, tied by youthful fingers, in the interests of a complete nautical training, forms another interesting study. And in this receptacle there is practically every knot known except that one which is the hardest to untie, but as matrimonial knots have no place here this is merely “en passant.”

    The next display for our pleasure was the cutlass drill, physical exercises, and the manoeuvres gone through by the lads en masse on the main deck. The little band struck up, and with soldierly precision and excellent attention to detail the lads went through a series of drills, which feature, by the way, is of regular morning occurrence. “Keeps the hospital empty,” was the terse opinion of a petty officer. The slow moving music was changed to a quick reel, and with one accord the boys set off in running exercises. Pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, as their bare feet marked quick time, running through evolution after evolution, turning and twisting, changing and providing as pretty a spectacle as could be wished.

    One of our party—an Englishwoman—like the “chiel among ye taking notes,” also took a couple of snapshots, as mementoes of “one of the most pleasant educational facts” it had been her lot to witness in Australia.

    We adjourned from there to the pretty drawing- room of the captain’s charming wife, wherein that lady held an informal reception, and bade us welcome to her nautical home. Afterwards tea was handed round, and dainty cakes offered to each guest by Mrs Mason’s tiny aide-de-camp, a young tar, all in white, and doing the honours of his chatelaine with finished ease.

    So much for the social side of the matter; but now, perhaps a few hard, dry facts may not come amiss, and should provide plenty of food for thought for those of the community who extend very little sympathy toward the nautical school and its aims and ends.

    First, the title of the ship is one that purposes to be considered as an industrial school, and not a reformatory. Exception is taken, and very rightly, by many at the use of the latter term, and in view of the fact that many of the lads are sent here for offences trivial in the extreme, and often to safeguard them from undesirables, it might be urged that the objection is justifiable. The raison d’etre of the Sobraon may, perhaps, not be quite clear to the average reader. The main object is to rescue boys from the slum environment, from the contaminating influence of undesirables, from the care, or rather the non-care, of irresponsible parents; and to teach the lads, under kindly discipline, that life is worth living, and that good citizenship is preferable to a career of crime, temptation, and dissolute living.

    On the Sobraon every boy is given a chance; every individual lad is handled and helped according to his needs. Temperaments are studied, bad traits and vicious promptings are firmly, but tactfully, treated. Dispositions, habits, and heredity shortcomings are taken into full consideration, and the human unit is treated as a child of God, with a soul to save; a character to form, and a creditable and reputable position in society to achieve. This is the laudable work undertaken by Captain Mason and his staff.

    Classification is not known, not is it considered desirable in this school. Every lad starts from the one plane, and graduates upwards through seven stages, according to merit alone, and quite irrespective of past history. The golden ladder of Hope and Fame is theirs for the climbing; and many of them reach the eminence of a very high rung in later days.

    Apprenticeship is the eighth stage of instruction, and it is a matter easily understood that these boys, after years of conscientious training, both of a moral and an industrial value, are eagerly sought by country employers. In fact, there are always hundreds more positions offering along this particular avenue than can be filled. The boys like farm life, and take it in preference to staying in the city, when their school term is completed. The carpentry apprenticeship offers another opening, but boys electing to be indentured under this particular trade are not free to leave till 18 years of age. This question is one on which Captain Mason holds very strong views, claiming that under these conditions a chance for grave abuses in the future is offered. The carpentry class is a large one, and the apprentices have their earnings banked. Furniture is made by them in the workshop at a cost which the commander considers cannot be computed by mere pounds, shillings, and pence. When these lads complete their apprenticeship they are sent into the world, at a critical age, with the fairly respectable sum of £40 in their possession. They go to compete in a trade that is already overstocked with craftsmen, and is one that offers no overflow in any shape or form. This is the flaw in the system of apprenticeship; and unlimited temptations, plenty of money, and nothing to do, are about the most undesirable conditions that could surround a lad, confronted with the task of settling himself seriously in life. The guiding hand and the sympathy so long as his service are absent, and these cases often provide the non-successes. Captain Mason hopes to remedy this in the near future.

Sobraon discharge certificate. ML: Q364/N, Report of the Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr 1906. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Sobraon discharge certificate. ML: Q364/N, Report of the Superintendent
of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr 1906.
Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    Other boys elect a seafaring life, and for this they are trained on the Sobraon’s tender, The Dart, which lies in close proximity to the bigger vessel. Lads serving here are well placed in the mercantile service, and in consideration of their excellent training and complete knowledge of knotting and splicing, land and compass, handing and refing, swimming and school standard, they receive at once the advantages in position and pay offering men of much longer service.

Sobraon discharge certificate, reverse side. ML: Q364/N, Report of the Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr 1906. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Sobraon discharge certificate, reverse side. ML: Q364/N, Report of the
Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the
Year
Ended, 30 Apr 1906. Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    Each boy on leaving his school home receives a parchment discharge, testifying to his conduct, ability, and other particulars. This serves as the open sesame to many a lucrative position. One might write on indefinitely, telling of the good work done by this school ship; of its success in lands beyond the sea; and of its influence bearing good fruit in our midst, and in different walks of life.

    This mere sketch could not adequately deal with the full question of the reclamation of boys, with all its interesting phases. But passing mention, though it deserves more, should be given to a name, still honoured and sung in our land—to Sir Henry Parkes, and his interest and influence, do the boys of this school owe their comfortable boat the Sobraon, the displacer of the old and inadequate Vernon.

    For forty years this institution has handled a large number of boys, and the tawse (the cat and nine tails) has never yet been called into requisition, a fact that is pleasurable to chronicle, and pregnant with credit to the regime and good understanding maintained between the officers and their charges. Moral suasion is preferable to punishment, and the force called system has placed Sydney’s nautical school ship in the enviable position of being one of the finest institutions of its kind in existence.

    But all pleasant days come to a close, and it was with the keenest regret that we viewed the preparations for our departure. As we moved away from the big boat the lads, in sailor attire, scampered up the ratlines, and, taking their cue from our host, took off their caps and gave us three rousing cheers. A third snapshot was added to the English visitor’s book of mementoes, and we came away convinced that life on the Sobraon is one that must leave its mark on the character and after-life success of every lad fortunate enough to be brought under its healthy and uplifting influence. The Sobraon is a factor for good, incalculable and far-reaching, and a visit and a full inquiry, readily afforded to both the sceptic and the curious, will convince more, than any written words can do, that work of a sterling character is being done here, unobtrusively, but, nevertheless, well and truly. And society in general must always be in the debt of all such institutions.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 20 Jun 1911 36

GOVERNMENT HOUSE.
———◦———


    The Sobraon Boys.—Arrangements have been made for the closing of the Sobraon as a State reformatory by the end of July. About 180 boys on the vessel will have to be provided for, and out of this number 70 will be released on probation shortly. Of the remainder 70 will go to the Brush Farm and 20 to the Mittagong Farm, whilst the remainder will be apprenticed out.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 5 Jul 1911 37

PUBLIC NOTICES

Department of Public Instruction,
Young-street, Sydney,
3rd July, 1911.

NAUTICAL SCHOOL SHIP SOBRAON.
————

    The half-yearly Visiting Day for Parents, usually fixed for the First Thursday in July, will NOT be observed in view of the removal of lads from the SHIP. Parents may apply at this Office for further particulars as to the new arrangements for visiting their children.

J DAWSON,
Acting Under-Secretary. 

 


1     The above details are taken from SRNSW: http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=\Agency\411

2     New South Wales Government Gazette, 1867, vol. 1, p. 1.

3     Industrial Schools Act of 1866, (30 Victoria, Act No. 2,1866).

4     Ramsland, J. “Children of the Backlanes”, NSW University Press, Sydney, 1986, pp. 116-8 .

5     New South Wales Government Gazette, 1867, vol. 1, p. 1165.

6     New South Wales Government Gazette, 1867, vol. 1, p. 1165.

7     New South Wales Government Gazette, 1867, vol. 1, p. 1207.

8     New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1881, vol. 4, p. 995, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1881.

9     New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1868-1869, vol. 3, p. 845, Report respecting the Nautical-Ship “Vernon”.

10   Industrial Schools Act Amendment of 1870, (34 Victoria, Act No. 4,1870).

11   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1877-1878, vol. 2, p. 663, Report of Superintendent of Industrial School for Girls, Biloela for1877.

12   Ramsland, J. “Children of the Backlanes”, NSW University Press, Sydney, 1986, p. 140 .

13   New South Wales Government Gazette, 1878, vol. 2, p. 1733.

14   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1881, vol. 4, p. 995, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1881.

15   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1878-1879, vol. 3, p. 951, Report of Inspector of Public Charities, 1879.

16   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1881, vol. 4, p. 995, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1881.

17   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1883-1884, vol. 6, p. 747, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1883.

18   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1883-1884, vol. 6, p. 747, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1883.

19   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1892-1893, vol. 3, p. 1395, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1892.

20   New South Wales Parliamentary Papers, 2nd session, 1904, vol. 2, p. 984, NSS Sobraon Report for the year ended 30 Apr 1904.

21   New South Wales Government Gazette, 1906, vol. 2, p. 3289.

22   New South Wales Parliamentary Papers, 1893, p. 707, NSS Vernon Report for the year ended 30 Apr 1893.

23   Official Yearbook of New South Wales, 1913, p. 554.

24   New South Wales Parliamentary Papers, 1910, vol. 1, pp. 44-5, Report of the Minister of Public Instruction1910.

25   The Sydney Morning Herald, Mon12 Dec 1896, p. 3.

26   The Sydney Morning Herald, Sat 25 Feb 1899, p. 7.

27   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1899, vol. 3, pp. 963-78, Report of the Superintendent of the Nautical School-Ship “Sobraon” for the Year Ended, 30 Apr 1899.

28   The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 27 Jun 1900, p. 8. Emphasis added.

29   The Sydney Morning Herald,  Mon 27 Jul 1903, p. 6. Emphasis added.

30   Sunday Times, (Sydney, NSW), Sun 25 Sep 1904, p. 3.

31   Examiner, Sat 24 Mar 1906, p. 4.

32   The Sydney Morning Herald,  Sat 24 Mar 1906, p. 11.

33   The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 1 Nov 1906, p. 11.

34   The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 15 Nov 1906, p. 3.

35   The Shoalhaven News and South Coast District Advertiser, (NSW), Sat 5 Dec 1908, p. 7. Emphasis added.

36   The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 20 Jun 1911, p. 6.

37   The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 5 Jul 1911, p. 14.