Tag Archives: William Reuben Goddard

The Goddard Boat Builders

The Goddards enjoyed a reputation as some of the best boat builders in Sydney, starting with William Reuben Goddard in the late 1800s  at Berry’s Bay and continuing with his eldest son William Joseph Goddard who established a very successful business at Palm Beach in the early 1900s.

William Reuben Goddard was born in Hertfordshire, England in 1847. He arrived in Sydney in 1852 aboard the General Hewitt with his father George (1803-1885), mother Eliza (nee Arthur, 1815-1895) and siblings Henry (1843-1928), John (1845-1896) and Mary (1849-1913). William married Bridget McGrath in Sydney in 1869 and they settled in North Sydney.

William established his boat shed in North Sydney at Berry’s Bay in the late 1800s with a workshop and yards and became well-known in the area for his fine craftsmanship. The boat shed no longer remains but was situated nearby Eaton’s Timber Yard which survived on the Berry’s Bay waterfront until the 1980s. This area is now known as Sawmiller’s Reserve at McMahon’s Point.

William and Bridget had 10 children – William (1870-1944), Henry (1872-1874), Naomi (1875-1939), Herbert (1877-1947), Maude (1878-1953), Percival (1880-1882), Harold (1884-1939, known as Johnno), Horace (1887-1957), Stanley (1888-1914) and Gladys (1896-1921). It should be noted that we now believe Gladys may not have been William’s child but rather the daughter of Patrick Donovan (1838-1917) whom Bridget Goddard married in 1902.

William’s obituary stated that he “launched many small craft from his yard in the early days, devoting most of his time to building small boats and skiffs. He was noted for his skiff building” (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Feb 1916).

Eaton's Timber Yard - Berry's Bay c1916  Lionel Lindsay etching

Eaton’s Timber Yard – Berry’s Bay c1916
Lionel Lindsay etching

Like his father, William Joseph Goddard was a well-known Sydney boat builder.

William married Ada D’Arcy in Hurstville in 1897 and they had four children – Walter (1899-1974), Arthur (1901-1960), Marjorie (1905-1998) and Grace (1911-?).

William bought land at Palm Beach near the southern end of the golf links in 1917. He constructed a house by transporting all the materials from the city by his launch.

In 1919 he constructed a boat shed and began boat building. William J. Goddard & Sons was building boats between 1928 and 1939.

In 1932 William commenced a regular ferry service to the western foreshores of Pittwater, running from Palm Beach to Coasters Retreat, The Basin, Stiles’ Wharf at Little Mackerel Beach and Great Mackerel Beach Wharf.

In 1942 he sold the business to the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company. Included in the sale were a general store with a liquor licence, marine repair facilities and ferries. The general store had been the first at Palm Beach and was run by William’s wife Ada. Also included was a small motor launch “Falcon” (which was later known as “Elvina”) built by William in 1928 (likely later sold to the Church Point Ferry Service).  “Elvina” provided a very important service to the people of Pittwater at the time, delivering supplies and mail. She is the longest serving passenger ferry in NSW.

"Falcon" later known as "Elvina".

“Falcon” later known as “Elvina”.

Records from the NSW Ship and Boat Builders Register (www.boatregister.net) record that William J. Goddard (and later William J. Goddard & Sons) was based in Palm Beach and specialised in fishing boats, yachts, launches and ferries. William J. Goddard & Sons built 11 boats between 1902 and 1938 including Grace, Gulnare, Beacon, Natoma, Idler, Kimba, Reliance, Venture II, Viking, W.J., W.J.G. and Wongawill.

William’s sons also worked in the family business – eldest son Walter worked as a mechanic and son Arthur carried on the family tradition as a boat builder. Arthur was a popular identity in the Palm Beach community and was the captain of the Palm Beach Surf Live Saving Club boat crew. Arthur married Madeline Gonsalves in 1928. Madeline was a member of the well-known Gonsalves Family, prominent boat builders in the Palm Beach area who still operate to this day. Arthur and Madeline had two sons – Donald and Jimmy. Jimmy also continued on in the business, becoming a boat builder himself and doing maintenance for Palm Beach Ferries at Careel Bay. The following is a short biography of Jimmy from the Wooden Boat Association of NSW….

“Jimmy Goddard was a larger than life identity in the Palm Beach and Careel Bay community for 83 years. He served his apprenticeship at the family boatshed at Palm Beach with his father Arthur, the family being among the first settlers in the area. Jim was a first class tradesman and in later years restored some noteworthy vessels including the fishing boat ATALANTA which was owned by the famous American game fisherman Zane Grey who used to frequent the Palm Beach area in the 50’s. Jim was also known for his fishing prowess and operated offshore fishing charters aboard his lovely old trawler CAROLINE H for many years until the Waterways in their wisdom thought Jim should get a proper licence, to which he replied “I think it might be time for me to retire”.Jim survived a heart operation a couple of years ago, but unfortunately they didn’t makethe pacemaker out of Spotted Gum. His son Alan carries on his legend in Dover Tasmania”.

For more on the history of Pittwater and specifically the families and boat building industry of Palm Beach I highly recommend exploring the archives of the Pittwater Online News – http://www.pittwateronlinenews.com

The Goddard men preparing "W.J.G" for launch c1930s.

The Goddard men preparing “W.J.G” for launch c1930s.


Church Point Ferry Service. (2013). Tales of the Elvina. Retrieved from http://churchpointferryservice.com.au/about-the-ferries/elvina/

Sydney Morning Herald. (1916). Late Mr W.R. Goddard. Retrieved from http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/15646800?searchTerm=william%20reuben%20goddard&searchLimits=

Wooden Boat Association of NSW. (2012). Scuttlebutt: October 2012. Retrieved from http://www.wbansw.org.au/Scuttlebutt/PDFs%202012/SCUTTLEBUTT10_2012.pdf


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