The Boat Builders

Jenkins St Boatyards 2016

The Boat Builders is a collaborative art project by Therese and Christopher Williams based on oral histories of people who worked in Port Adelaide’s boat building industry, which was sited on the north bank of the Gawler Reach from 1841. The people who worked at the Jenkins Street boatyards: Central Slipping Company, MacFarlane’s, the Royal Australian Navy, R. T. Searles & Sons, W. G. Porter & Sons, and Lawrie Diving & Marine, formed a tight-knit community, passionate about their craft and proud of both its history and the boats and ships that they built and maintained. Economic and political pressures brought the boatbuilding industry on this site to an end in 2009.


Through their visual and sound art Therese and Christopher Williams pay homage to the boat builders and celebrate the tradition they embodied.  The Boat Builders features the voices of Allan Beswick, Neil Cormack, Kingsley Haskett, Donald Lucas, Brian Mellors, Wayne Rosenzweig and Lee Salvemini.

This audio work can be experienced either as a site-specific sound installation at the Jenkins Street site overlooking the former boatyards, or as a soundwalk to be enjoyed while taking the Inner Harbour Loop Path along the north bank of the Gawler Reach where Port Adelaide’s shipbuilding industry began.  Alternatively, it can be heard at a listening post in the Folklore Cafe on the south bank of Gawler Reach overlooking the boatyards from the river during May 2016.

A video based on this audio work and featuring animated digital drawings by Therese can be viewed at the Red Lime Cafe, the Dutch Coffee Lab, the Port Adelaide Library, the Port Adelaide Visitors Centre, and the SA Maritime Museum during May 2016.  The Boat Builders video has been acquired by the SA Maritime Museum for its permanent exhibition.

This project was commissioned by the City of Port Adelaide Enfield  and is based on oral histories recorded by members and volunteers of the Port of Adelaide National Trust Branch.


Christopher created some additional short audio features as part of the process of developing The Boat Builders sound walk.

Jenkins Street boat builders describe their work on building new boats:


Jenkins Street boat builders describe their work on maintaining boats:


Donald Lucas on the craft of sailmaking:


Donald Lucas on rigging the Lone Gull fishing trawler: