Thomas Risby

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Thomas Risby

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Thomas Risby arrived in Van Diemen’s Land from Norfolk Island in 1808. He was a master boat builder, specialising in whale boats and his sons joined him in the business. In 1844 one of the sons, Joseph Edward Risby, went into the timber business and established an office and sawmill at the corner of Elizabeth and Davey Streets close to Franklin Wharf. The mill was known as ‘The Franklin Wharf Steam Saw and Bark Mills’. In 1878 this mill was burnt down, but was rebuilt and enlarged.
Some of the timber was brought from the Tasman Peninsula, also from Maydena and, later Ellendale. A fleet of timber carrying ketches was built up. There were also three steam ships, ‘Yolla’, ‘Koonyan’ and ‘Moonah’, which were sometimes used for passenger pleasure trips. The Risby vessels flew a house flag of a blue square on a white background. Occasionally timber was purchased from overseas.
In 1920 Franklin Wharf mill was again burnt down and this time not rebuilt. A second mill in Collins Street had been leased from Henry Clark & Co. and was later purchased, although the office remained in Elizabeth Street. The Elizabeth Street and Franklin Wharf site was not finally sold until 1936. Another fire occurred in 1954 which destroyed the boiler room and fuel store at Collins Street.
When J.E. Risby retired in 1885 his three sons, Arthur, Sydney and Walter continued the business as Risby Brothers. They were later succeeded by Harry E. Risby and his two sons, Charles Arthur and Jack. Charles Arthur Risby entered the business in 1932 (with a break for military service in the 1939-45 war) and became managing director in 1955.
A history of the company was prepared by David Brownlow, as part of his studies for the degree of B.A. Honours, ‘Risby Bros. Pty Ltd., The rise to prominence in the Tasmanian Timber industry, unpublished BA. Thesis, University of Tasmania, 1969.


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