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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ferry family -- just say O'May

The Mercury: Ferry family -- just say O'May [20jan06]

ONE of Hobart's most well-known families is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its settlement in Tasmania this month.

The O'May family emigrated to Tasmania from Scotland in search of a new life, arriving on January 22, 1856.

Thomas and Isabella O'May, with their six children, settled in what is now Bellerive, on Hobart's Eastern Shore.

At a time when there was no bridge across the River Derwent, and many of the ferries were rowed by unreliable convicts, the two oldest brothers, Thomas and Robert, saw a business opportunity.

In 1863, they established a Bellerive-to-Hobart ferry service with two boats -- Perseverance and Scottish Chief -- and the O'May Bros. ferry service was born.
To this day, the name O'May is almost synonymous with Derwent ferries and, even through Roche O'May Cruises was sold in 2003, Peter O'May is continuing the family tradition.

"I just work for the Cruise Company now, driving the Maria Island ferry," he said.

The O'Mays still pervade the Clarence area, and Mr O'May lives at Howrah on the Eastern Shore.

Some of the area's oldest houses have belonged to the O'May family and, although their stately Victoria Esplanade house was sold at auction in December for $849,000, an 1843 home in Petchey St, Bellerive, remains in the family.

The first O'Mays in Tasmania, Thomas and Isabella, are buried in the yard of St Mark's Church, only blocks away.

Their headstone, one of few remaining, bears the inscription "Husband and wife are lying, Beneath the Churchyard sod, With their hearts at rest, In the earth's quiet breast, And their souls at peace with God."

Local historian John Sargent has written a book on the O'May family's long and distinguished history in Hobart, which will be released on January 22 to coincide with the family's 150th anniversary. For details, contact the Bellerive Historical Society.


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