HMAS TINGIRA boy trainees on Sydney Harbour

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The name TINGIRA is a derivative of 'dingira' (pronounced din-GREER-a), a word meaning ‘sea’ in the language of the Badtjala people of Fraser Island, Queensland. Originally the clipper ship was called SOBRAON and was built by Alexander Hall of Aberdeen, launched in 1866. It was the largest composite ship ever built at the time and sailed on the England to Australia route for more than 20 years.

In 1891 the NSW Government purchased SOBRAON from Devitt and Moore, and was towed to Sydney Harbour arriving on 15 February 1891.

SOBRAON was acquired to replace the VERNON as a floating reformatory for boys. The ship underwent a series of modifications and became an Industrial School Ship, or Nautical School Ship, for underprivileged boys whom the court had found destitute, or for other reasons saw it fit to hand these boys into the strict, disciplinary life on board SOBRAON.

The boys were given an opportunity to learn the rudiments of a life at sea. The aim of this exercise was to encourage young lads to join the navy or merchant service which at this time was undergoing a dramatic change with steam ships replacing sailing ships. Apart from being disciplined, the boys were given the opportunity to develop their skills as tradesmen and were given a basic education both moral and academic. The band was in much demand on many an important ceremonial occasion.

On 25 April 1912 HMAS TINGIRA (ex-SOBRAON) was commissioned as the first naval training ship in the Royal Australian Navy. It became the training ship to thousands of young boys who chose the Navy as a career under the Department of the Navy’s boy enlistment scheme. TINGIRA did not head to sea for training, but remained moored at Rose Bay for the next 15 years.

By HMAS TINGIRA’s decommissioning in 1927, some 3,168 young boys had had their initial training on board.

In 1929 TINGIRA was bought by W M Ford, a prominent boat builder and floated outside his boatshed in Berry’s Bay. Ford died in 1935 and in 1936 Major Friere and Mrs Ankin negotiated to purchase TINGIRA for the sum of £2,600, and a company was formed to convert the ship into a floating museum, but because of financial difficulties this development failed. TINGIRA was purchased by Karlo Selvinen who finally broke her up in Berry’s Bay in 1942.

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ANMM Collection 00017004.

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Owner: Australian National Maritime Museum on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
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