Meet David Hoy

“I treated the men as human beings, not as caged beasts.”


Scotsman David Hoy arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1824; he was a ship’s carpenter and boat builder. While building ships at Macquarie Harbour he was caught up in the dramatic seizure of the brig Frederick by a group of convicts. Put ashore, he and a few companions walked for eight days along the west coast until they were found.

His health never really recovered. He went to Port Arthur as Master Shipwright in 1836 and remained there until he retired in 1848.

Hoy took great pride in his work; he achieved wonders with the men and boys who worked for him. Few had any trade skills, but under his instruction they turned out ships as good as any in the colony.

William Moriarty, Superintendent of Government Vessels and Port Officer in Hobart praised Hoy for ‘making fair tradesmen out of the boys and men’ and Hoy himself claimed to have played an important role in their reformation, asserting that ‘many of them are now respectable and useful members of Society’.

Although we do not know what the Port Arthur men and boys thought of him, he seems to have been liked by the Macquarie Harbour mutineers. When they put him ashore they made sure that he had a decent coat and shoes, bandages and two bottles of wine.

David Hoy looked like an old man when he died in his early fifties. He had suffered a war wound, exposure during his ordeal after the mutiny, and a severe spinal injury and a fractured skull in dockyard accidents. He paid a high price for his passion.

As you move about the Dockyard at Port Arthur, you will hear sounds evoking a rich maritime history. Let yourself be transported back to a time when David Hoy ran one of the busiest dockyards in Van Diemen’s Land.