This Shipwrights Provident Union Card belonged to Thomas Cleave, a Shipwright who worked at the Hamilton (now Hibbard) shipyards and slipway on the Hastings River from 1884 to 1916. The Shipwrights Provident Union was instituted in 1862, to support the welfare of injured workers and their families and carried the Motto United We Stand….. Divided We Fall. It was run by the Sydney Shipwrights Association which had been formed in 1829 and is believed to have been the first trade society formed in NSW.
Thomas Cleave had arrived in Australia in 1881 having worked as a Shipwright in England. In 1884 John Hibbard a prominent businessman and owner of the Hamilton timber mill and slipway in Port Macquarie wrote to Thomas seeking his assistance in re-floating the coastal steamer, the “Richmond” which was aground on rocks in the Hastings River near the entrance to Port Macquarie. Mr Hibbard told Thomas that he would give constant employment at the wages you stated, £2.15.00 per week, but we shall require you at once.
Early attempts to re-float the “Richmond” using local personnel had been unsuccessful, and it appears that Thomas’s reputation as a shipwright with first class skills and an excellent work ethic, were the qualities Mr Hibbard needed in order to raise the stranded steamer. Thomas led a team of four shipwrights and faced many challenges trying to save the ship, but he too was unsuccessful and the steamer remains to this day, buried in sand under Port Macquarie’s southern breakwall.
Also in the collection of documents relating to Thomas Cleave are his original Shipwright’s Indenture Certificate dated 7 May 1864, two original character and employment references written in 1871 and 1875, Certificates of Discharge from two ships on which he worked in 1876 and 1877, and the original letter dated 13 March 1884 sent by John Hibbard to Thomas offering him employment as a Shipwright in Port Macquarie.