Lake Macquarie History

Thomas Humphreys: A brief resume of his life and work in Swansea

Rene Humphreys

Born on June 27th, 1883, to David and Elizabeth Humphreys (nee Boyd), Tom Humphreys was the eldest grandson of Captain Thomas Boyd, the second permanent settler in the Swansea area and the first Pilot of the Swansea Bar.

A boat builder by trade, he worked with his uncle, James L. Boyd, from 1901 until about 1909 when went to sea for some 5 years on a boat he helped build at the J. L. Boyd yard on Black Neds Bay for coastal trading between Sydney and Newcastle. His own boat building business was established on Swansea Channel in 1915 - his residence and boat yard occupying the land now known as Nos. 5 & 3 Channel Street. Many craft, small and large - rowing boats, launches, cruisers, fishing boats, sailing boats of various types, trawlers etc. - were built on this site and the Humphreys-built vessels gained a good reputation in the district and well beyond.

In 1929 he built the first surf boat for the Surf Lifesaving Club now known as Swansea-Belmont and began a tradition of excellence in this field.His innovative 'tuck-stern' design for a surf boat built in the early 1940's made a great impact on surf boat-racing and soon all clubs adopted his design which is still used today.

During the years of war, 1939-1945, the work-force at the Channel St, yard was increased to fill Government contracts to build Ships lifeboats, launches etc., and it remained a busy yard into the early 1950s when the staff again became 'family': Tom, 3 of his sons and 2 nephews 'with occasional help with larger orders’.

Tom Humphreys was active in a number of fields in the town and Lake district; always a lover of the sea and lake, he was a foundation member of the Belmont 16ft Sailing Club, serving in later life as Commodore. He was honoured by both Swansea-Belmont and Swansea Caves Surf Lifesaving Clubs and maintained a continuing interest in all of these clubs.He was a keen, able and rather daring fisherman and it was during a fishing trip off Caves Beach on June 8th, 1957, that his life came to an end. As a result of an accident, his boat was wrecked and Tom Humphreys and his friend, Bill Parkes, were drowned. He died as he had lived - doing the things he most enjoyed a boat he had built, on the water he loved.

The Boat-yard continued to trade until the 1960s when the land was sold.