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BOOFA, built by N & E Towns

N & E Towns

Institution: N & E Towns
N & E Towns were boatbuilders in Newcastle and the second generation of a business begun by patriarch George Towns in 1869. They built a range of small craft, mostly rowing vessels or motor launches until the business closed in the early 1950s. In the final decade they were best known for building surfboats.

Norman and Eldrid Towns, along with their brother Arthur and partner Frank Oakley continued the business in the Newcastle region that had been started by thier father George , who passed away in 1920. One other son, George (jnr) was also involved in boatbuilding, but was based in Sydney and his firm was known as George Towns and Sons.

The Newcastle Towns worked from Dempsey Island on the Hunter River, five minutes by launch from the Ingall St wharf at Mayfield. Their house, built in the late1840s, was uphill from the yard on the waterfront. The yard had two sheds originally, a workshop and storage shed. All seven sons of George Towns (Snr) began working in the trade as they grew up, but three went into other trades. Beach and offshore fishing craft were built along with skiffs including butcher boats, watermans skiffs and other similar rowing craft.

A fire in 1926 destroyed the workshop, which was then rebuilt and work recommenced three months later. Towns made their first surfboat in 1928 and continued building a variety of craft up until World War II. During the war they built 259 small craft for the military services, and thousands of oars.

After the war they turned to building surfboats as their main craft, creating lighter designs to suit the requirements of the surf clubs. Many Towns built craft won events at state and national championships and their craft were used around Australia and even internationally. It took about 6 weeks to build a surfboat, planked in cedar with hardwood frames and longitudinals. According to a 1949 report, during that year they had orders for 18 surfboats, and a number of fishing boats,launches and three flood boats.