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Cramp, William Thomas (1849–1935)

by A. J. Harrison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

William Thomas Cramp (1849-1935), coachbuilder and fishing administrator, was born on 21 March 1849 in Hobart Town, second son of Richard James Cramp, an English-born clerk, and his wife Eliza, née Sadler. The family lived at Geelong, Victoria, from 1853. Returning to Hobart in 1862, William was apprenticed to the coachbuilder and wheelwright E. C. A. Nichols. In the next twenty-seven years he progressed to manager of the firm.

About 1880 his youngest brother Richard James was taken on as an apprentice and in 1892 they established their own business, which quickly won repute as a manufacturer of first-class coaches and carriages. In the 1920s Cramp Bros mastered the transition to motorcars, buses and trucks by importing engines and chassis from overseas then building the bodies and finishing the vehicles. Ford, Austin, Studebaker and Fiat were just some of the makes that rolled out of the Harrington Street works. In 2005 the business still operated at its original site although it had been sold by the family in the 1940s.

On 1 June 1871 at Brighton Cramp had married Henrietta Jane Ludbey (d.1918) with rites of the Independent Church. They had five children. Active in the Memorial Congregational Church in Hobart, for fifty-nine years he was a prominent member of the Independent Order of Rechabites. His philanthropic interests also included the Friendly Society movement.

About 1895 Cramp took up trout fishing. Soon he began to assist Michael Jones to strip eggs from trout at the salmon ponds at Plenty and developed a passion for pisciculture. His brother Richard shared this interest until he drowned in 1907 while fishing in Lake Crescent. In 1910 William stocked the Hobart Rivulet with trout supplied by Jones and delivered in milk cans. Cramp carried the fish to the stream in his sulky. Except for a brief period, laymen such as Cramp managed Tasmanian fisheries until the 1940s. Most were anglers with a single-minded interest in developing salmonid fishing. After 1895 this honorary body, the Commissioners of Fisheries, relied on anglers' licence fees to finance its activities.

As a member—later vice-president and life-member—of the Southern Tasmanian Licensed Anglers' Association, Cramp took a close interest in the trout fishery in Lake Sorell, established in 1909. In July 1919 he led a deputation from the association offering to build and run a hatchery there if the commissioners gave approval and technical support. His offer was accepted and the government granted £50 to assist in construction. In 1920 one hundred thousand trout fry were produced and production grew steadily over the next three years. Named the W. T. Cramp Hatchery, it operated until the 1940s. Said to have unrivalled knowledge of the State's lakes and streams he visited the hatchery every winter for almost twenty years to supervise the collection of brown trout eggs.

In 1921 Cramp was appointed a commissioner of fisheries and continued after 1927 when the government amended the Fisheries Act to create a Sea Fisheries Board but left responsibility for inland fisheries with the renamed Salmon and Fresh Water Fisheries Commission. He retired in 1931 and was replaced on the board by his second son Harold. Predeceased by his wife in 1918, Cramp died on 30 July 1935 at his residence in Hobart and was buried at Cornelian Bay cemetery. He was survived by four sons and a daughter. In 1934 the S.T.L.A.A. had erected an obelisk to him at Interlaken.

His eldest son Harry Wilfred (1875-1962), secretary of the S.T.L.A.A. and chairman of the fisheries commission until 1948, was commemorated by memorial gates erected in 1952 at the Plenty salmon ponds. In the 1950s Harry's nephew George Chatfield Cramp (1904-1987) was also a fisheries commissioner. William, the founder of this dynasty, has been called the 'father of fishing' in Tasmania.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Clements, Salmon at the Antipodes (Melb, 1988)
  • Southern Tasmanian Licensed Anglers' Association, Annual Report, 1955-56
  • Mercury (Hobart), 31 July 1935, p 2
  • Saturday Evening Mercury (Hobart), 6 Oct 1979, p 19.

Citation details

A. J. Harrison, 'Cramp, William Thomas (1849–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cramp-william-thomas-12866/text23233, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 17 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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