Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Berry (1857–1928)

by Ann R. Shorten

This article was published:

William Berry (1857-1928), marine engineer, was born on 2 August 1857 at York, England, son of William Berry, engine-fitter, and his wife Isabella, née Carr. After completing his schooling, he was apprenticed in the locomotive workshops of the North Eastern Railway Co. in 1871. Illness in 1879 led him to migrate to South Australia next year in the Aconcagua. Before leaving he had married Hannah Crawford at York on 9 August.

Berry joined the Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd, completed his qualifying sea service, and by 1885 had passed his examinations for the South Australian Marine Board's certificate of competency as a first-class engineer; he rose to be a chief engineer with the company. After nearly a decade at sea he was appointed to H.M.C.S. Protector. He had joined the newly established Australasian Institute of Marine Engineers in 1881 and was elected honorary secretary of its Adelaide district on 2 July 1883. He resigned on 31 December 1887, partly because of his frequent absence at sea, but was re-elected on 8 April 1889. At the end of 1891 he was dismissed from the Protector for objecting to the manning policy for H.M.C.S. Musgrave, which had been permitted to sail with a stoker as second engineer. The institute demanded a governmental inquiry into his dismissal; this was refused, but Berry was informed that he might apply for re-engagement in 1892, which he declined to do.

Instead he established himself as a storekeeper and provision merchant at Exeter and became part-time secretary of the Adelaide district of the institute. When it bought its Port Adelaide Chambers in 1912, Berry became full-time paid secretary, and sold his business. He remained in the post until ill health forced his retirement in 1926. He exemplified the pragmatic virtues of the colonial marine engineers who established the profession's traditions in Australia. They characteristically held that, while no quarter was to be given in meeting any challenge to their professional status, the withdrawal of their services was to be considered the ultimate sanction; this principle was applied by Berry and his intercolonial colleagues in the engineers' disputes of 1893 and 1897. As the institute's representative, he was in 1893-1926 a respected warden of the South Australian Marine Board, the governing body for the administration of merchant shipping in South Australia. From 1892 he had prepared students for their certificate of competency examinations.

Berry had been a member of the board of management of the Retail Grocers' Association of South Australia and an advocate for the formation of the Wholesale Co-operative Grocery Co. Ltd of South Australia. Prominent in the Semaphore Methodist Church and a well-known local preacher, he supported the Seamen's Mission Hall and Sailors' Rest at Nile Street, Port Adelaide, for over forty years. He was also president of the Young Men's Guild, Semaphore, and a Freemason. He died of cerebral haemorrhage on 25 October 1928 at his home in Semaphore and was survived by a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1908)
  • Sawtell's Nautical Almanac, 1885-86
  • Australian of Marine and Power Engineers, Forty-Eighth Annual Report, 1929
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 26, 27 Oct 1928
  • Port Adelaide News, 26 Oct 1928
  • Register (Adelaide), 26 Oct 1928
  • Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (Adelaide District), Minutes 1881-1913 (Branch Archives, Institute Chambers, Port Adelaide)
  • Australian Institute of Marine Engineers, newsclippings, 1891-1930 (Victorian Branch Archives, South Melbourne).

Citation details

Ann R. Shorten, 'Berry, William (1857–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 August, 1857
York, Yorkshire, England


25 October, 1928 (aged 71)
Semaphore, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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