The story of pioneering transport company Holymans

The White Star flag of Wm. Holyman and Sons flew proudly from mastheads and flagpoles across Australia and overseas for more than a century. The Holyman story starts with 21-year-old William Holyman who was penniless after he jumped ship at George Town in Van Diemen’s Land in 1854 to escape a tyrannical and cruel ship’s captain.

A few years later he was trading around the Tasmanian coastline in his own ship. By the 1880s he had a fleet of vessels plying the often-treacherous waters of Bass Strait, trading from the Mersey River in Tasmania providing a lifeline to coastal towns and remote communities in Bass Strait.

From 1900, William Holyman’s sons expanded the business into a major Australian shipping operation.

The third generation of Holymans established Australia’s first major airline, built a national trucking business and diversified into numerous other enterprises.

This grew into major cargo services between Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and NSW, and shipping investments even further afield.

Holyman Airways, established in Launceston in 1934, became Australia National Airways (ANA) and was built into the country’s first major airline by Sir Ivan Holyman.

Holyman trucks delivered freight around Tasmania, across Australia and in New Zealand under the guidance of Keith Holyman and his son Robin Holyman.

Along the way Holyman family companies invested in timber mills, car dealerships, hotels and food processing factories.

The Holymans of Bass Strait is their story, told in two parts.

Section One was written in the early 1950s by Sydney author Frank Johnston at the request of Sir Ivan Holyman to mark the centenary of the Holymans in Australia.

Johnston was given free access to family documents, members of the Holyman family and people employed in the many Holyman businesses.

Devonport historian and mariner Charles Ramsay, who was born in the late 1800s and had known the Holyman family from childhood, undertook maritime research.

The manuscript was completed in 1956 but the sudden death of Sir Ivan Holyman in January 1957 meant it was not published in book form as had been intended. The leather-bound manuscript remained with other Holyman company documents.

Section Two of the book was written by Tasmanian author and editor Julian Burgess and takes up the Holyman story from 1956 and covers the many Holyman business involvements over the ensuing 50 years.

This book was commissioned by Ivan Holyman (great, great grandson of company founder William Holyman and grandson of Sir Ivan Holyman) and his cousin Robin Holyman (great grandson of William Holyman and son of Keith Holyman).

It was printed in Launceston by Foot and Playsted and contains 310 pages with 180 color and black and white photos. The Holymans of Bass Strait will be available from Tasmanian bookshops from Monday, June 28 or online from this website.


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