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South Australian shipping lines: Black Diamond Line

Early days

What became known as the Black Diamond Line of Colliers was never an incorporated company, but the ships operated by Henry Simpson and carrying coal from Newcastle came to be known by this name. Later his steamships would bear a black diamond on their funnels.

It was a case with Simpson being in the right place to take advantage of a coal boom. The monopoly of the Australian Agricultural Company over mining rights in the Newcastle (NSW) region was finally surrendered in the early 1850s. Expansion in the number of collieries there was rapid. In South Australia the copper mines moved to open their own smelters and with a shortage of wood in the area needed coal.

Henry Simpson had been in shipping before this: he arrived in South Australia in 1836 as second mate on the John Pirie, and later owned it, and other vessels. He ventured to the Victorian goldfields in the 1850s, but returned to take up the business of coal importation. His first ship registered in this period was Symmetry a 3-masted wooden sailing ship. Simpson also chartered vessels as he required them, and was involved in a number of partnerships which increased the number of ships he could operate. In 1860 he was a partner with Emanuel Underwood in the ownership of Julie Heyn, a wooden barque of 318 tons. By 1864 he had full ownership.

He also became joint owner with Thomas Elder and Robert Barr Smith of another four ships: Koh-I-Noor, 280 tons; Fairfield 665 tons; Vortigern 896 tons; and Moonta, 655 tons. Simpson also had a share in the Guadalette with Underwood and Thomas Grierson; this ship was the first lost by the Black Diamond Line when it was wrecked in July 1865 near Cape Barren in Bass Strait.

In addition to the vessels he owned or part owned, he chartered ships as the need arose. Chevert, Frowning Beauty, Day Dawn, Day Spring, Jean Pierre, Oberlin, Phillis and Mary Miller were all chartered by Simpson at this time. 

In 1865 the Simpson, Elder Smith partnership acquired another vessel which was renamed Kadina after one of the copper towns, and in 1867 or thereabouts JL Simpson, one of Henry's sons joined his father in business, which operated as H. Simpson and Son, Black Diamond Line of Colliers, Currie Street, Adelaide.

While business was directed from here a small office is believed to have existed in a building at the corner of Commercial Road and St Vincent Street, Port Adelaide - a corner that subsequently became known as the Black Diamond Corner. Simpson's Adelaide coal stocks were kept at the nearby Queens Wharf, but his main trade was the Wallaroo-Newcastle-Wallaroo run, bringing coal for the smelters and taking ore back to Newcastle. His coal hulks at Port Adelaide, of which Favourite was the first, kept stocks of coal available locally for steamers, for the railways and for gas lighting.

Black Diamond Line
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Late Captain Henry Simpson
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