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The many lives of the Pride of the Murray

This century-old boat has been reincarnated a few times and has so many stories to tell of pioneers who built her, owned her, worked on her, carried wood and wool aboard her and plied their trade up and down the mighty Murray river system. Later, in another incarnation, there were people from around Australia who made important memories aboard – romances, engagements, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and family holidays.

She’s had a few owners and Richard Kinnon isn’t the first to resurrect her from a river floor!

The Pride of the Murray docked at Echuca Wharf

The Pride of the Murray was built in 1924, as a barge to tow behind other boats with 80-100 tons of wool aboard, the later had an engine added to transport timber to the mill at Echuca. She was originally named after the PS Pride of the Murray, a stern-wheeler paddle steamer built by Johnston and Davies at Echuca in 1865.

After years of adventures, when motor and train transport was taking over from river transport for timber, the Pride of the Murray was sunk in her namesake river

Historic wool barges

From wool bales and wood-hauling to people pleaser

Beneath the water, she was well preserved and, in 1973, Captain Maxwell Carrington decided she was worth restoring. He purchased the boat for $100. After removing 250 tons of silt, she was refloated and repaired at the Moama slip. Most of the hull planks were replaced and two additional decks were added. The wheel was relocated from the forward main deck to the upper deck to make space for passenger seating.

In 1977, the revitalised diesel-electric passenger boat was relaunched from Echuca Wharf and began her new life as a tourist vessel.

The Pride of the Murray settled at a dock in 2008

Generations shared special moments aboard until 2022, when she was put up for sale. She came to the attention of Richard Kinnon of Outback Pioneers in Longreach who had been looking for a paddlewheeler to add more capacity to the popular Starlight’s Cruise Experience on the Thomson River. 

He fell in love with the old paddlewheeler and felt passionately that she should be preserved and her stories told. His brave decision to take her overland to Longreach is a story in itself.

Pride of the Murray paddlewheeler loaded onto a low-loader ready. Richard Kinnon standing in foreground

A new life in Longreach

Once in Longreach, the Pride of the Murray was restored and she was relaunched in June 2022 to cruise the Thomson river at sunset. The cruises only run in the tourist season of April to October and so she sat peacefully at her mooring through the summer.

Crowd of people sitting in a semi-circle outside listening to an announcement
Pride of the Murray cruising at sunset

In the early morning of 6 March 2023, a kayaker spotted the Pride of the Murray listing badly. When she returned up the river a short while later, the boat had disappeared below the surface.

An aerial shot of the sunken Pride of the Murray paddlewheeler

After the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in her restoration and all the blood, sweat and tears of the transport to Longreach and painstaking refurbishment, the Kinnon family was devastated. Many guests booked for cruises in the 2023 season were also hugely disappointed.

For six months she sat beneath the Thomson while all the official wheels turned, until finally the Kinnons were given the go-ahead to raise her. 

Another chapter had begun.