The Varley Story – Part 17

An example of the type of aluminium gangway Varley manufactured for BHP in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The years following World War II saw the commencement of a long and successful period of manufacturing in Australia, and the Hunter region in particular. Varley continued to carry out work for a wide variety of shipping companies, and also diversified by offering various trade services to BHP and its subsidiaries.

Clem York Varley remained as chairman and assistant manager, whilst James Colgan entered his fifth decade as manager; a remarkable achievement. Along with the service diversification came the need for new equipment, which in turn required a major capital expansion. 80,000 new shares were released and purchased by existing shareholders to fund the experiment.

Progress was slow, however, and small jobs were gradually increased into larger projects over the coming decade, as Varley also began experimenting with aluminium fabrication to cater for their customers’ changing requirements.

The emergence of new technology in the 1960s meant that Varley had the opportunity to diversify even further, offering trades into new industries and sectors. The Company began manufacturing new aluminium gangways for BHP (of which the prototype was developed in a specially-made workshop converted from an old wool shed in Hannell Street, Wickham).

After extensive development works, BHP was rapt with the prototype and commissioned Varley to construct similar gangways for all BHP vessels. The venture was incredibly successful and led to Varley becoming a primary supplier of aluminium gangways to many shipyards around Australia.

Varley was undoubtedly developing with the times, and would undergo even further change as the 1960s unfolded…


Stay tuned for more of the incredible Varley story.