Jack Townson served his trade as a fitter and turner in Queensland before moving to Newcastle, New South Wales to work in the shipbuilding industry at Walsh Island. He later moved to the Cardiff Railway Workshops at Honeysuckle, where he spent the rest of his working life. He was a keen beach fisherman. He started producing reels in the 1930’s. The reels were made in his workshop at the back of his house where he lived at Merryweather. The reels were so popular that people had to wait up to three years for one to be made. The wooden spools and brass components were turned on a lathe at his workshop at home. Only the brass starbacks were cast out of a foundry at Wickham. Most of the teak for the spools came from the wreck of a sailing ship “Adolphe” on Stockton bight. They were stamped ‘J.R.T’ on the back. As the reels were originally made for friends, the total quantity produced over a 30-year period were probably only in the hundreds. All were sold by word of mouth, not through tackle shops.
Jack was also a cricketer for the Mereweather District Cricket Club. Merewether fielded first grade teams for two seasons in 1899 and 1900 before disappearing until it was one of six clubs granted district boundaries in 1921. Stockton and Northern Districts Cricket Club remains the only foundation club left in the NDCA but Merewether is also one of the oldest clubs. J.R Townson was Merewether’s first captain and the ground inside the Mitchell Park complex, Townson Oval, was named after him.
Part of an article that appeared in Fishing Tackle – The Ultimate Collector’s Guide’ – 2009 Chapter 11 states: Only a small number of wood tournament reels were made and there is no record of any stamped with the makers name, thus there is very little history that can be documented. The problem of identifying the earliest wood tournament reels is further extracted by a maker who lived on the other side of the world. His name was Jack Townson of Australia and he turned out some of the finest side casters that incorporated the classic features of a wood tournament reel, the reduced faceplate with rim tapered to the drum core and no check mechanism. He was by profession a fitter and turner and produced everything he made from a lathe at his home workshop in Merryweather, New South Wales. Distinguishing one of his reels from an early wood tournament caster is more difficult since his first c1930 models did not have any markings. The only giveaway could be the wood, since some he used came from the wrecks of sailing ships, also the material forming the handles might provide a clue. However, the quality of Townson’s wood reels with the tournament features is such that any early example of his work commands the same value as an original, on which his designs were based. They fully justify their description as being the Rolls-Royce of wood side casters with the special features for competitive distance casting and some were undoubtedly used at international events.