Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Waratah - survivor?

In a mystery such as this, there is the residual burning frustration not knowing what in fact did happen to the Waratah and why? In the years following the tragedy a most intriguing story came to light, which seemed to come so close to revealing the truth of the Waratah. It revolved around the possibility, "What if there was a survivor from the Waratah"?

In 1915, a notice appeared in the Irish Times.  It was a simple one, a Staunton lad was trying to locate his parents, Mr and Mrs Staunton. On the surface this probably was a notice repeated a hundred times, people in search of family or friends. However, there was one crucial difference about this lad seeking the whereabouts of his parents. His parents believed he had been lost with the Waratah.

The Stauntons, by 1915, were working as servants in the village of Brackna near Athy, Queen's County, Ireland.  They did not see the notice and it only came to their attention some time after the fact. Once they did respond to the address listed by their son it was too late, the First World War had claimed Staunton, like so many thousands of young lads, on the front in France. The Stauntons wrote to their son before he was killed and received this reply:

"I advertised for you in Scottish, English and Irish newspapers, but I received no response, and so I came to the conclusion that you had either died or left the country."

"I shall write to you," he promised, "a full description of what happened to me, and how I was saved from the Waratah."

But that was never to be and like so many others he perished on the front, never to be reunited with the parents he sought. But he left a cliffhanger that would rival "who shot JR?", and raised certain vital questions, the first and most obvious being, no Staunton was listed as either passenger or crew on the last fateful voyage of the Waratah. So, how was is possible that simple salt of the earth people such as the Stauntons would become embroiled in the Waratah mystery?  Did he lie and was enjoying the belated attention of having being part of a ship catastrophe? Or was there another more plausible reason for this claim?

There is a remote chance that he had stowed away aboard the Waratah, hence no record of his being on board 26 July, 1909. If he had indeed stowed away, and survived the sinking of the steamer, there is rationale to support his reasons for keeping quiet. He wasn't supposed to be on board in the first place. It fills us with unresolved suspense given that the poor lad never came back from the War, but surely he would have regaled others with the tale of surviving the sinking of the Waratah?

As much as one would like to think that he was telling the truth, it does seem highly unlikely, and perhaps he had returned to the UK from Australia aboard one of the Blue Anchor Line's other ships eg. Geelong, and had long since thought about fate and his luck not to have booked on the Waratah. But this does not explain why his parents were left with the impression that he was lost with the Waratah.

The fact remains, there were no survivors and no one to tell the tale.

“The possibility of truth has become a delusion to those who made their own disguise the truth.” 
― Nema Al-Araby


Graham Clayton said...

If the boy was saved and picked up by a ship, you would think that the captain of the ship would have broadcast the news about picking up a survivor.

andrew van rensburg said...

Yes, unless he managed to scramble ashore on a desolate section of Wild Coast - possibly Poenskop. He might not have wanted to publicize that he was a stowaway. Speculation will be my doing in :)