Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Sarah Jane Ebsworth.  Wife of John Ebsworth, who was a passenger on the Waratah (had been at sea 8 years, and held a second mate's certificate) -

In a letter to his wife Mr. Ebsworth said,

"She is a fine sea boat."

In the letter was enclosed a diary from which the following are extracts:

"10/7/09. The ship pitched a little as, although there was no sea, there was a heavy swell."

"11/7/09, 2 p.m. We are now off Cape Leeuwin, and are experiencing thick weather with rain and strong winds, but the ship is very steady."

Captain Ilbery had conquered the reduced GM conundrum.

After all the discussions on board about the peculiar performance of the Waratah's bow and rolling tendencies, we have two extracts from Mr Ebworth's diary with no reference to peculiarities. Again, these are unbiased extracts from a diary before the fact.

Frederick Tickell. Commander of Commonwealth Naval Forces of Victoria -

"My son, George Hubert Alan Tickell, was a passenger on board the  "Waratah" from Melbourne to London on her last voyage."

"I saw the vessel leave the pier at Port Melbourne on the 1st July, 1909. I was on the pier as she left, and watched her nearly down to the lightship, a distance of over 1 mile."

"During all the time I saw her, she was perfectly upright, and had no sign of a list."

"I left next day by train for Adelaide to spend the last few days with my son, before he left for England by the "Waratah."

"We both left Port Adelaide on the 6th July. I joined the "Pilbarra," bound for Fremantle, and my son joined the "Waratah," which was proceeding down the river to finish her loading at Largs Bay."

"The "Waratah" was at the Wharf at Port Adelaide when the "Pilbarra" passed her. As soon as the "Pilbarra" passed, the "Waratah" hauled out into the stream and followed the "Pilbarra" down, at no time being at a greater distance than a half to a quarter of a mile astern."

"The "Waratah" had a steam tug to assist her in getting round the bends. This tug was sometimes broad on the bow, and sometimes ahead of the "Waratah."

"I watched the "Waratah" down the river to Largs Bay, with a critical or rather a professional eye. At no time did she give me the impression of a tender ship. She remained perfectly upright even when going round the bends at a time when the rudder was over, and the tug broad on the bow"

An extraordinary account from a bereaved father.  He could have been bitter about his son's loss and critical of the vessel and crew responsible, but instead he appears to have taken his witness testimony seriously and gave a detailed description of a stable, normal steamship.

I am inclined to believe witness testimony such as this.

emigrants boarding a steamer 
My book 'Waratah Revisited' will be available by 12 December, via Amazon. I explore the human aspect of the tragedy and take a closer look at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. Revelations abound. Don't miss it!

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