Thursday, 20 February 2014

Waratah - Mrs Agnes Grant (Gosse) Hay pays tribute..

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931) (about) Previous issueWednesday 16 December 1908

(By A.G.H.)

"The idea of naming the steamships of
the Blue Anchor line with names peculiar
to Australia originated with the pioneer
captain of that line, and although in the
very earliest of the vessels the idea was
not adopted, yet it soon became apparent
to the owners that the suggestion was a
wise and graceful one."

"We have now a list of steamers trading between England
and the antipodes whose names, when mentioned,
immediately remind the hearer of
the different States in the great Australian

"The latest addition to
Messrs. Lund's Blue Anchor line has been
named after the gorgeous waratah, of New
South Wales, a magnificent scarlet blossom
indigenous to that State."

"As I sit on the promenade deck of the
Waratah in the great dividing line between
the two hemispheres, on this my
seventeenth passage between England and
Australia, the reality is borne in upon the
mind of the advantage of size in the matter
of transit through the ocean."

"Here we are steaming along in the large new
Blue Anchor liner, with a head wind, and
yet practically little or no motion is experienced."

Clearly a lady with no interest in exaggerating the Waratah's listing and pitching behaviour at sea.

"The reason of this steadiness
is not only due to the 10,000 tons burthen
of the Waratah, but also to her construction."

"When I first saw the new steamer
at Tilbury, the idea was that she.would
prove a great roller, owing to the height of
her many decks above the water-level."

"The lowest of these, for first-class passengers,
is one deck higher than the spar deck on
the P. & 0. steamers, and the promenade
deck, which also has extensive cabin accommodation,
is the same height as the
boat deck of most of the ocean steamers."

"The Waratah's boat deck towers above
these, and the bridge looks unusually high."

The navigation bridge was particularly prominent on the Waratah compared to other similar vessels such as the SS Koombana.

"The funnel seems an enormous size round,
but we are told that it is not so large in
diameter as the Geelong's, and considerably lower,
it being constructed in a
modern and improved style that does
not require such great size."

"The apparent top-heaviness of the Waratah appears
to have no effect on the easy passage of the steamer through the water, as
it is counteracted by her breadth of beam."

The breadth as we recall, the length of a bowling alley.

"Having travelled three times in the
Geelong one naturally compares the two
steamers, and the conclusion arrived at is
that the lofty build of the Waratah does
not cause any excess of motion, but that
this is if anything less in her than in the

Well, that settles that.

"With regard lo the interior plan of
Messrs. W. Lund & Son's new liner it
differs in many respects from the older vessel,
and in some of these differences the
advantage is with the older steamer - at
least in the opinion of the writer."

"The first-class cabins are not quite so large as
those of the Geelong, and I understand
that the smaller steamers of the Blue
Anchor line have even larger rooms than
the last named steamer."

I'm sure economics played a roll. More passengers per passage. Evolution of the modern public transport system.

"Another difference in the plan of the Waratah is that
no single cabin in the first-class has à porthole close to the water,
owing to the fact that a gangway runs all round outside the
cabins. This last mentioned difference
causes less fresh air from the sea to come
directly into them."

"In other respects the
Waratah keeps up the record of the Blue
Anchor line, and this fact is more noticeable
as so many old faces are to be
seen on board the new steamer."

"The aged quartermaster, who boasts of his
79 summers, but who looks so hale and fit
that it is difficult to believe that he has
lived so long, is one of these."

"Then there is the purser, whose face is so familiar to
those who have travelled in the Geelong,
and who is most obliging to all."

"It has been my privilege to travel four times across
the ocean with the commander of the Waratah,
and on each occasion I have been more
struck than before with his unique personality,
and with the extreme suitableness
of that personality for the position that he
is called upon to occupy."

"Simple and unpretentious in manner, he yet has a dignity
about him that would at once forbid a
liberty, and all who serve under him do so
with the utmost respect, and, in most cases,
with great love and veneration."

A truly moving tribute to Captain Ilbery.

"Who that has heard Captain Ilbery read the Church
of England service, which he does every
Sunday morning when there is no clergyman
amongst his passengers, will never forget the impressive
manner in which the service is conducted,
and the observant listener will not
fail to notice that only one who enters into
and participates in the petitions could present
them in the tone of genuine devotion
in which they are uttered."

"Before closing this little account of a
new Australian steamer and her first passage,
I must mention one of our passengers
whose presence has materially conduced
to the pleasure and profit of the
passage. I allude to the Bishop of Inverina,
who I think I may safely say, has
endeared himself to all."

"His manly, unpretentious manner and his straightforward
deliverance of his messages in services
on Sundays have won him golden opinions.."

"I feel sure I am voicing the feeling of the
majority of those on board when I wish
him God-speed in carrying on the work of
his large diocese."

Mrs Grant-Hay along with her daughter Dolly, was lost with the Waratah. It is sometimes difficult to read accounts written by those lost and who must have suffered greatly in the last moments of a dying steamer. One hopes that it was all over quickly and the comradery so eloquently described in this account contributing to much needed courage and comfort.

Mrs Grant-Hay was married to Alexander Hay, a wealthy merchant, pastoralist and politician of Adelaide. Her son, William Gosse-Hay (1875), a lawyer (Trinity College), suffered a breakdown in 1911, having lost his mother and sister Helen (Dolly) on the Waratah (1909), his brother Alexander previously (1901), and the added stress of an insurance dispute relating to the destruction by fire of his parents' home, 'Mt Breckan' in Victor Harbor. He died at Victor Harbor in 1945 after attempting to save his home from a bush fire. William Gosse-Hay probably spent days and nights struggling to come to terms with the inexplicable loss of his mother and sister. The false sighting of the Waratah and optimistic speculations in the press must surely have eased a corrosive despair, only to have the armies of a harsh reality march once again on his soul. And so it must have been the case for family and friends of those listed as lost with the Waratah. His mother's legacy lives on, vivid in the words of praise for a steamer, much maligned, and a highly capable master whom I believe would have held firm, even when the battle against the sea was lost. A battle lost, but the human spirit aboard the Waratah was unlikely to have surrendered.

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