The Advertiser (Adelaide) Thursday 12 August, 1909 PREMATURE REJOICINGS
TOWN HALL, BELLS RUNG.
ANOTHER KEEN DISAPPOINTMENT.
Probably in the history of no previous wreck with which Australians have been associated have alternating hopes and fears succeeded each other so quickly as in the case of the missing Blue Anchor liner Waratah. Reports as to her safety have been spread in Melbourne, only to be found to be baseless, and so late as Tuesday evening a message that the vessel had been sighted off East London relieved the tension. The news was conveyed to the theatre audiences and naturally was received with enthusiastic rejoicing. The relations and friends of those on board doubtless retired to rest with the full conviction that there was not further cause for anxiety and with grateful hearts.
Adelaide was sent almost delirious withjoy shortly after 11 am. yesterday bythe bells of the Town Hall ringing out amerry chime. There could only be onereason for the peal - that the Waratah wassafe and everybody jumped to that conclusion. "A large crowd of people assembledin front of "The Advertiser" office, waiting in vain for the posting of some confirmatory news, and this office, as well as that of the agents for the vessel - Messrs. George Wills & Co. was besieged with telephonic and other enquiries on the subject. Enquiry at the Town Hall elicited that the bells had been rung by order of the Mayor, on account of the safety of the Waratah having been reported. Messrs. Wills & Co., stated that they had received no news whatever later than that in "The Advertiser"'of Wednesday, and were unable to say how the report originated.
Later on it transpired that the Mayor (Mr. Frank Johnson), who is ill in bed at his residence, South-terrace, received a telephone message from a clerk employed in his business establishment, King William street, to the effect that a notice had been posted at the General Post-Office, stating that the Waratah was safe. The Mayor then ordered the bells to be rung, and that was the whole cause of the misunderstanding and premature rejoicing on the part of the citizens.
On being interviewed, the clerk referredto said that at least a dozen persons toldhim that a notice was posted at the GeneralPost-Office announcing the safety of theWaratah. Believing that what everybodysaid must be true, he telephoned what hehad heard to the Mayor.
Of the numbers of people who rushed tothe offices of Messrs. George Wills & Co.,the agents, this morning, many were somuch affected on being told that the rumor was unconfirmed that, according to Mr. Bleechmore, they actually staggered, and their faces blanched.
The Deputy Postmaster-General (Mr. R. W. M. Waddy), on being seen on the subject said that no notice whatever had been posted at the office concerning the missing vessel. It was possible that some stupid person by way of a joke had gummed something on one of the street walls of the building, but if so it had not been seen by any of the employees of the post or telegraph staffs. He expressed great surprise that such a statement should have been made. "My officers seldom tell me anything in this direction," concluded Mr. Waddy, "but I feel certain that if any message relating to the safety of the Waratah had come through, I should have been informed."
It is also equally certain that the first intimation of the kind so anxiously awaited, would come either to this office or to that of the agents. The ringing of the Town Hall bells was a most regrettable incident, as hopes were raised once more, only to be shattered. It is hoped, in the interests of the relations and friends of those on board the missing vessel, that no future report concerning either her safety or her loss will be given publicity to until it has received ample confirmation.
Such was the hysteria surrounding the missing Waratah, misinformation was bound to surface. What a cruel blow to families of those on board.