Wednesday, 30 December 2015


In the summer of 1932 a Canadian seaman by the name of John Noble was admitted to the Oshawa County Hospital. He was in critical condition and summoned a nurse to witness a faded copy of Lloyd's list. He made the following statement:

". . . became a member of the crew of the steamship
Waratah" and that "shortly after leaving Durban the ship
developed a heavy list. Among my mates were some
ready to mutiny, but I refused to join them. Then, at
four o'clock on the morning of July 23, 1909, while I
was on watch, I discovered the ten-year-old daughter of
a well-known and wealthy English family; she was crying
in the shelter of a deck ventilator. Suddenly, as I approached
the child, the ship rolled heavily to starboard,
and we were both thrown into the sea. We managed to
struggle ashore and at last reached East London."

South African police records support the fact that a man and young girl were seen in East London during August of 1909. The strange pair disappeared before further inquiries into their identities could be established.

This account is well known and flawed, but it is not the 'curious tale' in itself. Read on...

Mr. Day of the Tottenham had this to report:

"Mr. Day adds that the second engineer also stated that he saw the body of a woman and the trunk of another body close to the ship. The seas were running mountains high when the Tottenham was proceeding on her voyage, and the conclusion come to aboard the ship was that the Waratah took a head sea, and before she had time to recover took another, which stove in the fore hatch and caused her to founder."

"Speaking from memory as to dates, having, unfortunately, left his notebook on the Tottenham, Mr. Day says the Tottenham arrived at Durban about midnight on Saturday, August 7, and anchored in the roadstead, signalling her arrival to the lighthouse."

"The Insizwa was also anchored in the roadstead, and at about 1 a.m. Mr. Day, who was then on watch, received a signal from her, asking if he knew anything about the missing Waratah. Mr. Day replied in the negative, stating that the Tottenham had just come from Port Pirie (Adelaide). Owing to the rough state of the weather the Tottenham remained in port till the Tuesday morning at 8 o'clock when she left for Antwerp, with instructions to keep a diligent look-out for the Waratah."

"The sea at the time was very high. When off East London the incidents already described took place. Mr. Day says he pointed out to the officers an albatross sitting on something, and the steamer was brought round to make an examination, which fully convinced him that the object on which the bird as perched was the trunk of a body, with the arms and legs missing."


"Mr. Day says that strict injunctions were given on the Tottenham to say nothing of the affair, and that he overheard the apprentice, by request, give an account of what he had seen to a gentleman whom he believed to be the agent of the Tottenham."

"The apprentice was then advised to say nothing of the affair, as it might cause friction."

"Let me remark," added Mr. Day, "lest people think I might bear prejudice against anyone, that such suggestions, if they are made, are absolutely incorrect. I deny any prejudice, and any statement I have made here I am prepared to make on oath. My reason for making this statement now is that, while I was on the vessel, orders were given to keep the thing quiet, and now I am off the vessel I am free to speak my mind as regard to what I saw and what others on the ship told me they saw. I have clean discharges from and credentials from all ships on which I have served."

In addition to Mr. Day's account, Chinese seamen on the Tottenham also claimed there were bodies in the sea. 

Now for the curious part of the tale:

Mr. Day's full names were          JOHN NOBLE DAY

One wonders if Mr. Day felt 'injured' to some extent not having his statement accepted as fact by the Inquiry. Revenge can take on strange forms. Mr. Day, if it was in fact he in the Oshawa County Hospital, had the last laugh and say on the matter of the Waratah mystery.

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