150th Commemorative Event: Held 14 - 17 July 2016 on King Island.
According to a combined check of various RSVP lists we had a grand total of 168 descendants and family attend, along with 7 non-descendant interested parties. What a fantastic turnout !!
While there were official event's held throughout the 4 days, many visitors chose to stay for days either side of the events to fully explore the island where their ancestors survived the shipwreck.
On this page I have included the various speeches made on Thursday 14 July 2016 at the formal commemorative event, Saturday 16 July at the Barn Dance and dinner, the memorial at Netherby Cove on Sunday 17 July 2016 followed by the closing at Town Hall. In the tabs above you can view news articles about the anniversary, the full attendance register plus apologies and best wishes from those unable to attend, Ann Rutte's newsletters and the full schedule of events, and photos and links on how to order souvenir photo-books.
In the Passenger History pages I have also been adding photos of descendants from the event - to their specific ancestor's page.
Descendants of the Netherby shipwreck survivors found each other via so many ways over the years. Whether it be scouring libraries and finding books featuring a passenger manifest, placing ads in "Desperately Seeking" columns in local, state and Australia wide newspapers, ads in Australian Family Tree Connections magazine and similar around the country. From 2005 people searching the internet would find my website www.netherby.homestead.com (by 2011 the site had already been visited over 7000 times). From 2010 Ann Rutte started holding meetings with descendants in Melbourne and issuing regular informative newsletters to her ever growing database of descendants and the seeds for the 150th Commemorations were planted in the minds of everyone who was considering attending.
14 July 2016, Thursday. The anniversary at Currie Town Hall.
The Town Hall in Currie was a great setting for the anniversary service. The original plan was to have this service out at Netherby Cove itself but with the after effects of a recent storm still in the air - along with quite the chill, the hall was a welcoming venue.
The walls were covered in fantastic history boards made by Ann and Ernst Rutte. The stage featured huge banners and a lovely driftwood and seaweed display. We had a table set up to hold the sea chest which would become our time capsule and many items that would be won by descendants in a raffle on Sunday. Another table was used by Glenn Pinnuck to sell the lottery tickets and the stunning commemorative coin he designed, while I, Karina had people signing my photobook with messages to themselves or their families for the 175th anniversary ! KI local sound man Wade kept the mood light playing old time gentle sea ditty's over the sound system. People started to fill the hall - it was time to start the evening commemorations.
Jim Benn (local King Islander and direct descendant of the Skerman family) was our master of ceremonies and he started the evening off by welcoming everyone and introducing the former Premier of Tasmania Ray Groom (direct descendant of passenger Ben Groom) who commenced his touching welcoming address.
Speech by Ray Groom:
The Netherby Miracle
To shed light
A South-Westerly blows well
Filling her billowed sails
The small ship makes her way
Steadily in a moderate sea
And then a frightening crunch
She lurches and stops
This journey of hope for a new life
At 7.15pm on 14th July 1866 the sailing ship Netherby struck a rocky reef 250m from this shore on the western coastline of King Island and was wrecked.
Tonight, on the 14th July 2016, we gather together as descendants of the survivors of the shipwreck, accompanied by family members and friends, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of one of the most dramatic events in Australian maritime history.
On this occasion we remember and, celebrate the amazing bravery, heroism, decency and resilience displayed by the crew and passengers which miraculously enabled every one of the 451 souls on the ship to be saved.
It is pleasing that so many of you have made the considerable effort to travel here to King Island to be present on this unique occasion. Our Netherby ancestors would be very proud that 150 years later we have come to this very place where they all struggled ashore for this special commemoration. Many other Netherby families would have wished to be present but for various understandable reasons were unable to make the journey. I know they are all with us in spirit.
This occasion would not have been possible without the magnificent efforts of Ann Rutte who has spent hundreds of hours dedicated to this project keeping us informed and encouraging us to attend.
We sincerely thank Ann and her many other helpers for that hard work and dedication.
The Netherby was a sailing ship of the Blackball Line. She weighed 944 tons - a tiny ship compared with the 100 thousand ton ocean liners of today. On this voyage the Netherby was under the command of Captain Owen Owens.
With 413 passengers (100 of them children under 12 years of age,) and 38 crew members she left Plymouth, England, on April 13, 1866 bound for Moreten Bay in Queensland.
The ship was under charter by the Government of Queensland to transport immigrants to that new state encouraged by the offer of land grants.
Please forgive me for referring for a moment or two to my great grandfather and great grandmother, Ben and Lucy Groom who with their young family were passengers on the Netherby. Theirs is one example of the many interesting stories that could be told about all of our forebears who were aboard the Netherby on that fateful journey.
Ben hailed originally from Staffordshire and was a gunsmith by trade. Lucy was from East Anglia. After less than 8 years of productive married life, Ben and Lucy made the adventurous decision to immigrate to Australia. They already had 4 young children (aged 6, 4, 2 and 6mths).
They boarded the Netherby, in steerage class, at the London docks on March 31, 1866. The ship then sailed to Plymouth and about a fortnight later left that port bound for Australia.
Thankfully the passengers and crew on board contributed to an excellent publication “the Netherby Gazette” which accurately recorded the experiences, emotions and traumas of the voyage. It is a wonderful resource and gives us a real sense of just how difficult it must have been to sail halfway around the world in a small ship with so many on board including married couples, single people and many young children, plus animals including pigs and fowls.
To give a sense of the very uncomfortable conditions experienced the following was reported in the Gazette after only two days of sailing:
“During the night experienced strong gales from the W.S.W and a heavy sea, which made the ship labour considerably, making many of the passengers wish they had wings to fly back to old England again”.
There were very many bad days and difficult circumstances during the long voyage. An early tragic event was a death of a four year old child, after only 9 days at sea. The death was reported as follows: “Death. On the 22nd April, Lucy, daughter of Mr William and Mrs Carolyn Skerman, aged 4 years”.
This was such a sad moment for the Skerman family who are represented at this commemoration.
For weeks the small shipped rolled constantly in the heavy seas. Many fell ill. Their condition was not helped by the smell of the pigs. It was stated in the Gazette;
“somebody’s pigs have been placed on deck; the stench arising from these animals is most pestiferous, and needs no description”.
A “second class passenger” complained about the conduct of what he considered to be the lesser souls in steerage. He said that;
“At dinner time we have had a lot of dirty faces peering down the sky light, and when they are told to withdraw, they laugh and grin, hoping that these evils will be cured by giving publicity to them”.
Thankfully there was a lot of spirit in steerage and a prompt retort was penned to put the uppity ‘Mr Second’ class in his place. The reply was ….
“Should our little friend again observe dirty faces gazing on his savoury dish, we would advise him to try the experiment of giving them a mouthful each, instead of saucy looks and words”.
It was most interesting to note that once the passengers were on board and away from England they challenged class differences and were willing to stand their ground and speak up for themselves. The egalitarian spirit of Australians was already evident on the ship.
The Netherby sailed down the west coast of Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope. Along the way she encountered constant heavy seas and squalls but occasionally there were periods of calm pleasant weather. She then ploughed across the Indian Ocean swept along by the “roaring 40’s” until she passed south of the Great Australian Bight and into western Bass Strait. A long difficult voyage should have ended in relief and comfort but alas this one had a most horrifying and dramatic end.
To provide more comfortable sea conditions for the passengers Captain Owen decided not to proceed south of Tasmania as had been intended but instead took the shorter route through Bass Strait.
Unfortunately the days became very cloudy and it was not possible to take celestial sightings to determine the ship’s precise position.
The terrifying calamity which ended the voyage occurred at 7.15pm on July 14 1866. The following is the brief report from the Netherby Gazette which is probably the most accurate account of the moment the ship struck the rocky reef:
“At 7.15pm, whilst seated at the tea table, the Chief Officer, who had the watch, was heard to say “hard up”. The Captain immediately started up, and on his way to ascertain what was the matter, saw the Chief Officer on the companion ladder, calling out for him to go on deck. The ship had taken ground on the rocky bottom, and ……the ship was bumping severely and the surf striking on her stern and port quarter…..we had, therefore, to wait until daylight approached, in the greatest fear that the ship would break up during the night…the women and children collected in the fore-cabin and saloon and behaved themselves uncommonly well. A line was eventually made fast to one of the rocks where the sea broke with the least violence. At about 8.00am a commencement was made to land the passengers, women and children first. The landing of all the passengers was finally accomplished about 3.00pm….”
Miraculously all on board managed to get safely to shore. This was an incredible achievement as the ship was a considerable distance from this rocky shore and there were strong winds, rough seas and rain with heavy surf on that bleak, cold winter’s day.
After alighting from the small boat passengers struggled waist deep to the shore carrying children and some belongings. Their clothes were soaked and they were very cold. The men immediately started to make fires to warm everyone and to build shelters.
Some luggage and stores were recovered from the ship. This helped provide basic necessities and sustenance. Thankfully fresh water was found nearby. Everyone was placed on strict rations. The basic ration was half a pound of flour or oatmeal per adult per day. No one at that stage knew how long it would take for help to arrive.
I have been told that to protect his family Ben had to build a lean-to out of tea tree and bracken aided by a small amount of canvas recovered from the wreck.
All in all there were 40-50 similar shelters built with 40-50 fires blazing all night to keep the cold out.
In the Gazette it was reported:
“In one direction children were heard crying, in another bigger ones discussing passing events, in their own quaint way….and occasionally the soft accents of dear devoted women…..in another jovial songs were being sung, and in another concertinas playing lively airs”.
A very happy event occurred with the “birth on the beach” of the Cubbin's baby girl who was later named “Netherby” (Nettie). What a dramatic entry that was into the world! Ann Rutte is a direct descendant of the Cubbin family.
The reality of this ship wreck is that the passengers and crew were extremely lucky to survive. If the ship had struck a reef further out to sea almost certainly all would have perished as occurred when the “Cataraqui” went down in 1845 with the loss of 399 lives. That ship struck rocks just south of where the Netherby was wrecked.
My impression is that Captain Owens was highly regarded by the passengers. However it would appear that after the shipwreck occurred he relied very heavily on the abilities of the ship’s surgeon Dr. Webster.
Dr. Webster appeared to take a leadership role in ensuring passengers were taken safely to shore and in generally managing passengers in the aftermath of the ship wreck. His role appeared to go well beyond the responsibilities he would normally be expected to carry.
The great hero of the drama however was the Second Officer of the Netherby, Mr John Parry. He walked a considerable distance to the Cape Wickham Lighthouse at the northern tip of King Island. Then aided by two passengers he risked his life to sail in a small whale boat across Bass Strait to Victoria to get assistance.
It is pleasing that members of Mr Parry’s family are present on this special occasion.
Mr Parry landed near Barwon Heads and then borrowed a horse and rode 30 kilometres to Queenscliff. A really amazing effort by him. He then made telegraph contact with the Victorian Government. This was at about 9.00pm on July 21st. Mr Parry then travelled by train to Melbourne to inform the Victorian Government of details of the shipwreck.
The Government then quickly dispatched two steamers, the “Victoria” and the “Pharos” to King Island to recover passengers and remaining crew. By the time the steamers arrived the Netherby had completely broken up and there was no visible sign of her above the water.
On Thursday July 26th 1866, after 12 long days on King Island, the remaining passengers and crew were rescued and taken to Williamstown and then onto Melbourne.
The survivors were given very wonderful generous support by the people of Melbourne. There were horse and carts waiting to take them to their quarters at the Exhibition building. Local charities provided all of the survivors with clothing, bedding and other requirements. On July 28th they were provided with a wonderful dinner of Roast Beef, Plum Pudding and half a bottle of beer for each passenger.
I know the generosity of the Melbourne people impressed my family and made them feel very welcome in Melbourne. My great grandfather was inclined to want to proceed onto Queensland to take up the land grant opportunity. However, Lucy would not have a bar of it. She refused to again board a ship.
They settled in Melbourne and raised a large family of 13 children. Family members have spread far and wide with descendants now living in Tasmania, Victoria and elsewhere.
I’m sure many incredible stories could be told about the lives of all the survivors and their descendants living in Australia. No doubt many have achieved a great deal not only for their families but also for their communities.
Today we express thanks to our forebears who made that adventurous decision to sail to Australia in a small ship to make their lives here.
We express our gratitude, 150 years later, for the great courage shown by all the passengers and the Captain, Dr. Webster and other crew members and particularly for the outstanding heroism of Mr Parry.
We express our deep gratitude and give thanks for the survival of all the passengers and crew members. After all if our forebears had not survived then we would not be here.
I conclude by thanking everyone for attending this 150th Anniversary Commemoration.
Again, I express our sincere thanks to Ann Rutte and others who have assisted Ann for their wonderful efforts in organising this historic occasion.
Jim then introduced Ann Rutte – Cubbin descendant and Netherby 2016 organiser extraordinaire.
Speech by Ann Rutte:
Ann first thanked Minister Ray Groom for his opening address.
I’m only going to give a short speech about the people that have inspired and touched me in different ways who have unfortunately passed in the time that I have been doing the research and collating the information, and this is in no particular order whatsoever.
Don Charlwood passed away unfortunately very soon after I met him. He is the author of The Wreck of the Sailing Ship Netherby which told our story – it belongs to everybody. I did have the pleasure, as did some other people, of meeting Don a couple of years ago at one of our little Netherby meetings in Melbourne. Don’s daughter Doreen is here tonight with her family. The Netherby story meant a lot to Don and his work continues today through Doreen and Burgewood Books.
During this time we also lost Barry Challenger, again I had the pleasure of meeting Barry and Judy (who was a Skerman descendant) a number of times and Barry was “inspiration plus”. I know he has visited Netherby Cove on prior occasions and I am sure that he is with us again tonight.
Clarrie Grimes: I had many lengthy telephone calls with Clarrie and he always made me laugh. Clarrie had his own connection to the Netherby and he “owned it”. Clarrie told me he had published a family history – a “book of sorts” he called it and he sent me a copy with a note that he planned a reviewed and renewed family history for 2016. We have relatives of Clarrie here tonight and they have travelled a long distance to be here, including Lynelle who still occupies the original Grimes land, and Winston (aka Mike) Grimes is here as well.
Christine Webster is a descendant of Marshall Hall Webster, the surgeon superintendent on board the Netherby. He would have assisted in the birth of baby Nettie and he of course would have provided medical aid to all of the Netherby passengers and crew. Christine’s father Brandon Hall Webster was the grandson of Marshall, and sadly Don as he was known, passed away in April this year. Christine would have loved to have been here for this commemoration and she sends her best wishes to us all.
I also noted when I was typing up the history boards that another descendant passed recently and that was Dorothy nee Evans who was 94 and her funeral was held today.
There are a number of others. Keith Ward – a descendant of the MacFarlane family. Ken Bartling, who very much wanted to be here and sadly passed away most recently. Relatives Annette and Stuart Law are here tonight.
Dorothy Morris I had the pleasure of meeting several years ago and I was saddened to know of her passing. She is remembered here tonight by her husband Ern and family.
I would like to make a special mention to a descendant of the Turner family who is battling breast cancer and would have been here if not for poor health.
All of these people had an influence on me and tonight I thank them and I remember them.
Jim then welcomed Glenn Pinnuck (direct descendant of David & Elizabeth Pinnuck) to the stage for the giving of thanks:
Speech by Glenn Pinnuck:
We give thanks to:
- Captain, Senior Officers and crew of the Netherby for making a successful landing here on King Island.
- The operators and residents of Cape Wickham Lighthouse who did ALL that they could with their supplies to provide sustenance and give life and hope to 452 stranded passengers and crew.
- Second In Charge John Parry – no doubt the hero and the reason for their survival and our lives.
- The Survey Party/Roadknight family in the Cape Roadknight area of Victoria who provided John Parry with a horse to sound the alarm at Queenscliffe.
- We give thanks to the Williamstown naval command who despatched both the Victoria and the Pharos to save the lives of our ancestors.
- Melbourne City Council, the Benevolent Committee and the ladies of the Lutheran church who rallied around and provided bedding, food, clothing and many of the basic needs of our shipwrecked ancestors whilst they awaited an outcome.
- The City of Melbourne steamship which carried a lot of Netherby passengers who would mostly have been terrified of setting foot on another ship, but they did arrive safely in Brisbane to commence the life they originally set out to have.
Speech by King Island Deputy Mayor Jim Cooper:
On behalf of the King Island Council and the residents of King Island I would like to warmly welcome you all here – with the emphasis on the word warm - which I imagine is sadly lacking in most of the abodes (due to the storm). Nevertheless its great to stand up here and look down at the faces who have come to a little island in the Bass Strait that must have some significant drawcard – that being the accidental shipwreck 150 years ago and obviously in weather somewhat better than we have had the past few days otherwise this room may very well have been empty. But nevertheless you are here. The island is grateful to see you here and you will give the economy a nice little kickalong for this time of year when things do get a bit quiet. I hope you all enjoy it here and have a successful weekend.
Jim then introduced Brian Townsend (direct descendant of Capt. William Townsend Esq).
Speech by Brian Townsend:
"Good evening fellow shipwreck survivor descendants, your families and others. My wife and I arrived yesterday and the power was out and it wasn’t restored until about 3.30pm this afternoon and that made me think that perhaps the spirits of our ancestors had something to do with trying to emulate how they felt. Anyway my great-great grandfather, retired sea captain William Townsend was a saloon passenger with the youngest of his children and other family. He was the co-editor of the Netherby Gazette and I am honoured to read to you from that document".
We now bring before you all the first Number of a Paper which we intend to publish weekly. It is entitled “The Netherby Gazette,” in honour of the ship in which we are crossing the deep. We have chosen two mottos – the first, “Reason contents me,” because it is that of the ship Netherby, and also as it is very suitable to our position, for we hope our friends will be reasonable, and not expect too much from us, as this is our first attempt to edit a paper. And further, it may be useful to us all if we bear the same in mind, and exercise a reasonable and contented spirit with whatever may befall us when we arrive in the country of our adoption. The second motto is – “Ex nihilo nihil fit.” This we consider also very appropriate; for if we make an effort to start a paper for the benefit of all on board, with nothing bearing any interest, amusement, or instruction, it would, as a matter of course, die a natural death; but. If we are supported by the community at large, by their endeavouring to the best of their abilities to supply us with the daily gossip, mishaps, and other events, which would afford amusement and instruction to all, we hope to be able to continue the same until our arrival at Brisbane. We must, however, impress upon the minds of those who will lend us their aid, to condense as much as possible the matter they intend to favour us with; for, as all must be written, copied, and re-copied, it will necessarily entail much labour and consume much time. We must further mention that all correspondence containing personal remarks and unreasonable complaints will be strictly rejected; for we do not wish our paper to become the medium of discord, discontent, or the engendering of unpleasant feelings between parties. With these preliminary remarks, we make our bow, and commence our (Weekly Summary).
John Benn (a Skerman descendant) then read a passage from Psalm 107:23-31:
Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that listed high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
The Netherby choir entertained us with a seafaring folk song, after which we had a minutes silence in remembrance of our ancestors.
During this minute our sound man Wade played the crashing of waves that he had recorded down at Netherby Cove. This made the minute of reflection extremely moving.
Jim then introduced Doreen Charlwood Burge, daughter of shipwreck author Don Charlwood.
Speech by Doreen Charlwood Burge:
Thank you Ann for asking me to speak tonight.
My father, Don Charlwood, was the author of The Wreck of the Sailing Ship Netherby, published in 2005 when he was 90. We visited King Island early that year for Dad to meet some knowledgeable locals, explore the Museum and learn more for the manuscript he was working on.
It is wonderful to return 11 years later to commemorate the miraculous survival of all those aboard the Netherby, and to mark the 150th anniversary of the wreck in such splendid style.
When Ann Rutte made contact with me via email, she described the meetings being held to plan for the 150th celebrations:
"You cannot imagine the bonding that occurs instantly between [the descendants], and somehow, it is “The Wreck of the Sailing Ship Netherby” that is the glue. The majority of people have their own copy and it is thumbed through so often during these meetings. Don Charlwood is held in high esteem and thought of fondly. Many of us had our introduction to the Netherby shipwreck through his book. So we are indeed grateful and respectful to Don for his efforts in recording this wonderful survival story."
I remember Dad’s response to Ann’s words – ‘to know that my little book has helped bring the Netherby descendants together is immensely gratifying and makes me feel the writing of the book was so worthwhile’. My father would be delighted to see so many descendants here for this special occasion.
How did my father come to write about the Netherby? I would like to quote a bit from an article I wrote for the King Island Courier, published last month. My apologies for the repetition, to those who have read it.
Dad’s interest in sailing ships and shipwrecks had its origins in his childhood, when his paternal grandmother told him how she was shipwrecked in December 1855 on the sailing ship Schomberg, near Peterborough, on what is now known as The Shipwreck Coast. The Schomberg and the Netherby shared one happy outcome – neither wreck resulted in any loss of life, though this was certainly more of a miracle in the case of the Netherby. The Schomberg hit a reef very close to shore – in fact almost connected to the beach by a sand spit – and all were rescued.
Dad wrote his fourth book about sailing ships and shipwrecks, called The Long Farewell, in 1981. It involved a massive amount of research – pre-internet of course – in various state libraries and in the UK. The book tells of life aboard the sailing ships , why mass emigration occurred during the 1800s and why there were so many shipwrecks. During the research Dad learnt of the Netherby story, which is only included as a brief reference in The Long Farewell. However over the next 20 years the Netherby stayed in Dad’s mind and nagged him to tell its story.
So, aged in his late 80s, Dad decided to return to his notes on the Netherby and piece together the details of the voyage, the wreck, the incredible trek to Cape Wickham led by first mate John Parry, followed by the even more incredible trip across Bass Strait in a whaleboat. And Dad did actually ‘piece it together’. I would receive his drafts, typed by Dad on his old typewriter, with pencil marks all over them, and pieces literally cut and pasted into place. I lost count of the number of drafts we worked on together – it seemed interminable; so much so that my husband called the book the ‘NeverBe’!
But eventually it saw the light of day and is now in its second printing. Of course there are many other people, some here tonight, who have put in many hours of research to learn more about the Netherby and those aboard her, and who have made first-hand sources available to interested people. Due, of course, to all those aboard surviving the shipwreck, there is a wealth of information available.
To give you a small insight into life aboard the sailing ships on their way to Australia, I would like to read an excerpt from Dad’s book The Long Farewell, written by a young ship’s doctor, named Scot Skirving, aboard the ship Ellora.
By Dr Scot Skirving’s time, chloroform had come into use. To read his account of a confinement on the Ellora in 1883 is to wonder what it might have been like a few years earlier. He was obliged to induce labour when a young woman was so exhausted from continual seasickness that he doubted she would survive unless delivered:
Dr Scot Skirving’s words: Labour began in due course, and so did a hard westerly gale. I had the patient in the so-called hospital, the half-deck where in other voyages lived the apprentices. Seas came on board, the decks were full of it, and there was often quite a lot of salt water in our precious lying-in chamber. We had, of course, to keep the patient in an upper bunk to keep her out of the wet. Labour progressed piteously slowly, and I felt that if I waited till Nature completed it, her feeble vitality would surely flicker out. So I made up mind to deliver her with high forceps.
Picture the scene — a dark deck cabin with plenty of water about and plenty more spurting in through the chinks at and about the weather-boards of the door. A couple of dim lanterns swung from hooks, and the gloomy interior was resonant with ceaseless thunder of the gale and the creaking of the straining ship …
I removed the lee-boards of the patient’s bunk, but how was I to get purchase to deliver her while I was standing up and struggling to balance myself to the roll and pitch of the vessel? However, I managed somehow, and got a good steady strain on the forceps. There were worried and uneasy moments. A well-meaning, ample-bosomed, ignorant young woman (it would not be wholly incorrect to call her an experienced virgin), who said she ‘was a bit of a nurse’, and who told me in a hoarse aside as I pulled, that ‘she knew a thing or two, as she ’ad ’ad herself a love-child last year’, assisted me, not inefficiently, while another dame, also of experience in such matters, gave an occasional whiff of chloroform. I finished the labour instrumentally. The child, a little mite of a girl was taken below to the married quarters, where there were several women with babies at the breast, and mothered by one of them …
My poor little fragile patient was in a sad state of collapse, but what could one do under such circumstances? All hands and the cook, especially the cook, did their best, and the long night wore away.’
Dad: A reader familiar with the mortality rate for childbirth on emigrant ships, waits now for the loss of mother or child or, more probably, both. But no —
Skirving: The vomiting ceased and she retained what ‘invalid comforts’ our stores afforded — and I landed them both alive in Sydney 126 days after leaving Plymouth.
Dad: Then something even beyond this:
Skirving: Some years ago I had the pleasure of getting a letter from the mother … She and her husband were both well and had prospered moderately, and the child, born in such hard circumstances, had in due season given my patient ‘two grandchildren’, which she said, ‘were the joy of her life’.
Dad: Dr Skirving was twenty-four on the Ellora. It is not surprising that he was an ornament to his profession until his death at ninety-seven in 1956.
On reading this, it is tempting to think that the mother of the precious baby born ashore after the wreck of the Netherby knew what she was doing. Despite the unimaginable privations she must have endured, her experience of childbirth was probably better than it would have been a few days earlier in the fearful storms the Netherby had endured.
I would just like to briefly mention something that I know my Dad would expect me to raise at this occasion. When he attended a meeting of the Netherby 2016 group in October 2011, Dad wrote in his diary that night: “… to a meeting of a group descended from the Netherby pioneers. To me it meant a lot … I suggested to the group that a suitable memorial be raised … recording John Parry’s extraordinary deeds – this near Point Roadknight. Also that his grave at Melbourne General Cemetery be marked with a like inscription …”
How wonderful it would be if some momentum from this commemoration could be maintained to recognise the incredible whaleboat voyage across Bass Strait with a plaque at Point Roadknight, and to repair and mark Parry’s grave, which is in a state of disrepair.
Finally, I know there are many people who have worked towards this commemoration, but I would like to take this opportunity to recognise Ann’s huge contribution and her steady determination and persistence to make the 150th anniversary of the wreck of the Netherby a very special occasion.
The remainder of the evening was followed by a light supper and much chatter among the tables of descendants.
16 July 2016, Saturday. The bush dance dinner at Currie Town Hall.
The night started with plenty of conversational gatherings before everyone settled down to a fantastic meal featuring King Island's best produce.
After dinner there were a few speeches and presentations.
Glenn Pinnuck presented commemorative coins to Joanne and Mehret Lumb in honour of their ancestor John Parry, whose guts and bravery ensured that all passengers were rescued.
Ann Rutte gave thanks to islander and Skerman descendant Jim Benn for being her go to man during the years of planning the 150th. She presented him with a bound copy of his family history.
Jim thanked the King Island Lion's Club & Grassy Boat Club members & caterer Mandy Potter, all of whom who had set up the Town Hall differently for each event, kept us well fed & imbibed and did all the cleaning! What fabulous folk the King Island locals are.
Jim and Sharon Benn then presented Ann Rutte with a gift bag full of produce and keepsakes from around the island as a thank you from all the King Island locals.
Cubbin descendant Jenni Cover and son Myles gave readings about Netherby Victoria Louisa Cubbin, born on the beach 2 days after the wreck. Jenni launched a book she had written about Nettie's life. Transcriptions of both readings can be found on the Cubbin Passenger History page here.
Cubbin descendants Jenni Cover and Shirley Bonnici then lit the candles on a huge rich chocolate cake and we all sung Happy 150th Birthday to Nettie. Then the cake was taken away to be sliced and served - delicious.
The Lion's Club then ladened the tables with a huge array of delicious King Island cheese, everyone topped up their drinks and Jim and Wade led the room in joyous barn dancing.
Sound man and local DJ Wade then kept everyone going with great dance hits from every era til well after midnight. My personal fun memory was the sight of two ladies in full period costumery rocking hard to My Sharona !! A wonderful and memorable night was had by all.
17 July 2016, Sunday. Memorial service at Netherby Cove.
Descendants woke to an utterly glorious fresh sunny morning. First stop for all, Currie Harbour to have a big group photo taken. Then we headed in a convoy out to Netherby Cove where our ancestors were wrecked and survived for a moving and memorable service.
Much of it was repeated from the Thursday night for the benefit of those who were only able to fly in for the weekend. Where the speeches have already appeared further above on this page I have not rewritten them here. A big thanks to King Islander Wade Roskum who set up the sound system to ensure all could hear the service.
MC Jim Benn first introduced George Leake Massingham's descendant’s Suzanne Barton and Karina Taylor (myself - owner of this website).
Speech by Suzanne Barton:
Welcome everyone. I'm Suzanne Barton, and I'm here today because of the letter that – my great-grandfather George Massingham at 16 wrote a letter to his mother back in England about the Netherby wreck. My father Guy had possession of this letter and when he died in 2001 I became the owner of the letter and I knew it was very – a very special piece of history – so I spoke with my brothers and we decided to donate it to the Tasmanian Maritime Museum in Hobart, and that's where it is today. You can see a copy of this letter at the Netherby Room at the King Island Historical Museum.
And also today I'm donating a Bible that my great-grandfather George had. It was presented to him by the Bible Society of Victoria, in 1866, in memory of the wreck of the Netherby. He was actually a professional photographer and he travelled all over Queensland, and New South Wales, and Victoria.
Oh dear, where am I up to – first time I've spoken to people ... (Laughs) Oh! I'm excited to be here, on the place where it all happened, and excited to be among all the descendants of the survivors. And – I would like to then thank Ann Rutte for all the work she did in organising this great day and weekend and also to Karina Taylor who is a great-great niece of George's brother William. And she did a wonderful lot of work on all the survivor families including the Massinghams. Thank you Karina! And also helping with the celebrations this weekend. And a big thank you to the people of King Island for your help and friendliness.
Speech by Karina Taylor:
Welcome to Netherby Cove to the descendants of the survivors of the wreck and their friends and the King Island people who have made us so welcome this week.
In 1984 aged 15 I was given a given photo copy of Georges letter to his mother by my grandmother. He was my great great grand uncle on my maternal grandmothers side. Until I saw that letter genealogy was just that page at the front of my baby book with that little tree with 3 lists of names. But this was a letter written by a real person, a 16 year old boy travelling alone and it was an amazing adventure that he was writing about. He was one of the group that walked to the lighthouse. It made me want to know more. George started my genealogy passion from a really young age as well as a quest for adventure. So before I turned 16 I had stowed away on a ship from Perth to Singapore. It’s his fault! By 19 I did what George did and moved to the other side of the world - for me it was to work in America.
In September 2005 I started building a website dedicated to George and the Netherby shipwreck and what I had in my possession were Georges letter, the surgeons report by Marshall Hall, the Schoolmaster Hope Martins letter, the immigration agents letter, the passengers petition, Captain Owens report, and some news articles I had found while holidaying in Melbourne and visiting the state library. Within a week people were contacting me. And many many of you have sent me things over the years, and built that website into what it is now. So thank you to anyone who has ever emailed me over the years.
Some years ago when Ann Rutte found my Netherby website and we got talking and we started pondering on just us getting together for the 150th. It kinda grew. It seemed a long time coming when we first started talking about it and then suddenly this year we went “oh – it’s now!”. I would like to personally thank Ann for her passion and drive and her meticulous organisational skills – I have seen the folders – they are colour coded. She made my little personal dream of being here for this event come true and she has also made all our your dreams come true too.
Sitting in the empty hall on Thursday night I was nervous. Even though she had an RSVP list – I was nervous. And the doors opened and everyone started pouring in and filled me with relief and joy!! You all came! Thank you for that.
My biggest thanks go to our tenacious ancestors who, no matter what their personality was when they boarded that boat in England, they became survivors and without that none of us would be here.
Through building the website I have also been lucky to find some fellow Massingham descendants including Suzanne.We are a very spread out, non-communicable non-breeding family; there are not many of us. So to finally actually meet someone from the Massingham line was exciting to me.
Many of you have found me over the past few days, I have put all of my website into a photobook that is going to go into the sea chest and I have tried to collect all of your signatures. Its in my bag – I would love anyone that hasn’t yet signed it with a message to the people of the future to come and find me today and sign it before it goes into the sea chest.
And… thank you all for coming, cos you have made my dream come true and I hope everyone has had as marvellous time as we have. And thank you to the King Island people who made us so welcome here and helped us achieve our goals.
Ann Rutte: "Karina and Suzanne if that’s the first time you have fronted a microphone you do a better job than me!" Ann then gave a repeat of the in memoriam speech from Thursday.
Jim Benn thanked KI local Christian Robertson for making the model of the Netherby on display at the museum. It was 3 years of work and much appreciated by all who viewed it. A large round of applause followed, showing our thanks and appreciation.
Glenn Pinnuck then read the giving of thanks – a repeat from Thursday – ending with “in summary we have a lot to be thankful for from that period of time, to today, so take a moment to take that in”.
The Mayor of King Island then spoke but as his speech was more about himself and his hobbies and nothing about the event we were commemorating, I have used editor’s licence to not transcribe it or include it here. I am sure those who were there on the day will understand this decision. These memories are about us.
Brian Townsend then repeated his reading from Thursday night.
John Benn repeated the passage from Psalm 107:23-31, before the King Island Singing Group performed for us. Everyone then joined in singing a hymn – during which time many turned to stare out to the wreck site and think about their brave ancestors. This was very moving to witness.
The youngest descendants in attendance Mehret (Parry) and Lucinda (Skerman) then laid wreaths at the memorial plaque and the lovely service was over. People then made their way back to Town Hall for the finale of the weekend’s events.
17 July 2016: Back at the Town Hall.
Everyone gathered back at the Town Hall for lunch and the closing of the commemorative events. Descendants stepped up to the microphone and entertained each other with their family anecdotes.
Ten years earlier, when I (Karina) first discussed with Ann the idea of having the 150th, I had it in my head that I wanted to organise a time capsule. At the time I felt it could be placed in a memorial cairn at the site of the wreck. When this all became too hard to organise I grew a little despondant and overwhelmed at how best to make something happen. In 2016 in stepped Glenn with the idea of a sea chest. He had it made, complete with a lovely plaque. Descendants filled the sea chest with messages to their families in the future, and treasures and memorabilia from the past. Someday our families will gather and open the sea chest and think of us and their ancestors from 1866.
Glenn Pinnuck had everyone sign the replica Black Ball Line flag to place in the sea chest. I (Karina) continued to collect peoples messages and signatures in the guest book pages of the photobook for the sea chest. Glenn also announced the winners of the raffle he had been holding for the past few days.
One by one each person headed up to the sea chest to place something in it - messages for the future, photos and keepsakes from the past.
Ann and Karina then locked the sea chest and Glenn formally handed it over to Luke Agati, curator, for safekeeping at the KI Museum.
Glenn Pinnuck then presented a commemorative gold coin (which he had designed and commissioned to have multiples made in bronze and gold for people to buy) to Luke to be placed on display at the museum and advised there was also one inside the sea chest.
Speech by Luke Agati – curator KI museum:
"For many Australian’s who share the passion for yachting and boating, most of us are aware of some of the most treacherous waters and coastlines around the country. Perhaps the most treacherous is the Bass Strait – still – despite modern safety measures installed in ships now. Among the large islands scattered to the extreme east and west of the strait, King Island has earned a reputation in Australian maritime history as the most feared among mariners. The earliest maritime of a shipwreck on KI dates back to 1801. Since then approximately 100 ships met their end or near fatal end here on the island. This huge tally of shipwrecks on a land mass only 63 by 25 km would be the largest shipwreck tally in Australia.
This would put things in perspective when we consider the wooden sailing ship was the most dangerous form of transport ever devised as one maritime expert correctly exclaimed.
Unsurprisingly KI holds the country’s worst maritime disaster. 21 years before the Netherby hit a reef, the sailing ship Cataraqui carrying over 400 souls, mostly families, met a tragic end in horrendous weather only 50 metres from shore. Only 9 were thought to have survived.
But KI also holds stories of miracle survival and happy endings as are described in the annals of maritime history. Here, 150 years ago, the most incredible story took place in the same stretch of coastline when the wooden sailing vessel named the Netherby strayed off course carrying 400 lives. Despite calm weather, think winter cloud prevented navigational observations’ which brought the vessel to its doom only kilometres from the site of Australia’s worst maritime disaster.
This ship, this unique piece of Australian maritime history, was blessed with people with survival, courage and fortitude. An enduring trait bred within us today.
Unlike the Cataraqui, everyone on board survived, with the bonus of the birth of a baby who lived a long life to tell the tale well into the following century.
The KI Historical Society and on behalf of the people of KI, we accept this time capsule sea chest of artefacts and memorabilia from proud descendants with open arms and as proud custodians. Thank you.
Glenn then added his closing thoughts from the weeks events.
I think you would all agree that Ann, Karina and Jim have put in some great background work for this event so hopefully everyone has had a good opportunity to reminisce, catch up, make some new friends, meet some new relatives and identify some of the stories behind the wreck of the Netherby. I know I certainly have. I actually met 19 of my relatives I didn’t know I had, very happy to say. Now, I have a couple of awards I would like to present.
Firstly I’d like to bring up Jim Benn. Jim’s been recognised the other night for his efforts but there’s been a lot of background work you are probably not aware of with his work with Ann. So on behalf of the descendants we would like to present Jim with a gift of our appreciation being a gold version of the commemorative coin.
Karina Taylor, Id like you to come on up. She has been hassling me all week to give her the bronze coin she ordered and I have been trying to hide the fact that I wasn’t giving her that one! So – if you haven’t had the chance to meet Karina over the weekend, Karina was the mastermind behind the Netherby website. She was also the mastermind behind the idea of the time capsule and I am hopeful that the sea chest as an alternative has come to your expectations. (Karina nods and exclaims “its stunning and perfect”). So again on behalf of all the descendants I’d like to present Karina with this gold commemorative coin and please put your hands together in appreciation for Karina and all the background hard work and efforts for this event.
Last but not least, Ann Rutte front and centre. So I think everybody is fully aware of the efforts put in behind the scenes by Ann and I have only come onto the scene late in the situation but we have had quite a bit to do with each other over the last few months getting things gripped up. So I really appreciate on behalf of myself the efforts you put together, but more importantly on behalf of the descendants, not just the ones who are here but also the ones who are not here who would have loved to have been here, I am sure that the legacy that you have put together will be ongoing for years and years to come. So on behalf of the descendants I present this gold commemorative coin and please put your hands together for Ann.
Ann Rutte then closed the commemorative 4 days of events with the following speech.
Well. My 5 minutes of fame that everyone is entitled to has been 4 days long. This will not be easy so I have written it all down.
150 years ago, our ancestors were “making do” with what very little they possessed or had access too on the beach just a couple of kms away from where we are now. They would have been cold, miserable and clinging on to hope and prayer that they would be rescued.
The event that took place unites us and our many family members who are here now or who have come and gone in the last couple of days, and we will all soon unite with family who could not attend and are still on mainland Australia, Tasmania or elsewhere overseas.
That event gave us life and that of our children and their children to come. The wreck of the Netherby was not a disaster! It wasn’t pleasant and it did cause loss but not of life!
This ship wreck showcased the enormous qualities our ancestors bore within them and they in turn passed these qualities down through the family lines. Since Thursday evening we have been giving thanks to their survival and remembering them as our family, the strength they found and gave to us, their sufferings that they kept to themselves and their stories that are told and retold and for some – those stories remain quiet and perhaps little told or even untold.
It has been my pleasure to coordinate this event and I really don’t know what I will do with myself now that it is over, maybe housework – but it is
important we continue to remember the story of the Netherby shipwreck and survival.
Hence we have the Sea Chest – our very own version of a time capsule. Traditionally a sea chest contains the booty, the treasure and the riches!! We have our own version of that – your offerings, treasures and riches (some commemorative coins!) will be sealed for 10 years but we are very much hoping our Sea Chest can remain in place for 25 years and be opened during 175th anniversary of the Netherby shipwreck. And I can see a lot of hands up for those people who are wanting to coordinate that event (laughs through the crowd).
And so it comes time to close this event and I need to thank a list of people.
- Karina, the 150th anniversary was your vision. I hope you are pleased with what we have done. You have added an amazing photobook to the Sea Chest and your website is the reason why I took up the cause. I have no doubts that your website will lead others to help make the 160th and 175th anniversaries as special as this has been. Thank you (applause). Please come up and stand with me.
- Most people don’t know this, but as he just gave me an order I shall refer to him as Captain Glenn Pinnuck – front and centre yourself please. You added the pazazz and the razza mattaz. The Sea Chest was your idea in terms of a makeshift time capsule because we had visions of not being able to unglue the rocks down at the cairn and getting them back together again in time before we left the island. You also ran with the commemorative coins which are a wonderful reminder and keepsake that can and will be handed down through the families. You also persevered to obtain a grant from Events Tasmania, which paid in part for the coins, the welcome packs and some of the costs of this most amazing event. So a big hand for you (applause).
- Jim Benn, front and centre I’m the captain of the ship now (but I am not going down with it). Yesterday I referred to you as my one stop go to man! You have come through with everything on my list and you made this event possible and you did it with ease! You made my job incredibly easy and your assistance has been invaluable. I cannot thank you enough (applause) and hope we have been respectful guests to King Island, your home.
- There are others – Mandy Potter, hidden out in the kitchen, who prepared all of the food.
- Wade Roskam who gave his time and light and sound equipment – heel hartelijke bedankt voor alles – heartfelt thanks for everything.
- The Lions Club who have been running the bar and last night’s bush dinner dance, thank you very very much and the Grassy Club as well for running the bar.
- Sharon Benn – come up and stand with us – you brought the softer side of this event to life and we appreciate every thought and action – your contribution also helped stitch this whole event together. You said “We can’t make the hall look different every day but we can make the tables look a little bit different” and you did and they came out fine. So thank you very very much.
- Luke, if you could also stand up and join us. The KI Historical Society – the Netherby Room is absolutely wonderful and you deserve a load of credit for the work that has occurred and the respectful way in which you have handled and displayed the Netherby memorabilia that have been handed over, given to you recently and for all the years they have been resting there as well. So thank you very much for that and for housing the sea chest. We hope that the bell does remain and I am going to put it on offer one more time that if ever we need to get a petition together to ensure that the bell stays here, not only is there over 100 people here in this room now, I have about another 600 people that we can get behind that. OK so lets keep the bell!
- Members of the council, in particular Duncan McFie and Jim Cooper for your speeches and for allowing us the Town Hall as our function centre – thank you very much. What would we have done without the roof over our heads during the last few days.
- King’s Cuisine – thank you for Friday night. Those guys had a rough week without power for 2 days before our event so things changed to a more simplistic but doable meal under the circumstances.
- The Skerman clan, you know for everything that has been done, a lot of the history comes from the Skerman’s. You are the ones who are going to continue to maintain the history and I can see that running down through the lines. The Pinnuck’s have come close to equalling you in attendance numbers.
- A big thank you to Noel, our chief photographer. It hasn’t been easy for you with all these happy snaps but in the long run we benefit by having photo memories of this event.
- Finally, my husband Ernst and sister Shirley. You guys had to put up with quite a lot, especially Ernst (tears up). Thank you for allowing me the freedom to choose Netherby work over housework and Netherby over just about everything else in life, especially these last few months.
Lastly thank you everybody who is here. Those that have been here over the past 4 days! Without your support and attendance – this would have been a fairly average event with just Karina and I standing at the cove going “woowoo”. From the bottom of my heart I thank you and this wonderful team of people. I’m going to step out just in front there, turn my back to you all because I want to give a round of applause to these people.
And we then consider that this event is now closed. Thank you.
Jim Benn: King Island local, Skerman descendant, and our master of ceremonies.
Ray Groom: Former Premier of Tasmania, Groom descendant.
Glenn Pinnuck, Ann Rutte, Mehret & Joanne Lumb.
Jenni Cover & Shirley Bonnici.
Doreen's father, the late Don Charlwood