HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

29 July 2014

Loss of the Brigantine Schooner the George Thornton 1887


Built by Thomas Macaulay on the banks of Currumbene Creek Huskisson in 1880 for James H. Young & H.A. Gray of Sydney. She was a timber Schooner Brigantine Rigged measuring 105ft long, weighing and 185 tons.

Brigantine Rigged Schooner.

Saturday 10 am.

Leaving Bundaberg with a fresh coat of paint and looking very smart, loaded with 70.00ft of hardwood, 90.000ft of pine and 40 tons of sugar making her way to Normanton she sprang a leak.

Sunday 10am.
On Sunday morning the mate sounded the hold and found only 3 inches of water, the result of ordinary sweating. The leak was not discovered until 10am, by then there was 4ft of water in the hold.  Attempts were made to clear the vessel with pumps but were unavailing.

Sunday 1pm.
She was nearly full of water,seeing that all was useless, the decision to abandon ship was made and they lowered a boat with the intention to make for shore. At this time they saw the Lucinda’s smoke and returned to the vessel.

Waterlogged and Abandoned.

Fortunately the coastal steamer Lucinda came across the doomed vessel after sighting the George Thornton flying her ensign, union down. ( a sign of dire distress)  Captain South from the Lucinda immediately made his way to the stricken vessel and found her very low in the water, which was lapping over here bulwarks. No one was on her deck and her sails were barking and flailing.
A boat was seen at her stern with men on board, the Lucinda closed in and took the men on board, the men numbered 7 and they bought with them their cloths and ships instruments and papers.

Sunday 2pm.
Assisted by the load of timber the George Thornton was still afloat. Captain Loutit, at captain South’s suggestion, decided to go on board his vessel again with the intension of lowering her main sail in hopes of paying here head and steering her out of the track of ships.

While Loutit was fitted with a cork jacket, (what served as a buoyancy vest in those times). his exertions were rendered unnecessary, as the vessel heeled slowly over to windward on to her starboard side and settled down on her beam ends.

Contrary to expectations she did not go down, her pine deck cargo getting under her rigging and remaining there between the masts and so assisting to buoy her up.

Nothing more could be done.
Sunday 3pm.
The Lucinda steamed around her several times, and at a quarter to 3pm, finding nothing more could be done, the position of the wreck was taken, before the Lucinda steamed away.

….”Round Hill Head bearing west by north three-quarters north from the wreck, 91/2 miles. The wreck is 5 miles in a direct line from the beach and lying right in the track of steamers”….

1890-Currambene-CreekThe George Thornton’s Builder.
Thomas Macaulay 1879.
Described as a sturdy Canadian who spent most of his time at sea as a shipwright, employed by William Perverly of Balmain.

1890 Currumbene Creek showing slipways extending into the creek.


Boat Construction, Currumbene Creek 1800’s

The Macaulay yard was set up right next to the Dent yard on the banks of Currumbene Creek at Huskisson.
In 1879 Thomas Macaulay was in charge of the yard for Mr Pabeley (Peverley) of Balmain.
A visitor to the area described the scene of Thomas Macaulay’s yard on Currambene Creek in 1879 in an article in the Shoalhaven Telegraph.

…“In it is the colossal hull of what in about three months will be a brigantine… The keel of this vessel has been laid out about two years and considering the choice of material and the tact exhibited in the fittings and general work of construction. Mr Macaulay may be congratulated on the progress he has made….

For more information you can purchase from the Museum Shop a beautifully written book by Volunteer, Bridget Sant, called “Huskisson’s Ships and their builders 1861-1977.

map map-2


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