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.

20 October 2017

S.S Wee Clyde

The east coast of Australia was a very busy place during the 1920's, tall sailing ships were still being used but were rapidly being replaced by the smaller faster steamers. Hundreds of steamers were plying the coast from northern Queensland to Victoria.  Every now and again one vessel would stand out from the rest and become a household name in the region she operated, sometimes by the sheer volume of work, sometimes by the vessels exploits. The S.S. Wee Clyde was one of those steamers.

    "The S.S Wee Clyde is a household name on the south coast and few travelled as far as Tilba Tilba or Tathra without hearing of the doings of the Wee Clyde."
Daily commercial news and shipping report 1918.

She was a small coasting steamer built at Fosters Bay, Wagonga River for the Clyde Saw Milling and Shipping Co., purely as a cargo steamer.  168 tons with a carrying capacity of 220 tons, used first to ship timber from the companies mills,  it wasn't long before she became a freighter for general cargo doing weekly runs to and from the south coast.  During her life at sea, she covered many thousands of miles and suffered her share of incidents some involved Jervis Bay.

imageThe Wee Clyde being built in Forster's Bay, Narooma] [picture] / [William Henry Corkhill]
REF: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-140311923/view


October 1929.
Fears held for missing steamer.

Thursday 13th October – On one of her regular trips to Sydney the Wee Clyde was reported missing and concerns were raised when she didn't arrive at her destination as expected.   Nothing was heard of her until the steamers second officer, Martin Fiel contacted her owners from the Crookhaven Heads Light House telling them she was helplessly adrift off Crookhaven with a broken tail shaft. 
With no way of reporting their plight and no other help at hand the second officer, Martin Fiel, manned the Wee Clydes lifeboat and rowed a hazardous 15 miles to shore to raise the alarm.

Friday 14th Oct -  the following day the Wee Clyde was picked up by the S.S. Benandra and towed safely into Jervis Bay.

Saturday 15th Oct - The Fenwick & Co.'s Tug Heroic was sent from Sydney overnight and on
Saturday Morning with the Wee Clyde in tow headed out of Jervis Bay for Sydney arriving about 6 p.m. the same day.


The Wee Clyde was a valuable asset for the south coast communities
, leaving Sydney the steamer would call at Ulladulla, Batemans Bay, Narooma and Wagonga, and at intervals at Shallow Crossing which is situated on the Clyde River, as well as Beagle Bay and Potato Point.  The steamer was a vital link for these places providing provisions and trading goods.

During the course of her working life the Wee Clyde was involved in many incidents, below are some of the reported ones,  I'm sure there were many more.


May 1912 - she towed the 272-ton brigantine, Carmen, back to Sydney. The Carmen had been dismasted during strong gales and was drifting helplessly near Montague Island.  She was described as being in a very battered condition.
July 1912  - She ran ashore at the head of Nilligen reach during the night, refloated without injury.
July 1912  - Bar Bound for a week Batemans Bay, refloated without injury.


December 1912
,  - Went aground crossing Batemans Bay Bar, refloated without injury.
June 1913 – She sought shelter inside Jervis Bay from a south coast gale and rough seas.
April 1915 – Damaged her rudder crossing the Narooma Bar, however, she proceeded on her voyage to Sydney.
March 1916 - Heading to Batemans Bay she put back into Sydney Harbour because of heavy seas.
Feb 1918  - She ran aground on the Narooma bar, refloated without injury.
Feb 1918 -  During bad weather the Wee Clyde was reported by the lighthouse as passing Jervis Bay on Wednesday. Fears were raised when she didn't arrive in Sydney as expected the following day. Up until Saturday midday there was no further mention of the vessel and it was believed she had foundered in the gale. Late on Saturday, the owners were notified the Wee Clyde was safe and sheltering inside Jervis Bay.


January 1922 - The Wee Clyde was involved in an incident near Lime Street Wharf, Sydney.  A small launch was caught up in the wash from the steamer Wyandra and capsized,   a passenger was trapped inside the sunken launch,  despite individual efforts in dangerous conditions by three men, the man couldn't be rescued.  The Wee Clyde's crew assisted in the rescue attempt..

benandraThe S.S. Benandra which rescued the Wee Clyde in the above mentioned incident also has an interesting story attached to it's life on the south coast.
Continue Reading about the S.S. Benandra.


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