Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Waratah Mansion

Waratah Mansion in Chislehurst was built in 1893 and owned by Wilhelm Lund of the Blue Anchor Line.

The 1901 census reveals an Alice, aged 48, born in New South Wales, living at Waratah Mansion. 

 Her surname is not given. 

 Could it have been Lund?

Wilhelm Lund had connections with New South Wales.

At the time of the loss of the Waratah the residents of Waratah Mansion were people by the name of Hall. 

They vacated the house shortly thereafter, suggesting that they had a connection with the Lunds.

The house remained unoccupied until 1922, when Newton Dunn became resident.

It was renamed Walden Mansion.

In 1929 Newton Dunn was superseded by Miss Bertha Dunn.

In 1940 the mansion was converted into a furniture repository for Harrison Gibson's of Bromley.

4 February, 1944, the house was destroyed by an incendiary bomb.

The house remained burnt out until it was demolished in the early 1960's.

Waratah Mansion

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Waratah - 'telepathic communications'

'The Waratah - prayers for her safe keeping, at Temperence Hall, city, Sunday, 7 pm.  Christians invited.  Friends of those on board attend, to enable Mrs Murray to get telepathic communications.  Two communications had already.  Boat not wrecked, method used is similar to wireless telegraphy.  Admission, 6d'

This is an example of adverts appearing in newspapers after the disappearance of the Waratah.

It is a paradoxical combination of references to Christianity, prayers and sobriety (a Victorian virtue) linked with Mrs Murray's claimed supernatural abilities to communicate with those on the Waratah - for a fee of course.

The advert also claimed prior success with such communications.

One could view this as a money-making venture, taking advantage of distressed family and friends.

The alleged alliance of these supernatural communications with wireless telegraphy could be viewed as an attempt to distance the 'communications' from the occult, which would sacrifice the credibility of Christian prayers 'for her safe keeping'.

At the time wireless telegraphy was a leap of faith.  Very few people understood the science of such 'invisible' communications.

With limited insight into this new technology it is no surprise that acceptance translated into gullibility, an expanded realm fueling unrealistic expectations.

Mrs Murray may have intended to use her 'gift' for beneficence.

But to the casual observer, it suggests opportunism and exploitation.

The mainstream Christian world hesitantly accepted such communications with the spirit (or living on a vessel adrift) world with cautionary advice:

'The spiritual world is inhabited by legions of lying spirits whose chief occupation and delight it is to deceive humanity.'

'Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world' 1 John 4:1

'In every time of crisis false prophets are ready to take advantage of the circumstances, and the evil spirits that are lying in wait to deceive humanity find no difficulty in securing many human channels through which they can exercise their nefarious arts.'

The Devil in 'his' many forms takes advantage of the weak and vulnerable.

The message is clear:

Be cautious in communications with the spirit world and don't necessarily believe all that is communicated.

Charlatans using this medium for monetary gain, could default back to the defence that false and misleading messages were the work of nefarious spirits - agents of Lucifer.

How cruel to give people hope the Waratah was adrift, her passengers and crew alive.

But worse than that must have been the false messages from loved ones.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Waratah - rumour and speculation

The Times, 14 May 1910,


'Thought Vessel unsafe'

'Edward Discler, a barman, said that he was an able seaman on the Waratah on her last voyage to Sydney.'

'Seamen in London advised him not to go on.  He was told that Captain Ilbery had said that either his reputation or his ship would be lost.'

If one chooses to believe double hearsay, and Captain Ilbery did indeed have lingering reservations about the Waratah's ability to handle a severe storm, PERHAPS this was one of the factors contributing to the decision to come about and avoid the approaching gale, 27 July.

'Owen told the men not to stomp too hard in the bottom of the boats (lifeboats) when they were painting them.'

The Waratah was virtually new. I don't believe the lifeboats were in poor condition.

'Fire drill was never practised.'

I find this equally hard to believe.

'He gave similar evidence to the other witness about the boat rolling in the Bay of Biscay.  The Waratah could not ride heavy seas, and the engines shook the vessel so much that the gear of the aftermast became loosened.'

The Waratah had standard twin quadruple expansion steam engines.

'He would not complete his voyage because he thought the vessel was absolutely unsafe.'

'He heard the Chief Officer say to the passengers that he would be glad if the ship reached home safely, because she would never be able to stand a heavy storm.'

I don't believe the Chief Officer of the Waratah would have said anything like this to passengers.

'G.S. Richardson, the Chief Electrical engineer of the Geelong Harbour Trust, said that he came from Durban by the Waratah on her last trip.  Her machinery was excellent.  Her build and condition were also excellent.'

'She rolled slowly with distinct pauses.'

'One morning he said to the captain: I do not like the rolling of your ship: she recovers too slowly for me. Captain Ilbery replied, she is a little that way, but there are many thousands of tons of dead weight.'

Captain Ilbery's explanation makes sense.

'He (witness) thought the vessel was tender, but not dangerously so in normal circumstances.  He was certain the vessel never reached an angle of 45 degrees.  There was no permanent list on the vessel.'

heavy cross sea

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Waratah - wireless

["Wireless and the Waratah", The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 10 August 1909, page 6]


'But the main thing at the present moment which is stirring the public mind is the value of wireless telegraphy.'

'We have word of the Powerful at a distance of 450 miles; and it is easy to imagine the Waratah sending news of herself to either Durban or Capetown right up to the minute of disaster, and after, so that help could have been at once forthcoming, if she had been so equipped.'

'The lesson of the Republic, the White Star liner of 15,000 tons, with nearly 800 people on board, which was rammed by the Florida, is fresh in mind. After the collision, and in response to ethergrams, many other liners steamed to the scene, and rendered assistance.'

'It may be remembered especially that the White Star steamer Baltic, of 23,870 tons, hurried forward, and Mr. Tattersall, her Marconi operator, stuck to his post for more than two days sending cheering messages to the sinking ship, and communicating with the shore.'

'So impressed were the public that a bill was introduced into the United States Congress with the object of making compulsory the installation of ethergraphs on all ocean-going vessels.'

'Almost immediately it was announced that the French Minister of Commerce and Industry was about to introduce a bill into the Chamber of Deputies to force all mail steamers of a certain tonnage to be equipped, and now the feeling will be general that something of the sort should be insisted upon with British vessels.'

'It may appear unfair to the various companies to propose to add to their expenses in this way. There seems to be no end to the demands which are made upon them nowadays, and there must be a point beyond which the levy must not pass.'

'But one can see how much may depend upon wireless telegraphy in a case like that of the Waratah. It might easily happen that enough money could be saved, by timely knowledge of a steamer's mishap, to equip a whole fleet with the necessary apparatus, and the relief to thousands of anxious hearts would be correspondingly great.'

'Lack of knowledge so often means serious loss, that in self-defence the companies will have to consider the question, all the more so because the various Legislatures will be forced by public feeling to pass laws, directly to deal with the matter.'

Ironically the older sister ship Geelong had a wireless.

The Waratah was due to have a Marconi wireless fitted on her return to England.

Perhaps the delay in fitting a wireless (until the end of her second voyage) related to the false belief that she was 'unsinkable'?

Marconi and his Wellfleet wireless

Friday, 11 April 2014

Anecdote Saturday - SS Slavonia

The Slavonia was a steel passenger/cargo steamer built in 1903 by Sir James Laing and Sons, Sunderland, England.

She was 510 ft in length, with a draught of 22.3 ft, grosse tonnage 10 605, and net tonnage 6 724.

Similar to the Waratah, she had a double steel hull with eight watertight compartments.

Power came from twin triple expansion steam engines (six boilers), driving twin screws, and making 13 knots.

Compare with the Waratah's specifications:

Length 465 ft; draught 35 ft; grosse tonnage 9 339; net tonnage, 6 003; twin quadruple expansion steam engines (five boilers); twin screws; 13 knots.

Both triple deck steamers were virtually identical (see image below).

There was simply nothing unique about the Waratah's triple deck design which in fact had a greater draught margin for stability compared with the Slavonia.

The Slavonia was owned by the Cunard Steam Ship Company Ltd, Liverpool, England.

She was certified to carry 2 331 passengers and crew, which is considerably more than the similarly sized Waratah - 1200 passengers and crew.

She was well equipped with life-saving equipment and had three compasses on board - one on top of the chart house, one on the bridge and one aft.

Her master of 16 months was Captain Arthur George Dunning.

3 June, 1909 (2 months before the Waratah went missing), the Slavonia departed New York for Gibraltar.

373 passengers and 225 crew comprised the manifest, including 100 first class passengers.

9 June, 11 pm, approaching the Island of Flores, without reducing speed, the Slavonia plunged into thick mist.

Captain Dunning had altered course in the southerly direction and was under the impression that they would clear the island by 9 miles.

After midnight (2.28 am) the Slavonia ran onto the rocks off pico Joas Martin.  The sea was smooth, and due to these conditions and the mist, no indication of land or breakers was given.

Passengers and crew were safely transferred to land by lifeboats.  70 crew were evacuated by a line, using a boatswain's chair.  The captain and his first officer were the last to leave the Slavonia.

The Slavonia was wrecked beyond salvage.

It was subsequently discovered that junior officers had given incorrect compass bearings resulting in the misjudgement clearing the south of the island.

The Court of Inquiry came to the conclusion that human error was to blame but taking into consideration Captain Dunning's excellent track record and actions bringing all passengers and crew to safety, his certificate was not revoked.

Captain Ilbery of the Waratah may have charted a course too close to reefs off Cape Hermes, land bearings obscured by smoke from the fire on board and bush fires onshore.

SS Slavonia

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Waratah - murderer on board.


Colonist, Volume LI, Issue 12663, 7 October 1909, Page 4

'The Australian Star states -

'It seems that a man who was being escorted to South Africa on the Waratah on a charge of murder alleged to have been committed at Johannesburg threatened that his escorts would never land him alive at the Cape for his trial.'

'He is said to have made the remark with determination that if he saw no other chance of escaping his trial he would set fire to the ship (Waratah).  This was regarded by the police at the time as mere bluff, but the threat has grown into significance in view of the cable that the steamer Harlow on arrival at Manila reported that when in the vicinity of Durban on July 27th she saw a steamer on fire.'

This could be the missing link explaining why the Waratah was on fire and had come about, heading back to Durban.

The following reports are detailed and suggest that a murderer, J McLaughlin / McLoughlin, escorted by Detective Mynot and Constable J. De Beer, were on board the Waratah when she disappeared.

These names, to my knowledge, do not appear among the 211 names of those lost with the Waratah.

They might not have been listed for the simple reason the three men were neither passengers (officially) nor crew, or.......


Brisbane, August 17.

'J. Mclaughlin, -who was arrested in
Queensland some months ago on a charge
of murder alleged to have been committed
in South Africa, was aboard the missing
steamer Waratah.'

'He was. under the escort of Detective Mynot
and Constable J De Beer, of the Johannesburg police.'

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931)  Previous issue Thursday 8 July 1909


'By the Blue Anchor Line steamer Waratah, 
which sailed from Port Adelaide to
South Africa on Wednesday, a criminal
with a bad record has left the Commonwealth.'

'He is being taken from Brisbane
to Johannesburg by two officers of the
Transvaal police force.' 

'The charge against him is murder, 
alleged to have been committed 
in January, 1895.' 

'The accused, whose name is J. McLoughlin, was, during
the steamer's stay at Port Adelaide,
lodged in the Adelaide Gaol.' 

'He is a one-armed man, aged 47 years, 
and is described as one of the most desperate
characters who ever came to Australia.'

'He was arrested on the present charge
rather dramatically on April 16 on board
the Government steamer Otter, in More-
ton Bay, immediately after he had served
a long sentence for burglary in Northern

'His arrest on the capital charge was due 
to the Brisbane detectives, and reflects credit on them.' 

'McLoughlin, it appears, was arrested in Mackay on a charge 
of burglary, and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.' 

'In due course his photograph was sent to the
head department in Brisbane. There, one
of the detectives was struck with his resemblance 
to a description which had been
published some time back in a New Zealand 
"Police Gazette." 

'Copies of the paper were hunted up, 
and the photograph and the description were carefully

'As a result a telegram was
sent to the Transvaal, and in due course
information was received from there which
led to McLoughlin's rearrest on board the

'He was brought before the Brisbane court 
and charged with the murder
of Albert George Stevenson and Hadje
Joseph Mustaffa, and after several remands
was extradited in the custody of the two
Transvaal police officials, one of whom
identified McLoughlin.'

'McLoughlin's crime is described as one
of the most sensational tragedies which
occurred on the Rand in the days of the

'George Stevenson was known
variously as Stevo, Georgy, Fernie, George
Stephens, Stephenson, and Davidson. He
resided at the corner of Bezuidenhout and
Commissioner streets Johannesburg.' 

'Previous to 1895 it is alleged that he had been
involved in the robbery of a safe from
the Pretoria railway station, in company
with McLoughlin and Thomas Howard.'

'Immediately after the robbery the trio
left Pretoria by train together for
Johannesburg. The authorities obtained
information concerning them and telegraphed 
to the guard of the train, who, to secure the men, 
fastened up the carriage in 
which they were sitting.' 

'McLoughlin. however, whilst the train was
in motion, notwithstanding that he was
handicapped by having only one arm,
jumped out of one of the carriage windows
and escaped.'  

'Stevenson also jumped from the train 
farther along the line, but was recaptured. 
Subsequently he turned State evidence, 
and his testimony against Howard in the safe-breaking case 
was instrumental in securing for the latter five
years' imprisonment with hard labour.' 

'Efforts to find  McLoughlin proved futile.
It was surmised that he escaped to Rhodesia.' 

'A few months later, however, he
was again seen in Johannesburg, and it
was reported to the police that he had
sworn he would shoot Stevenson for having 
given evidence against Howard.' 

'Before he could be apprehended he had
carried out his purpose. One Saturday
morning in January, 1895, he accosted a
woman who was living in the same house
as Stevenson and told her of his intention.'

'At dusk McLoughlin entered the premises
and shot his victim before he could reach
his own weapon to defend himself. He
fired also at the woman, but missed her.'

'McLoughlin. it is alleged, then left the
house and walked down the street. The
two revolver reports were heard in the
street, and a hue-and-cry was raised.' 

'McLoughlin took to his heels. A man tried
to stop him. McLoughlin fired at him
and missed him. Then a young Malay,
Hadje Mustaffa, stepped forward as if to
stop him. and McLoughlin shot him dead.'

'The murderer, having a straight run, managed to 
elude his pursuers.' 

'Then followed an unsuccessful search, lasting
months. As the country at that period
was in a disturbed state - it was about the
time of the Jamieson raid - the task of
tracking him was rendered difficult.' 

'It is now known that he lost no time in leaving
South Africa. He found his way to
New Zealand. and was not long there before 
he was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment 
for having house-breaking implements in his possession.' 

'From New Zealand he came to the Commonwealth,
where he continued his criminal career.'

'When taken to the Adelaide Gaol during
the steamer Waratah's stay at Port Adelaide
he remarked to one of his custodians,'

"I know this place. I spent a month
here once."

'McLoughlin. it is said, lost his arm in a
successful attempt to escape from Potchefstroom 
Gaol, South Africa. He made the attempt in company 
with a fellow prisoner who was shot dead by a warder.'

'McLoughlin ran away with a bullet wound
in his right arm, which eventually had
to be amputated.'

convicts - 1909

The Origins of Organised Crime in Frontier Johannesburg and the Response of the Kruger State, 1886-1892

One evening in January 1895, in a room behind a pub in downtown Johannesburg, a thirty-seven year old Mancunian-Irishman, John McLoughlin, executed a police informer - a young Englishman by the name of George Stevenson who hailed from Staffordshire, England. While effecting his escape, McLoughlin shot dead a young ‘coloured’ man, recently returned from the Hajj in Mecca, by the name of Mustafa Carr. Once clear of the town centre, McLoughlin, with the help of several members of his highly successful safe-cracking gang, staged a final safe-robbery at one of the nearby mines which yielded gold worth several thousands of pounds. McLoughlin then made his way to Lourenco Marques where he boarded a ship for parts of the Indian Ocean world which were already well known to him from his earlier travels as, first a sailor and, some time later, a soldier. As a fugitive, he worked his way through huge swathes of India, New Zealand and Australia. In 1909, as he was released from prison in Brisbane, he was arrested by an off-duty policeman who recognised him as a man wanted on a charge of murder in South Africa and subsequently extradited. His trial, was an extraordinary event, insofar as the prosecution managed, after the elapse of nearly fourteen years, to reassemble almost every witness to the two murders in downtown Johannesburg in 1895. McLoughlin was convicted and hurriedly sentenced to death and executed in 1910 – just months before earlier legal dispensations were about to be superseded by the new Union of South Africa.
McLoughlin and his escorts must have disembarked at Durban.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Waratah - 'A south-westerly wind would take wreckage to sea'

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954)  Previous issue Tuesday 24 August 1909


'The steamer Wonga Fell, which sailed from
Capetown on the day on which the Waratah
was due at that port from Durban, arrived at
Sydney yesterday after a direct run of 21
days, but brought no news of the missing

'The Waratah was not regarded as
overdue when the Wonga Fell sailed, and the
officers were unaware until they reached
Sydney that grave fears are entertained for the
big Blue Anchor liner.'

'Captain Campbell, the commander of the
Wonga Fell, describes the storm which raged
on July 26th the day on which the Waratah put
to sea from Durban as one of exceptional

The date quoted is incorrect.

The storm of 'exceptional violence' took place 28 July, 1909.

"We were snugly at anchor In
port at Capetown on that day," he said, "but
the wind blew with hurricane force, and
brought up mountainous seas. It was about
as heavy a north-east gale as I have seen for
many a day, and the weather was extremely

Anyone who has lived in Cape Town is aware of the gale force winds that periodically lash the Cape Peninsula.

'The storm was not spoken of as the
most severe on record, but it was regarded
as the most violent tempest for some years.'

"This tempest raged with unabated fury for
about 15 hours, and right along the coast of
South Africa the conditions were dangerous."

"Of course, the wind was behind the Waratah,
but nevertheless she must have had a very
rough time. The gale moderated on July 27
and was succeeded by a fresh south-westerly
gale, with a high cross sea."

A south-westerly gale (relating to a cold front) would be ahead of the Waratah sailing in a south-westerly direction.

"When we sailed from Capetown for Sydney direct on July 26
the south-easterly gale was still blowing, and
we encountered a nasty cross sea outside."

"We went right out of the track of the
Waratah, and had no opportunity of sighting

This is important, explaining why some vessels were not in the regular sea lane.

"After leaving Capetown I steamed south
until reaching latitude 43 south, where we
always expect to get strong winds. We ran
our easting down between the parallels of 42
and 43 until within 700 miles of Tasmania,
when we proceeded north to make Bass

This might also explain why the Waratah was not sighted after she departed the Clan MacIntyre.

She crossed the Clan MacIntyre from starboard to port, heading out to sea in a southerly direction.

Captain Ilbery in coming about might have decided to make use of these strong winds for the return voyage to Durban, not wanting to waste time.

At some point the fire on board and/or water ingress warranted a course closer to shore should Captain Ilbery need to beach the Waratah.

Closer to shore, approaching from open sea (only red port light visible) Captain Bruce of the Harlow sighted the Waratah coming up astern.

"I have not found any theory to account
for the non-appearance of the Waratah at
Capetown, but from what I have gleaned since
I arrived the position seems to be a serious

"I should say that if a ship was sea-
worthy she would not meet with a disaster
in the tempest which raged on July 26 (sic). By
seaworthy I mean the proper stowage of her

"When cargo is improperly stowed,
and a ship rolls heavily in a terrible seaway,
such as that experienced on the coast of
South Africa at the end of last month, there
is a liability of the cargo shifting, and then,
no matter how fine the ship may be, she may

Captain Pidgeon suggested that if the frozen carcasses in hold 1 shifted, just such a scenario could have played out.

"The Waratah, I am told, has a lot
of top hamper, and if she was in light trim
during the gale she would experience a bad

No, she was fully loaded and stable.

"The fact that the wind was behind her
would not save her it the cargo shifted."

"Of course, it is quite possible that the
Waratah is drifting disabled, and she may
have encountered a circular storm that has
carried her away from the track of vessels."

"She may have met with a serious accident, in
the engine room an accident that might take
weeks to repair."

"Or her non-appearance may
be due to an accident to her propellers. I
am aware that the Waratah is a twin-screw
steamer, but if she lost one of her propellers
the revolving shaft might strike the other and
disable it. Such accidents have occurred be-

This, apart from rudder failure, would have been a very plausible sequence of events resulting in the Waratah drifting at the mercy of the currents.

"The fact that no wreckage or any description
has been sighted along the coast of South
Africa or by the search vessels is consoling,
although it must be remembered that the wind
may have shifted and, aided by the currents,
taken the wreckage away to sea."

"A south-westerly wind would take wreckage to sea
and we had south-westerly to westerly winds
about that time."

This crucial further explanation could explain why no officially confirmed wreckage of the Waratah was ever discovered.

"I can offer no definite opinion as to what has happened,
but hope that she has not capsized, or that any serious disaster
has overtaken such a fine ship."

"Time only will tell."

The clock is still ticking....

wreck - ocean floor