Safe return of the “Nashwauk” anchor.

The anchor is safe !!! – a phone call to the City of Onkaparinga and
I was assured that the “Nashwauk” anchor has been returned
to South Australia and that a safe, secure, prominent and
well lit site is being prepared for its final resting place …
now I’m smiling…

 The “Nashwauk”, a three masted wooden sailing ship built in 1853 at River John, Province of Novia Scotia, with a tonnage of 762, measuring 144.1ft in length, 29.ft in breadth at the widest part, with a midships depth of 2.7ft and a lower deck of 140ft, left Liverpool on 13 Feb 1855 under the command of Captain Archibald McIntyre, bound for South Australia. Aboard were over 300 “assisted emigrants, mostly from Ireland.

My Great Great Grand-mother Susan Kelleher and her sister Bridget, from County Clare, Ireland, were amongst the 207 single Irish girls aboard this “bride ship” when, three months later, it made its way up the Gulf St Vincent toward its final destination, Port Adelaide.  It had been an uneventful voyage and was a dark, but clear, moonlit night when at 4am the watch changed, clouds obscured the coast and the “Nashwauk” was wrecked adjacent to Harriott’s Creek (Pedler’s Creek) at the mouth of the Onkaparinga River, some 40 miles short of it’s destination.

It remains a mystery as to why, having successfully navigated the dreaded Troubridge Shoal, it foundered so close to the coast, at what is now suburban Moana.  There are many tales of smuggling, of the ship being lured by strange lights from Mr Harriott’s farmhouse, of the misbehaviour of the girls and crew but it’s all speculation and can be seen as newspapers, and reporters, simply trying to outdo each other with the more sensational stories. As N. F. Goss reports in “Drama of Moana Wreck: The End of the  Hoodoo Ship” (The Advertiser, Saturday 13 May 1933, page 9),

“There was obviously some rumor current at the time, but as there is
no later reference to it, and as the two sources disagree, it is
possible that nothing happened that cannot be explained
by the confusion natural to
the occasion and
overwrought condition of the women.”

My Susan spoke of cutting her sister’s hair when the ship struck and being carried ashore on the back of a sailor with ony the scissors in her hand and the clothes on her back. The beautiful painstakingly embroidered linen, of her trousseau, went down with the ship. All made it safely to shore but sadly two later died of exposure – the Captain and the single Irish girl Catherine Stanley, aged 23.

Horseshoe Inn 1865

The passengers assembled on the beach and walked, or were taken by dray, to the nearest township of Noarlunga where they were accommo-dated at the Horseshoe Inn.  In her book, “What Really Happened to the Nashwauk?”, Jean Callen writes,

“The residents of Noarunga had killed and roasted eight sheep,
brewed bucketsful of hot tea and baked many loaves of
bread to feed the distressed victims.” 

The following morning the Government Schooner “Yatala” and the Mail Steamer “Thomas Melbourne” arrived and ancored near the wreck, preparing to take the passengers to Port Adeaide.  However, the sea was so rough that boarding was impossible and Jean Callan confirms my Grandmother’s story of having to trudge miles back along the cliff tops.  Many of the girls were too terrified to take to the sea again and drays were finally brought to convey them to Adelaide.

It would seem that there was great chaos at the site of the wreck.  Strong winds had strewn debris for a mile along the shore.  The Captain desperately tried to recover whatever baggage he could, for the passengers, and the accessible cargo, unloaded by the crew, was closely guarded by police and customs officers.  Some three weeks later, on 29 May, the cargo was advertised for sale and all was purchased by Mr Harriott for £65 and the hull for £70.  With a shortage of material in the Colony, it was said that Mr Harriott made a tidy profit from the wreck which fuelled even more rumours of him being involved in a smuggling ring, although there is no official evidence of this.

The two official enquiries into the wreck, one by the Trinity Board and one by the Immigration Board, could not investigate fully because of the death of Captain Archibald McIntyre on 3 Jun 1855.  However, with the evidence already suppied it was concluded that complaints of the surgeon being drunk were to be dismissed and that there was no foundation for any complaint against the captain.  Sadly, dying from the effects of anxiety and exposure whilst attending to his duties after the wreck, Captain McIntre left a wife and 4 children in Glasgow, Scotland. He was 38 years old.

The “Nashwauk” was considered an unlucky ship as she had been driven ashore once before, badly dismasted and on fire four times.  A North West gale finally broke up the remains on 26 May 1855.

For 72 years the ship’s achor lay 200 yards off shore and, in 1927, the Noarlunga Council offerred £20 for its recovery. A local resident, Mr W. C. Robinson, who owned and worked a farm close to the place where the “Nashwauk” met her fate and set about the recovery task with the help of his son and brother.  They used 3 horses and, with the anchor being 11ft long and weighing several tons, it took 5-6 hours of strenuous work to haul it in. It was duly erected majesticaly on a plinth on the foreshore, next to the “roundhouse” kiosk where the memory of that fateful day, 13 May 1855, was kept alive.

Copyright(c)2012.Catherine Crout-Habel

I well remember our first family trip to Moana, in about 1954, to see “the anchor”. Cherished photographs were taken of it with mum, my three brothers and myself. The story of the wreck of the “Nashwauk” and the recovery of the anchor is where my fascination with Family History started, my sense of “Irishness” took root and the “search for Susan” began.

Some 20 years ago, on a nostalgic trip back to “the anchor”, I was horrified to discover it had disappeared.  Questioning the locals we found it standing rather forlornly, at ground level, at the entrance to the Moana Caravan Park.  Gone was the majesty … gone was the sense of reverence and nobody could tell me why it had been removed from the foreshore.  However it was comforting to know that, at least, it was safe and hadn’t been destroyed.

Then, a couple of years ago the “Nashwauk Anchor” did another disappearing act.  This time it was taken to Canberra by the National Museum of Australia, restored and put on display (17Mar-31Jul 2011) as part of the “Not Just Ned – A true History of the Irish in Australia” Exhibition. Pauline wrote about this Exhibition, and the “Nashwauk Anchor” in her blog “Family history across the seas”.  It’s wonderful that this precious relic has been cleaned, restored and has taken pride of place in such and important Exhibition but the the fear has been that it would never come back to its rightful home in South Australia.

Many expressed concern – both local residents and descendants of the “Nashwauk” passengers. Some lobbied to prevent it being sent interstate and others wrote letters to the local paper. The last I heard was that it had come back to South Australia, was in the care of the City of Onkaparinga (Council) but the decision was yet to be made as to where it would be placed.  Apparently the owners of the Moana Caravan Park wanted it back but others were saying that it did not belong to them and should be honourable placed on public display and easily accessible to all.

Hip, hip, hooray to the City of Onkaparing and three cheers for all those involved in the decision-making.  No doubt my Susan Kelleher is not the only passenger of the ill-fated ship who is smiling down on us today.

SOURCES:  The Ships List:
“A Smuggler’s Home Claimed a Wreck” : Trove
“Moana Mystery Explained” : Trove
“Drama of Moana Wreck” : Trove
Family history across the seas:
“Not Just Ned – a true History of the Irish in Australia” : http://www.irish_in_australia/home
“What Really Happened to the Nashwauk?”, © 2004 J. Callen, ISBN 0-9595356-2-4  Printed by Butterly Press, 225 Main Road, Blackwood, South Australia, Australia. 5051. Tel: 08 8278 2899


Copyright © 2012. Catherine Crout-Habel. Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

23 thoughts on “Safe return of the “Nashwauk” anchor.

  1. Good news that it’s found it’s way back to SA (I for one was confident it would!). I hope they find a perfect spot for it. We heard the whole saga of the restoration and without a doubt it will have extended its life span significantly by its little excursion to the east. For all the tragedy involved at least there is something tangible to remember Susan’s emigration. Just thought, too…do you think Bridget may have returned to Ireland? not common but not entirely impossible either.

    • Imagine it would have been a huge job to restore it. Twenty years ago I souvenired a few flakes, amongst the many, that had rusted off and were lying on the ground 😦 … So, THANKYOU, National Museum of Australia!!! mmmhhh… never thought about Bridget returning to Ireland…??? I should check other Oz states, rather than just NSW … and also ships from Australia. Remembering that the husband of one of our Habel immigrants took the children back to Prussia, after she died, and then they all emigrated to the USA. Thanks for always stimulating my thinking Pauline.

      • It came to me in association with the wreck of the ship. My ancestor’s brother-in-law went back to Scotland after a couple of years -perhaps the death of his sister in quarantine soured his view of Oz. Wondered if Bridget felt the same. But other states or NZ are possible. I’m good at suggestions…pity I can’t find my missing James McSharry the same way 😉

    • Sure is!!! ~~~ Managed today to talk to the gentleman, at Onkaparing Council, who is organising the site and he said decision about the actual site is soon to go to “public consultation”, has my email address & will keep me informed. I’ll pass the info on, of course 🙂

    • Glad you stopped by and enjoyed the story Kylie. It was the 157th Anniversary of the “landing” last Sunday (Mothers Day)… was nearly going to go down to the site and have a private little remembrance celebration on the beach but decided to stay home, in the warm, and send my spirit off for a little trip 🙂 … cheers

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  4. Great to see all the interest in the Naswauk anchor and also to know that it may find a suitable final resting place. Could I add that as the Senior Curator of the National Museum’s ‘Not Just Ned’ exhibition that it was NEVER the intention of the museum to ‘disappear’ the anchor and that it was the Onkaparinga council who agreed to its short stay in Canberra. There it was, for the first time ever, properly assessed for conservation and much needed work carried out before it was put on display for a national audience to appreciate and understand how such a fantastic object could tell a big 19th century migration story. The museum was very grateful to the council for the foresight it showed in allowing the anchor to come to Canberra despite the completely unwarranted fears expressed above.that it might never return. A place like the National Museum of Australia is about helping all Australians, no matter where they live, to appreciate the Australian story, to borrow objects from around the country and the world to assist in that end, and to make sure they go back safely and in good condition to where they came from.

    • Many thanks, Dr Reid, for bothering to read “my story” and for your comment. Special thanks indeed to you and your team for taking my/ our precious “Nashwauk Anchor” into your care and carrying out the much needed/ overdue restoration work. When I finally found it again, some twenty years ago, so sad and forlorn in the Caravan Park I picked up a few pieces that had rusted off and fallen to the ground and cried a little to think that eventually it would all just fall into a rusted heap. Me and mine will be forever grateful that the preservation work of the National Museum has prevented this. I’ve still yet to know the outcome of the Museum’s assessment of the Nashwauk Anchor. Would so much appreciate you pointing me in the right direction for this info.
      Of greater concern is that, despite 3 months of pursuing the Onkaparinga Council re: their decision on the eventual re-location of the Anchor I’m still no wiser. Last I heard was that there would be public consultation as to the final placement and, in the meantime, it was being stored/cared for by the folks/owners of the Moana Caravan Park. Unable to get a phone/ or email response recently from the “Project Manager” I emailed the Mayor of Onkaparinga Council. She quickly responded saying that the named gentleman has now left the Council’s employ and she will follow up on my query.
      I’m terrified that, like some other national treasures, it may become lost/ misplaced and would appreciate you also doing some follow up for clearly you also see the immense value of this object.
      Many thanks again Dr Reid, Catherine.

      • Richard’s on the case now Catherine 🙂 He was so delighted to have this anchor in the “Not Just Ned” collection and to have it restored to its former glory. it along with all the other wonderful treasures from around the country benefited from the restoration work by the NMA I know you very much appreciate the history being preserved. It was wonderful to see the story of the Irish in this way.

      • Oh yes… we’re all so so grateful to Dr Reid and I’d like to have his foresight, and work, recorded on a plaque when it finally goes back on display.
        It’s easy to see why so many were concerned that the Anchor would never be returned becase the “National Archives” had, not long before, downgraded the South Australian Branch and many of our precious records re-located in the Eastern States. So, if we want to see the originals it now means a lengthy trip across the continent 😦 Believe this also happened up there in the Northern Territory?
        Can’t begin to tell you how excited I am at the thought of seeing the “Nashwauk Anchor” restored. Bet its very Grand 🙂 PS I still haven’t had a response from the Onkaparinga Mayor… grrr…

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  7. Hello Catherine, we hold the current contract to manage the Moana Beach Tourist Park on behalf of the City Of Onkaparinga. We respect and appreciate the history of the Nashwauk Anchor and were very pleased to see it taken to Canberra (at great cost to the National Museum), and treated to help with the future preservation of it’s state. Over the years Management of the Park have cared for the anchor by removing graffiti, preventing rogue element from doing mischief and preventing children from climbing over it. Please consider that there is many years of history at the Park, and generations of guests have taken photos of the anchor as part of their holiday experience. The anchor has a significant role in their childhood memories. We want the same thing for the Nashwauk Anchor that you do, a safe, well lit and sheltered location that anyone can visit. I hope to be able to suggest an alternative site to the 3 that have been proposed, that would be a solution to all the issues that have been raised.
    We would love to discuss this with you at any time, and get your thoughts. We can be contacted on ———. Daryl & Sandi-Kate Hutchins

    • Thanks for your message Daryl. I’m so pleased the City of Onkaparinga has finally started the consultation process re: the location of the anchor and it was great discussing the matter with Sandi-Kate today. Am looking forward to receiving your view, as the Managers of the Moana Beach Tourist Park, to include in my forthcoming post update. Cheers, Catherine

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