Fitzroy (1912)

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The Fitzroy being Loaded at Coffs Harbour
Career Template:Country data AUS Sydney (1912-1921)
Name: Fitzroy
Owner: Langley Brothers
Port of registry: Sydney
Ordered: Designed by & ordered through James Pollock, London (Project No 438) in 1911 [1]
Builder: Napier and Miller Old Kilpatrick, Scotland, United Kingdom
Yard number: 184
Launched: Saturday, 30 March 1912
Completed: 1912
Identification: Ship official number 131512
Ship registration number 34/1912
Status: Wrecked
General characteristics
Type: Steel Steamer screw
Tonnage: Gross tonnage (GT) of 623 tons
Displacement: Net tonnage (NT) of 282 tons
Length: 170 feet 2 inches (51.87 m)
Beam: 30 feet 7.5 inches (9.33 m)
Draught: 11 feet 4 inches (3.45 m)
Depth of hold: 10 feet 6.5 inches (3.21 m)
Decks: One & Bridge
Installed power: Triple expansion
Propulsion: T3cy 72nhp
Speed: 11 knots
Ship primary use: Passenger-Cargo Steamship
Ship industry:
Ship passenger capacity: Unknown
Crew: 26
Wreck Event
When lost: 1921/06/26
Where lost: Cape Hawke, off
Reason for loss: Capsized in gale
Cargo: General
Travelling from: Coffs Harbour
Travelling to: Sydney
Master: Capt James Colvin
Deaths: 22
Wreck Location
Discovered: No

Fitzroy (1912)
The Fitzroy was a Steel Steamer screw built in 1912 at Old Kilpatrick, that was wrecked when it Capsized in gale whilst carrying a general cargo between Coffs Harbour and Sydney and was lost off Cape Hawke, New South Wales on the 26 June 1921

Ship Description Fitzroy

The vessel was a steel single deck and the bridge ship with 2 masts and an Elliptical Stern it dimensions were

Length from foredeck of stem to stern post was 170 feet 2 inches (51.87 m)[2]
Length @ ¼ depth front top of weather deck at amidships to bottom of keel 169 feet 4 inches (51.61 m) [2]
Main Breadth to outside plank 30 feet 7.5 inches (9.33 m)[2]
Depth of Hold from tonnage deck to ceiling at amidships 10 feet 6.5 inches (3.21 m)[2]
Depth from Top of beam amidships to top of keel 11 feet 8 inches (3.56 m)[2]
Depth from top of deck as side amidships to bottom of keel 11 feet 4 inches (3.45 m)[2]
Length of Engine Room 36 feet 7 inches (11.15 m)[2]


Total to ¼ the depth from weather deck at side amidships to bottom of keel 849 tons (649?)
Displacement per inch immersion at same depth 9 Tons

The vessel had a Gross tonnage (GT) of 623.38 tons and a Net tonnage (NT) of 281.57 tons when first manufactured[2]


The Fitzroy' was powered by a single steel boiler producing 160 pounds per square inch (1,103.16 kPa) of steam with the pressure relief valves set to open 180 pounds per square inch (1,241.06 kPa) at built by XXX [2]

This steam was fed into a 72 horsepower (54 kW) Triple Expansion steam engine with cylinders of 14 inches (360 mm), 23 inches (580 mm) and 38 inches (970 mm) bore by 24 inches (610 mm) stroke.[2]

The engine was manufactured in Clydebank by Aitchison, Blair Ltd (1904-1973)

The vessel was able to a achieve a speed of 11 knots[2]

Ship Service History

The Fitzroy was mainly used by the shipping firm Langley Brothers as a passenger and general cargo vessel betweens Coffs Harbour and Sydney

This continued for nearly 10 year with only one appreciable moment of notoriety for the vessel when on the 1 May 1913

on its voyage from Sydney, was six miles north of Seal Rocks, New South Wales, a passenger Thomas Brown, sprang overboard The vessel was stopped, a buoy thrown, and a search made for an hour, but no sign could be seen of Brown. The passenger had behaved in a peculiar manner, and Captain Colvin locked him in a room When the captain was taking Brown's tea in, Brown rushed out and leaped overboard before he could be stopped.[3]

Captain James Colvin Service History

File:Capt James Colvin.jpg
Captain James Colvin drowned with the sinking of the SS Fitzroy

In July 1893 James Colvin was a crew member of the City Of Grafton (North Coast Steam Ship Company) he was charged with taking part in a strike as the whole of the crew had refused duty he was remanded in Jail till the hearing with then bail was allowed, themselves in £10 and surety of £10 each. The Strike also included the crews of the Wodonga, Barcoo,Wyrallah, Bega, Burrawong [4]

By 1896 he was in command of the 117 tons Steamer Wollumbin which went ashore at Norah Head on the 27th January 1896 while on a trip from Sydney to Newcastle William May who was in charge of the deck on the vessel at the time of her stranding was found to have committed a wrongful act in not taking soundings, or otherwise taking sufficient steps to keep the vessel away from the land [5]

In 1899 James Colvin was the mate of the Orara when she was wrecked on the Tweed bar on the 16th February 1899 the Orara was a wooden Screw steamer, of 181 tons registered in Sydney, and was owned by Mr G W Nicoll James Colvin had made four trips in the ship to the Tweed River he stated that the bar was at all times a dangerous bar to work He had 10 years' experience in bar harbours, and he considered the Tweed bar the worst [6]

By 1901 James Colvin was the chief officer of the steamer Augusta and had rescued five different persons from drowning. Including early April 1901 when he plunged into Sydney Harbour and succeeded in keeping afloat a struggling man until further assistance arrived. [7]

In February 1903 till December 1904 he was in command of the Dorrigo doing the Coffs, Woolgoolga Sydney Run [8]

In January 1905 Captain James Colvin was the first captain in charge of the newly constructed 238 ton wooden screw steamer Cooloon which plied between Woolgoolga Coffs Harbour and Sydney and remained in charge of the vessel till at least August 1906

In December 1908 it was found that he was associated with the "Page millions" The last Page who was the holder of the lands died without heirs in 1829 the bequest made by the last owner, Harry Page, to Henry Young, who will probably be herd to be entitled to the wealth lying in Chancery. A granddaughter of Major-General Young was the late wife of Captain James Colvin, her maiden name being Lucy Gall. Captain Colvin trades between Sydney and Coffs Harbor, and he intends probing the matter further to show that his late wife and her children, and the four grandchildren of Major-General Young, now living at Bathurst, are the only direct representatives of Henry Young, to whom the Page millions were legally left. The descent of tilt Captain Colvin had no doubt that Major General Young was the son or the grandson of Henry Young, and he "had strong grounds for believing that this Henry Young was identical with the Henry Young who inherited from the last of the Pages. [9]

By 1913 He was in command of the Fitzroy till her sinking in 1921 and his death

Shipwreck Event

During the night of Saturday 26 June 1921 and the early on Sunday morning of 27 June 1921 a storm raged on the Mid New South Wales Coast that was variously described as a gale or a cyclone

It was during Sunday Morning that the Fitzroy floundered as did a little further south the steamer Our Jack

Events reached Sydney via telegraph

Inspector Mitchell inspector general of police tonight received the following message from the prison camp at Tuncurry Beach The steamer Fitzroy foundered south of Cape Hawke at half past 7o clock this morning There were on board 30 persons including passengers and crew Three men have been washed ashore. Henry Ramsay, Carl Jensen, and Peter Hansen The bodies of Roy Daley and George Carlsen have been washed up. Captain Colvin who is a native of Woolgoolga remained on the bridge to the last. Two lifeboats are still out. One containing seven or eight persons was capsized[10]

The story of the wreck was outline in the papers of the time

The vessel left Coffs Harbour for Sydney on Saturday afternoon. When ploughing through heavy seas on Sunday morning the deck cargo of the Fitzroy shifted. A little later seas flooded the engine room and the vessel took a heavy list and capsized Four members of the crew and a passenger managed to reach a swamped lifeboat and after drifting all day were cast up on Tuncurry Beach Two were dead when the waves threw them up on shore A sixth man went down with ship but on reaching the surface made for the shore and he got there after being 12 hours in the water Captain Colvin was last seen standing on the bridge, and when she sank he was thrown into the water

Herbert H Ramsay, one of the survivors, when interviewed, said-“there was no panic, and a body of bluejackets could not been more orderly than the passenger and crew. Everybody remained cool to the last To launch the boats was almost impossible I cannot say how I went overboard but I know I went down with the ship When I came to the Surface I was near a waterlogged boat, and I managed to get to it. There were four members of the crew in it, and we landed at Prison Camp Two of the unfortunate men were unable to stand the strain of the surf and they died as we landed As I got into the boat I saw another boat with about eight persons in it I don t know who they were, but the boat was, in good condition and seemed to be dry My brother was a passenger, and I fear he has been lost. There was no time to get any lifesaving appliances ready Everyone tried help each other One of the sailors seeing the stewardess on deck, told her to get a lifebelt, but she replied that she wanted to get blankets for the passengers[11]

Further Stories from the wreck included

Roy Daly, aged 17 years, the steward, and George Carlsen, aged 21 years, seaman, members of the crew of the S.S. Fitzroy. Both men reached shore in a lifeboat but lost their lives in landing on Tuncurry beach.

Karl Jansen, able seaman on the Fitzroy, said that after the steamer left Coffs Harbour on Saturday night the wind was from the south-west. There was not much sea, until midnight. "I was called at half-past 6 a.m.," he said, "along with all hands to remove the deck cargo, which was endangering the ship. No steam could be got at the winch and the logs could not be moved. The captain gave instructions to don lifebelts but owing to the list of the vessel the boats could not be launched. There was about 9ft. of water in the stoke- hold and engine-room. The Fitzroy listed to port and sank. One boat broke away, but I do not know what became of the others. I was taken down with the ship On coming to the surface I saw a boat, which I swam to and managed to get in. Daly and Carlsen and another seaman and passenger were in the boat when I reached it. The chief engineer and the second officer were on the bottom of a boat near to me, and there were several people floating on wreckage. Our boat drifted to the beach and was overturned in the breakers, throwing us in the water. I reached the shore and saw Daly and Carlsen floating in the surf together. With Hansen, another A.B., I got them ashore but they were dead." [12]

The HMAS Marguerite, a mine sloop was dispatched to look for survivors, and searched all day. but reported that she has not found anything. The Marguerite passed the bodies of cattle and pigs, which were all mutilated by sharks. Between Cape Hawke and Cloudy Heads there is a large patch of water coated with oil. Little wreckage was passed, and there was no sign of a lifeboat.

Olaf Johnannsen who managed to swim ashore a distance of 14 miles through the raging seas He was in the water all day described

I was on the bridge when the captain gave orders to get the boats out. There were two lady passengers on board and a stewardess. When the ship sank I had hold of the stewardess, but I lost her, as we were both carried down. When the Fitzroy sank she had turned and was heading for the beach, the captain intending to beach her.
—Olaf Johnannsen [13]

Crew & Passengers at the time of Sinking[14]

Crew List

Name Position Age Where Born .
James Colvin Master 54 Kingswood Who is a native of Woolgoolga
C.P. Read Chief Officer 54 England .
H. Peggs 2nd Officer 59 Essex .
R.T. Saunders 1st Engineer 56 England .
A. Jack 2nd Engineer 53 Scotland .
W. Watt Steward 49 London .
E. Barker 2nd Steward 31 N.S.W. .
Mrs. Whitehead Stewardess 48 England .
H. Alexander 1st Cook 51 Scotland .
P. Pryke 2nd Cook . London .
A.S. (Roy) Daley Cabin boy 17 N.S.W body recovered lost life in landing on Tuncurry beach
J. Paunu A.B. 39 Finland .
R. Putre A.B. 33 Finland .
Karl Jensen A.B. 30 Denmark Saved (‘Numulgi’ Taylor Street Lakemba)
Hans Peter Hansen A.B. 32 Denmark Saved (75 Windmill Street Dawes Point)
Olaf Johansen (Jannesen) A.B. 56 Norway Saved Swam ashore 12 hours in the water (252 Australia St. Camperdown)
A. Davidson A.B. 42 Finland .
George Karlson Ord.Seaman 21 Finland body recovered lost life in landing on Tuncurry beach
J. Erickson Fireman 33 Sweden .
C. Mulburg Fireman 37 Finland .
E. Krowther Fireman 33 Finland .

Passengers on Board

File:John Archibald McIntyre.jpg
John Archibald McIntyre drowned SS Fitzroy disaster Teacher in charge of Bonville School from January 1902 until his death
Mr John Archibald McIntyre Mr A.V. Rowell Mr R. Sturak (Sturo) Mr Wiggins
Mr Hayley Mr G. Norton Mr J. Barlote (Bartolo) Master Hugh Moir
Mr Herbert Henry Ramsay. (saved) Mr A. Ramsay Master W. Lindsay Mr Walter Moore
Miss Moore Mrs Terney (Turney)

The Marine Court Inquiry

Out of 35 persons on board at the time 31 were drowned, including the master and all the officers

The Court was informed how the Fitzroy left Coffs Harbor for Sydney on the afternoon of Saturday. June 25. During the night the weather became bad and the vessel ran into a cyclonic storm A large quantity of water came aboard at about half past 6 o clock on Sunday morning thereupon the vessel took a list to port which gradually increased Later water as found to be pouring, in apparently from an open ash shoot and from a porthole which had been smashed attempts were made to jettison the cargo but there was no steam available for the winches Next the engineer announced that the position was hopeless Boats were got in readiness for launching but as it seemed that they would be overturned or smashed if launched the captain thought it best to let. them float off as the vessel sank at about 8 o clock the vessel capsized Two of the boats with people in them, floated off, but one immediately sink.

The Court found that everything, possible was done to preserve the vessel and the lives of the passengers and crew it could not discover from the evidence that there had been any misconduct or error of judgment on the part of the captain or officers In the opinion of the Court the writer got into the stokehold but by what means excepting by stress of weather, it was unable to say [15]

Further reading

Online Database's
Australian National Shipwreck Database[12]
Australian Shipping - Arrivals and Departures 1788-1968 including shipwrecks [13]
Encyclopaedia of Australian Shipwrecks - New South Wales Shipwrecks [14]
Other Online sources
Historic Australian Newspapers, 1803 to 1954 [15]

  • Wrecks on the New South Wales Coast. By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995 Oceans Enterprises. 1993 ISBN 9780646110813.
  • Australian Shipwrecks - vol1 1622-1850, Charles Bateson, AH and AW Reed, Sydney, 1972, ISBN 0 589 07112 2 910.4530994 BAT
  • Australian shipwrecks Vol. 2 1851–1871 By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995. Sydney. Reed, 1980 910.4530994 LON
  • Australian shipwrecks Vol. 3 1871–1900 By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995. Geelong Vic: List Publishing, 1982 910.4530994 LON
  • Australian shipwrecks Vol. 4 1901–1986 By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995. Portarlington Vic. Marine History Publications, 1987 910.4530994 LON
  • Australian shipwrecks Vol. 5 Update 1986 By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995. Portarlington Vic. Marine History Publications, 1991 910.4530994 LON


  1. Clyde Built Database [1]
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Sydney Ship Register
  3. The Advertiser Friday 2 May 1913 [2]
  5. The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 4 February 1896 [3]
  6. The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 28 February 1899 [4]
  7. The Advertiser Wednesday 10 April 1901 [5]
  8. The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 17 December 1904
  9. The Advertiser Wednesday 9 December 1908 [6]
  10. The Argus Monday 27 June 1921 [7]
  11. The Argus Tuesday 28 June 1921 [8]
  12. The Argus Wednesday 29 June 1921 [9]
  13. The Argus Wednesday 29 June 1921 [10]
  14. Marine Court of Inquiry
  15. The Argus Tuesday 26 July 1921 [11]

External links