Comboyne (1911)

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Name: Comboyne
Owner: Allen Taylor & Company
Port of registry: Sydney
Completed: 1911
  • Ship official number 131486
  • Ship Sydney registration number: 25/1911
Fate: Wrecked 27 November 1920
General characteristics
Type: Wood screw steamer
Tonnage: 281 GT
Displacement: 151 NT
Length: 137 ft 2 in (41.81 m)
Beam: 29 ft 7 in (9.02 m)
Draught: 7 ft 5 in (2.26 m)
Installed power: Twin compound steam engine producing 40 hp.
Propulsion: Twin screw

The Comboyne was a wooden screw steamer built in 1911 at Tuncurry, that was wrecked when it struck an object whilst carrying timber to Wollongong and was lost at approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) off Bass Point, Shellharbour, New South Wales on the 27 November 1920.

Ship description and construction[edit]

The Comboyne was started to be built by John Wright (Snr), the founder of the town of Tuncurry and the ship building industry it became known for. He died in 1910 and his son Ernest continued the business and finished the construction of Comboyne for the Allen Taylor & Company.

The screw steamer had a wooden single deck with 2 masts and an elliptical stern, with a length of 137 feet 2 inches (41.81 m),[1] breadth of 29 feet 7 inches (9.02 m)[1] and depth of 7 feet 5 inches (2.26 m)[1]

Ship service history[edit]

1912 sinking and refloating[edit]

On Sunday 8 September 1912:

The steamer Comboyne, whilst trying to put into Port Kembla Harbor at 3 o'clock in the morning, struck the end of the eastern breakwater, and a big hole was knocked in her side. The water poured in, and the mate, who was on the bridge, decided to run for the beach. The captain by this time was on deck, and seeing the vessel fast settling down ordered the crew of 14 into the boats. They had no sooner entered the boats than the Comboyne sank. The captain was still on board, and owing to the darkness was unable to make out where the boat was. He then struck out for the shore, which he reached after having been over half an hour in the water. The crew landed safely and made their way to the Electrolytic Company's works. The vessel sank in about 40 ft. of water. The stewardess (Miss E. Birkenshaw) was asleep at the time the vessel struck, and was only just able to escape in her night dress. The escape of all on board is regarded as wonderful, seeing that the vessel sank within a couple of minutes of the time of striking. Captain Lacey said he could not account for the accident. Whilst swimming ashore he thought he was done for, but he struggled on and managed to reach land. About 2 ft. of the funnel is showing out of the water, and arrangements are to (be made at once for refloating) [2]

On 2 October the Marine Court inquiry found that the accident was caused by default of the mate, Joseph Daley, in not calling the master earlier [3]

The vessel was later refloated.

1915 discovery of a murder[edit]

On Tuesday 21 September 1915 the Comboyne, while proceeding up the Camden Haven River caused the man's body to come to the surface the body was recovered by the police and it was found to that the body had been weighted down with an anchor (weighing 1½ cwt 168 pounds (76.20 kg)). The head had been battered, both jaws being broken, as also was the nose. It is supposed that the unfortunate man was murdered. The man named Purcell, had lived at Hunter's Hill formerly but had arrived at Laurieton in April, with a companion to become a fisherman. Towards the end of August Purcell had disappeared, but no alarm was raised, as it was thought he had gone to a neighbouring town. The police then arrested his companion [4]

Shipwreck event[edit]

On Saturday, 27 November 1920 the vessel reportedly struck a submerged rock or a floating object

While steaming off Bass Point, near Kiama. She was carrying a full cargo of timber, and was at the time about a mile from the shore. The bump caused the vessel at once to leak very badly, and the pumps proved unable to cope with the water. An attempt was made to beach the Comboyne, but she took a dangerous list, and began to settle down. The crew therefore took to the boats, and soon afterwards the vessel disappeared. The men in the boats went to rest till daylight, as they were very tired after their efforts on the Comboyne. When the fog lifted they hailed a passing coaster, which picked them up and carried them to Kiama. They lost all their belongings in the Comboyne.[5]

Further reading[edit]

Online Database's
Australian National Shipwreck Database[1]
Australian Shipping - Arrivals and Departures 1788-1968 including shipwrecks [2]
Encyclopaedia of Australian Shipwrecks - New South Wales Shipwrecks [3]
Other Online sources
Historic Australian Newspapers, 1803 to 1954 [4]


Coordinates: 34°35′50″S 150°55′18″E / 34.5973°S 150.9217°E / -34.5973; 150.9217