The day before the Waratah left
You will be surprised to hear from me being this far away from Tasmania and still going to pull up, I hope, in the greatest city in the world, London. I have with me for a mate, Champion axeman Alf Clarke. We are under an engagement to give exhibitions of chopping. We are taking Australian logs with us. We sailed by the SS Waratah,
’s Blue Anchor Line. She is 10,000 tons. We left Lund Melbourneon 1st July, had a few days in Adelaideand set out for Africaon the 7th. We had only really one rough day - that was coming through the Great Australian Bight and around . But the Waratah being such a grand sea boat, we did not feel it much. I was never a bit seasick and feel better than I ever did in my life. Cape Leeuwin
We have good concerts on board and good talents both instrumental and vocal. Both Alf and I keep up our training such as it is, but the greatest time will be when we are showing inAnother poignant letter written by a crew member on 26 July, from the SS Waratah in
and let Londoners see what Tasmanians are capable of with the axe. Our intention is to get among the Canadian axemen and see what they are like. With kind regards to self and all Tasmanian friends. Yours as B 4, Jack Calder. London
Just a line to let you know we arrived here safely after a pretty rough voyage fromThose words still hang in the air more than a century later.
. For 13 days after leaving that place we had heavy seas and weather and a lot of the deck fittings were broken and carried away by heavy seas that swept over the vessel. The last five days however have been fine and we got here yesterday midday (Sunday) and we leave the Cape Saturday next, on 31st July for London, where we will arrive on August 21st although we are not due until the 23rd. Adelaide
|Where was the Waratah?|
World attention was now focused on the Waratah and H.M.S. Hermes joined other warships in their search. Another month had passed without sign of the Waratah. Further desperate searches were made and on 19 October 1909, The Daily Commercial News and Shipping List placed the following insert, ‘Waratah, 9339, Ilbery, Sydney June 26 to South Africa and London via ports Melbourne July 1, Adelaide 7, Durban 26, missing.
|The Lutine Bell being rung at Lloyd's of London|
With no witness surviving the disappearance of the Waratah, we can only contemplate the combined effects of stability, design, high promenade deck, cargo loading, hold security and righting moments of the ship all being complicit with the enormous seas along this notorious and treacherous stretch of South African coastline. Did fate concoct this unique and fatal formula that would commit the Waratah to a premature ocean grave? We are left to draw our own conclusions as to what happened to the SS Waratah, Captain Josiah Edward Ilbery, passengers and crew and where she rests today. Their story lies beneath the waves and the ocean guards her secrets well.
|Capt Josiah Edward Ilbery|
|Crew of the Waratah|
Photograph of John Ebsworth provided courtesy of Ebsworth family
Photograph of Mrs and Miss Hay provided courtesy of Hay and Tolcher family
Photograph of Captain J E Ilbery provided courtesy of Dr Peter Ilbery and family
Photograph of Crew of Waratah provided courtesy of Marilyn Greaves and family