Georgette Memorial

Public Art : Georgette Memorial

Designed by: John Alferink

Description: The Georgette Memorial was erected  in 1976 to commemorate the centenary of the wreck of the `Georgette` and rescue of survivors by Grace Bussell and Sam Isaacs.

Date Unveiled: 1976

Location : The Georgette plaque is located on Redgate Road, Calgardup Bay Carpark, Redgate Beach

Inscription:

The vessel Georgette 211 tons steam and sail was grounded in Caldacup Bay south of the Point on 1 December 1876. While on her way to Albany the ship sprang a leak, the pumps failed and the stoke hold flooded. When she was still twenty miles out to sea a boat was launched ready to be towed astern. It was stove in and its occupants thrown into the sea. 

Two women and five children drowned but the others were rescued by brothers Willie and James Dempster and crewmen Dewar and Nunan. They mad for the shore in the ship's gig and reached Indijup tweleve hours later. In the meantime passengers on the Georgette kept bailing while the ship under sail headed for the coast and finaly grounded.

While the ship's boat was in trouble in the surf two riders came galloping to the scene, Grace Bussell and stockman Sam Isaacs. They rode into the sea and with their timely help all on board reached the shore in safety and were taken to Wallcliffe, the home of Grac Bussell where they were welcomed and given shelter.

 
AUGUSTA -MARGARET RIVER TOURIST BUREAU 1976

John Alferink.

Background to the SS Georgette Sinking: On the 29th of November, 1876, the SS Georgette left Fremantle carrying 50 passengers. The following day her hull was loaded with large jarrah logs at the Bunbury Jetty before setting off for Albany. It is believed the loading of the timber caused structural damage to the hull of the ship, which went unnoticed. As the Georgette was rounding Cape Naturaliste, water was discovered in the bilge, but the ship's pumps were ineffective. The Captain, John Godfrey, ordered the passengers and crew to start bailing the water out with buckets as he tried to sail the ship into safety. Within a few hours the rising water had extinguished the engine's fires, causing the ship to drift. Orders were given to man the lifeboats. Tragically, as the first of the lifeboats was lowered into the rough seas, a wave sent the lifeboat smashing into the ship's side, virtually snapping it in two. Several crew members frantically tried to rescue the people thrown into the ocean using the ship's gig, but they could only save a few of the passengers. Seven people, two women and 5 children, perished. The Georgette slowly drifted into Calgardup Bay where it began to break up.

As the drama was unfolding an Aboriginal farmhand, Sam Isaacs , who was walking along the coastline, noticed the SS Georgette in trouble and ran over 20km to the Wallcliffe homestead to get help. Grace Bussell , the 16 year old daughter of Alfred and Ellen Bussell, on hearing the news, gathered ropes and then saddled her horse before setting off with Sam Isaacs to the stricken vessel. The two rode their horses down a cliff, into the ocean and through the surf to rescue passengers & crew. Grace and Sam urged the passengers to grab hold of their horses as they ferried them to shore. Many of the passengers and crew were rescued from their swamped or capsized life boats. Sam at some stage was sent to the stricken ship to rescue a man left behind. It took over four hours to get all the passengers to safety. Grace then rode back to the homestead to get help. The survivors were taken to the Bussell's property where they were given food and shelter.

Grace soon became known as "The Grace Darling of the West" after an English girl, also named Grace, who rescued several seamen during a storm. Grace was awarded a silver medal by the Royal Humane Society and presented with a gold watch by the Board of Trade. Sam Isaacs, whose tribal name was 'Yebble', was awarded a bronze medal for bravery and in 1897 was granted 100 acres of land at Ferndale, close to Wallcliffe.

The Captain of the 'Georgette', John Godfrey, was blamed for the shipwreck, though he was later found not guilty on five accounts of negligence.

 

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