SS Georgette Memorial

SS Georgette Memorial, Margaret River

Public Art : SS Georgette Memorial

Sculptor : None required

Description : A bronze plaque on a granite rock.

Location :

Date Unveiled : The SS Georgette Memorial was erected on the 1st December, 1960.

Inscription :

This memorial was erected by the
Augusta Margaret River Road Board to
Commemorate the wreck of S.S. Georgette
On 1st December 1876. Eight lives were
lost commendable bravery was shown
on both sea and land. The Royal Humane
Society suitably rewarded those worthy
of the honour. Records of the disaster
are preserved in the
J.S Battye Library Perth
Erected 1st December 1960

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.

At the Redgate carpark there is a Grace Bussell Memorial but sadly not one for Sam Isaacs. On a calm day, if you look south of the carpark, about 90m out to sea, you can see the wreck of the SS Georgette lying in 5m of water.

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