Minnamurra River Tragedy    1893   Back

This is part of the account of the accident and was taken from a torn, and fragile copy of the "Reporter and Illawarra Journal." and "Sydney Mail".


At the request of a large number of readers who were unable to obtain a copy of the Reporter of the 28th ultimo, containing an account of the accident, we reprint the following particulars as appeared in our issue of that date:--

Never before in the history of Kiama has it been the sad duty of one to chronicle such a sad and terrible boating fatality as that which occurred on Tuesday afternoon, December 26th, when Captain Thos. Honey, J.P., and his wife, Mr. Geo. Wood, jun., and his three young children (Eliza Jane, Elsie May and Harry), and Miss Pike, lost their lives through drowning, at the mouth of the 'Minnamurra River. Prom particulars

To hand it appears that the two families were picnicking close to the mouth of the River, and after luncheon those already mentioned went for a row in a flat bottomed punt, hired for the day. After pulling a short distance up stream the boat was turned 'round, -and with a very strong current, the mouth of the River was rapidly approached. On an attempt being made to pull out of danger one of those unforeseen accidents--a broken oar--happened, thus leaving the frail vessel with its helpless though much valued freight, at the mercy of the current and heavy serf into which they almost directly were borne and out of which one person alone was saved.

From an account of an eyewitness of the terrible scene it appears *that a-large wave swamped the boat. washing Miss Pike into the sea. Captain Honey then seized his wife and bravely tried to swim ashore with her in his-arms; but failed, Mr. Wood at the same time made superhuman efforts to save the precious lives of his two young daughters and son, but after a gallant effort. he too failed; and seven souls had departed to that bourne from whence no traveller returns. All this time Mrs. Wood managed to keep her seat in the boat, and was the eyewitness of a calamity that deprived -her at- once of an---affectionate husband and three dear children, two sisters and a brother-in-law. Pen could not describe the state of her feelings at seeing those so near and dear to her perish.

Races were being held on Eureka race course at the time, and on the news of the accident being brought by Mr A.Riley, the course was almost deserted, and a stampede of men-and boys, on foot and on horses, immediately took place for the scene of the disaster.

On arriving at the River's bank it was seen that to be of any assistance it would be necessary to swim the River. This, however, did not daunt the spirits of upwards-of a score of brave young men, for in a moment all had stripped and were in the River struggling with a dangerous tide with the hope of yet being in time to render aid to those so much in need of it.

Harry Calambus was now observed by the hundreds of anxious and horror-stricken friends and spectators standing on the River's band, to be rapidly pulling down the River, and shortly before reaching the breakers, was joined by two comrades--William Evans and James Walker.

With three experienced men in the boat, she dashed with terrific speed out of the river, safely through, the dangerous serf, in time to rescue the only survivor--Mrs. Wood, and pick up the dead bodies of her two little girls and sister (Miss 'Pike).   Search was then made for the remaining bodies, but without success. Seeing it was impossible to enter through the mouth into the River with his boat, Harry wisely, though at some risk. beached his boat, which was afterwards drawn across the beach and launched in the River, and Mrs. Wood conveyed to the opposite shore to her anxious relatives and friends.

But while these three men were doing such noble work, those on shore were not idle. Mr. Wood was noticed by them to be struggling some distance from shore, and two young men (Messrs. Richard Fadden and Edward Seymour) at once went to his rescue among the breakers. On reaching Mr. Wood they found he was still alive, though almost gone. The brave rescuers remained with him and used every effort to bring him ashore; but the heavy serf, together with the strong current, proved too much for them, and after remaining at their post until death had taken Mr. Wood, they were compelled to return to shore in order to save their own lives. After a short rest they again observed the body and again went to the rescue, and with the assistance of other willing hands the .body was brought ashore. And although Dr. Read and Mr. Hobbs, and in fact everyone present, did all -that men could do, they could not bring back the departed life.

The four bodies were then tenderly carried across the beach to the River's bank, where they were placed in two waiting boats and conveyed to the opposite bank, which was by this time lined with hundreds of sympathetic spectators who watched with tearful eyes the bodies being removed from the boats and gently placed side by side on the green bank. Shortly afterwards the bodies were all conveyed to the residence of the late Miss Pike in Kiama.

Among the many who rendered assistance, and in some instances risked their lives in the attempt to save the drowning were the following --Messrs. David Graham, John Roberts, William Evans, James Halliwell, R. Geoghegan, Chas. Graham, Captain Laycock, D. King, W. Ible, Richard Padden, Edward Seyrnour, not forgetting the three men in the boat-- H. Calambus, J. Walker, and W.. Campbell.