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Binoculars presented to Captain J.E. Meaburn as a souvenir of the relief of SS COREA near Moreton Bay Bar on the 8th February 1883 by the SS QUEENSLAND

Date: 1883
Overall: 160 x 130 x 62 mm
Medium: Metal, glass
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Geoff Thorne
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Binoculars
Object No: 00050713

User Terms

    Part of a collection of memorabilia of Captain John Elliot Meaburn. Meaburn was captain of the S.S. WYREEMA when it collided with the SS CURRAJONG on March the 9th, 1910. The SS CURRAJONG sank in Sydney Harbour and is now a popular diving site.

    The memorabilia includes Meaburn's binoculars with his name on the leather case and the binoculars, his telescope, pictures of the WYREEMA and of Captain Meaburn, along with a leather bound book with photographs and signatures. The deocrative leather bound book is still in its original oak box .

    SignificanceThis is an outstanding collection of the memorabilia of the service and community support for an Australian coastal steamship captain. It shows the importance placed in these items by Captain Meaburn and his family and descendants, and reflects the faith and esteem placed on the service of sea captains by various Australian maritime communites during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    The objects were treasured by Meaburn's descendants. They are exquistely and lovingly hand detailed - reflecting a lost art in illuminated and decorated community driven testimonials - and remain in remarkably excellent condition. As such, they are a rare and important group of artefacts.
    HistoryJ E Meaburn had worked between the 1880s and 1910 as a captain of coastal steam passenger and cargo vessels along the eastern seaboard, mainly from Queensland ports, until on the night of March the 9th 1910, whilst rounding Bradleys Head in Sydney Harbour, his almost brand new, large and luxurious coastal passenger liner the S.S. WYREEMA collided with the collier the SS CURRAJONG.

    The CURRAJONG was heading into Port Jackson whilst the WYREEMA was leaving on route to Cairns. Nearing the turn at Bradleys Head, the outgoing WYREEMA apparently cut the turn too fine and the much larger liner slashed open the heavily-laden collier which quickly sank, with the loss of a crew member.

    After the collision, the WYREEMA returned to its berth for a safety survey and initial investigation and then continued on its voyage. Meaburn later had his master's ticket withdrawn for l2 months, however after a court hearing - at which one can only assume the testimonials and widespread support for Meaburn in Queensland newspapers in particular had some influence - Meaburn was exonerated of any wrong doing.

    The SS CURRAJONG is apparently still largely intact - but well sunken in the mud - and is a popular dive site. Harbour authorities have worked to reduce the parts of the ship above the sea floor, but it seems the hull remains. Few people travelling aboard a Manly ferry probably realise that as they round Bradley's Head they pass over the mangled remains of the steam collier SS CURRAJONG.

    The highlight of this collection of artefacts relating to Captain Meaburn's maritime career is the testimonial to his service and career, signed by supporters and lavishly decorated, bound in leather and stored in an oak, lockable case.

    The testimonial is written in gothic caligraphy in the style of an illuminated manuscript. It is dated Brisbane June 1910 and obviously written just after notice was handed down by the Sydney Court of Marine Inquiry that Captain Meaburn had committed a 'wrongful act' and was requested to, according to the Cairns Post newspaper on June 1st 1910, ' cause why his certificate should not be dealt with'.

    It reads in full;

    Dear Captain Meaburn -
    The personal satisfaction which results from the assurance that during a long course of years, duty has been faithfully and successfully performed is in itself a great and abiding reward. Nevertheless, an occasion sometimes arises when it becomes very helpful to a man to know that his courage, devotion and skill are widely recognised and generously appreciated. At such a time it is just and right that his friends should give him a hearty message of loyalty and good cheer. Many of us who are glad to subscribe ourselves amongst your friends have known your career during the extended period of voer thirty years. You hold a splendid record of achievement. During this long period you have been imployed in teh difficult and dangerous navigation of the coasts of Australia. You have mad innumerable voyages, and have brought sefely to port thousands of passengers, and millions of pounds worth fo frieght. The lives and business interests of ourselves, and of our fellow citizens have unreservedly been entrusted to your care and experience, and the manner in which you have ever protected them has won for you the respect of the whole community.
    We desire to assure you of our unshaken confidence in your skill and capacity as a careful Commander and our high regard for your character as a gallant seaman.
    We remains, dear Sir, Yours very faithfully,

    Another object in the collection is a large single page from the Cairns Post that is effectively a published character reference for Meaburn written and signed by Mayors and Councilors from various Queensland coastal towns, from July 1910. Along with the testimonial these dramatic displays of support show an interesting outpouring of sympathy for an obviously well respected sea captain.

    The SS WYREEMA, 6,388 gross tons, was built in 1908 by A. Stephen & Sons, Glasgow, Scotland for the Australian United Steamship Navigation Company (A.U.S.N.) had an interesting and varied career. 'Wyreema' was a Maori word meaning 'Meeting Place of Three Rivers'. The new ship accommodated 250 first-class and 200 second-class passengers, and was superior in size and appointments to any vessel previously on the north Queensland route.

    WYREEMA served most of World War I on the northern coastal route, but on the 23rd September 1918 was taken over by the Navy for conversion into a troopship. WYREEMA steamed to Europe the next month, but at Capetown in South Africa was advised the armistice to end the war had been signed, so returned to Australia.

    Woodman Point, south of Fremantle, was from 1886 until 1979 the main quarantine station for Western Australia. Sister O' Kane and nurse Williams, whose grave sites are at the Woodman Point reserve today, were among 45 Australian Army Nursing Service nurses on the SS WYREEMA in 1918. Twenty volunteers from the nurses aboard the WYREEMA were called for to work at the Quarantine Station Hospital to minister to returning soldiers. Amongst the volunteers were Sister O' Kane, Sister Thompson and Nurse Williams. These three were to die from influenza in the following as well as Sister Ridgeway,and were buried with full military honours in the cemetery adjoining the Hospital - as were some twenty plus soldiers who also died in the epidemic.

    On eventually reaching Adelaide in South Australia, the WYREEMA was once again ordered to sail to Britain to bring troops home and arrived in Liverpool in early February 1919. Here, the great pneumonic influenza pandemic had spread through the crew and fifteen died. Eventually the ship was able to leave on the 13th April, carrying troops and their families back to Australia, reaching Sydney on the 31st May 1919, at which time the vessel was handed back to the owners.

    After reconditioning, WYREEMA returned to the east coast route, which was now suffering a downturn in passengers and freight. An outbreak of bubonic plague in September 1921 resulted in the vessel being laid-up in Sydney until April 1922. Due to the rail link to Cairns being completed in 1924, the following year saw the A.U.S.N. deciding to withdraw their vessels from the east coast route altogether. WYREEMA was laid-up in September 1925 in Sydney, and put up for sale, unsuccessfully, and then returned to the east coast passenger and trade route in 1926.

    In June 1926 the vessel and its sister ship were purchased by Lloyd Brasiliero, and the WYREEMA was renamed the DOM PEDRO I and was incorporated into a Brazilian shipping company, plying the coast of South America for twenty years until broken up in Rio de Janeiro in 1958.

    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Captain Meaburn memorabilia

    Web title: Binoculars belonging to Captain Meaburn

    Primary title: Binoculars presented to Captain J.E. Meaburn as a souvenir of the relief of SS COREA near Moreton Bay Bar on the 8th February 1883 by the SS QUEENSLAND

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