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Geelong Hospitality Remembered

Member, and regular contributor, Brian Latter, reminds readers of the 170th anniversary of the wreck of the Earl of Charlemont. Some years ago, Brian wrote a well-researched and comprehensive story of the wreck and its aftermath (Breakers Ahead: Wreck of the Earl of Charlemont, privately published, 2002). The story of a young survivor is recounted below.

One hundred and seventy years ago, the immigrant ship Earl of Charlemont was wrecked near Barwin heads Bluff. In June 1853, most of the surviving 366 passengers and 36 crew spent their first night in Australia on this Hedland. With no sign of human habitation, these courageous newcomers gathered together what belongings they had managed to salvage, staggered up the cliff face and rested, exhausted, amongst the Tea Tree and Heath.

Those survivors, and their descendants, no doubt went on to help build Australia into the modern, prosperous nation it is today. 

One passenger, Bertie Boyce, a boy from Tiverton in Devon, went on to become a prominent church man in New South Wales. His many achievements included promoting the old age pension and various humanitarian deeds and social reforms. He was honoured in many ways, including the naming of a plateau in the Blue Mountains, north of Blackheath, Mount Boyce.

In 1903, 50 years after the wreck, voice visited Geelong and took some time to revisit the wreck site at Barwon Heads. Depending very sincere letter to the editor of the Geelong advertiser, published on 18th of May 19 103, thanking the Geelong community friends kindness and hospitality in looking after the survivors. He had not forgotten his experience – not even after fifty years.

Sir – a few days since, I was in your town of Geelong, passing through it to the Barwin heads. I wish, after an absence of about 50 years, to revisit the scene of the shipwreck of the Earl of Charlemont from Liverpool, in which I was as a boy and which occurred on 18 June 1853. It took place just off the Bluff at those heads. There were about 400 passengers.

Passing by details of the records self, I could not help thinking on my visit to the place, of the crowd of people saved from the watery grave. Many were scantily closed, everyone was in want to food; they had practically mostly lost there all, and were strangers in a strange land.

The first a night on sure was to be remembered. The 400 and the crew camped in the van bush on an in a slope, close to the Bluff the exposure was severe; one died, and others suffered and did not fully recover. A baby was born. But again, I pass by the details.

The point I want to make is that the Geelong people, directly they knew of the catastrophe, behaved in a most beneficent matter, and I wish to show that, although it is so long ago, they’re great generosity is not forgotten. They brought the people to the town and fed, clothes and how’s them. They subscribed hundreds of pounds for this and many rendered notable personal service. No tongue could tell the kindness manifested. My own father and mother, a few weeks later, came with their children to this city [Sydney] their destination, but while they lived they often spoke in glowing terms of what was done.

The Masters word’s were applied in your town in a practical way: open “I was hungered and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked and ye closed me; I was sick and ye visited me”. I very gratefully remember, as do others who survive, and not withstanding the half century of time, the great help rendered.

I also write as this remembrance may encourage others to deeds of loving kindness as showing that they are not so lost a memory as son suppose. Probably there are a few who still live in Geelong who added at the train time, and I wish now to assure them that their self sacrifice is still born in mind, and the coming 50thanniversary of the wreck, I once more thank them for their noble efforts. 

I am etc.

F. B. Boyce 

Saint Paul’s rectory, Sydney

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