Fiction and fact collide

My family were merchants and traders in the nineteenth century and owned a ship called the Lady Denison. This is a fact. In my fiction, an ancestor of Thomas Radwinter was a passenger on the ship when it was wrecked of the coast of Australia – this is pure fiction! here is a post I wrote about the ship:

The Lady Denison was a brig, or maybe she was a barque… she was a wooden, masted ship that is sure and she was owned by my great-great-grandfather and his brother in law, Nathan, Moses & Co. Samuel Moses was my ancestor, Louis Nathan was his brother in law. The ship, brig or barque, was built in Tasmanian at the convict settlement of Port Arthur by the convicts. She was built in 1847 by  David Hoy shipwright, at the dockyards which had opened in 1831

The Lady Denison was 158tons and  traded for Samuel and Louis widely across the pacific and around Australia. In 1850, the Lady Denison was en route for Hobart,  having left Adelaide in Australia on 17th April, captained by a Captain Hammond.  Captain Hammond had already sailed from Hobart to Adelaide three times that year, arriving January 29th, March 1st and April 10th, so the captain and crew were well used to the journey between Tasmania and Adelaide. On board were eleven male and female convicts, three constables, sixteen other passengers and a crew of seven or eight. The passengers included, Mr and Mrs Meyers , two sisters named Crockets, Mr Privasin, Mrs Crampton, Mr Crocke, Mr Fenton, Mr Foster, Mr Fever, Mr Mason, Mr and Mrs Wilkin, Thomas Morton, J. Jones and  J. Richard. There may also have been another passenger, Robert Bolger.

The ship was seen while on her journey she never arrived at her destination. The weather was appalling and two other vessels were lost in the Bass Strait (between mainland Australia and Tasmania) at about the same time. There was wreckage found at the appropriately named Cape Grim, on the north-west coast of Tasmania, and a sealer claimed to have seen her wreckage strewn along the beach near the Arthur River further down the coast; maybe they did more than see the wreckage, maybe they stopped and plundered it.

There were rumours that the convicts on board had managed to overwhelm the constables and crew and sailed the ship across the Pacific to San Francisco, and there were claims that some of the convicts had been seen alive there. This was the time of the gold rush, and it was thought by some that the convicts had headed across the ocean to find their fortune.  In 1853 there was an inquest on a woman who was identified as being one of the convicts on the ship. Maybe some of the convicts survived the shipwreck, it did not necessarily mean that they had taken over the vessel.

It must have been a grievous lost for the families of those on board, and Samuel and Louis who were both deeply religious men must have felt that loss too, and not just for financial reasons.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.