from Shapinsay, Orkney - Scotland
to Adelaide, South Australia

Notes on SS Yarrawonga and other vessels where William Henry Russell was an engineer.

William Henry went on a once only trip overseas to London and return via Cape Horn. This information was family knowledge. I decided to see what evidence I could find that would verify this story. That evidence is collected below.

On searching the web I found a reference to the Yarrawonga in a couple of websites:

A solar eclipse of, 1894 observed from the SS. Yarrawonga,
The captain of Yarrawonga is recorded as H.G.Thomas., the eclipse at
Lat 7 17'S, 70 12'E.
- [ http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1894MNRAS..55...78T ]

Yarrawonga is referred to by Lieutenant Commander Capper, "Spectacle Island Command 1894 - 1900" in an article on the "Naval Historical Society of Australia website. ...
My relief arrived in the early months of 1900, and in view of an expected interesting family event arrangements were made for our passage to England by a Blue Funnel vessel, SS Yarrawonga (sister ship to the illfated Waratah), round the Cape, so as to avoid an accouchement in the Red Sea.

The reference above verified that the ship did travel around the Cape but it suggested that the cape was Cape of Good Hope rather than the Suez? However we did know that grandfather was a "Cape Horner" and there was no record of the boat being on the Blue Funnel Line register. Then I found it listed under the "Blue Anchor Line" and its route was around Cape of Good Hope, not Cape Horn!

Blue Anchor Line
Routes include: London - Tenerife - Capetown - Adelaide - Melbourne - Hobart - Launceston - Sydney.
Funnel: Black with white band containing blue anchor and chain.
Yarrawonga built 1891, 4,011 tons       31/5/1897(?) SS Yarrawonga
(1903 sold to Houston Line renamed Hermione).
So it would seem that the family story checks out except for the Cape Horn bit. Did Yarrawonga sail around Cape Horn on one of its voyages? Who knows, maybe it did, but there is no evidence for it.
Culgoa built 1890, 3,325 tons       12/2/1897 - 3/4/1897
(1898 sold to U.S. Government). The list says that William Henry sailed on this vessel from 12/2/1897 to 3/4/1897. I always thought this was a coastal ship, but perhaps this also was an overseas voyage, after all it was not listed as coastal? Maybe he sailed to London on the Culgoa and returned on the Yarrawonga? After Yarrawonga 31/5/97(?) which follows, the vessels are all listed as coastal.

Other vessel references found include:
Adelaide Steamship Company:
Wollowra built 1891, 2,631 tons       25/9/1896 - 6/12/1896 and 7/12/1896 - 7/1/1897
(ex- Silvio Spaventa, 1895 purchased from Italo-Britannica Royal Italian Mail S.N. Co., Naples renamed Wollowra, 1915 sold to Hong Kong, 1921 sold to China, 1922 sold to Spain renamed Iberia, 1928 scrapped).
Marloo built 1891, 2,628tons       6/11/1897 - 29/11/1897
SS Marloo
Picture from http://www.oceaniashippingforum.com/showthread.php?t=1332 - scroll down
(ex- Francesco Crispi, 1895 purchased from Italo-Britannica Royal Italian Mail S.N. Co., Naples renamed Marloo, 1914 grounded Fraser Island, Queensland and broke up}. Evidently Marloo sailed between Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Other Shipping Lines:
Kalgoolie built 1880, 2985 tons       25/5/1899 - 12/6/1899
SS Kalgoolie
Picture from http://www.oceaniashippingforum.com/showthread.php?t=1332 - scroll down
Reference to info below was found here: http://www.red-duster.co.uk/GLEN6.htm
GLENFRUIN (1) was built in 1880 by London & Glasgow at Govan with a tonnage of 2985grt, a length of 360ft 4in, abeam of 43ft.3in and a service speed of 13.5 knots. She was the first ship registered by McGregor, Gow & Co. and in 1886 was the first ship to enter the newly built Tilbury Docks with the official party. In May 1897 she was sold to McIlwraith, Mc Eacharn Ltd., renamed Kalgoolie and on 1st June of that year sailed for Melbourne via Fremantle and Albany. In Melbourne she was fitted with passenger accommodation for 130 Saloon and 400 Dormitory Class passengers. On 24th September she sailed for Sydney to begin a regular run to Fremantle on what was known as the 'Gold Rush' service in conjunction with the Coolgardie.
It is interesting to see the obvious indications in the photographs of the transition from sail to steamships. Kalgoolie has 3 masts and the stern features of an iron sailing ship.
It also appears that sails could still be used from the booms evident particularly on the foremast. These may be derricks? Marloo features a bowsprit. Yarrawonga, however, shows clear evidence of sail from the rigging on the foremast.

Helen Nicoll built 1882, 384 tons       3/1/1900 - 20/2/1900
Helen Nicoll is listed on the Sydney Heritage Fleet website
In email correspondence John Stevenson gives more details:
HELEN NICOLL. Off No 86362
Iron screw steamer.
Launched 21st February 1882 , as Yard No 112, by Gourlay Bro's & Co.,
Dundee, Scotland.
384 GRT.
157.0ft L, 22.0ft B, 10.3ft D.
Two cyl steam engine and one single ended boiler operating at 70 lbs/sqin pressure supplied by the shipbuilders.
One deck, four bulkheads.
Owners : G.W. Nicoll & Co.
Port of Reg : Sydney, NSW.
It was involved in a collision in 1886. WH sailed on it from 3/1/1900. He signed on in Adelaide as indicated on the discharge certificate reproduced below..
Discharge certificate for Helen Nicoll

In conclusion William Henry must have made at least two overseas trips. Whether he rounded Cape Horn is problematic. The family say he did. While I understood he sailed in coastal vessels in South Australia it appears that these voyages took WH to other states and probably as far as Brisbane. At the turn of the century road transport would have been difficult - the car was only just being invented - so travel would have been by sea or rail. The importance of shipping would have been paramount, especially for bulky cargo, but also for carrying passengers.The Kalgoolie indicated above was fitted out to carry 530 passengers, the jumbo of her day!

P M Russell
(page updated 1 September 2008)