Backward Glance: The last voyage of the S.S. Dicky
  • Wednesday 01 July 2015
SS Dicky shipwrecked close to Caloundra ca 1893

The 226 tonne schooner S.S. Dicky was built by G. Howaldt of Kiel Germany in 1883.  Registered in Brisbane, she was one of two vessels owned by Brisbane shipping agents and small steamer owners Brydon, Jones and Co. Her official number was British Merchant Ship 88841. The schooner was approximately 31 metres in length with a beam of 6.5 metres.

A cargo vessel that carried no passengers, the Dicky serviced the smaller harbours from Rockhampton south, and left on one of her rare trips to Brisbane on January 26, 1893. During heavy NNE weather she was unable to clear Caloundra Head (Wickham Point) due to gale force conditions. Lashing rain and cyclonic winds hit the Dicky with such force that the ship at times lay on her beam ends. Broken water was sighted to the leeward. Moffat Head had unfortunately been mistaken for Wickham Point and Moffat Beach for Caloundra

Captain Beattie was forced to beach the schooner to avoid hitting the rocks of Moffat Beach. On   February 4, 1893 at 10.35am the Dicky was grounded by the stern first on the beach between Tooway Creek and Bunduwah Creek. Seaman Milican attempted to take a lifeline ashore. The sea was huge and there was a king tide. Seaman Kattney completed the effort to get the lifeline ashore. All crew except the Captain were successful in reaching land. There was no loss of life.

The mate took the stranded crew to the home of John Wilson of the early guesthouse ‘Seaglint’, located on the hill behind Moffat Beach. John Wilson sent an Aboriginal man with a message to Tom Laxton, one of the first settlers in Caloundra near Mooloolah, to bring a bullock team for help. Laxton called on Harry Westaway, another early settler. With two bullock teams supplied by Laxton and Westaway, and the efforts of the crew, the SS Dicky was re-floated on   February 6, 1893. Regrettably, the vessel only had a light anchor which dragged during the night and it went aground a second time.  Two or three days later, they tried again with the same results. This time the ship grounded side on.

Captain Beattie remained on the Dicky till the next day,  February 5, and by this time king tides had receded. He found that the Dicky was grounded only by the stern when at high water.   The captain decided to attempt to re-float the vessel. Regrettably the anchor again dragged during the night. The Dicky was re-floated a third time, however there is some confusion over who was responsible for this. Again, the Dicky grounded a fourth time, this time nose on and remained in that position. The Trail Brothers, early settlers of the Landsborough district, assisted with the last salvage attempt.

Captain Beattie sent Mr Watson and all members of the crew who were not necessary to Brisbane to report the stranding. It is quite possible they walked to Landsborough (formerly Mellum Creek) where they obtained transport to Brisbane.

Over the years, visitors and residents alike would walk to the Dicky wreck as an outing.  Many picnics were held in the vicinity. The Dicky remained as an icon. During WWII, Caloundra region was a restricted zone. Northern Command 7th Garrison troops had a camp with many thousands of soldiers in the Dicky Beach region during this time.

In April 1963, Landsborough Shire Council decided to salvage the propeller of the Dicky and mount it on a suitable cairn. The brass plaque, propeller affixed to the cairn was officially opened by Premier Frank Nicklin on Sunday,  November 24, 1963. Members of the Queensland Women’s Historical Association sponsored the plaque attached to the Dicky memorial.

Since 1963, Dicky Beach area has grown significantly. At that time, the Dicky wreck was about 70-yearsold. There are a lot of stories relayed about the Dicky from Caloundra’s old timers and fortunately a small book written by Charles Harold Mann titled “The Wreck of the Dicky” was able to clarify fact from fiction.

The memorial cairn is located on Sunshine Coast Council land around 20 metres from the thoroughfare of Beerburrum Street, in the shopping district of Dicky Beach. It is easily accessed by foot or from the Dicky Beach car park.

On her final voyage, the crew list was:

John Beattie – Master
James Watson – Mate
M. Paul – Engineer 
Mr Walsh and J. Ricca – Firemen
Mr Rissbrook – Lamp trimmer
Mr R Millican and H. Kattney – Able Seamen
Mr James Spence – position not identified.

The Marine Board of Queensland on March 29, 1893 found that the stranding of the Dicky was due to negligent navigation. The Master, John Summers Beattie, was found in default, and his certificate, No. 011406, issued in Glasgow, Scotland in 1884 was suspended for three months from the date of casualty.

Cyclone damage was also inflicted in Brisbane and surrounding areas at this time. On  February 5, 1893 the northern half of Indooroopilly Rail Bridge was washed away, and on February 6 the northern part of the Victoria Bridge, which spans the Brisbane River, collapsed. A cloudburst at Crohamhurst near Peachester recorded 36 inches (900mm) of rain in 24 hours. This is an Australian record for a 24-hour period.

Learn more about the Coast’s unique history by reading our Backward Glance series. There’s a new story every Wednesday.