Story of the S.S. Dicky bell uncovered
  • Thursday 26 April 2018
SS Dicky bell, Graham Smith, Russell Henderson, Colin White

For many years, the story of the famed bell from the S.S. Dicky shipwreck was a mystery.

That was until the discovery of a 1983 letter written by the bell’s past owner, the late I.L.B Henderson.

The letter was found at the Dicky Beach Surf Club as a part of their S.S. Dicky memorabilia collection.

It told the story of the bell’s journey and how it came to be in the possession of the Henderson family.

The letter, dated February 24, 1983, explained that the bell came into the possession of the Henderson family when I.L.B Henderson’s father, Hector, purchased it at an auction of the ship’s fittings.

For many years, the bell was used as a “time signal” in the family’s business, Sun Engineering Works, alerting workers to their start and knock-off time.

Following Hector’s passing in 1930, the business was closed and the bell was installed at the family residence in Norman Park where his daughter Doris lived.

The bell remained there for around 40 years until Doris relocated to Corinda and after her passing the bell was moved to I.L.B Henderson’s home in Redland Bay where it remained until 2001.

When I.L.B Henderson passed away in 2001, his son Russell became custodian of the bell and remains so today, keeping it in pride of place at his home in Paddington.

Until 2013, the whereabouts of the bell remained a mystery to Sunshine Coast locals.

It wasn’t until local resident Peter Magee discovered a copy of a 1964 letter from the president of the Queensland Women’s Historical Society to a Dr Henderson (I.L.B Henderson’s brother), offering to buy the bell should the family ever decide to sell it.

Dr Henderson had arranged to loan the bell to the Society for the unveiling of the S.S. Dicky propeller plaque in 1963.

From this letter, Peter Magee traced the history of Dr Henderson which led him to locate Russell at his home in Paddington, and the missing pieces of the story began to come together.

In 2016, Russell generously loaned the bell to council to allow for three replicas to be made by Olds Engineering for use in heritage displays.

As a show of appreciation, council and the S.S. Dicky Taskforce recently presented Russell with a framed copy of the fascinating letter which completed a piece of the puzzle that had been missing for some time.

Russell said he was thrilled to have a copy of the letter written by his father.

“The S.S. Dicky bell is a cherished piece of history for our family, having been passed down through three generations,” Mr Henderson said.

“It wasn’t until meeting representatives from council’s Cultural Heritage team and the S.S. Dicky taskforce that I had a full picture of the bell’s history and its importance to the Sunshine Coast community.

“I was honoured to loan the bell and be involved in the process of creating the replicas and I’m glad this piece of history, along with the letter, is now preserved for future generations.”

Council has also provided a framed copy of the letter to the Dicky Beach Surf Club.

The original letter is being cared for as a part of council’s Cultural Heritage collection.

A S.S. Dicky Museum Box, featuring one of the replica bells and a reproduction of the historic letter, is on display at Kawana Library.

Landsborough Museum is home to another of the replica bells and the third will feature in the heritage interpretation as part of the future Dicky Beach park redevelopment.

The S.S. Dicky Taskforce was established by council in 2013 to evaluate and provide a recommendation on the long-term management of the site.

The taskforce includes stakeholders from council, State Government, community heritage and the Dicky Beach SLSC.

In March 2014, the taskforce made a recommendation to council for the removal and relocation of the wreck, ensuring that any project included community consultation, wreck conservation and the development of interpretation opportunities as key components to the wreck’s relocation.

Find out more about the S.S. Dicky Strategy and Dicky Beach Precinct Plan.