The story of the missing SS Dicky bell uncovered
  • Monday 20 March 2017
When the 226 tonne SS Dicky ran aground during cyclonic weather on February 4, 1893 there is no doubt the ship’s bell would have been clanging loudly to warn of the disaster ahead.

Over the years the SS Dicky became an iconic rusty wreck, stripped of all that was usable and the shell itself even used as a dressing shed for bathers.

But the bell and the quest to find this small but important piece of the SS Dicky has been an ongoing story – until recently when the mystery surrounding its location was solved by a letter.

The letter was found in the archives of the Dicky Beach Surf Club and outlines how the bell was purchased by a Mr Henderson at an auction of the ships fittings and was then used for many years at Sun Engineering Works at Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, as a time signal.

After Mr Henderson’s death in 1930 the engineering company was closed and the bell was installed in the family residence at Norman Park. It has been subsequently passed down through the family to the current owner, Russell Henderson.

In 2014 the SS Dicky Taskforce, including representatives from Sunshine Coast Council, the surf club, the community, and a marine archaeologist, started looking at how to bring the bell back “home”.

Olds Engineering in Maryborough were contracted to help. By using the original bell, generously loaned to the taskforce by the current owner, as a mould, created three replica bells.

Division 2 Councillor Tim Dwyer thanked the Henderson family for allowing council to send the original bell to the heritage maritime specialist foundry to have it recast.

“I was honoured to travel to Maryborough with SS Dicky Taskforce member Col White and our Cultural Heritage Services Coordinator Louise Bauer to collect the three replica bells when they were completed,” Cr Dwyer said.

“On behalf of Col White and myself, we are very pleased with the joint collaboration and the great workmanship by Olds Engineering.

“One of the bells will now be held in council’s Cultural Heritage collection and will be on display as part of the SS Dicky Museum Box at Caloundra Library until April 20.

“The second bell will be on public display at the Landsborough Museum, which has a maritime collection, and the third bell will feature in the Dicky Beach park redevelopment.”

Retired Managing Director of Maryborough Olds Engineering, Peter Olds, said it was a privilege to have been asked to recreate the SS Dicky bell.

“Our company had worked on the SS Maheno bell replicas and Sunshine Coast local Graham Smith heard my interview on the radio and the rest is history,” Mr Olds said.

“I travelled to Brisbane to inspect and collect the original bell from Russell Henderson and council commissioned us to cast three bells.

“The bell is a sacred part of any ship. It keeps the time, signals the change of watches and sounds important signals.

“Each bell has its own interesting feature and the SS Dicky bell was unusual in that the original engraving by chisel was spelt Dickx and it appears someone had added the bottom stroke to make the ‘x’ a ‘y’. The SS Dicky was built in Germany so I wondered whether there was a link to the German spelt Dickx name. It is a bit of a mystery.

“The top of the original bell was broken and it had a very thin throat on one side so we fixed those faults before using it to create the sand moulds into which the replicas were poured or “cast”.

“The casting and finishing of the three bells took approximately a month and it is a real honour to see the replicas on exhibition for all the community to enjoy.”

To the sounds of Andrew Cooke’s A Song for the SS Dicky, a tribute to her memory, the rusted SS Dicky wreck was removed from the beach by Sunshine Coast Council on Thursday July 30, 2015. Andrew Cooke once again performed this touching tribute to the SS Dicky at the launch of the SS Dicky Museum Box at Caloundra Library.

The SS Dicky Museum Box will be on display at Caloundra Library until April 20 and includes historic items including letters, courtesy of the Dicky Beach Surf Club, and a range of photos capturing the significance of the iconic SS Dicky.

Image captions:

Hero image: Pictured from left to right Division 2 Cr Tim Dwyer, Landsborough Historical Society Management Committee Tim Venter and Retired Managing Director of Maryborough Olds Engineering, Peter Olds with one of the SS Dicky replica bells.

Image 1: Peter Olds travelled to Brisbane to collect the original bell and this photo was taken on arrival back in Maryborough.

Image 2: A photo of the original Dicky Bell clearly shows the ‘x’ and ‘y’.

Image 3: Lachlan Hansen in the process of cutting the name and date in one of the replica bells. He is using one of the chisels made especially for the job.