We are lucky enough to hold various artefacts from the wrecking of the Maitland steamer.
The following information comes from:
Such was the impact when the steamer Maitland wrecked in 1898 that it led to the naming of a bay, a bombora and the storm that sank it!
Photographs of the iron paddle steamer portray its beautiful sleek lines. Of 231 feet (70.00 m) in length, the vessel was built at Glasgow, United Kingdom, in 1870. Famed as a regular trader along the New South Wales coast, excited passengers queued at Sydney to board before the 11.00 p.m. departure. By the time the steamer reached the Sydney Heads, they began to fear for their lives.
Labouring into a frightening gale, the Maitland immediately began shipping water. Seas carried away the deckhouse as all aboard assisted in bailing water from the flooding hull. Struggling in the pitch-black night, frantic efforts were made to dump cargo in a last ditch effort to stay upright. However, by the time they passed Barrenjoey Headland, huge seas flooded the engine fires, they were now adrift at the mercy of the driving seas. As one survivor was later to remark, “it seemed as if all the winds of heaven from every point of the compass had been let loose from their caverns”. Captain Skinner got everybody together and instructed them “to prepare themselves for what was to come”.
Just before 6.00 a.m. on 6 May 1898, the Maitland was driven onto the foot of East Reef with a mighty crash and driven high up into the air. The hull immediately wrenched apart amidships, carrying most of the crew and steerage passengers in the forward section to their deaths. Those swept ashore alive were severely injured by the jagged rocks and pounding surf. The remainder survived on the shattered stern, eventually making it ashore by the afternoon, after several nerve-racking attempts to secure a line to the beach. At one stage four of the crew including the Stewardess were crossing by the line when it broke. Only the Third Engineer made it to safety.
The tragic death of 24 from 63 aboard appalled the population. One young women found drowned had been buried under sand and wreckage, near naked, and with her teeth smashed away.
There were many tales of gallantry however, one involved the remarkable survival of baby Daisy Hammond. Trapped on the wreck after her mother had carried ashore, Daisy was nursed by crew through the night. Next morning, she was carried through the surf on the Boatswain’s back. Many years later, Daisy Stevens visited the wreck, and when she died in 1988 at the age of 90, had her ashes flown from Canada and scattered over the wreck site.
The “Maitland Gale” also claimed the schooners Amelia White, Philip Palfrey, Adelaide, Isabel, J.G. Kondio; the ketch Coral; the barquentine Fido; the ship Hereward and the steamers Ethel, Merksworth and Saxonia. In 1909, the timber steamer Narooma ran ashore on the beach at Boat Harbour and became a total wreck. The Maitland’s exposed boilers were still clearly visible in photographs taken at the time. Today little is left of the Maitland wreck, other than fragments of the hull and remains of a boiler on the exposed East Reef at low tide.
Sydney Morning Herald 9, 10, 11 & 12 May 1898
Central Coast Express, 8 April 1988
Gosford Heritage Association