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On May 18 the Library received a special gift from the NSW Heritage Division, Office of Environment and Heritage: a fragile ‘Bill of Sale’ for £20,000 for the paddle steamer, Collaroy.
The ‘Bill of Sale’ dated February 4, 1854, was discovered by a member of the public in a piece of antique furniture in 2010 and has now made its way to the Library for safe keeping and public access. The transfer was arranged by Minister for Heritage, Gabrielle Upton, and Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin, and officially handed over by Dr Mark Dunn, Deputy Chair of the Heritage Council of NSW.
The Collaroy was purchased by Thacker and Company and the Australasian Steam Navigation Company from the shipbuiders, John Laird & Company in Liverpool, England. For many years the Collaroy operated as a passenger vessel on the Hunter River trade, regularly transporting passengers and cargo between Newcastle and Sydney and in 1879 it was sold to the Newcastle Steamship Co Ltd.
At 4 am on January 20, 1881, on its usual passage from Newcastle to Sydney, the Collaroy ran ashore in thick fog. All 24 passengers and 16 crew were successfully brought ashore by lifeboats, in three or four trips. The ladies and children were either carried through the breakers or waded ashore themselves (Sydney Morning Herald, 21 January 1881). Many passengers were then taken to Manly by a fleet of horse-drawn coaches. The cargo of 7 bales of wool, 170 bags of potatoes, 200 hides, 40 casks of tallow, 40 pigs and 30 sheep was successfully retrieved and the livestock driven into a paddock close to the wreck. Four tug boats were dispatched to assist with recovery and salvage. In this effort, the Collaroy’s small dingy was capsized in surf and one crew member drowned.
The Collaroy remained stranded on the beach despite attempts to free the vessel. The suburb and beach of Collaroy now bears the ship’s name.
Later in 1888, Alexander Burns, a timber merchant from Balmain, purchased and re-floated the steamer. He converted the Collaroy to a four-masted schooner rigged sailing vessel. Unfortunately, the vessel was wrecked near California, USA in 1889.
When offered to the Library the ‘Bill of Sale’ was split down the centre along the folds and the Heritage Council of NSW arranged for the document to be conserved prior to the transfer.
In a curious coincidence the Libray has also recently acquired a watercolour of the Collaroy attributed to William Forster. Born in England in 1840, Forster was a prominent marine artist who visited Australia in the late nineteenth century and worked in Sydney and Newcastle.
Contract of Sale for the paddle steamer Collaroy, sold by Thacker and Company to the Australasian Steam Navigation Company, Sydney, 4 February 1854