Melancholy Accident at Port Willunga in 1858

Event Dates:

5 September 1858

A boat, belonging to Mr. Joseph Butterworth, merchant of Port Willunga, was capsized a short distance from the jetty, on Sunday, about 1 o’clock, p,m., with four men, who had been loading the Sir Isaac Newton for Mr. White, at Yankalilla, three of whom have perished. One of the unfortunate young men was a Mr. Edwin Parker, of Port Willunga, whose body up to 5 o’clock had not been found. He has left a young wife and one infant to lament his loss.

An inquest was held at the Pier Hotel, Port Willunga, at 12 o’clock, on Monday, the 6th Inst., before Mr. Colville, Coroner, upon the bodies of Daniel Stamps and Joseph Coleman, who were drowned on the previous day. The Jury having been formed, Mr. Samuel White was selected as their foreman. The Jury then visited and inspected the bodies.

On their return the following evidence was given: William Ramage said- I was in the boat belonging to Mr. Butterworth with the deceased Joseph Coleman and Daniel Stamps; Edwin Parker was also in the boat. We left Yankalilla about 10 o’clock on Sunday morning, the 5th inst. the wind was blowing from the south-east and veering round to the south-west occasionally. The sea was not running very high when we left Yankalilla; heavy squalls and rain came on when abreast of Myponga from the south-west. The sea was running high afterwards. We attempted to go in at the reef off Mr. Daniel Evans’s place, two or three very heavy seas very near broke into the boat, and we then make for the jetty at Port Willunga. We were running on the surf to beach the boat. The sea was very high; the steer oar was rather short. There was another oar over the quarter of the boat. Daniel Stamps was assisting in steering the boat; the boat got on the top of a sea; the steer oar got out of the water, and had no power on the boat. She turned round and get capsized; we all got on the bottom. Another sea came and swept us all off again, and we all made several attempts to reach the boat, but became senseless. I know nothing more till I was on the beach, when Miss Martin was assisting in recovering me. I saw the bodies of Joseph Coleman and Daniel Stamps at Mr. Martin’s. When I recovered they were quite dead when I first saw them. The boat was under canvas when we left Yankalilla. We bought a bottle of rum at Yankalilla, but gave it to some men who were in a whaleboat recovering property from the Atrevida. We were all quite sober when we left Yankalilla.

Bramley Butterworth, miller, Aldinga, said- I was at Mr. Butterworth’s (my father’s) stores, on Sunday, the 6th September, between 12 and 1 o’clock. Mrs. Butterworth told me there was a boat coming in. I went down to the beach with the intention of helping to haul the boat up. Just as I got down to the end of the jetty the boat capsized. I ran along the beach and threw off my coat and went in to the water and got hold of William Ramage and pulled him to land. I went into the sea again, and got hold of Daniel Stamps and pulled him out, and my brother William was with me when I left my father’s house. He went into the sea and pulled out Joseph Coleman. I immediately went after Dr. Knipe. When I returned the bodies of Joseph Coleman and Daniel Stamps were in Mr. Martin’s house. The doctor came back with me. He pronounced them quite dead as soon as he saw them. I saw nothing of the body of Edwin Parker after the boat capsized. It was about 10 minutes after the boat capsized when I got the bodies out of the water. I saw them get on the boat and washed off again. William Butterworth corroborated his brother’s evidence, and said- I did not see Edwin Parker after the boat capsized. I saw four men in the boat before she did capsize.

Miss Catherine Martin, daughter of Mr. Martin, Pier Hotel- About 12 o’clock on Sunday, the 6th inst. I was in my father’s home upstairs. My sister called on me and said she saw a boat coming. I ran down to the sand hill and saw the boat was capsized and the men on the bottom of the boat. I cannot say how many men were on the bottom of the boat. Messrs. Bramley and William Butterworth were there looking after the man. We were all there about the same time. William Butterworth pulled Joseph Coleman out of the sea, and Bramley pulled out William Ramage and Daniel Stamps. We kept wiping the water off William Ramage’s face till he got round a little. I went to Coleman. I did not see him move. I went to Daniel Stamps. I did not see him move. He was in my belief quite dead. Bramley Butterworth went for Dr. Knipe, James Frederick. I was on the beach when Dr. Knipe came. I saw nothing of the other man. I went into the water and helped to turn up the boat thinking he was there but he was not.

Mary Martin, wife of Thomas Martin, Pier Hotel, corroborated her daughter’s evidence and said- Dr. Knipe came and pronounced the bodies of Joseph Coleman and Daniel Stamps quite dead, but he rolled them in dry flannel and said he could not have saved them if he had been on the beach when they were taken on shore as they were too far gone. I saw Edwin Parker in the water but a heavy sea came and I saw him no more. The Coroner shortly addressed the Jury, and expressed his deep regret at this melancholy occurrence and his admiration of the gallant conduct of Messrs. Bramley and William Butterworth and Miss Martin, in which the Jury cordially joined, and returned the following verdict:- The said Joseph Coleman and Daniel Stamps came to their death by the upsetting of a boat off Port Willunga, accidentally, and not otherwise.


1858 ‘MELANCHOLY ACCIDENT AT PORT WILLUNGA — CORONER’S INQUEST‘, South Australian Register 8 September, p. 4. , viewed 12 Feb 2024,

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