The Star of Greece shipwreck is a story of tragedy and heroism. On 13 July 1888, Star of Greece was bound for England, caught in a violent storm, and wrecked off the beach at Port Willunga.

Wreck of Star of Greece by G.F. Gregory jnr. (Private Collection).

On 4 August 1888, at the monthly inspection of the South Australian Police, MC Tuohy and the other police who assisted in the rescue were lauded by the Police Commissioner. Tuohy was especially singled out for his actions. According to Commissioner Peterswald, “Mounted Constable Tuohy was pre-eminent amongst them for the outstanding bravery he showed in saving life at the risk of his own…” The other police were presented with monetary awards, and MC Tuohy could have received the amount of 20 pounds; instead, he requested a medal as an heirloom for his family.

The gold medal presented to him weighed 3 ½ oz (approx. 100 grams) and was made by S. Schlank & Co. who also made the oldest Parliamentary Mace in Australia for the Western Australian Government.

Police Commissioner Peterswald also nominated MC Tuohy for an award from the Royal Humane Society. The Humane Society agreed on the award of a Silver Medal and this medal was duly struck. On 31 October 1889, Lord Kintore, Governor of South Australia, presented the Humane Society Silver Medal to MC Tuohy in the presence of Lord Carrington, the Governor of New South Wales and most of the South Australian police force.

Photograph of Thomas Stephen Tuohy wearing his two medals. The original image was donated by members of MC Tuohy’s family

The medal presentation was conducted at the police parade grounds, and the police band played several lively tunes. Afterwards Thomas Stephen Tuohy returned to Willunga, where he continued his duties as a mounted constable.

Now, in the 21st Century, we question —-  Where are the medals?

We have contacted various members of the Tuohy family, and have advertised through social and print media, but no trace of the medals has yet been found. A numismatist has advised us that many medals were melted down during the Depression, which is a rather depressing thought.

Our goal in locating the medals is to ask the owners if we can photograph them and include the images in our exhibitions. Perhaps they may still be found at the back of a drawer or the bottom of a chest. In the meantime, we must be satisfied with determining the appearance of the two medals.

The second medal, awarded by the Royal Humane Society, was the easier medal to determine. Medals from the Royal Humane Society have changed very little from the 19th Century. The main changes relate to the changes of the organisation’s name, which became Australasian in 1882; the material of the medal; and the colour of the ribbons.

Ms Sue Cutler from the Royal Humane Society has supplied an image, which gives the colour of the ribbon and the design on the front of the medal.

Image supplied by S. Cutler, Royal Humane Society

On the back of the silver medal, surrounded by a wreath, was the inscription: Awarded to Thomas Stephen Tuohy, 13 July, 1888.

A description of the gold medal awarded by Commissioner Peterswald was more difficult to find. The police did not commonly award medals at that time and so this medal was created especially at the request of MC Tuohy, not as part of an established awards program.

Fortunately, as part of the upgrade of the Mounted Constable’s Exhibition, we have called on the help of Brian Kowald of Brian Kowald Photography to restore some of the photographs in our collection. One of the photographs was the previous image of Constable Tuohy wearing his medals. Finally, the image on the gold medal became clearer as Brian wielded his magic. The design shows Saint Edward’s crown (used in the Victorian era on medals and buttons) surrounded by a double ring around the rim. Newspapers reported the inscription at the time of the presentation by Lord Kintore.

Image restored by B. Kowald. The colour of the ribbon is unknown.

On the gold medal was the inscription:

Presented to Mounted-constable Tuohy in recognition of his brave conduct in saving life from the wreck of the Star of Greece at Port Willunga on 13 July, 1888
W.J. Peterswald, Commissioner of Police.

Perhaps, one day, MC Tuohy’s medals will come to light, and we can capture clear images directly from the medals that rewarded the bravery of this mounted constable in terrible circumstances.

Paddy O’Toole

National Trust of South Australia

Willunga Branch

*** The Willunga’s Mounted Police exhibition will be
opening in early 2022.***

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