Monday, 22 May 2017


This story has no relevance to my own family history, but is significant in that it is an important part of the history of the town I currently call home. 

Photo of memorial card reproduced on Historical Society information board
Mornington today is growing bayside suburb on the outer fringe of Melbourne.  In 1892, it was a small rural village servicing the local fishing and agricultural communities, but with an increasing appeal as a tourist destination for visitors from Melbourne.  Like all country towns, it would have been a close-knit community where every one knew each other well.

125 years ago today the community was devastated when 15 members of their football team drowned in a boating tragedy on Port Philip Bay.  The newspapers of the day carried the story, the first headlines making the news on Monday 23rd May.


NEWS OF THE DAY. (1892, May 23). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 4. 
Retrieved May 21, 2017, from

A more detailed account of the tragedy appeared later in the paper, and also in The Argus.

SHOCKING DISASTER IN THE BAY. (1892, May 23). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 5. Retrieved  May 21, 2017, from

A Disaster Fund was set up to provide for the widows, children and elderly parents who had been left without support.  For a few months after the event, newspapers throughout Victoria carried articles about charity matches and benefits held in all communities to raise money for the fund.

Memorial to Mornington footballers who died 21st May 1892
on corner of Main St & Esplanade, Mornington
©Kaypilk 2017

Today I took the opportunity to pay a visit to the memorial which was erected by public subscription to honour the memory of those young men.  The memorial sits at the end of the main street, on the cliff top overlooking the bay. Probably in the exact spot where anxious relatives would have stood awaiting news of the overdue boat.  The monument is surrounded by a plantation of rosemary, which today was in full bloom.  The local Historical Society has erected an information board providing the visitor with the story behind the monument.

 Mornington & District Historical Society information board erected 2012
©Kaypilk 2017
   A wreath of beautiful native flowers had been placed there today by the Historical Society, marking the 125th anniversary of the event.  Other floral tributes were from the Mornington Football Club, and another from A & E Caldwell – no doubt relatives of the three Caldwell brothers who died in the accident.  A couple of other people came while I was there and placed small bunches of garden flowers.  It seems that despite the passage of time, this community has not forgotten.

From Mornington looking north towards Pelican reef where the boat capsized
©Kaypilk 2017
This poem appears on the information board at the memorial, written soon after the accident by J. S. Adams, jnr, 18th June 1892.

photographed from information board ⓒ2017

Charles ALLCHIN (20) 
James CALDWELL (21) brother
William CALDWELL (19) brother

Hugh CALDWELL (17)  brother

William COLES (23)

John COMBER (31)

James FIRTH (17) 

William E GROVER (25) uncle

William GROVER (17) nephew

Charles HOOPER (35) father

Charles F HOOPER (14) son

John KENNA (18)  

Alfred LAWRENCE (19)

George MILNE (36)

Charles WILLIAMS (23)



1 comment:


    Thanks, Chris