The following particulars of the stranding and wreck of the Mozambique, were brought from the Goolwa by our reporter:—

(Image Courtesy of the State Library of SA PRG1377/77/4: Goolwa Hotel with figurehead from ship 'Mozambique' above publican's name (Francis Joseph Green) with Percy C. Wells' shop next door, cart in foreground owned by Walter Newell (used to collect scraps for his pigs), and Erskine and Essex cars alongside, ca. 1928)

The Mozambique, from Swan River, was driven on shore on the sea-beach outside the Coorong, on Monday the 21st inst. There were 24 passengers on board, besides the crew, consisting of 22 men. No lives were lost, but it is reported that a great amount of suffering had been borne by all on board for several days previous to the wreck, in consequence of the shortness of provisions and the leaky condition of the ship, the pumps being choked.

The first person found to render any assistance to the passengers, was a man named James Law, who resides on the Upper Finniss. His statement of the circumstances connected with the rescue is as follows :— "I had been to the Salt Creek in my boat, with flour, sugar, and tea, for Mr. Bradford, whose station I was at last Monday week. When I had made about 30 miles on my way back, I went on shore, and having pitched my tent for the night and lighted a fire, I heard some one "cooeying." This was last Monday night. I went towards the place and the first person I met was the captain of the vessel, who said they had been wrecked and had nothing to eat. He said there were four females and some children with them, and he would be greatly obliged if I could render them any help. I had only 40lbs. of flour, which I gave him, and told him that I was going to the Elbow (the Goolwa), and would take the females and children with me if he had any men to assist in rowing the boat. I left the next morning, in my boat, bringing with me the captain, 4 sailors, 2 children, 4 females, and 5 other passengers.

We arrived at the Goolwa on Wednesday morning about 4 o'clock, and sent another of my boats back with provisions for those whom we left behind." On the arrival of Law at the Goolwa with his unfortunate passengers, an express was sent to Adelaide, with all the circumstances, in the expectation that the Government schooner Yatala would be sent round to the assistance of the rest of the passengers and crew. The subjoined further particulars were kindly communicated to our shipping reporter at Port Adelaide, by Mr. J. C. Hawker, of H. M. Customs:— "The ship Mozambique has been totally lost, on the coast outside the Coorong. The Mozambique was loading in the London docks at the same time as the Navarino, and bound for some of the Australian colonies. She stranded, and became a total wreck, at about sixty miles from Port Elliot. It appears that, previous to the final catastrophe, she had been in a leaky state, having eight feet water in her hold, and was very short of provisions; in fact, they were in a state bordering upon starvation. We learn that provisions were dispatched to the crew and passengers from the Goolwa, and understand that the captain has arrived at Port Elliot."

South Australian Register Mon 28 Aug 1854 p2


Captain Corcoran, of the above vessel, who arrived in town last night from Port Elliot, has kindly furnished us with the following particulars connected with her loss.

The barque Mozambique, of 402 tons register, belonging to Cork, and owned by C. and W. D. Seymour, merchants of that city, left there in June, 1853, bound to King George's Sound, with a cargo of coals for the Australian Steam Navigation Company. She had not been out to sea more than a fortnight before she encountered some adverse gales, which caused her to leak considerably, and rendered it necessary to keep the pumps going at regular intervals. The weather continuing bad, the Captain found it necessary, for the safety of the ship and of those on board, to keep her under very easy canvas, which he did throughout the remainder of the voyage, arriving at the Sound in a very leaky state, after a passage of 155 days. She left King George's Sound on the 4th instant with forty five souls on board, including passengers and crew. After being two days out, she encountered very strong gales from the N. and N.W., and which continued up to her reaching Kangaroo Island. The Captain, finding that he could not get through the Straits, sailed for Backstairs Passage, but there also he was defeated, the gale still continuing from the same quarter, and the ship being nearly in a sinking state. He then bore away for Port Elliot, but in consequence of the seamen and all on board having had no food for some days, the provisions, with the exception of some tea and salt beef, being exhausted, and the unmanageable state of the vessel, there being eight feet of water in her hold, and making water fast, he was unable to effect his purpose even in that. The Captain at last determined on running her ashore, which he did on Monday last, some distance below the sea-mouth of the Murray, and, we are happy to state, without the loss of life. The Captain speaks in warm terms of the kindness he experienced from the settlers about the Goolwa. The vessel is a total wreck.

Adelaide Times Mon 28 Aug 1854 p2


Sir — It gave me great pleasure in reading your paper of this morning to see that you agreed with a correspondent, that William Low, who so generously and humanely assisted the wrecked passengers of the Mozambique, should not be a loser by the ready kindness. I believe that he put himself to a very great deal of trouble and expense, and do hope that his losses will be made up and a handsome present besides. I happened to be at the Goolwa at the time of the wreck ; I saw the captain of the barque two or three days after, and from him I learnt that a great deal more misery, and perhaps death, would have been the consequence, if, after several miles without food, etc (the women, children, and some of the passengers, remaining on the beach, not being well able to walk), they had not fell in with Low, who, like Robinson Crusoe, appeared till then to be the only inhabitant of the country ; and how kindly he behaved to them, giving up his food, and taking the women and children in his boat to a place where they were well provided for. I have sent £1 1s., will be happy to receive subscriptions and if necessary double my own subscription.

I am, Sir, your constant reader,


South Australian Register Tue 19 Sep 1854 p3


Sir-You have just handed over to James Law, alias Yorkey, the £20 l5s, 6d, collected by Mr. Bray, and of which I think he was deserving, but had I been aware that anything more than Mr. Bray's pound was going to be presented him, would ere this have put you in possession of the real facts of the case.

Yorkey undoubtedly acted kindly towards them, but, as he says, he only did his duty, and that at no great inconvenience to himself. He divided his provisions among them at night with the certainty that, by the assistance rendered him by the sailors whom he brought along, in rowing he would reach the Goolwa in time to get his dinner on the morrow.

Had he and those with him remained and crossed, the others who walked from the wreck, from the Peninsula to Mundo Island, instead of leaving them to be fetched across by a native, there would have been a little more self denial (I could say more respecting the neglect of those left behind, but 'tis past and better drop). On Yorkey and his party arriving here, I for one wished him to return, but he stated his inability to do so ; but Thornley, a young man who has a boat on the river, at once volunteered to go and look for the passengers and carry provisions to them, and, without the least prospect of fee or reward, has lost ten times the time Yorkey did, and therefore was, in my opinion and that of everyone here, quite as much entitled to a reward as the other. As to the tale of Yorkey's boat being rendered useless by bringing them down here, is quite wrong, as I heard of the injury to his boat before the Mozambique touched the shore, and that it was occasioned by a strong wind when crossing the lake on his way up to Mr. McFarline's station with flour.

If you think proper to take any notice of these few remarks, hastily made, you will only be doing justice to him who really did make a sacrifice in the cause. There is no one so great a sufferer in a pecuniary sense as Mr. Varcoe, the innkeeper here, who housed and fed the whole of them on their arrival here, and to whom too much praise cannot be given.

Probably neither yourself nor Mr. Bray is aware that Yorkey was paid £2 by order of the captain, and promised £2 more for bringing them.

I am, Sir, &c, *


Goolwa, October 10, 1854.

South Australian Register Fri 20 Oct 1854 p2


Sir — In a recent number of your paper I perceive a letter signed "Goolwa," in which it is stated that you had handed over to me the £20 15s. 6d. collected by Mr. Bray, and Mr. 'Goolwa' thinks I was deserving of it, and then goes on to argue that I did not deserve it, or at most not more than Mr. Bray's pound, and that I had only done my duty, &c. Now, Sir, although I asked no reward for what I did, and truly did no more than my duty to my suffering fellow-creatures, yet I can assure you or 'Goolwa' either that I would not undertake or undergo the same again for twice £20. I had to swim across from Mundo Island, and in doing so lost my boots, and when I arrived at the Goolwa I was barefoot. At the Goolwa some person lightened my boat of a double-barrelled gun, and never replaced it again. Besides, being absent so long from home, my wife began to be very uneasy about my safety, and had despatched more than one messenger in search of me. So that the losses I sustained, the injury to my boat, personal fatigue, and anxiety to my family, more than counter balance the few pounds I have received. Yet, Mr. Editor, I would do the same again with out hope of reward, and if any person is not satisfied that I merited the money, I am ready to refund any part or all of it.

'Goolwa' says that Thornley was most deserving of reward : be it so. 'Goolwa' shows himself to be a man of feeling when he says, "I, for one, wished him to return, when there were fresh men and fresh boats in the place, Mr. Editor !

'Goolwa' says that Mr. Vercoe is a pecuniary sufferer; but he should as well have mentioned Mr. Holmes's name, of Mundo Island, who sent two sheep, a bag of flour, and other things gratuitously.

I cannot conclude without publicly thanking Mr. Bray and other subscribers for their kindness.

I am, &o.,


Lower Finniss, October 27, 1854.

South Australian Register Thu 2 Nov 1854 p3

…Mr. Green has also kindly given additional particulars in regard to the ship ‘'Mozambique” wrecked near the Murray mouth on the 19th of August, 1854, referred to in an article on “Goolwa” in the "Register” of 30th April, 1926.

A very interesting relic is the figurehead of that ill-fated vessel, which was rescued from the wreck and subsequently mounted on the parapet of "Hotel Goolwa.” Mr. Green states that for many years, a fund, said to have been provided by a grateful passenger as a thank offering for being saved, contributing ten shillings per annum for the purpose of painting the figurehead, but this source of revenue lapsed prior to his arrival at Goolwa in 1928.

Naturally, lack of cosmetics for some time resulted in loss of beauty and the lady’s complexion suffered, but Mr. Green says that during recent renovations to the Hotel, "Mary of Goolwa” was given a complexion guaranteed not to wash off (a sort of permanent wave), and although in her 81st year she still keeps vigil over Goolwa like Genevieve watching over Paris.

Victor Harbor Times Fri 25 Jan 1935 p3

Oddities Among Our Outback Hotels

…The old, picturesque little town of Goolwa, at the Murray mouth, has a reminder of its seafaring days in an unusual decoration on the roof of the bar of the Goolwa Hotel. This is a figurehead that once graced a long forgotten ship. The poised figure of a majestic woman came off the prow of the Mozambique, a vessel wrecked off the Coorong.

Mine host of the Goolwa Hotel told me the story of the figurehead, which has stood above the bar entrance to the little hotel for nearly a century.

The Mozambique, skippered by Captain Corcoran, left London in 1854 for Melbourne. She arrived safely in Western Australia and then continued her voyage with 24 passengers and a crew of 22.

Along the Coorong coast the Mozambique ran into heavy seas and was driven ashore. No one knew of the disaster until a station-hand at Goolwa, who was making camp one night, heard someone coo-ee. When he answered, Captain Corcoran came stumbling through the bush towards him. He told of the wrecked ship and said that the castaways, including women and children, were starving.

The station-hand had a large stock of food (some 40lb. of flour, tea and sugar), together with a rowing boat, so was able to take the skipper and the provisions to the shipwrecked people. Some of the women and children were then taken in the boat to Goolwa, where they arrived exhausted after a two-day trip. Help was sent for the rest of the castaways, one of whom died.

All the survivors were housed and fed in the hotel —the owner refusing payment. And so it was that the figurehead of the Mozambique came to be placed on the roof. The ship itself could not be salvaged and was a total loss. But the fittings were brought ashore and the lovely old cedar chairs and tables still grace the hotel's dining room.

There was a further tragedy. The captain, having survived the disaster, sailed for Adelaide on the brig Harry. Off Port Willunga the vessel was wrecked and Captain Corcoran was drowned…

The Advertiser Sat 25 Apr 1953 p6

Also printed in the Sydney Morning Herald 14 Mar 1953 p7

Goolwa Figurehead

'Every time your paper has any reference to Goolwa, I feel as if I must have my say, but until now I have kept quiet,' writes Mrs. Laura Harris, 95 East terrace, Henley Beach.

'The old figurehead of the Mozambique at the Goolwa Hotel, mentioned by Mr. Beatty, has not always been where it is now.

'I spent my schooldays living in the Corio, and later the Goolwa Hotel when my uncle, D. L. Taylor, was the licensee.

'During that time the figurehead was over the gable doorway of the two storey stables and loft in the back yard; I think they are garages, now.

'Twenty years ago the figurehead was over the entrance to the two-storey part of the hotel. Later it was evidently moved to where it is now. I passed through Goolwa two months ago and had a look at it.

'I left Goolwa in 1897. My uncle was mayor for a year or two. Those oil paintings that were in the Corio Hotel were there before I went there and when my sister was there in the late 1880's.'

The Advertiser Mon 4 May 1953 p4


IN town from Hindmarsh Island, Mr. W. F. Newell came in yesterday to tell me that his grandfather Richard Smith Newell, who came out here from Gloucester in 1842, made that cedar stairway in the Goolwa Hotel.

"I have always understood that his first job in Adelaide was to make the staircases at Government House," Mr. Newell said "John Varcoe, who built the Goolwa Hotel, and was the original licensee, bought the wrecked Mozambique, and put the figurehead on top of the stables. The font beakers in the bar came out of that ship.

My mother (widow of Richard Stead Newell) told me that a lot of beautiful white china from the wreck was used at the hotel. Mother was Miss Hornsby, whose father arrived here in the Navarino in December, 1837.

The Advertiser Thu 24 May 1945 p6


Mine Host Rowley Hill, of the Goolwa Hotel, takes great pride in showing visitors the old furniture in his dining-room, most of which was salvaged from the sailing vessel 'Mozambique,' which was wrecked on the Coorong over 100 years ago.

The figurehead of the vessel, which graces the front of the hotel, is well known to many people, but to those fortunate enough to have the privilege of inspecting the staircase and the dining-room furniture is an added pleasure. Several of the many 100-year-old cedar chairs clearly bear teeth-marks on the back where sailors have apparently vied with each other in a test of strength by lifting the chairs with their teeth. Mr. Hill says that the magnificent main mast and spars which have stood the test of many stormy voyages, now support the dining room floor, which is located over the cellar.

The Times (Victor Harbor) Fri 21 Jun 1957 p1

Restoration for old figurehead

Goolwa's century old ship's figurehead is to be restored, after a lifetime of overlooking the town's main street from the front of the Hotel Goolwa.

The figurehead, from the Irish ship Mozambique which ran aground near the Coorong in 1854, will be restored by Goolwa couple Norm and Wyn Paech as part of renovations to the Goolwa Hotel.

Mr Paech said 130 years of wind and rain had badly damaged the wooden structure, which stands about one metre tall.

'It's badly decayed,' he said. 'We're not quite sure how we'll go about restoring it yet, we're just letting it dry out before we try anything.'

Mr Paech restores relics of the past as a hobby and recently finished restoring the 80-year-old pram he used as a child. He sees the figurehead project as a great challenge.

'You can't just go slapping plaster or plastic wood on it,' he said. 'It's too important, it's a piece of history.'

'We'll have to work out how to do it properly the first time, without altering the character of the figurehead.'

The Mozambique figurehead came to Goolwa after the ship's wreck in 1854. The owner of the Goolwa Hotel was building his premises, but despatched a rescue crew to retrieve the survivors of the Mozambique wreck from the Coorong.

He then cared for the survivors in the hotel until transport arrived to return them to Adelaide.

In appreciation of his efforts, the publican was given furniture and equipment recovered from the Mozambique wreck including the vessel's staircase, seats and tables, two kegs and the figurehead. The hotel's main floor is bolstered by what were once the ship's main spar and mast.

The historic figurehead was first mounted over the stables at the building's rear, until new owners moved it to its present location overlooking Cadell Street in 1913.

The Times (Victor Harbor) Fri 23 Dec 1988 p22

Goolwa landmark back in place

She might have a remodelled nose, a new arm and a fresh paint job but she's still basically the "same old girl".

And, after an absence of over a year she has finally been returned to her former position at the front of the Goolwa Hotel.

"She" is the figurehead from the Mozambique, a ship wrecked off the Coorong coast in 1854, and for the past 18 months she's been undergoing complex restoration work.

Last Thursday morning she was forklifted to the roof of the hotel and set into position by publican Andrew Kies and Norm Paech, who did the restoration.

Norm said he and his wife Wyn had spent about 470 hours in repairing the figurehead which had been extensively damaged by prolonged exposure to the elements.

"When we first got her she was an absolute mess, she didn't have a nose, her arm was coming off and the wood was splitting. So she needed a lot of work," he said.

"It's something we did for Goolwa - she's always been a landmark in the town and when she came down people continually asked about where the "old girl" had gone."

Norm said sometimes he felt as though he had bitten off more than he could chew.

"But when we looked at her we thought if the people who made her about 150 years ago with primitive tools could do this, surely we could restore her with the modern tools of today."

Norm said the figurehead had gone through an acid bath to loosen the old paint and then had been fibre-glassed for added protection.

He said he and Wyn had received a lot of help and advice from other people in the district.

"Nigel Atkin gave her the acid bath. Ross Ballard gave us a lot of advice on fibre-glassing and donated some materials. Trevor Crowhurst advised us on what sort of paint to use and Jamie Stewart did the artwork for us at cost price."

Norm said the time he had put into restoring the figurehead were worth it to see the "old girl" back in it's rightful position.

"She's a real monument for this town - it's good to see her up there again," he said.

The Times (Victor Harbor) Wed 31 Jan 1990 p5

Old Lady in safe hands

It probably wasn't too hard to pick - one of Goolwa' s most famous landmarks is missing.

The grand old lady, once the figurehead from the wreck of the Mozambique, has been taken down from her perch on top of the Goolwa Hotel for a makeover. She is having a few cracks repaired by fibreglass expert Ross Ballard, of Pelican Marine and, after a paint touch-up, should be back on top of the hotel within a week.

Hotel manager Rod Butterfield said the Old Lady, as she is commonly known, did not need anything like the restoration carried out in 1990.

Then Norm Paech and his wife Wyn spent 380 hours restoring the Old Lady to her former glory. Mr Paech said when the Mozambique was wrecked at the Murray Mouth last century, the survivors stayed at the hotel. The figurehead, a staircase, some furniture and wine barrels salvaged from the wreck were given to the proprietor in gratitude.

Ross Ballard of Pelican Marine starts work on the Old Lady figurehead.

The Times (Victor Harbor) Fri 22 Oct 1993 p3

The Times (Victor Harbor) 14 Dec 1993 p7

Historical watering hole

Although historical ties link the Goolwa Hotel with the past, this week also marks a first for the river port landmark — it becomes the first establishment in Goolwa to install poker machines.

Prior to the opening of its gaming room, tonight (Friday) the Goolwa Hotel's main claim to fame was its strong connections with the wreck of the Mozambique on the Coorong in the mid 1800s.

The first person to discover the wreck was James Law, of Finniss.

Mr Law transported the survivors to the Goolwa Hotel which had been built in 1833, where they were given food and accommodation.

In appreciation, the captain of the Mozambique presented the licensee of the hotel, John Varcoe with the figurehead of the ship, some cedar tables and chairs, a 60-foot mast and some spars.

Today the figurehead takes pride of place on the front roof of the hotel and the mast holds up the floor in the non-smoking dining room, the Captain's Room.

Three years after the Mozambique disaster Mr Varcoe added an extra storey of bedrooms to the hotel and used the cedar from the ship to construct a staircase.

Although not much has changed externally since those early days, the Goolwa Hotel has come a long way with the latest change being the opening of the gaming room.

The hotel's current licensees, Rod and Josie Butterfield took over the business just over a year ago.

The hotel has a very strong social club and all the funds raised by the club — $8000 last year — are donated back into the Goolwa community.

The money is raised through eyes-down bingo on Monday nights at the football club and raffles at the hotel on Friday nights.

The social club also organises free shows for members throughout the year, with entertainment provided.

Goolwa Hotel has seven-day food facilities, with both front bar counter meals and an extensive a-la-carte menu, available in any of three dining rooms.

Choose from the non-smoking Captain's Room, the Mozambique Room, which houses all the artefacts collected from the Mozambique and a casual dining room.

The hotel also offers a roast special each Thursday and a schnitzel night each Friday with a delicious variety of schnitzels and sauces available.

There is also live entertainment in the front bar each Friday night.

Goolwa Hotel has full TAB facilities, SKY Channel and a Sip 'n’ Save drive-through bottle shop which is open seven days a week and stocks a large range of wines, spirits, and beers, all at discounted prices.

So for a quiet drink, a great meal and now a flutter on the pokies, why not visit the historic Goolwa Hotel. Cadell Street.

Goolwa Hotel — the river port town's historical watering hole.

The Times (Victor Harbor) Fri 2 Sep 1994 p11

All articles sources from the National Library of Australia’s resource TROVE -