And, when the Surat was sold where she lay in the Catlins River, the conditions of sale included
all the baggage left behind by the passengers when they escaped from the
wreck. The Surat sailed from Gravesend on September 28, 1873. It was a
but uneventful -until the night of December 31, when the ship struck a rock, bumped
and grated clear, and continued on her course. The rock is believed to have been near
Chaslands Mistake but the facts were never ascertained.
MANNED THE PUMPS
At first there
was no sign of a leak, but later in the night it was found that she was making an alarming amount of water. The
crew and male passengers manned the pumps until they were exhausted. Then the women were called upon to
take their turn.
The steamer Wanganui hove in
sight to leeward of the Surat and passengers attempted to signal. Drawing his revolver,
the drunken captain threatened to shoot any≠one who made a signal. The Wanganui steamed
on, unaware of the trouble so close to its course. No attempt was made by members of
the crew to persuade the captain to change his mind. Mr Bryan says that the stories told
him by his parents and other survivors were all to the effect that most of the crew
members were also intoxicated.
the passengers entreated the
captain to give them at least a chance to save their lives.
Eventually he anchored the ship in Jacks Bay, a short distance
south of Catlins River. About 100 of the 271 passengers
had been landed when it was found that the ship
was in danger of going down. The cable was slipped, sail set, and the Surat was beached on the sand spit on
the northern side of the entrance to Catlins River. The
harbour master there
safely landed the remaining passengers.
But the troubles
of the Bryan family were by no means over.
They were taken in and sheltered by a single sawmill worker. During the
period of waiting for help to come from, Dunedin, Mr Bryan sen., and
others helped fell
timber. One evening the saw miller, without warning, lunged at Bryan with a long-bladed bush knife.
He was obviously deranged and it was only by strength and luck that the shipwrecked immigrant
was able to escape to the shelter of the hut.
That very night the Bryans left for another sawmill camp. They were empty-handed, for all
their gear was on the Surat. They never
saw it again. The
wreck of the ship was sold where it lay for £7,000, the purchase including
the passengers luggage and effects. The conditions of sale were legal, and only the
generosity of Dunedin people compensated those
survivors who reached the city.
The only person who saved
anything was a woman who clung tight to a trinket box at the moment when the breaching of
the ship flung people over the side.
FAME AS SAWYER
The Bryans did not draw on the Dunedin fund for the head of the family
remained in the Catlins district, achieving some measure of fame as a sawyer during a
lifetime of work in Southland sawmills.
The Surat, which was a full-rigged ship of
1,000 tons register, carried a valuable cargo of railway iron. It is believed that little if any was recovered. The captain had his certificate cancelled and was
imprisoned for neglect of duty. The first officer had his certificate cancelled, and the
second officer was suspended for two years.
I dont remember
maybe, but its part of the family history, says Mr Bryan, whose wiry frame
and springy step belie the weight of years.
Death notice for Mr John (Jack) BRYAN - Otago Daily
Times, March 28th 1959
Obituary for Mr John (Jack) BRYAN - Otago Daily
Times, October 30th