3a["Story of the Koombana", The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 31 March 1912, page 12]


A Sketch of His Career

Captain Tom Allen, the skipper of the S.S. Koombana, about whose fate so much misgiving is felt, is undoubtedly one of the most popular seafaring men on our coast. He is in his 53rd year, and a bachelor. His immediate relatives are his mother, who is 83, and Mr. Sea Born Allen of George Wills and Co., his sole surviving brother, both of whom reside at the Semaphore, South Australia. Captain Allen's father, a Cork Irishman, was a shipmaster and owner in the 50's, 60's and 70's, and frequently visited Albany and Fremantle. His son Marmion was born in Marmion's Hotel, Fremantle, in 1867, hence the name. The late Hon. W. E. Marmion and his sister were the child's godparents.

Captain Allen was a sailor from his childhood, sailing with his parents around the Australian coast, and subsequently to New Caledonia. In 1873 he sailed from Port Darwin in the barque Contest, commanded by his father, for Rockingham, to load jarrah. They arrived after calling at Cossack; but in a north-westerly gale the Contest was blown from her anchors at Rockingham and wrecked. As his father then gave up the sea, Captain Allen shipped in one of the Glasgow "Citys," and went to foreign lands, returning to Australia in the Northern Monarch.

He then joined the Orient line as quartermaster of the Cuzco, and was aboard of her when she broke down and sailed from 1000 miles south of the Leeuwin to Portland, in Victoria, he being one of the men lowered over the quarter in a heavy sea to secure the propeller. He next became bo'sun of the Pacific liner Sorata, and after passing his examinations, came to Australia as mate of the Meeinderry.

The old Verulam was his first command, and after commanding various other sailing ships he passed for extra master. He then took charge of various tugs and coastal steamers, and was stevedore in Ports Pirie and Germein. Tried alluvial gold digging at Teetulpa, South Australia, and after commanding various vessels in the early 90's he took charge of the Tekapo, owned by the Union Company of New Zealand, but chartered to the Adelaide Steamship Company for the West Australian trade.

Subsequently he took command of the Marloo in the same trade, and in 1897 had a verdict of manslaughter returned against him by a Fremantle jury, because a man fell down the hold of the Marloo. The Attorney-General ignored the verdict. In 1897 he resigned from the Marloo, and joined the Port Adelaide pilot service, in which he remained 10 years, and left because, a law being altered, the pilots became civil servants at a salary, with undefined responsibility. During the 10 years he was pilot he handled hundreds of vessels of all descriptions satisfactorily, the Royal yacht Ophir being one of them. The present sailor King of England complimented him on his skill, and gave him a scarf-pin bearing the White Rose of York as a souvenir.

During the Crimean War coffee was scarce and dear, and Captain Allen chartered his schooner to a wealthy Chinaman and sailed into various then out-of-the-way places in search of trade. One of Captain Tom Allen's brothers is buried in Singapore, another (Marmion) in Melbourne, a third and a sister in Adelaide, and now it is only too probable that "The sea, the blue, lone sea" covers Tom Allen awaiting the time when "the sea shall give up its dead."

Captain Allen's only surviving brother, Mr Sea Born Allen, was born on board the Sehab Jehan off Cape Northumberland during an awful gale. As Captain Allen could not leave the deck, Mrs. Allen was left to the care of Nature and the steward, with satisfactory results. The elements welcomed the little stranger with a gorgeous display of Saint-Elmo's fire on the mastheads and yards, and fifty years later, on his brother's birthday, off the same place (Cape Northumberland), Captain Allen, then commanding the Grantala, was treated by nature to a similar electric illumination, the corposants outlining the steamer's masts and funnel.


The trading of coffee through the years of the Crimean War relates not to Tom Allen Junior, but to his father!

3b["Old Memories", THe Mail (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 12 July 1913, page 9]


By A. T. Saunders.

On July 13, 1837--and that will be 76 years ago tomorrow--the ship Adam Lodge, 467 tons, arrived in Sydney from Londonderry, Ireland, having sailed thence on March 29, 1837. I addition to her crew, the Adam Lodge brought 379 emigrants, of whom 195 were children. That the ship was overcrowded is apparent, and probably was the cause of the deaths of 29 children and five adults which occurred on the passage of 106 days. Among the passengers was my maternal grandfather with his wife, son, and four daughters, one of whom, Mrs. Sarah Allen, widow of Captain Thomas Allen, and mother of Capt. Allen, who was master of and was lost in the Koombana, is now living at the Semaphore. Though she was only eight years old when she arrived in Sydney, Mrs. Allen's memory of events which happened since and before 1837 is good and clear.

Last month I passed three days in the Public and Mitchell Libraries in Sydney looking up documents respecting Sydney and South Australia, and was thus able to test the accuracy of many of Mrs. Allen's recollections. Seventy-six years is long time to look back, and seems longer when we remember that when the Adam Lodge sailed from Ireland, that country had 8,000,000 inhabitants, half of whom died of hunger and disease in the potato famine, or were shipped to America and other countries...

William IV was King when the Adam Lodge sailed, and Victoria was Queen when the ship arrived in Sydney. Sir Richard Bourke was Governor of New South Wales, and Mrs. Allen heard him read the proclamation of the death of the King and the accession of the Queen. She says he was a small man with a deep scar down his face from a wound received in Spain. When Mrs. Allen arrived in Sydney it was not 50 years old. Melbourne was unknown--in 1839 there were only 3,000 people on the banks of the Yarra--Western Australia was eight years old, South Australia was not seven months old, and Port Adelaide did not exist.

My grandfather, William Galway, settled in Sydney for a few years, carrying on his trade of a builder, and then moved to Maitland, in the Hunter River Valley, but business became dull in New South Wales, and in 1847, as the copper discoveries were booming South Australia, he decided to make another move to Port Adelaide. In December, 1847, he and his son left Sydney in the steamer Juno for Adelaide via Boyd Town--how many South Australians eer heard of Boyd Town, Boyd's folly, and his death--Melbourne, Port Fairy, and Portland. One of his fellow passengers to Port Adelaide was David Bower. In January, 1848, the Sydney "Morning Herald" records the departure of the Juno for Port Adelaide, and among the passengers "Mrs. Galway and the 4 Miss Galways."

Port Adelaide was a curious place in 1848. It was built on a swamp from which the sea had been excluded to some extent by embankments, but was subject to inundations as late as 1865, connected to the dry land by a causeway built by the South Australian Company by digging deep holes in the swamp on each side of the causeway, and heaping up the spoil on it. To do this a deviation from Col. Light's original Port road was made from the sit of the present Alberton Baptist Chapel to the present Commercial road. Corrugated galvanised roofing iron--that great civiliser--was unknown in Port Adelaide in 1848, so most of the roofs were made of shingles. Water was scarce, for, of course, there would be no wells in Port Adelaide, so the Portonians depended on rainwater stored in barrels (there were no iron tanks then) or on water boated from Lefevre's Peninsula or brought from the Alberton sandhills...

... My grandfather's four daughters soon married--there were not many old maids in Port Adelaide in those days.

... The eldest, my mother, married Thomas Saunders, master mariner, ... The second and sole surviving sister, who is now nearly 84, and whose mind and memory are as keen as ever, though her body is not as robust as one would wish, married Capt. Thomas Allen, who had some curious experiences.

He sailed from Port Adelaide to California in 1849, and his crew deserted, his ship was seized and confiscated on an unfounded charge of smuggling, which was disproved, and for which compensation was paid. When taking Adelaide convicts to Tasmania after the disappearance of the Lady Denison, which was said to have been seized by the convicts, she was carrying from Adelaide to Hobarttown, a plot to seize Capt. Allen's ship was discovered, so he passed the anchor chain through the 'tween decks of the ship, had the legs of the convicts chained to the anchor chain, and told them that if they any trouble he would heave on the chain, and stand them on their heads. He had no trouble, and when the convicts were leaving, one of them handed him a "Norie's" book on navigation, which Capt. Allen had for many years. For several years Capt. and Mrs. Allen sailed in and about Malaysia and the east, from Madras to Manila, from Sydney to Singapore, meeting various well-known men, Alfred Russell Wallace and Bully Hayes, the pirate, among others. Capt. Allen for years had his schooner manned by Malays, and was frequently chartered by Chinamen, who thought that, being a large man, he must have known more than a smaller man.

Mrs. Allen was the first white woman to visit part of Cambodia. In the fifties American sailing ships were numerous in the East, and Capt. and Mrs. Allen met many of them, one being the famous "Live Yankee," Capt. Thorndyke. Several children were born, and buried in various parts of the world. One was born in Marmion's Hotel, Fremantle, in 1857, and was therefore named Marmion. A few years ago I looked up his baptismal record in the Catholic Presbytery, Fremantle. It was written in Spanish Latin and Father Cox, who translated it to me, smiled at the Latin script. The worthy Spaniard had forgotten to record if the child was a boy or girl. The godfather was W. E. Marmion, afterwards the Hon. W. E. Marmion, of the Forrest Ministry, to whose memory a handsome Celtic cross now stands in Fremantle.

After leaving the Eastern trade, Capt. Allen bought a share in an unlucky full-rigged ship, the Schah Jehan, and unfortunately took a cargo of coal to Wallaroo, then in its infancy. During the voyage from Newcastle, off Cape Northumberland, the Schah Jehan ran into a terrible gale and electric disturbance. "St. Elmo's" fire decorated the mastheads, yards, and booms, and in the worst of the gale Mrs. Allen gave birth to Mr. Seaborn Allen, now of Messrs. G. Wills & Co., Port Adelaide, the steward being the only one to give any assistance. Another terrible gale smote the Schah Jehan when alongside the small Wallaroo Jetty, and after vainly trying to bring the ship up with anchors, she was scuttled. This saved the jetty and the ship, but ruined Capt. Allen. It did not suit William Watson Hughes and Thomas Elder to have Wallaroo condemned as a dangerous port for ships Of 1,000 tons, so Capt. Allen was ruined. A Parliamentary paper, of 1863, I think, tells a part of the tale. Capt. Allen afterwards sailed various ships, and then joined the Pilot service at Port Adelaide, and had the ill-fortune to be pilot of the steamer Coorong when a boat was cut in two and a pilot was drowned. Mr. Sam Harvey, lately of the Customs, is a survivor of that boat's crew.

Again, Capt. Allen went to sea in command of various ships with Mrs. Allen and their surviving children. One trip took the diggers to the Gympie (Queensland) gold rush, and after the Franco-Prussian war and the exile of the Communists to New Caledonia, many voyages were made to Noumea with bread stuffs. Capt. and Mrs. Allen then settled down ia Port Adelaide, where Capt. Allen died, and Mrs. Allen still lives.

It is a pity Mrs. Allen's reminiscences cannot be preserved. Not only is her memory a remarkable one, but she has many scrapbooks containing most interesting items of South Australian history and South Australian persons.