Clarke, James William

[Passenger list, "KOOMBANA" 37, compiled 04 June 1912, Adelaide Steamship Company. Broome Historical Society]

List of passengers known to have been bound for Derby.


From Geraldton (All Steerage Passengers)

Lewis, William Shearer. Wife and family reside at Geraldton.


Scougall, R. Shearer, refer Mayor of Cue.

Shields, A. Shearer, refer Mayor of Cue.

Clarke, James W. Shearer, refer Mayor of Cue.


[Passenger list, "KOOMBANA" 37, compiled 02 April 1912, Adelaide Steamship Company. Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National University, 0186/N46/634]

Geraldton-Derby Clark Jas W. [blank]

[Research file "s.s. Koombana", 1973-. Department of Maritime Archeology, Western Australian Museum, 189/73/4]

Jack Soreson - The Shearers' Bard of W.A. (1907-1949)

The Gun of Glindavor[?] and other Ballads - Perth 1932

Soreson dedicated "The Lost Shearing Team" to the shearers who sailed from Port Hedland on the Koombana in 1912. He tells of the team setting off from Port Hedland for Derby from where they would set off overland for Liveringa Station.

["Murchison Passengers", The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette (Cue, WA), Thursday 11 April 1912, page 3]




On Saturday we telegraphed to the representative of the Adelaide Steamship Company at Port Hedland as follows:--

"Were Messrs Clarke, Spencer, Shields, Scugall and Lewis, who booked at Geraldton for Derby, on board the s.s. Koombana when she left Hedland."

The Mayor (Mr. Hardwicke) telegraphed to the Adelaide Steamship Co. at Fremantle on Saturday, asking if Clarke, Spencer, Scugall and Shields had broken their voyage. In the evening he received this reply:--

"Four passengers mentioned booked for Derby and presumably were drowned, in the absence of any information to the contrary."

There still remained a hope while the answer to our telegram was to come. On Tuesday morning, however, the faint hope flickered out and died. The answer to our message came in the following terms:--

"The passengers you mentioned did not land at Hedland, and we are therefore unaware of their identity. We can only presume they are on board. (Signed) Adelaide Steamship Company, Port Hedland."

["The Death Roll", Geraldton Express (WA), Wednesday 03 April 1912, page 3]




The six passengers who boarded the vessel here were Messrs Wm. Lewis, S. Spencer, R. Scougall, J. W. Clarke, A. Shields and Benjamin Smith.

Of these it is understood that Messrs. Lewis, Scougall, Clarke and Shields left here to go to Derby where they intended to engage in shearing work.


["The Koombana", The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette (Cue, WA), Thursday 18 April 1912]



There was a large attendance at the Cue Council Chambers on Monday evening, in response to a notice by the Mayor (Mr. A. T. Hardwicke) convening a public meeting to devise ways and means for raising a fund for the benefit of Mrs. James Clarke and family, of Cue, whose husband and father was one of the passengers on board the ill-fated Koombana. About fifty persons were present.


A ready response was made by those present and the sum of 22 17s 7d was collected in the room and 42 promised.

Mr. E. P. Newman handed in the amount collected on Sunday night at the Methodist church (4 7s 7d).


The Rev. J. A. Priestley said he would be pleased to hold an Oddfellows' parade on some Sunday evening, as Mr. J. W. Clarke was a member of that order.


Mr. Hardwicke was appointed treasurer to the fund, and it was decided to hold a race meeting, fancy dress football match, picture shows, concerts and socials.



The Cue Bioscope Co. will present a splendid programme of pictures at the A.W.A. Hall, Cue, on Sunday night under the management of the Clark Fund Committee, and for the benefit of the fund. There will also be a number of vocal and instrumental items, together with choir renderings."

["The Sons of Martha - A Column For The Workers", The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 21 April 1912, page 24]


Mr. L. T. Brown, secretary of the WA. Branch of the Australian Workers' Union, is gradually learning the names of the shearers who were on board the ill-fated Koombana. In addition to the names we have already published, he has since received definite information that Andy Shiels, --- Spence, Bill Lewis, R. Scougall, and --- Clark (all shearers) were amongst the passengers who left Geraldton on the Koombana. Bill Lewis had two friends with him, but it is not known definitely who they were.

From. the same source Mr. Brown has learnt that Syd. Sack, son of the publican at Derby, also joined the boat at Geraldton. This fact has not been previously notified, though the name of Mrs. Sack (Syd. Sack's mother) was published amongst the list of missing.


[Personal communication, Bethwyn Brandis, granddaughter of Koombana passenger Fred Clinch, 25 May 2005]


Jean Northover

[address and telephone number withheld]

Jean sent a lot of information regarding her grandfather, who was a shearer and who was on his way to start shearing at Liveringa Station. James Clarke joined the Koombana at Geraldton."

[Personal communication, Jean Northover, descendant of Koombana passenger James Clarke, Sunday 26 June 2005]

[source: Jean Northover. Family genealogical notes, unpublished]

Elizabeth McKenzie arrived in Fremantle WA as a steerage passenger aboard the steam ship "Gulf of Siam" in October 1894. She had trained as a nurse in Scotland and travelled by train from Edinburgh to sail from London on 22 August 1894.

Upon arrival Elizabeth immediately bagan work at The Colonial Hospital, now known as the Royal Perth Hospital.


When typhoid Fever broke out on the goldfields Elizabeth travelled by train to Coolgardie, then on by camel to Kalgoorlie, to nurse in the tent hospitals. Elizabeth met her future husband, James William Clark, while nursing at Kalgoorlie. James had been born in South Australia, and they were married in Adelaided 13 October 1897. They stayed on in South Australia until after their first child, Gladys, was born in 1898. They then returned together to work on the Western Australia goldfields again. Their next child, Dorothy, was born in October, 1899, while they were living in Boulder, near Kalgoorlie. In 1900, James and Elizabeth accepted work at the new medical outpost in the Murchison goldfields at the Nannine Hospital. They had high hopes that this new field north of Cue would prosper.

The old 'Nannine Hospital' consisted of a delapidated building with hessian covering the sides and the roof hanging in shreds. Complaints to the government that patients were exposed to the 'four winds of heaven' had been made. As there were no means of separating surgical and medical cases, or of isolation infectious diseases; a patient dying from typhoid, another patient with a broken leg, another expiring from tetanus were all side by side. The small community requested two hundred pounds from the Government and staff for the hospital. By 1899, the Nannine Hospital Committee has resigned and refused to be re-elected.

The new 1900 Hospital Committee consisted entirely of miners. An arduous task faced the new committee, and the new hospital staff, James and Elizabeth, with their two baby daughters, Gladys and Dorothy. They arrived in Nannine late in 1900 to take up their work and make the best of it.

[interesting notes continue -- will photocopy and scan later.]

[from Jean Northover, scanned]


b. 18 May 1873 Narracoorte South Australia

d. 12 March 1912 Lost at Sea - S.S. Koombana

The eight Clark children worked hard from a young age. Their parents had taken up good farming land on the main road between Bordertown and Mundulla in South Australia and the family had begun to establish "Hope Farm."

In 1886 their mother, Janet Clark, died suddenly from exhaustion. The family battled on until 1890 when their father also lost his life. The eldest children held the family together, but they lost "Hope Farm." Drought and depression in South Australia forced the decision to bring the family to the goldfields of Western Australia where the eldest immediately found work. In 1893 James William Clark was working at Coolgardie. He met a young nurse, Elizabeth McKenzie who had migrated from Scotland, working in the Kalgoorlie Tent Hospitals. Elizabeth and James were married on 13 October 1 897.

Early in 1901 James and Elizabeth with their two baby daughters travelled north from Kalgoorlie to Nannine where they had been offered employment in the small Nannine Hospital. "Nannine by the Lake" held high promise with good gold discoveries nearby. A third child, James McKenzie Clark, was born while the family were at Nannine and Elizabeth travelled down to midwife, Nurse Pengelly, who lived on the Cue-Dongara Road, for the birth.

With the discovery of higher gold yields near Meekatharra miners began to leave Nannine. The decline of this gold field led to the closure of the Nannine Hospital on 31 August 1903. Cue, the nearest settlement to the south offered the young family their best prospect for employment. James found work at Cue. Elizabeth worked at the Cue Hospital and kept a herd of milking goats to supply milk for families in Cue. The family home in Cue had a tin roof and outer walls of tin half way up with Hessian to the top, and Hessian partitions. The front verandah had lattice instead of Hessian and north-west creeper growing through the lattice. The children remembered the cool breeze through the lattice in the evening. The floors and kitchen table were made from packing case pinewood. Three more daughters were born in Cue - Ruby, Janet and Grace - and the family were all healthy and happy. They hoped to save enough money to move south and select a small farm to raise and educate their family.


James Clark heard about good wheat land soon to be released in the Dalwallinu district. His boyhood in South Australia on "Hope Farm" had established the farming dream. His older brother Ted had returned to farming near Mundulla and was doing well. Families were leaving Cue and work would soon become scarce, so James signed on with three other Cue men to join for the shearing run for Liveringa Station in the Kimberley. He planned to return with enough money for the family with their six children to move south and apply for a block in the new wheatbelt land being opened for selection.

The shearing team were to sail north on the Koombana to Wyndham, where they would travel by truck inland to Liveringa Station. The three men joined the Koombana in Geraldton. Although James was nearing 40 years old, his South Australian experience with his father and older brother Ted working with blade shearing teams, gave him the experience to be accepted with the Liveringa team.

Jack Sorenson wrote a poem for "The Guns of Liveringa" who were lost on the Koombana, called The Lost Shearing Team

The driving rain on the waters fell, As she battled down the stream,

While comrades waved a last farewell To the Liveringa Team

From far off Queensland, Lockwood came (a bladesman gun was he)

To shear more sheep and earn new fame In the western Kimberley

And Grand Old Lawrence too was there, He realised his dream

When he took his sons to learn to shear With the Liveringa Team.

Ere dawn when the vapours hover round The swamps by the Derby pier,

A Phantom ship glides down the Sound To quietly tie up there.

And ere the silent, sleeping town Is roused by the sun's first beam

Out east, where the long, brown tracks go down, Troop the Liveringa Team.

Most of the old shearers and contractors had shorn at Liveringa. A 'motor track' and the Fitzroy River divide it from the next station, Myroondah. When the Liveringa team was lost, the Koombana had left the wharf at Port Hedland and headed out to sea hoping to ride out the looming cyclone. Perhaps it would be possible to manoeuvre at sea, whereas at the wharf a ship is at the mercy of the wind. Marcos Synnot recalled that one year all the team's trucks were swept off the decks and carried out to sea and they ran out of `tucker.' "28 luggers were wrecked and dismasted in one 'blow,' still we were used to ships on our runs. A common call in the sheds when the sheep were poor was, "Where's the boat," and when the tucker was bad, "When's the boat due?" Ref: Patsy Adam-Smith, The Shearers, pp 354-6

Roy Phillips wrote from Wyndham on 22 Feb 1912 ... everything in the doldrums the last few weeks but people are all coming in for the Koombana now...

In April Phillips wrote from Wyndham ... What a terrible thing, the loss of the Koombana - hard to believe or realise. All the chaps on her were so well known to us. The officers on the Moira told us they have never been in such a storm as raged at that time. The waves came right over the cattle fittings on the top deck... pp.266-8, Mary Durack, Sons in the Saddle.

Doug Moore of Ord River Station recalled in his memoirs.. The tragedy of the Koombana was unforgettable. `One time when I travelled on her to Wyndham we were shipping about 200 tons of railway lines to Hedland They were then building the line to Marble Bar. Just before reaching Hedland we struck a squall and the ship keeled over at an angle of 45 degrees and was quite a long time straightening up. Johnnie Rees, the skipper, said `There's no loading going off at Hedland. We'll hang on to those rails for ballast and drop them off coming back.' Not only the Captain but the Chief Mate, and McDonald, Chief Engineer, all sensed that the ship was top heavy. Fortunately, for them they had left that vessel by the time she capsized. She was a beautiful ship but not suitable for this cyclonic coast .... A number of fine Kimberley people went down on her - among them George Piper, Manager of Go-Go, Mrs Sack mother of all the Sacks in the country at that time, and all the shearers who were coming to West Kimberley' p. 269, Durack.

This disaster had a profound effect on the Kimberley people, as the 150 passengers were for the most part well-known residents returning to Broom, Derby, or Wyndham. The sinking of the "Titanic" a month later, though on a comparatively greater scale, lacked the personal impact of the "Koombana" tragedy in the Kimberley. There were no survivors and many families lost a loved one. Only a door and cushion from the "Koombana" were found months later. The pride of the Adelaide Steamship Company had disappeared without a trace.

Disaster struck the Clark family when the "Koombana" went down. Fear gripped the families as they waited for communication and news of their loved ones. Elizabeth Clark waited in Cue hoping for news. Perhaps some survivors may have been able to get ashore? As time went past she had to accept she was alone and had to raise and educate her six children as best she could. The wonderful people of Cue set up a benefit fund for Elizabeth Clark and her children. Donations came from various functions, including a well attended race meeting held on the Cue Racecourse. A kind friend, Mrs Gray, who had lived in Cue, wrote from her new home in the Bickley Valley. Elizabeth thought if she could move to the Bickley Valley she would be able to educate the children, and if she could grow a small orchard, she could provide food. Mrs Gray wrote that work would be available for Elizabeth and the older children in the valley.

The Benefit Committee talked to Elizabeth and several men travelled down to look at properties for sale in the valley. They reported back to Cue, and Elizabeth chose Lots 672 & 703 where a small, unlined, wooden cottage stood on the hillside overlooking good soil running down to Piesse Brook, suitable for a small orchard.

In Cue they were able to sell the Cue cottage and the goat herd. Gathering all the funds together they had just enough money to purchase the chosen land on the hillside in the Bickley Valley.

After packing up early in 1913 the family left Cue in the morning before the sun rose. In the darkness they caught the train to Walkaway. James McKenzie, the only son in the family, cried his eyes out leaving Cue. He broke his heart over leaving his dearly loved Billy Goat behind. With his goat cart he had been running "his first transport business" in town delivering milk and groceries. The family never forgot the kind people of Cue who helped them at this time.

From Walkaway they changed trains to join the Midland Railway line for travel down to Midland Junction. Late in the day they reaching Midland Junction and waited several hours to catch the Zig-Zag train up to the Bickley Valley Siding. (then known as Heidleberg Siding until name change after WW1) They arrived hungry and tired late at night. A few days later their goods arrived from Cue and they could unpack. The little cottage on the hillside would be their family home for the next 34 years.

Elizabeth took in washing and did housework for the large Palmateer family further down the valley. Jim worked in the orchards and saved enough money to buy "Duke" his first horse. Later, with his own gravel pit, he contracted to supply Todd Bros with gravel for Mundaring Weir, and supplying road base for Main Roads on the sandy track to form the main road to Fremantle (Canning Highway). His Thornycroft truck was one of the first two in Perth. For the next 10 years he helped his mother, and saved for the move into farming. The dream the Clark family had held for so long was fulfilled with the purchase of the first "McKenzie Clark" land at West Dalwailinu in 1926. Jim and

Elsie McKenzie Clark established "McKenzie Downs," into one of the best farms in the district. The property is still known as "McKenzie Downs," and is owned by the Hyde family of Dalwallinu.

On 4 September 1954, Elizabeth McKenzie Clark passed away at her daughter's Wembley home.

["Action by Australian Workers's Union", The West Australian, Thursday 30 May 1912, page 8]


Among those who lost their lives on the Koombana were a number of men--about 20 in all, so far as can be officially ascertained--who were proceeding to the shearing sheds in the North-West. These men were members of the Australian Workers' Union, and their mates on the Upper Liveringa Station have subscribed and forwarded to the head office of the Union in Perth the sum of 50 15s. 6d. to be distributed among the widows and orphans of their late comrades. The secretary of the union (Mr. T. L. Brown) has obtained authority from the headquarters of the Union in the Eastern States to forward subscription lists throughout the shearing sheds in this State in order to augment the amount already donated.