McSwain, Donald

[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 Fremantle




McSwain D. Shearer ) Shearers -

McKibbon W.J. Brother of erstwhile cricketer. ) partners in farm,

) Bridgetown, W.A.


Smith, Patrick Shearer. Had a farm at Bridgetown left in

charge of Jas Drummond. Edward Smith,

brother, Wyngin, N.S.W.

Mr. Brown, Secretary, Shearers' Union also saw

this person leave by the boat in company with

McSwain and McKibbin. The three were proceeding

to Levarynga Station, Derby.


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

Fremantle-Derby McSwain D. [blank]

[Barker, Malcolm, 2001, The Truth Is So Precious, Success Print, Perth, Western Australia, page 51]


Several shearers went aboard for passage to Derby and the start of the shearing season on stations in the Kimberley. Mr Brown, Secretary of the Shearers’ Union, farewelled Patrick Smith in company with Donald McSwain and William McKibbin. They were going to shear for Levarynga (now Liveringa) Station out of Derby. The three had farms at Bridgetown and like many others money earnt from shearing helped to develop their properties.


["The Passengers", The West Australian, Wednesday 03 April 1912, page 7]



Mr. D. McSwain.

Mr. W. J. McKibbin.


[Research file "s.s. Koombana", 1973-. Department of Maritime Archeology, Western Australian Museum, 189/73/2, Letter dated 10 March 1985 from Ms Jean Gibson, niece of Koombana passenger Donald McSwain]

Niece is

Ms Jean Gibson

[address withheld]


wrote to maritime museum 10th March 1985

[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.

["The Perth Passengers", The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette (Cue, WA), Thursday 04 April 1912, page 3]


Mr. McSwaine[sic] who is amongst the passengers is a younger brother of Mr McSwaine, of Day Dawn. The McKibbin, in the list, is not the well known cricketer, but a friend of McSwaine's who was accompanying him.


["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.


[blog from Andrew S. Bowman]

The challenge was put out for us to try and find some local connections to the Koombana. It seemed a steep request but we succeeded to find a few!

Frederick W. B. Clinch was among those who lost his life with the ship. He was a first cousin of James T. Clinch (at that time a farmhand in Carnamah) and also a first cousin of Mrs Janet M. Jones of Turipa Farm in Coorow. Frederick was also a first cousin of Mrs Ethel H. J. Maley whose children later resided in Three Springs (her children being George, Ken and Cecil Maley and Mrs Ethel M. M. Shute). Frederick's father was James Clinch who pioneered Berkshire Valley and was the first settler in the greater Moora district.

Another passenger on the Koombana was Donald McSwain who was a brother of Malcolm M. McSwain, who later took up farming in Carnamah and Marchagee.

Addendum, 8 July 2013:

George R. Cumming, captain of the schooner Queenie Alice found what was believed to be part of the bridge ladder of the Koombana and the back of a saloon seat. Both were found over a year later, on 20 July 1913, on Middle Forestier Reef halfway between Forestier Island and Depunch Island. George had also given evidence at the Court of Marine Inquiry into the loss of the Koombana on 3 May 1912. He asserted that global precautions in the event of cyclones put ships into greater danger as they failed to factor in the behaviour of cyclones in the north-west of Western Australia.

George's sons Andrew S. Cumming, Donald F. Cumming and Colin C. Cumming all farmed on the Inering Estate in Carnamah after the First World War. Donald's son Ronald G. Cumming also worked as a farmhand in Carnamah in the 1930s and in Waddy Forest in the 1950s. Our thanks to Lisa Dorsett for alerting us to the Cumming connection with the Koombana.