[Photographs of George & Amelia Simpson and their children, 1893-1911, from originals held by family members in Perth, Western Australia.]
Original photographs scanned in June 2005 at the home of George Simpson's granddaughter Joan Kennedy.
[Ludlow, Graeme & Beverley, George Nicolas Simpson (unpublished), a brief account of the life of Beverley's grandfather, 02 January 2012, photographs held by family members in Perth, Western Australia]
GEORGE NICOLAS SIMPSON
Engineer for Broome employed by the Harbours and Rivers Branch of the Public Works Department of Western Australia
Aged 47 years at 21 March 1912
George Nicolas Simpson was born in the Meeting of the Waters (now named Glenrock) near Wellington, in New South Wales (NSW), on 30 June 1864. He was the eldest of ten children.
He married Amelia Mary Helen Hubert at West Maitland in NSW on 14 February 1893. Their first child Minna Jean was born on 2 January 1894 and a son George Hubert arrived in December 1894. Little is known about their lives in NSW but when he signed his Will in Waverley, in the colony of New South Wales on 19 February 1894, he stated that his profession was Civil Engineer.
Photo 1. George and Amelia Simpson in about 1893.
It seems that GN Simpson and his family came to Western Australia (WA) in February or March of 1896. He joined the WA State Government in the Harbours and Rivers branch of the Public Works Department (PWD) in March 1896, and his duties were “supervising Carnarvon stock jetty contracts etc”.
The PWD had reported in 1894 that a well-equipped survey party had been engaged on the northwest coast making surveys at several of the ports. Preliminary surveys at Carnarvon harbour had been completed, and designs and estimates had been prepared. The proposals involved building a jetty from the northwest point of Babbage Island for a length of 4800 feet, which would extend into 18 feet of water at low tide. This would enable vessels carrying stock to lie alongside. The jetty was to have a strong cattle race and with cattle yards at the land end, together with a tramway leading across the island. This was to cross the Gascoyne River by a bridge about 1060 feet long and terminating in the Carnarvon Township. In addition, a site had been selected on the highest ground in the immediate vicinity at an elevation of 35 feet, and surveyed for the proposed Babbage Island lighthouse.
It is not known when the family moved to Carnarvon, but their daughter Gwendoline Helen was born in Carnarvon in 1898 and they still had the Carnarvon address in 1901.
The PWD Annual Statement records that during the 1898 to 1899 year the Carnarvon timber pile and superstructure jetty, 4350 feet long and 15 feet wide with a straight head 240 feet x 30 feet, had been completed. It was stated that it had “proved of material service in the development of trade of the port and much convenience to shippers”.
The PWD report for 1900 shows GN Simpson being employed on “Carnarvon jetty, Babbage Island lighthouse repairs, etc., Carnarvon stockyards “. There was also a contract let for the construction of cattle yards and a 2-foot gauge tramway, 2 miles long, between the jetty and Carnarvon Township. In the following year there was reference to “plans and specifications are prepared for the construction of much needed protection works on the Gascoyne River, and also for the removal of the old jetty”. Apparently, a portion of the decking on the jetty was damaged by fire, and had to be replaced. It is interesting to note that CY O’Connor, Engineer in Charge, signed the report.
The West Australian Yearbook for 1900 to 1901 stated that the town of Carnarvon had “a courthouse, schoolhouse, bonded store, residency, gaol, post office and telegraph station, church, library, and hospital. It has three hotels and two stores. The town is well supplied with water”. The population comprised of 186 males, 104 females giving a total of 290. The entry for the town of Cossack stated that it had “good public buildings, including customs and police quarters, courthouse, post and telegraph offices, and Government school, all substantially built of stone”. The population was 127 males and 37 females giving the total of the 166.
The PWD report for 1900 stated, “To permit of stock being shipped directly on to a steamer, it is intended to build a jetty and stockyards at Point Sampson near Cossack”, and £12,000 had been authorised for this work. In the PWD report for 1902, there was a reference to “construction of receiving yards for sheep at Carnarvon”, and the “construction of a jetty, 1816 feet in length at Cossack”. There was also mention of the “erection of a goods shed at Point Sampson”.
It is not known when the Simpson family moved from Carnarvon, but Wises’ Post Office list (Wises) for 1902 shows “Simpson Geo. N. district engineer PWD” in Cossack.
His daughter Jean went to school in Cossack by horse drawn tram and his daughter Ruth Eipper was born at Cossack on 30 September 1902.
In the West Australian newspaper dated 11 November 1904 there was a report on the Point Sampson jetty. A Dr. Hicks, whom it is believed was the Minister for Commerce and Labour, had waited on the Minister for Lands and informed him “that the squatters at Roebourne desired to ship cattle from Point Sampson early in December. As the jetty had not been built to carry heavy stock, the squatters desired that the structure should be improved, by the erection of a race that would rise and fall with the tide. The Minister said that the engineer-in-chief already had the matter in hand, and telegraphic instructions would be issued, ordering that the work be carried out as soon as possible”.
In the report for the year ending 31 December 1904 under the heading of Sea Jetties, for Point Sampson (near Cossack) it stated, “the construction of the 1816 feet long and 15 feet wide jetty, with a head of 281 feet long and 30 feet wide, and a goods shed on the latter, had been completed. The depth of water alongside head at low water is not far short of 20 feet. The jetty has been freely used during the latter part of the year for shipment of large mobs of sheep from the yards provided at landward end; and provisional facilities for shipping cattle have lately been specially added at local request, though not yet actually brought into use. The jetty is strongly planted and braced throughout, and, so far, none of the disasters confidently prognosticated by certain critics have eventuated”. The WA Government’s heritage website records that “Lewis and Reid” were the builders of the Point Sampson jetty.
In the Town and Country Directory for the time, it stated that the Cossack jetty was completed in April 1904 and it had about 25 feet of water at low tide. It was intended for the shipment of stock, and during the first three months after completion, 25,000 sheep were shipped. As mentioned elsewhere, Cossack had a population of 166 and was regularly visited by steamers, which carried the mails. There was a resident magistrate, local court, postmaster, and sub-collector of customs, shipping agents and two hotels.
Population numbers must have varied over the years because the Town and Country Directory for 1912 mentioned that in addition to a population of 129, there were 152 Asiatics working in luggers from Cossack.
During 1905 there was a lot of discussion about the building of a railway from either Port Hedland or Point Sampson to Nullagine and Marble Bar. Mr. Alf. E. Gummow of North Fremantle, and Mr. I. Richardson of Perth wrote lengthy letters to the West Australian newspaper.
By December 1905, the PWD stated, “a maintenance party had visited the Point Sampson Jetty and all of the bolts were screwed up and the structure generally repaired and painted as necessary. In addition a Kitson light had been erected on the head of the jetty”. At that stage, a total of ?22084.12.8 had been spent at Point Sampson.
In the PWD report for the year ending 30 June 1906 on page 14, under the heading Cossack, it stated that, “reinforcement of fenders at the corners of the jetty”, was being undertaken and that the “materials had been sent up”.
According to Wises, the Simpson family was still in Cossack in 1907. In 1908, the PWD reported that the building of a 2-foot gauge tramway from Point Sampson to connect with the Cossack-Roebourne tramway was in progress.
Although Wises lists GN Simpson still in Cossack in 1907, Josephine Letitia was born in Perth in 1906 and Minnie Edith was born in Subiaco on 14 November 1909.
In the early 1900s post cards were very popular and people frequently had a particular photograph made into a post card to send to families and friends. There is a post card of a man measuring the width of the water flow over a v notch weir with a pair of callipers. It was sent to a family member and we believe it is GN Simpson, because on the back are the words “Measuring up flow of water from new bore Broome - 1,030,000 gallons per 24 hours – GeoNS.”
The principal works of the PWD in Broome during the 1907 to 1908 year included the conversion of the Broome Tramway from 2 ft. to 3ft. 6in. gauge. In the period 1908 through 1910 most of the work carried out at Broome was routine maintenance of the jetty and cattle yards. In the following year there was more maintenance and some additions to the goods shed and loopline and an office for the Customs Officer was built.
GN Simpson was on one of his routine trips to Broome in connection with his engineering duties for the PWD aboard the SS Koombana, when the ship foundered on or about 21 March 1912, after leaving Port Hedland harbour as a storm approached.
GN Simpson’s widow Amelia Simpson was left with six children between the ages of two and eighteen to care for and should have been financially secure with the proceeds of insurance policies and other assets. However, she lost most of her money through the unprofessional conduct of her solicitor.
The “Western Argus,” published in Kalgoorlie on 26 November 1918 described the circumstances on Tuesday 26 November 1918 as follows.
UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT--BARRISTER STRUCK OFF ROLL
Perth, November 19.
In the Full Court to-day, the Barristers’ Board made application to have the name of S.W.Curtis struck off the roll on the grounds of unprofessional conduct. The complaint against the practitioner was lodged by Mrs. Amelia Simpson, widow, on July17. Evidence proved that the practitioner, acting for Mrs. Simpson, in connection with the estate of her late husband, received on her behalf the sum of £881, of which he must have misappropriated at least £640. Mrs. Simpson’s declaration was that upon the death of her husband, the practitioner advised her about the purchase of a house at Subiaco. The practitioner arranged for the purchase of a home through the Workers’ Home Scheme, and he said he would invest the balance of the money. When Mrs. Simpson asked how the money was invested, the practitioner explained that he had lent out the money to a person in connection with a South Perth house, and the interest would cover the amounts due under the Workers’ Home Scheme for the Subiaco property. Upon certain information being received, Mrs. Simpson caused enquiries to be made. Finally the practitioner admitted that he had used the money for his own purposes, and he could not repay it unless he was given some time.
The Court ordered that the name of Sydney Wan Curtis be struck off the roll of practitioners. The Chief Justice, in making the order, said that the hands of the Court were not to be tied because the practitioner had apparently fled the country, and had outlawed himself.
Having thought he had provided well for his family should he meet with adversity, GN Simpson would have been horrified to learn of his wife’s treatment by the family solicitor SW Curtis. In those days there was no social security, which meant Mrs Simpson had to rely upon her children for support for the rest of her life. SW Curtis’ actions meant that the Simpson children did not have an opportunity to pursue any of the career opportunities their father would have hoped for them.
Mrs Simpson continued to live in the Subiaco home until about 1938, when she went to live with her daughter Ruth in London. Subsequently she returned to Australia and lived with her daughters Minna Jean Rosenthal and Minnie Edith Harrison until she died in Subiaco on 8 June 1948. All of Mr and Mrs Simpson’s children are now deceased, but their descendants live in WA, the Eastern States and New Zealand.
In 2009 the Western Australian Museum Foundation invited members of the public to purchase personalised seat plaques in the NWS Shipping Theatre at the Western Australian Maritime Museum. The theatre overlooks the entrance to Fremantle Harbour and many individuals, families and businesses took up the opportunity. GN Simpson’s descendants arranged for a plaque in his memory, acknowledging that he lost his life pursuing his engineering profession in the maritime industry in Western Australia.
image: Commemorative plaque in the NWS Shipping Theatre at the Fremantle Maritime Museum.
[Passenger list, "KOOMBANA" 37, compiled 12 April 1912, Adelaide Steamship Company. provided to the author by the late Malcolm Barker]
List of passengers known to have been bound for Broome.
Simpson, G.N. Resident Engineer, Harbour and Rivers Department, Broome.
[Passenger list, "KOOMBANA" 37, compiled 02 April 1912, Adelaide Steamship Company. Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National University, 0186/N46/634]
Fremantle-Broome Simpson G.N. Res'd engineer Nor'West a/c Public Works Dept.
["The Passengers", The West Australian, Wednesday 03 April 1912, page 7]
Mr. G. N. Simpson.
["Some Of The Passengers", Broome Chronicle (WA), Saturday 06 April, 1912]
Mr. Simpson, of the Public Works Department, returning to Broome.
["Personal", The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 13 April 1912, page 18]
Among the passengers on the lost steamer Koombana was Mr. George H. Simpson, aged 46, the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Simpson, Toston, Liverpool-street, Rose Bay. He was assistant-engineer in the Public Works Department, Western Australia, and was going on duty to Broome. His wife and family of six children are in Perth, where he resided.
["Story of the Koombana", The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 31 March 1912, page 12]
SOME OF THE PASSENGERS.
Now that it appears more than probable that the Koombana no longer exists, the personality of the passengers who most likely have shared her untimely fate will be of interest. Amongst them are several well-known people, and it is quite possible that some of them may have left the ship at an intermediate port.
Mr. Simpson is one of the most competent of the Works Department officials, and has been in charge of the public works on the coast for a considerable time. His last important work was in connection with the building of the lighthouse at Brooome.
["Fate of the Koombana", The Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA), Saturday 06 April 1912, page 2]
Mr. Simpson was some nine years ago Government works supervisor at Carnarvon, and later on at Roebourne, but lately has been stationed in Perth, and has resided with his wife and four daughters at Claremont. He was a prominent Baptist, and for some time was State chairman for that body. He was held in the highest esteem in business and social circles. His eldest daughter is one of the most promising teachers in the State.
["Loss of the Koombana", The Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA), Saturday 13 April 1912, page 2]
"THE CABIN DOOR.
EVEN PRESSURE FROM OUTSIDE.
THE PROBABLE OCCUPANTS.
Mr. Burges and Mr. Norbert Keenan, both of whom were passengers as far as Roebourne on the Koombana's last trip, informed us that 1-2-3 was occupied by Mr. Simpson of the Public Works Department, and Capt. Pearson the Derby wharfinger. The fact that the door was unlocked may not prove that the shutting in of the passengers was not carried out, for the outer doors leading from before the music room to the outer deck may have been locked and the pressure on the cabin door came only after the sea forced its way through the outer door or through the music room windows."
["Loss of the Koombana", The Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA), Saturday 13 April 1912, page 2]
We find that Mr. Simpson described in last issue as living in Claremont and connected with the Baptist Church was Mr. Simpson, of the Stores Department, and not the Works Department Simpson who went down with the Koombana.
["In Memoriam", The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 03 July 1912, page 16]
SIMPSON.-March, 1912, George Nicolas Simpson, aged 46, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Simpson, "Foston," Liverpool-street, Rose Bay, lost at sea in s.s. Koombana.
["Unprofessional Conduct", The Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA), Tuesday 26 November 1918, page 12]
BARRISTER STRUCK OFF ROLL
Perth, Nov. 19.
In the Full Court to-day, the Bar risters' Board made.appheation to have the name of S. W. Curtis struck off the roll on the grounds of unprofessional conduct. The complaint against the practitioner was lodged by Mrs. Amelia Simpson, widow, on July 17. Evidence proved that the practitioner, acting for Mrs. Simp son, in connection with the estate of her late husband, received on her behalf the sum of £881, of which he must have misappropriated at least £640. Mrs. Simpson's declaration was that upon the death of her husband, the practitioner advised her about the purchase of a house at Subiaco. The practitioner arranged for the purchase of a home through the Workers' Home Scheme, and he said he would invest the balance of the money. When Mrs. Simpson asked how the money was invested, the practitioner explained that he had lent out the money to a person in connection with a South Perth house, and the interest would cover the amounts due under the Workers' Home Scheme for the Subiaco property. Upon certain information being received, Mrs. Simpson caused inquiries to be made. Finally the practitioner admitted that he had used the money for his own purposes, and he could not repay it unless he was given some time.
The Court ordered that the name of Sydney Wan Curtis should be struck off the roll of practitioners. The Chief Justice, in making the or der, said that the hands of the Court were not to be tied because the prac Aitioner had apparently fled the country, and had practically outlawed himself.
[Personal communication, Ann Parker, descendant of Koombana passenger George Simpson, March-April 2005]
After giving a lecture at the Fremantle Maritime Museum I was approached by Ann Parker, a granddaughter of George Simpson. With her was Joan Kennedy, another granddaughter.
Called Ann Parker about Koombana passenger George Simpson. Ann was very pleased to receive the call and has agreed to see me on my return to Perth. George Simpson’s wife was Amelia Mary Helen nee Hubert of Queensland. A wealthy family, I think she mentioned. She and George had five daughters and a son. I think the family lived in Cossack but wife and children returned to live in Perth after George’s loss. According to Ann, Amelia was swindled by a Perth lawyer and supported her kids pretty much on charity.
[Personal communication, Joan Kennedy, descendant of Koombana passenger George Simpson, March-April 2005]
On or about Monday 2 January 2006, an ad appeared in the Reunions section of The West Australian. I have not seen the ad, but Helen Ousby, Belview Lodge, Cowra NSW 2006 sought to make contact with any descendants of George Simpson. I called Joan Kennedy to ask if she had seen it; she had. Indeed, she had written to Helen and had received a reply already. Apparently George was one of twelve children and the extended family is just that. Helen's grandfather was a cousin of George.
SIMPSON : George Nicholas SIMPSON was a civil engineer with the Government of Western Australia when lost at sea on SS Koombana in 1912. He left
a widow and six children. Seeking descendants of George. Contact: Mrs Helen Ousby, Bellevue Lodge, Cowra, NSW 2794