50[Doug Gordon, letter to Bethwyn Brandis, Mukinbudin, W.A., 23 March 2002, in response to a notice in The West Australian, in which Mrs Brandis sought to make contact with descendants of those lost with Koombana, copy provided to the author]

P.O. Box 146,


23rd March, 2002

Phone/Fax 0899 34 1284

B. Brandis,

P.O. Box 13,


Dear B. Brandis,

I am writing in response to your Can You Help appeal in Monday March 18th

West Australian, re the SS. "Koombana".

My great uncle, Captain Charlie Irvine who had captained the half sail half

steam ship "Rob Roy" on the West Australian coast for the Adelaide Steamship

for many years, was Chief Harbourmaster in Fremantle in 1912.

Although she was much admired by all beholders, he had an intense dislike for

the "Koombana", declaring her too top heavy and a very bad seaboat.

My grandfather, Claude Irvine, Charlie's brother, came over with his family, from

South Australia, where he had been managing East Bungaree merino stud for

Hawker Bros. He came over to manage Minderoo Station, on the Ashburton

River, for David Forrest, who wanted to retire to live in Perth. Charlie Irvine

had recommended his brother Claude, as a likely candidate for the job.

The Claude Irvine family stayed with Charlie in his Harbourmaster's residence,

and booked to go north on the glamour ship "Koombana". Uncle Charlie

vehemently opposed the booking when he found out about it, and eventually

persuaded them, reluctantly, to rebook on the comparative rustbucket "Bullara",

due to sail just before the "Koombana".

According to my Aunt, the "Koombana" passed them somewhere along the

coast, with much blaring of sirens and waving of hands, and disappeared up ahead.

Claude and family disembarked at the Old Onslow port, at the mouth of the

Ashburton river, where they would have been safe, even if they had been on

the "Koombana".

According to my research, the "Bullara" went on to Port Hedland and tied up at

the jetty, with the "Koombana" still there. Both put to sea when the cyclone a

warning came through, the "Bullara" heading south into the cyclone, which she

survived, arriving Cossack very badly knocked about. and the "Koombana"

heading north, away from the cyclone, and disappeared forever.

My brother Stuart and I went to school in Perth. We went down on the coastal

steamers, which we caught anchored out off Jarman Island, being transported

out to them from Cossack by lighters.

Being too far away to go home for any but Christmas holidays, we often stayed

with our Uncle Lyn Irvine, whose farm adjoined Bert Brandis and family. Bert

was a very good tennis player, but I think I beat him several times at the

Katanning Sunday get togethers, although only 15 then.

When I saw your appeal, I rang my cousin Lynette and told her I would write to

you. I mentioned to her that my main memory of Mukinbudin, was a windwheel made

of two 44 gallon drums cut down the middle and mounted longwise on a windmill tower.

They rotated horizontally to the ground, and Iíve always wondered what they did,

Pumped water I suppose? Lynette had never heard of such a contraption.

With best wishes.

Doug Gordon.