John Philip Gallienne

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John Philip Gallienne, who was born in Jersey and emigrated to New Zealand in the second half of the 19th century, was a well-known merchant seaman who had a chequered career, which ended in a tragic shipwreck for which he was blamed after his death by a public inquiry.

The following newspaper articles include some of the highlights of his career and indicate the variety of vessels with which he was associated. 1880

Gallant rescue

Gippsland Mercury, Tuesday 27 April 1880

"Feeling somewhat indisposed lately and calling to mind the benefits which I derived from a turn on the Gippsland Lakes last year, I determined to try the same remedy again, and accordingly embarked on board the paddle steamer Tanjil at the Latrobe wharf on Saturday last. I need not add to the already numerous descriptions of the vessel or the lakes which have appeared in print in all quarters of the colony, but I imagine that a few lines on the incidents of the trip will not be unacceptable to your numerous readers, and so venture to put my experiences before them through the columns of the Mercury.
"The monotony of the trip was considerably relieved by one or two little mishaps, the first of which happened near McMillan’s Straits, where a selector named Rashleigh, who was in the habit of meeting the steamer there to put on fowls and produce for the Lakes Entrance, came with his boat and, according to his usual custom, run the boat in front of the paddle box instead of aft, the consequence of which was that the boat was struck and swamped. The passengers, who were at tea at the time, it being about half-past six, hearing a noise and a scuffle, hurried on deck in time to see Mr Rashleigh being hauled on board with a rope’s end.
"It then transpired that his son, a boy about 12 years old, was also in the boat at the time it was swamped, and that the mate of the steamer had most pluckily jumped into the water, clothes and all, and swam after the boy, whom he overtook in about a quarter of a mile, some 20 feet from the swamped boat, which was then keel up. He just caught the boy in time, he having sunk twice, and swam with him to the boat, righted her, and placed the boy in her, and kept swimming round and keeping the boat in position until the Tanjil’s boat, which had been lowered with all speed, reached him and rescued them both. In the meantime, Mr Rashleigh was in a terrible state of mind, fearing the boat would be drowned, it being too dark to see the distance that they were off from the steamer. In a few minutes, however, all were put at ease again by seeing the boat return with the rescued boy and mate.
Lake paddle steamers
"The passengers at once got up a small subscription, and Mr A K Smith was deputed to make the presentation to the mate, whose name, by the way, is John Phillip Gallienne. Mr Smith said: “In the name of the passengers on board, we thank you for risking your life in saving another, and we now present you with a small sum of money in token of the same, and I hope that others who hear of the plucky manner in which you have acted will take the matter up. I will bring the matter before the Royal Humane Society, and hope this act will be an incentive for others to do likewise, as it is deserving of great praise.”
"Mr Gallienne, in reply, said that he only acted as he thought anyone ought to do, and he would be glad to do it again at any time should occasion require it. He did not think of danger, and did not expect to be rewarded for a humane act, but thanked the passengers for the kind expressions and token of approval. Captain Seymour said he was much obliged to the passengers for the prompt and kind manner in which they had acted. A fisherman’s boat came along side soon after, and the crew kindly took the rescued man and boy to shore.

RHS recognition

Gippsland Mercury, Thursday 6 May 1880

"We are glad to learn that the gallant conduct of Mr Gallienne, the mate of the Tanjil steamer who recently, with all his clothes on, jumped from that vessel into Lake Victoria and rescued the boy Rashleigh from almost certain death by drowning, is to be recognized in some manner by the Royal Humane Society, under whose notice the circumstances have been brought by the publication of the affair in our columns. The necessary papers have been forwarded to Mr Gallienne for the purpose of filling in the full particulars of the rescue, and for making a declaration as to the surrounding facts. It is also gratifying to see the results which have already flowed from the good example set by the mate in connection with this adventure. The engineer and second steward of the Tanjil steamer have several times since been practicing swimming in clothes in the strong current which was running in the Latrobe river last week, and it will be reassuring to timid passengers to know that at least three hands on board the Tanjil are not only willing but able to follow in Mr Gallienne’s wake if similar circumstances should again arise to place life in jeopardy. We have received several small sums locally contributed to swell the testimonial already presented, which will be duly acknowledged when the list is closed.

[The Annual Report, 1880 of the Royal Humane Society of Australasia records the award of a Bronze Medal to John Philip Gallienne, of steamship Tanjil, 32, swimming a quarter of a mile in a rough sea, with his clothes on, and rescuing lad from drowning.


New entrance

Bairnsdale Advertiser, Thursday 20 June 1889

"The steamer Emu made a successful trip through the new Entrance at about two o’clock this afternoon. Captain Gallienne sounded the bar, and reported from eight to twenty-six feet of water. He steered over the spit between the two piers. He then towed the five schooners from the lower Entrance up to the new Entrance, and will take them out at midnight, when it will be slack water. The Glengarry will be the first to go.
"Highly satisfactory accounts continue to reach us regarding the new Entrance. On Tuesday preparations were made for towing out to sea through the new channel the schooners Glengarry, John and Elizabeth and Ethel BT, and about ten o’clock at night, when the moon rose and the tide was slack, the paddle] ship Emu, with about 50 of the residents of Cuninghame on board, and under the command of Captain Gallienne, took the Glengarry in tow and passed outwards. Returning, the John and Elizabeth was next taken out, and then the Ethel BT was taken in hand. The tide by this time had commenced to run in pretty strong, and when the outer ends of the piers had been reached for about ten minutes the Emu could make no perceptible headway.
"It seemed as though the current was going to prove too powerful for the steaming powers of the Emu. Captain Gallienne, however, kept his boat’s nose in to it, and was at last rewarded by seeing the schooner slowly dragged outwards, and again getting way on, and the Ethel BT having her sails set, matters soon became easier for the Emu, and it was not long before the two parted company, the one setting a course for Melbourne and the other returning to the lakes.

Bogong wreck

The Argus, Friday 25 September 1896

"The steamer Bogong is now a total wreck. She foundered about 60 yards from shore and broke up 20 minutes afterwards. No bodies have yet been recovered, but it is now quite evident that five lives have been lost. Constable Hall left here at daylight this morning with search parties scouring the coast for bodies.
"The loss of the Bogong has caused a great sensation in Bairnsdale, Captain Gallienne and all who were on board being well known throughout the district
"It has transpired that one of the three missing brothers Huysmann is Edwin Thomas Huysmann, for whose arrest on a charge of embezzlement a warrant was issued some time ago. Until lately, he was employed at the Spencer-street booking office, and was suspended in connection with an alleged fraud in the issuing of Sydney tickets.
"Charles Astrop, the fireman, was a native of Yorkshire, England. He was about 55 years of age, unmarried, and was well known for many years about the Lakes. John Andersen, the deck hand, leaves a widow and two children, living at Cunninghame. He was 43 years old, and was born in Bergen, Norway.

The Bogong formerly belonged to the Lakes Navigation Company. She was purchased about eight years ago by the father (since deceased) of Messrs Carpenter Bros and was not insured. Captain Gallienne expressed the opinion only a fortnight ago that she was “a splendid little sea boat”.

"It appears that the steamer was certified only to ply on the Gippsland Lakes and rivers, and was taken to sea in contravention of the law. Application was some time ago made to the Marine Board that the steamer should be allowed to ply between the Gippsland Lakes Entrance and Mallacoota Inlet, but the engineer surveyor refused to certify that the vessel might engage with safety in the carriage of passengers and cargo at sea.
"A petition was afterwards got up by residents of Mallacoota and forwarded by Mr Foster to the Customs department, urging that the ordinary regulations should not be insisted upon, but the board declined to assume the responsibility of overriding the act. After this, considerable pressure was brought to bear on the Customs department to interfere, and have the necessary certificate granted, but without effect. What has now occurred affords ample justification for the stand taken by the marine authorities against the political influence that was brought to bear on them.
Record of John Gallienne's 2nd mate's certificate

The Argus, Tuesday 29 September 1896

Bairnsdale, Monday

"Captain Gallienne, of the steamer Bogong, is till in a weak state of health, owing to exposure and the injuries he sustained. One side of the wrecked vessel came ashore on Thursday at Pearl Point, about 25 miles from the scene of the disaster, and close to the stranded whale, which was discovered by those on board the Bogong on what was almost her last trip. One of the men at work on the whale recognized the timber, and thinking that the vessel had just been wrecked, and that all hands had probably been lost, hastened along the beach to Marlo to report it. However, he found there that the news of the wreck was already known. No trace of any other bodies has since been discovered.

The Gippsland Times, Thursday 1 October 1896

The Snowy River Mail reports an interview with Captain Gallienne, as follows:-

"This is the first real mishap I have had at sea,” said the skipper, on being interviewed. “When the squall was at its worst, Mr Price, the engineer, and young Huysman came up from below and reported that the water was making fast. All hands were at once put to work with pumps and buckets, and deck cargo was thrown overboard to lighten her. We were unable to discover where the water was coming in, and the boat was filling so fast that I could see nothing for it but to beach her.
"The night was pitch dark. I told the men to keep cool and get well forward when we were nearing the shore. A little before 9 o’clock the boat, which was settling very low, struck the outer bar, about 80 yards off the beach, and an immense sea struck her from stem to stern. All on board gathered around and clung to the bridge, which was the highest part, and one by one they left or were swept away. I was the last to leave. I divested myself of most of my clothing and struck out for the shore. I was a long time in the water before I touched bottom, and the sea was frightfully rough.
"When I was thrown on the beach I found that only the engineer and Leonard Stephenson had landed beside myself. We looked about for the others, but could find no trace of them. Edward Huysman was very weak and ill, and I am not surprised that he did not reach the shore. We had a boat on board, but it was useless to try and launch her in such a heavy sea. We did our best for all on board. There were plenty of life belts handy, some of which were used. Unfortunately the men seemed to lose their heads when the vessel struck. She went to pieces very quickly, and the sea had a strong set to the east.
"We landed about 500 yards east of where she struck, and when we reached the mouth of the Snowy we found that a good deal of wreckage had come in before us. We hailed a boat from the Falcon and crossed to the Marlo Hotel, where we were kindly treated. A search party was then sent out. You know the rest,” concluded the captain.

Marine Court inquiry

The Argus, Friday 16 October 1896

"An inquiry into the cause of the wreck of the steamer Bogong, about 9 o’clock on the night of the 23rd ult, off the mouth of the Snowy River, Gippsland, was held by the Marine Court, on Tuesday, at the Custom-house, the members of the court being Mr Panton, and Captains Tozer and Bevis. Mr Ferguson appeared for the Marine Board; Mr Croker for the owner and the captain of the Bogong; and Mr Upton for relatives of George, Ernest and Edward Huysman, who were drowned when the steamer sank.
"Mr Ferguson, in opening the proceedings, said the Bogong was a small steamer of 30 tons gross register. She had a certificate from the Marine Board as a river and bay vessel, under which she was allowed to carry 79 passengers on the Gippsland Lakes and 143 when plying on the rivers. She was also allowed under it to tow vessels into the lakes from a distance of five miles outside the coast, but was not permitted to carry passengers or cargo outside.
"John Philip Galliene, formerly master of the Bogong, said he joined her on 3 August last. When they left Mallacoota Inlet for the Lakes Entrance, at 10.30 am on the 23, there were on board, besides witness, Albert Price, engineer; John Armstrong, mate; Charles Astrop, fireman; George and Ernest Huysman, deck hands; Louis Stevenson, a fisherman; and Edward Huysman.

Shipping movements

The Argus, Friday 25 April 1902

Cleared Out – 24 April 24 Quathlamba, 467 tons, J P Gallienne, for Newcastle

Poverty Bay Herald, Gisborne, NZ, 15 February 1904

The Gisborne Sheepfarmers’ Company’s third lighter Huia arrived from Auckland yesterday. Captain Gallienne is in charge. The Huia took three days over the passage. Her cargo includes 56 tons salt, 700ft timber and sundries.

The Argus, Monday 9 January 1905

Hobson’s Bay – Arrived, Manawetu 250 tons, J P Gallienne from Lorne and Apollo Bay. Passengers – 11 in the saloon.

The Argus, Saturday 11 February 1905

Arrived – February 10, Manawetu, 250 tons, J P Gallienne from Westernport, Lorne and Apollo Bay. Passengers – 9 in the saloon

Poverty Bay Herald, 6 July 1907

The scow Surprise, 80 tons, Capt Gallienne, from Auckland, arrived in port at noon today. The scow left the northern port at 4 o’clock last Saturday morning with westerly winds. Beautiful weather prevailed as far as East Cape, which was rounded at 7 o’clock Sunday morning. From East Cape the weather was calm, but very thick, and the vessel arrived off Tuahine Point about 6 o’clock Monday night. The weather being so thick, Captain Gallienne was unable to pick up the bay, and therefore dodged about outside, and was off Gable End Foreland on Tuesday night. He then made for the Ariel fishing ground, but a howling gale came up, and the sea being very heavy, he stood out to the SE again. He anchored under Nick’s Head last night and came across the bay this morning. The cargo consists of 80,000ft timber.

Wreck of Surprise

Poverty Bay Herald, 23 July 1907 and further reports

"The scow Surprise, reported to have been wrecked at Ohui, was recently purchased by Messrs Robb Bros, of Gisborne, for the Whangarei – Gisborne coal trade. She was in command of Captain Gallienne, with a crew of five, and left Gisborne on the 11th for Tairua, this being the completion of her first trip under her new ownership.
"Mr Robert Robb this morning received the following advice from Auckland:- “Scow Surprise, which was sheltering Slipper Island, blown ashore on rocks Sunday; total wreck. Captain, mate, and two seamen drowned. Harry Jackson saved.”
"The Surprise was insured for £650 in the New Zealand office. Mr Robb estimated his loss at £400 above that amount.
"The Surprise, which was a vessel of 80 tons, was under charter on her present voyage to Messrs Evans, Nield and Co, who this afternoon engaged another vessel to take her running.Slipper Island, where the casualty occurred, is situated just off Tairua Heads.
"The crew of the Surprise consisted of J P Gallienne (master), J W Jackson (aged 20), A Stewart (19), E Johansen (19), W Kelly (17).
"A telegram from Tairua states that a messenger from Ohui has just ridden over and reported that the scow Surprise went ashore on the rocks, about a mile from the north end of Ohui beach, and is a total wreck. The captain, mate, and two seamen are supposed to have been drowned. A fifth hand got ashore, and found his way to Ohui, where he is being well looked after by James McGregor. He is badly knocked about, and rambles a little in his talk, but is expected to be well in a day or two. His name is Harry Jackson. From what can be gathered from his account, the scow dragged her anchors right from Slipper Island, and went ashore on the coast early on Sunday morning. Capt Gallienne was taken on in place of K W Cliffe, who was sick when the vessel was last here.

Harry Jackson, sole survivor of the wreck of the scow Surprise, relating his experiences, said: “When off Slipper Island on Friday night the scow started to drag, with three anchors out. The captain ordered the crew to set the staysail. Immediately afterwards she struck the south end of the Watchman rocks. Captain Gallienne sang out ‘Good-bye.’ That was the last I saw of him, and of the boy Frank Kelly.

"The scow was bumping very hard when Alf Stewart, Edward Johansen and I took to the fore rigging. We stayed there a little time, then came down and went aft. The ship came stern first off the rocks and capsized. I lost sight of Stewart and never saw him again.
"Johansen and I stuck to the main rigging, after which the scow drifted mid-way between the Watchman and the coast. I swam ashore, but never saw Johansen again. I am a good swimmer, but the breakers were very large and rough. One breaker took me ashore. Others came immediately and smashed me on the rocks. That is how I was so much cut and bruised. I had been in the water five or six hours.
"I climbed about half-way up the cliff and then collapsed from exhaustion. I stayed there the whole of Sunday, and at night felt ill and unable to go farther. Next morning, feeling a little better, I crawled up over the cliffs, and eventually reached J McGregor’s house, where I received every kindness. I was put to bed and carefully nursed.
"My position on Sunday was terrible. It was a wild, stormy day. I was stuck half-way up the cliffs, with only a small singlet on reaching my thighs. I was unable to move further. The cliffs were below me and high perpendicular hills above. I thought I was done for. I lay there in the storm all Sunday, and in the night the pain was so severe and unbearable that I wished I was dead.
"The weather appeared better on Monday morning and having gained a little extra strength I started to crawl along, not knowing exactly where I was.”

An inquiry was held at Auckland before Mr R W Dyer, and Captains Adamson and Sellars, into the circumstances surrounding the wreck of the scow Surprise, off Ohui beach. Mr Selwyn Mays appeared on behalf of the Acting-Collector of Customs at Auckland (Mr Henry R Spence), and Mr Robert Robb, one of the owners of the vessel, was also present.


Mr Mays said that the questions for the Court to decide were: (1) Whether under the weather conditions the master of the vessel was justified in seeking shelter on the south-western side of Slipper Island? (2) Whether, when he knew that the anchors would no longer hold her, he should not have slipped the vessel’s cables and run for shelter elsewhere? (3) Whether the loss of the vessel was due to circumstances beyond the control of her master and crew? (4) What persons lost their lives in the wreck?

Mr Mays then called Harry Jackson, a young Norfolk Islander, who said that he was 20 years of age, and had joined the Surprise as an ordinary seaman on 20 April. The vessel left Gisborne on 11 July and was wrecked nine days later, when bound for Tairua to load. After passing the East Cape the Surprise was hove-to for three days, and was blown 150 miles off the land. Afterwards the wind became light, from the north-east, and Tairua was steered for. Land was eventually sighted, and many suggestions were made as to what point on the coast was visible, the master holding that it was the East Cape, and afterwards Cape Brett. It proved to be Slipper Island, and they arrived there at midnight on Friday 19 July.

The captain did not attempt the Tairua bar next day, for some reason unknown to witness. On Saturday the weather held good until 3 pm, when it commenced to blow strongly. A second anchor was put down, and the two held the vessel for a while. Eventually she commenced to drag and the kedge was put out. The three anchors held the vessel until 9 pm, when the wind was blowing very strongly, and big seas were running from round the northern end of the island. The vessel again commenced to drag, and when within 12 yards of the rocks the captain set the stay sail.

No sooner had the sail been set than the vessel struck a rock. She bumped on top of it, and then rolled off, stern first, and the captain and a seaman named Kelly were washed overboard, and then there was only witness, Johansen, and Stewart left. The latter was soon swept away, and witness and Johansen clung to the main rigging. The boat drifted towards the land, and when 150 yards off the shore witness asked Johansen if he could swim. Johansen replied that he could, and witness then said that he was “going to tackle swimming it.” Johansen replied, “You’ll only get killed. I’m going to hang on.” Witness then stripped off his coat and boots, shook hands with Johansen, and dived overboard.

Mr Mays: Did you see any more of Johansen?

Witness: No, I never saw him again. Continuing, the witness said that he was caught in the breakers and dashed on to the shore about 5 am on Sunday. He had climbed half-way up a cliff when he discovered that he could get no further, so he stayed there all Sunday, and on Monday, at 3 pm, he reached Mr James McGregor’s house, where he was kindly looked after.

The witness added that he had been on the New Zealand coast for four years. When on the ship he did not hear any discussion as to whether the captain had anchored in the right place. The island gave them no shelter, and witness was of the opinion that the better course for the captain to have taken when the vessel commenced to drag would have been to “clear out” or go into Tairua. He believed that of the crew, which numbered five, he was the only one who escaped. As far as he knew the vessel was well found and in good order.

Captain Attwood, assistant superintendent of mercantile marine at Auckland, said that the vessel was splendidly equipped in every respect, and was one of the most seaworthy boats on the coast. He had not heard of any bodies being recovered.

Mr Robert Robb, of Gisborne, said that he and his brother owned the vessel. Captain Gallienne had not sailed a scow before, and he had told witness that he had never sailed into Tairua. Witness took him to be a good, careful master mariner. The Surprise was insured for £650, but he valued it considerably in advance of that figure.

Edward Wilson, master mariner, at present in charge of the scow Ranger, said that he had had about 30 years’ experience with scows on the coast, and had been frequently obliged to anchor under Slipper Island. Assuming that everything was all right, Captain Gallienne did not, according to witness’ experience, anchor in the correct place. The best spot for nortrh-east weather was at the southern end, and it was always used by coasters. If witness had found his vessel dragging he would have either buoyed or slipped the anchors and made for Tairua, or, perhaps, the sandy beach. A flat-bottomed boat took more handling than a round-bottomed one.

Mr Dyer: Is the holding ground good where the Surprise was anchored?

Witness: No, it is a kind of boulder bottom, and the anchors would not hold there.

Charles Anderson, a master mariner with 35 years experience, gave corroborative evidence.

After a short retirement, Mr Dyer said that the Court was unanimous in the opinion that Captain Gallienne had committed an error of judgment in anchoring his vessel in an unsheltered position. This error was due to his lack of local knowledge. The Court also found that he committed a further error of judgment by not putting on sails and making for shelter elsewhere when the vessel commenced to drag. The vessel was well found and equipped in every respect.

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