Captain Charles Bisson

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Captain Charles Bisson


Captain Charles Bisson

Charles Bisson, born in St Lawrence, Jersey in 1850, emigrated to Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia, where he was a ship's master. He died at the age of 56 of a suspected heart attack while spending the night on one of his vessels


Charles Bisson was the fourth son of Edouard Bisson (1818- ) and Elizabeth Journeaux (1818-1860), of St Lawrence, Jersey.

The family were living at Ville au Veslet, St Lawrence, in 1851. Father Edouard was a blacksmith and his wife a dressmaker.

His father was a seaman in 1861 the family was living in the neighbouring parish of St Peter. Charles' eldest brother Edward, aged 16, was an apprentice; Philip (13) was a labourer; and John (11), Charles (10) and Jane (8) were at school. The census for that year does not mention Eliza, born in 1846, or Philip (1848- ). The youngest sibling, Francis (1856- ) was with the family.

In 1871 the family was still in St Peter. Father Edouard was back on the land, working as a labourer and his wife took in laundry. Daughter Eliza was back with her parents, working as a dressmaker at the age of 24, and the youngest, Francis (15) was a tailor.

Ships he served on

Charles was at sea by the age of 20, serving between 19 May and 11 November on the Prairie Flower between Jersey and Liverpool. In the following two years he spent 18 months on the Adam Sedgwick between Liverpool and Dublin, before returning to the Prairie Flower between September 1872 and June the following year, sailing between Liverpool and Newcastle. In June 1873 he joined the Van Dieman for 12 months, sailing between Liverpool and London, but also making a voyage to Australia and back.

After a brief spell on the ss Alhambra he joined the schooner Petrel in October 1878 and eventually arrived in Melbourne in May 1882.

Later that year he obtained his Master's Certificate for the Gippsland Lakes in Melbourne, taking charge of ss Tambo, owned by John Christian Dahlsen, from 1884 to 1889.

He was the first capatin of the passenger steamer JCS between 1889 and 1896. Built in Paynesville, Victoria, for John Christian Dahlsen. He then capatined the ss Lady Harriet for Gippsland Steam Navigation Company, owned by the Carpenter family.

He was master from 1896 until his death ten years later. The vessel carried goods and passengers around the Gippsland lakes and rivers. It towed a barge and was also used to cart stone for the construction of the new entrance at Lakes Entrance, where the barge is preserved under cover.


Captain Bisson's death in 1906 at the age of only 56 was a great shock to the community of Bairnsdale, as reported in local newspapers at the time:

"The community sustained a shock on Saturday morning when it was reported that Captain Bissen, master of the steamer Lady Harriett, had been found dead in his bunk. He was apparently in his customary health on Friday night, when he parted company with some friends. About 6 o'clock saturday morning, Mr J Carpenter, representing the owners ofthe boat, went to arouse the captain, but there was no response, and later it was discovered that he musthave passed quietly away.
"Dr Alsop was made acquainted with the circumstance, and inspected the body. He had been consulted by the deceased some time since. Under the circumstances an inquiry was deemed unnecessary.
"The late captain had been a long time resident in Bairnsdale and his unostentatiousness and general demeanor made him a favourite with those with whom he was brought in contact. Flags were flying at half-mast on the steamers and shipping offices and at Metung and Cuninghame and all the Tambo river ports regret was expressed."

Another report traced Capt Bisson's career:

"Captain Bissen had been identified with the shipping of the lakes for the past27 years. He came to Gippsland in 1880 and joined the steamer Bairnsdale as mate, under Captain Nielsen. Subsequently he became master of the Tambo, and from that vessel he stepped on to the bridge of the ss JCD on the latter leaving the ways at Paynesville. Of late years Captain Bissen had been engaged in the Tambo River trade as master of the Lady Harriet, the owners of which are G A and Arthur Carpenter and C Jackson. He was a careful and reliable mariner, and well liked by those with whom he came in contact, being ever willing to oblige when in his power to do so."


Charles Bisson had married Sophie Sarah Perry (1858-1919) and they had eight children - Sophia Jane (1881-1917), Elizabeth Maud (1883-1913), Marie Louise (1884-1959), Elsie Blanche (1886-1973), Charlesena Lucy (1888- ), Irene Isabel (1890-1971), Edward and Charles.

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