Historical information

This peacock, known as the "Loch Ard Peacock" was designed by Paul Comolera in 1873 and fired in the famous Minton pottery at Stoke on Trent in England. This earthenware, majolica glazed bird set sail from Gravesend bound for Melbourne on 1 March 1878. The ship on which it travelled was the ill-fated Loch Ard. The peacock, along with other examples of Minton earthenware, was bound for the Great Exhibition of 1880 to celebrate the opening of Melbourne's newly completed Exhibition building.

Mr Charles McGillivray claimed to have dragged the peacock to the beach just two days after the Loch Ard went down. The peacock was rescued unscathed but for a chip on its beak. After a disagreement with Melbourne Customs Officer, Joseph Daish, Mr McGillivray stopped his salvage operations, leaving the peacock on the beach. The second claimants were Mr James Miller and Thomas Keys. James Miller was a member of the firm Howarth, Miller and Matthews of Geelong, who had brought the salvage rights to the Loch Ard wreck on 10 June. On 12th June, before Miller and Keys arrived at the wreck site a storm ensued and washed many of the salvaged goods back into the sea. It was at this time that they claimed to have rescued the peacock from the sea. While McGillivray was certainly the person to haul it from the water immediately after the shipwreck, Miller and Keys' claim to have rescued the peacock from the sea, and hauled it to the clifftop before it was lost in the second storm. It appears likely, that the Minton peacock was rescued from the sea not once but twice.

In an interview in 1928 (some 50 years later), Thomas Keys' claimed that at the time of the rescue the head had broken from the body. Miss Florence Miller, daughter of James Miller, later remarked that the only item of real value rescued from the wreck had been the peacock and that this had been kept by her father in the family home.

The peacock, then, began its life in Australia in the hallway of a domestic house in Geelong. Here it was to remain until 1940. The peacock travelled to Melbourne National Museum Exhibition on 1st June 1935 the date of the 57th anniversary of the Loch Ard wreck. After Miss Miller's death, it remained in an antique dealer's shop in Melbourne until about 1943, when it was bought at auction by Mr Frank Ridley-Lee and eventually placed in his home in Heidelberg, a suburb of Melbourne. The peacock remained in the hands of the Ridley-Lees until it was offered for sale in 1975 as part of Mrs Ridley-Lee's estate. On 1 June 1975, an advertisement in Melbourne newspaper The Age announced the sale by auction of the art collection of the Ridley-Lee estate that included the Loch Ard peacock. Fortunately, the peacock was not sold at this time as the reserve price of $4500 was not met. This news was passed on to the board of the newly created Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. Urgent efforts were made to raise the necessary funds through public donations. The Fletcher Jones company and the Victorian Government contributed to 50 per cent of the cost.

On 9 September 1975, the Loch Ard Peacock was purchased by Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warrnambool. Today the Loch Ard peacock remains in the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. It has left Warrnambool only twice since this time. In 1980 at the centenary celebrations of the Exhibition Building in Melbourne. Also in 1988, from April to October the peacock was given pride of place at the entrance to the Victorian Pavilion in the Brisbane World Expo. Acknowledging that the Minton majolica peacock was the most significant shipwreck artefact then in Australia.

History of the Loch Ard:

The Loch Ard got its name from ”Loch Ard” a loch which lies to the west of Aberfoyle, and the east of Loch Lomond. It means "high lake" in Scottish Gaelic. The vessel belonged to the famous Loch Line which sailed many vessels from England to Australia. The Loch Ard was built in Glasgow by Barclay, Curdle and Co. in 1873, the vessel was a three-masted square-rigged iron sailing ship that measured 79.87 metres in length, 11.58 m in width, and 7 m in depth with a gross tonnage of 1693 tons with a mainmast that measured a massive 45.7 m in height. Loch Ard made three trips to Australia and one trip to Calcutta before its fateful voyage.

Loch Ard left England on March 2, 1878, under the command of 29-year-old Captain Gibbs, who was newly married. The ship was bound for Melbourne with a crew of 37, plus 17 passengers. The general cargo reflected the affluence of Melbourne at the time. Onboard were straw hats, umbrella, perfumes, clay pipes, pianos, clocks, confectionery, linen and candles, as well as a heavier load of railway irons, cement, lead and copper. There were other items included that were intended for display in the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880.

The voyage to Port Phillip was long but uneventful. Then at 3 am on June 1, 1878, Captain Gibbs was expecting to see land. But the Loch Ard was running into a fog which greatly reduced visibility. Captain Gibbs was becoming anxious as there was no sign of land or the Cape Otway lighthouse.
At 4 am the fog lifted and a lookout aloft announced that he could see breakers. The sheer cliffs of Victoria's west coast came into view, and Captain Gibbs realised that the ship was much closer to them than expected. He ordered as much sail to be set as time would permit and then attempted to steer the vessel out to sea. On coming head-on into the wind, the ship lost momentum, the sails fell limp and Loch Ard's bow swung back towards land.

Gibbs then ordered the anchors to be released in an attempt to hold its position. The anchors sank some 50 fathoms - but did not hold. By this time the ship was among the breakers and the tall cliffs of Mutton Bird Island rose behind. Just half a mile from the coast, the ship's bow was suddenly pulled around by the anchor. The captain tried to tack out to sea, but the ship struck a reef at the base of Mutton Bird Island, near Port Campbell.

Waves subsequently broke over the ship and the top deck became loosened from the hull. The masts and rigging came crashing down knocking passengers and crew overboard. When a lifeboat was finally launched, it crashed into the side of Loch Ard and capsized.

Tom Pearce, who had launched the boat, managed to cling to its overturned hull and shelter beneath it. He drifted out to sea and then on the flood tide came into what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge. He swam to shore, bruised and dazed, and found a cave in which to shelter. Some of the crew stayed below deck to shelter from the falling rigging but drowned when the ship slipped off the reef into deeper water.
Eva Carmichael a passenger had raced onto the deck to find out what was happening only to be confronted by towering cliffs looming above the stricken ship. In all the chaos, Captain Gibbs grabbed Eva and said, "If you are saved Eva, let my dear wife know that I died like a sailor". That was the last Eva Carmichael saw of the captain. She was swept off the ship by a huge wave.

Eva saw Tom Pearce on a small rocky beach and yelled to attract his attention. He dived in and swam to the exhausted woman and dragged her to shore. He took her to the cave and broke the open case of brandy which had washed up on the beach. He opened a bottle to revive the unconscious woman.
A few hours later Tom scaled a cliff in search of help. He followed hoof prints and came by chance upon two men from nearby Glenample Station three and a half miles away. In a complete state of exhaustion, he told the men of the tragedy. Tom then returned to the gorge while the two men rode back to the station to get help. By the time they reached Loch Ard Gorge, it was cold and dark. The two shipwreck survivors were taken to Glenample Station to recover. Eva stayed at the station for six weeks before returning to Ireland by steamship.

In Melbourne, Tom Pearce received a hero's welcome. He was presented with the first gold medal of the Royal Humane Society of Victoria and a £1000 cheque from the Victorian Government. Concerts were performed to honour the young man's bravery and to raise money for those who lost family in the disaster.
Of the 54 crew members and passengers on board, only two survived: the apprentice, Tom Pearce and the young woman passenger, Eva Carmichael, who lost her family in the tragedy.

Ten days after the Loch Ard tragedy, salvage rights to the wreck were sold at auction for £2,120. Cargo valued at £3,000 was salvaged and placed on the beach, but most washed back into the sea when another storm developed. The wreck of Loch Ard still lies at the base of Mutton Bird Island. Much of the cargo has now been salvaged and some items were washed up into Loch Ard Gorge. Cargo and artefacts have also been illegally salvaged over many years before protective legislation was introduced in March 1982.
One of the most unlikely pieces of cargo to have survived the shipwreck was a Minton majolica peacock- one of only nine in the world. The peacock was destined for the Melbourne 1880 International Exhibition in. It had been well packed, which gave it adequate protection during the violent storm. Today the Minton peacock can be seen at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool. From Australia's most dramatic shipwreck it has now become Australia's most valuable shipwreck artefact and is one of very few 'objects' on the Victorian State Heritage Register.

Significance

The Minton majolica peacock is considered of historical social and aesthetic significance to Victoria and is registered on the Victorian Heritage Register (H 2132) as it is a most notable and rare object associated with the Minton factory of the 1870s and works by the celebrated sculptor Paul Comolera along with the wreck of the Loch Ard on the Victorian coastline.
This Minton peacock is historically significant for its rarity; it is one of only seven such peacocks known to exist in 2015.
The shipwreck of the Loch Ard is also of significance for Victoria and is registered on the Victorian Heritage Register Ref (S 417). Flagstaff Hill has a varied collection of artefacts from Loch Ard and its collection is significant for being one of the largest accumulation of artefacts from this notable Victorian shipwreck. The collections object is to also give us a snapshot into history so we can interpret the story of this tragic event. The collection is also archaeologically significant as it represents aspects of Victoria's shipping history that allows us to interpret Victoria's early social and historical themes. The collection is historically significant is that it is associated, unfortunately with the worst and best-known shipwreck in Victoria's history.

Physical description

Naturalistically modelled, standing proudly, tail falling behind him, atop a rocky stump modelled with trailing blackberries, ivy and wild mushrooms,

Inscriptions & markings

Inscribed at the base P Comolera also design number stamped to base "2045"

References