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Peacock statue

From the Collection of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village 89 Merri Street Warrnambool Victoria

Earthenware peacock, known as the Loch Ard Peacock. Found amongst the cargo of the shipwreck of Loch Ard. Majolica glazes. Solid vine-entwined base. About fifty of the eyes that adorn the tail may be counted, even though the tail is furled. Designed and modelled in 1873 in Staffordshire, England. This peacock was designed and modelled at Minton Potteries by French sculptor and artist Paul Comolera who was born in Paris 1818. (Victorian Heritage Register listed - VHR h 2132)
Height 152.2cm
Attached Files
Object Registration
flagstaff hill, warrnambool, shipwrecked coast, flagstaff hill maritime museum, maritime museum, shipwreck coast, flagstaff hill maritime village, great ocean road, loch line, loch ard, captain gibbs, eva carmichael, tom pearce, glenample station, mutton bird island, loch ard gorge, minton, peacock, paul comolera, peacock statue, loch ard peacock, victorian heritage register
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 Lock 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. On the night of 31 May 1878, the Lock Ard warily searched for the 'eye of the needle'. The captain, George Gibb, was unsure of his exact location.

In the predawn of 1 June, the Loch Ard sank off Mutton Bird Island. The peacock was well packed in wooden crate, or cask, that floated. It was also under the personal care of Captain Gibb and therefore not likely to be deep in the hold; apparently the hatches broke open in the wreck, allowing many lighter goods to float out.

RESCUE: There are two claimants to this honour. Mr Charles McGillivray claimed to have dragged the peacock to the beach just two days after the Lock Ard went down. The peacock was rescued unscathed but for a chip on its beak. It seems probable that, for this damage to have observed, some opening and partial examination of the packing case's contents must have been made. After a disagreement with Melbourne Customs Officer, Joseph Daish, Mr. McGillivray stopped his salvage operations and returned home, 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 wreck on 10 June. Thomas Keys was a driver. A storm blew up on 12 June, before Miller and Keys arrived at the wreck site, 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, probably on or after 14 June, must also be acknowledge. Certainly if they had not hauled it to the cliff top, it may have been lost in the second storm. It appears likely, then, that the peacock was rescued from the sea not once but twice and that both claims are true.

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 1 June 1935. This was the 57th anniversary of the wreck. After Miss Miller's death, it remained in an antique dealer's shop in Melbourne until about 1943, when it was bought a6 auction by Mr. Frank Ridley-Lee and eventually placed in his new 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; this 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 board of the newly created Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. Urgent efforts were made to raise the necessary funds. The required amount was raised through public donations. The Fletcher Jones company and the Victorian Government paid 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. Since 1975 it has left Warrnambool only twice. In 1980, as an important figure in the centenary celebrations of the Exhibition Building in Melbourne. From April to October 1988, the peacock was given pride of place at the entrance to the Victorian Pavilion in the Brisbane World Expo. The Claim of Peter Ronald that the peacock was 'the most significant shipwreck artefact in Australia' was being acknowledged as true.

The LOCH ARD belonged to the famous Loch Line which sailed many ships from England to Australia. Built in Glasgow by Barclay, Curdle and Co. in 1873, the LOCH ARD was a three-masted square rigged iron sailing ship. The ship measured 262ft 7" (79.87m) in length, 38ft (11.58m) in width, 23ft (7m) in depth and had a gross tonnage of 1693 tons. The LOCH ARD's main mast measured a massive 150ft (45.7m) in height. LOCH ARD made three trips to Australia and one trip to Calcutta before its final voyage.

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

The voyage to Port Phillip was long but uneventful. At 3am on June 1, 1878, Captain Gibbs was expecting to see land and the passengers were becoming excited as they prepared to view their new homeland in the early morning. But 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 4am the fog lifted. A man 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.

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 LOCH ARD was among the breakers and the tall cliffs of Mutton Bird Island rose behind the ship. 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 broke over the ship and the top deck was 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 had raced onto 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 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 state of exhaustion, he told the men of the tragedy. Tom 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, this time 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 LOCH ARD 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 all of 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 was washed up into what is now known as LOCH ARD Gorge. Cargo and artefacts have also been illegally salvaged over many years before protective legislation was introduced.

One of the most unlikely pieces of cargo to have survived the shipwreck was a Minton porcelain peacock - one of only seven in the world. The peacock was destined for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. 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.
When Made
1876; c. 1876-1878 Modelled by Paul Comolera, 1818-1897, Born Paris, France. He worked at the Minton factory from 1873 to 1876
Made By
T.S. McInnes (Maker)
State Heritage Listed (VHR H2132)
It is considered of historical, social and aesthetic significance to Victoria for being the most notable object associated with the Loch Ard wreck, for its association with the Loch Ard and 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and for being an ‘excellent and rare example’ of a Minton product from the 1870s.
The Heritage Council of Victoria has determined that The Loch Ard Peacock (89 Merri St Warrnambool) is of Cultural Heritage Significance to the State of Victoria.
It was included on the Victorian Heritage Register on 11th February 2010 - Victorian Heritage Register Number H2132
"This renowned majolica peacock sculpture made between 1873 and 1878 by the English pottery company Minton & Co., was salvaged from the 1878 Loch Ard shipwreck, one of Victoria's worst shipwreck tragedies."
Inscriptions & Markings
Design number stamped on base of statue "2045" (taken from the Minton factory design book)
Last updated
18 Mar 2020 at 2:48PM