Historical information

This artefact is a functional, non-decorative fitting that essentially transports gas from a wall attachment to a lamp. It is a brass and copper gas lamp fitting, designed to direct and control the flow of gas from a flanged wall fitting to an exit nozzle that was lit. It was raised from the LOCH ARD shipwreck site by Flagstaff Hill divers in 1972. Related pieces can be found in the Maritime Village collection.
The LOCH ARD left Gravesend (London) on 2 March 1878, bound for Melbourne, with a crew of 37, 17 passengers, and a diverse and valuable cargo of manufactured goods, luxury items, and refined metal; some of which was to be on show at Melbourne’s first International Exhibition in 1880. At 3 am, 1 June 1878, the ship was wrecked against the high limestone cliffs of Mutton Bird Island on Victoria’s south west coast near Port Campbell. Only two people survived the disaster — Tom Pearce, a male crew member, and Eva Carmichael, a female passenger. The cargo proved too difficult to salvage in the vessel’s exposed condition and was largely written off.
The manifest of goods in the LOCH ARD’s holds included “Fittings gas (4 cases)”. The gas lighting of streets, public buildings, and the dwellings of wealthier private citizens, was already well advanced in the cities and major towns of the Australian colonies. In 1841 Sydney was the first to be gas lit with 23 street lamps, 106 hotel lamps, and 200 private residences connected to the Darlinghurst “gasometer” by an underground network of metal pipes. “The dim days of oil and tallow are gone by!” pronounced one newspaper, flushed with civic pride.
The 1850s Gold Rush promoted a similar attitude of confidence and affluence in the Colony of Victoria. In 1855 Melbourne was connected to its own system of subterranean gas pipes despite the same high rates of 25 shillings per 1000 cubic feet being charged, (reduced to 15 shillings in 1865 with cheaper sources of coal). By1858 Kyneton had its own gasworks to light the town (fuelled by eucalyptus leaves) and Geelong followed suit in 1860.
Had the LOCH ARD reached its intended destination in 1878, it is probable that the 4 cases of brass gas light fittings on board would have found a ready market.

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 nine 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.


The LOCH ARD shipwreck is of State significance — Victorian Heritage Register S417.
Flagstaff Hill’s collection of artefacts from LOCH ARD is significant for being one of the largest collections of artefacts from this shipwreck in Victoria. It is significant for its association with the shipwreck, which is on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR S417). The collection is significant because of the relationship between the objects, as together they have a high potential to interpret the story of the LOCH ARD.

The LOCH ARD collection is archaeologically significant as the remains of a large international passenger and cargo ship. The LOCH ARD collection is historically significant for representing aspects of Victoria’s shipping history and its potential to interpret sub-theme 1.5 of Victoria’s Framework of Historical Themes (living with natural processes). The collection is also historically significant for its association with the LOCH ARD, which was one of the worst and best known shipwrecks in Victoria’s history.

Physical description

This pipe is a gas lamp fitting, recovered from the wreck of the LOCH ARD. This extensively corroded fitting is made of brass and copper alloy. It comprises a 31 cm copper pipe of 1.5cm diameter which is connected to a 6.5cm diameter wall flange (via a flow tap and an adjustable swivel valve) at one end, and to a screw-in square coupling with a nozzle or gas jet at the other end. The copper pipe is dented and corroded with three holes. The brass attachments are more robust cast metal but the adjustable mechanisms are concreted into immobility by ocean sediment. No discernible maker’s marks. In unrestored but fair condition.