This earthenware dinner plate was donated by Lorna Jensen. It had belonged to her father Wally O’Brien, who was a cyclist and had ridden in the long Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycle Classic twice. Wally was given this plate by a diving friend who had recovered it from the wreck of the LOCH ARD, on the southwest coast of Victoria.
The plate had been sitting in Lorna’s mum’s china cabinet until recently when she and her husband drove to Warrnambool to donate it to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. When they stopped at a friend’s home along the way the friend removed it from its plastic bag and tea towel and carefully wrapped it in protective packaging for the rest of its journey.
The plate is very similar to other plates recovered from the wreck of the LOCH ARD. It is uncertain whether the plates were personal belongings or part of the cargo.
The Asiatic Pheasant pattern is a transfer design and was the most popular design of the 19th-century Victorian era. It is still being produced today. The design was produced as high-quality, decorative dinnerware by the potters in the Staffordshire, England, area from the late 1830s, but no one is sure exactly who the original designer was.
The industrial age made the production of this design more affordable to the ordinary person who purchased and proudly displayed settings in their homes. The high demand for production resulted in the loss of quality in both potting and design, particularly between 1860-1914 when the design reached its height of popularity, and the results were often a poor match for the earlier pieces’ quality and detail. Some engravers would make copies of the Asiatic Pheasant design (and other designs) onto copper plates and sell them to more than one pottery producer (the Copyright Act of 1842 was intended to control this very thing). Consequently, the list of Makers’ Marks associated with the Asiatic Pheasant is well over 100. A single pottery factory could have several owners, all with their own Marks.
These factors all make the dating of pieces difficult. Also, after 1891, pieces produced for export were required to be stamped with “ENGLAND”, but pieces produced for the domestic market in England did not need this stamp, so early pieces and pieces produced for the domestic market would all be without the “ENGLAND” stamp, confusing the matter.
Over time the body shape of the pieces changed, the feathered, curved and fluted edges giving way to simpler, cheaper oblong shapes.
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, umbrellas, 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 were intended for display in the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880.
The voyage to Port Phillip was long but uneventful. At 3 am 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 4 am 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 their 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 a 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 were 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.
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.
Plate, earthenware dinner plate recovered from the wreck of the Loch Ard. Blue transfer design (Asiatic Pheasant) with a clear over-glaze. The outer rim is scalloped. Printed within cartouche on underside of plate "_ H E C L "
Inscriptions & markings
Printed within cartouche on plate "_ H E C L "