Historical information

Tim Walker’s work is an eye-catching array of shipwreck artefacts and associated items. They help tell the story of the 19th century ships that travelled across the world full of people and cargo that are now part of our history. The work was commissioned especially for Flagstaff Hill and highlights the famous story of the 1878 ‘Loch Ard’ shipwreck. The images also include two small items from the 1981 ‘Fiji’ shipwreck.

Timothy “Tim” Walker was born in Britain in 1970. He is a self-taught artist who began with a desire to use his talents for full-time work. He moved to Warrnambool in 1990 and became involved in the Warrnambool and District Artists’ Society, where he has served for a period as President. In 2010 Warrnambool Art Gallery hosted an exhibition “Nine Lives” with works from nine local artists including Tim Walker.

The ‘LOCH ARD’ 1873-1878 - brief history

The clipper ship ‘Loch Ard’ was a built in Scotland in 1873. In 1978 the ship was sailing to Melbourne with 54 people on board as well as a mixed cargo of items, some of which were bound for the 1880 International Exhibition in Melbourne. On June 1st 1878 it was very close to its destination when it crashed into Mutton Bird Island, east of Port Campbell. Only two people survived.

The wreck was re-discovered in 1967, almost a century later, and the site continues to provide evidence of the range of goods imported into the Colony of Victoria in the post-Gold Rush era. Flagstaff Hill divers in the 1970s reported finds of “Bottles of champagne, window panes, rolls of zinc, barrels of cement, iron rails, clocks, lead shot, corrugated iron, lead, marble, salad oil bottles, ink bottles, copper wire, gin bottles, rolls of carpet, floor tiles, copper rivets, gas light fittings, pocket knives, toys, crystal chandeliers, beer mugs, cutlery, candles sticks, wick scissors, cow bells, and sauce bottles.” The famous Loch Ard Peacock was also on board.

The ‘FIJI’ 1875-1891 – brief history

The barque ‘Fiji’ was built in Ireland in 1875. The sailing hsip left Hamburg in May 1891, bound for Melbourne with a crew of twenty-five plus the captain. The ‘Fiji’ had almost reached her destination after a trip of 100 days at sea when, on September 5th 1891, she struck rock 300 metres from the shore at Moonlight Head, near Cape Otway. Eleven men lost their lives but with the help of locals including members of the Rocket Rescue Crew, the rest of the men were saved.

In anticipation of Christmas the cargo had included a wide variety of children’s toys, amongst which were dolls with china limbs, wooden rocking horses, miniature ships, and red and white rubber balls.
There was also cases of dynamite, pig iron, steel goods, spirits, sailcloth, tobacco, fencing wire, concrete, 400 German pianos, concertinas and other musical instruments, artists’ supplies, porcelain, furniture, china and candles.

Significance

This artwork has historical significance as it shows a small sample of the variety of items on board the late 19th century ships bound for Australia in the Colonial and late God Rush period. The cargo contained personal luggage, items intended as gifts, and goods ordered for domestic, commercial or industrial use.
The wreck sites of both vessels, ‘Loch Ard’ and ‘Fiji’ are classified on the Victorian Heritage Register as significant and are now protected by government law. The sites are popular with divers and provide interpretive material regarding social and maritime history.

Physical description

Poster of watercolour painting by Tim Walker, gilt frame, picture behind glass.
Subject is a group of objects, most of which are connected with the 1878 shipwreck Loch Ard, such as items recovered from the shipwreck and the famous ‘Loch Ard Peacock’. Two items are from the wreck of the ‘Fiji’.
Inscriptions on ingot, a handwritten letter, bell, clear bottle, and small plaque.

Inscriptions & markings

On ingot: “PONTIFEX & WOOD. LONDON”. On letter: “Presented to Mr. Thomas Pearce”. On small ingot: “TIM WALKER”. On bell: “LOCH ARD”. On clear bottle “THE SINGER MANUFACTURING COMPANY“. On plaque: TIM WALKER”.