Historical information

The photograph of William Ferrier was given to Avis Quarrell by Lewis Ferrier, 3rd youngest son of William during the centenary of the wreck of the La Bella. The photograph was framed by the Henna Street Picture Framers, Warrnambool in 2005. The photograph is of William Ferrier, the 25-year-old fisherman from South Warrnambool, whose rescue of two sailors from the wrecked La Bella made him an overnight national hero. The La Bella was wrecked on 10th November 1905,and the remains of the vessel now lie on her port side in 13 metres of sheltered water inside the reef she struck. The bow section is relatively intact and part of the stern has drifted north-easterly towards the mouth of the Hopkins River. The reef the La Bella struck now bears its name.

Several attempts were made by the Warrnambool lifeboat crew to rescue the stricken sailors on the La Bella, but the rough conditions made this difficult for the boat to get close enough to the ship and the lifeboat had to return to shore. A another rescue attempt was made by Ferrier who rowed a small dingy through the heavy seas and managed to rescue the Captain George Mylius, whom he landed on the breakwater. Ferrier then returned to the ship to attempt a final rescue, losing his oars and rowlocks into the high sea. Using just a spare paddle he swam towards the La Bella, reaching her stern in time to cut loose the lone surviving sailor, Payne, from the ropes and debris that held him to the ship; the terrified sailor dropped from the ship and into the dingy. Shortly after the last man was rescued, the La Bella was lifted by a huge wave and crashed back down on the reef; she broke up and sank. The survivors were taken to the nearby Bay View Hotel and gratefully received warm food and clothing, medical attention and a place to sleep.

William Ferrier became a national hero as news of the daring rescue spread. In recognition of his bravery in the two daring rescues, he was awarded the Silver Medal for Bravery by the Royal Humane Society and was honoured in the letter from the Prime Minister and the Parliament of the Commonwealth, telegrams and a cheque for £20 from the Governor-General, over £150 subscribed by the public, including Warrnambool and district and readers of The Argus, and a gold medal from the Glenelg Dinghy Club of South Australia. Ferrier’s rescue efforts are one of the most heroic in Victoria’s shipwreck history.


This photograph is significant at both a local and state level. Its connection to the La Bella shipwreck and the rescue of survivors highlights the dangers of Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast and demonstrates the bravery of ordinary Australians like William Ferrier who risked their lives to save victims of shipwrecks along the coast. Moreover, the photograph has an association with the sailing ship ‘La Bella’, as it is one of the only two shipwrecks discovered in Lady Bay, Warrnambool, out of the 15-17 shipwrecks known to have been wrecked in the bay.

Physical description

Framed sepia photograph, mounted behind glass. Portrait of a man seated on a log. He is wearing a brimmed hat, dark coloured jacket and trousers, and a light coloured collarless shirt with buttons. The figure in the photograph is William Ferrier.