Curse of the ‘Young Australia’

The ‘Young Australia’ was a popular immigrant clipper ship, making nine successful voyages from England to Moreton Bay in Australia for the Black Ball Line from 1862 to 1870. That was more than any other, but its last voyage was cursed. This weekend I told a version of the story on West Bremer Radio.

The ship set sail on that final trip from London under the command of Captain James Cooper with two hundred and thirty-eight passengers. Her fifteen-week journey was completed when she arrived in Moreton Bay and landed two hundred and forty-one passengers (there had been three births) on the 25th of August 1870.

Captain James Cooper

The next day, about twenty-five of the passengers continued onto Ipswich on the steamer ‘Kate’. Ipswich’s Queensland Times newspaper reported that the people, appear to be a highly intelligent and respectable class of immigrants.”

Everything seemed well. But all was not as it seemed, and the curse would soon appear.

John Clayton was a fifty-eight-year-old gentleman who had travelled at great expense in saloon class. However, that was just an alias. His real identity was John Carter and he was an insolvent cotton manufacturer from Lancashire who was running from debts of £10,000. He was arrested as soon as the ship arrived in Moreton Bay and upon being returned to England was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment.

Travelling below decks in steerage was Patrick Phair who while onboard broke his leg which took months to heal. He later became a petty criminal.

Among those with an assisted passage was Amos Broome. On his very first night ashore he fell over the wall at the Commissariat Store at Queen’s Wharf and broke his elbow. There was also nineteen-year-old George Toombs who had continued on the ‘Kate’. On the morning after arriving in Ipswich, he was cleaning a revolver and shot himself in the foot.  

But it was two years later in 1872 when things really got bad. That’s when the ‘Young Australia’, still under the command of Captain Cooper, ran onto rocks off Cape Moreton and sank. The inquiry was sympathetic (perhaps they blamed the curse) and the captain retained his master mariner’s certificate.

The wrecked Young Australia

A few weeks later, George Toombs who was by now fully recovered from shooting his foot, was on his way back to Ipswich from the Wivenhoe races. This time fell off his horse and was killed.

Shortly afterwards Eli Langrish, who had been granted forty acres at Kobble Creek which is north of Ipswich, also promptly died. Henry Barltrop was just thirteen-years-old when he had arrived aboard the ‘Young Australia’. He also died.

Judge Charles Mein

Another passenger Maurice Farrar was cleared of embezzlement in Toowoomba but was later committed to the Goodna Lunatic Asylum. The presiding judge Charles Mein cautioned him none the less, and as a result was himself admonished in parliament. Perhaps the curse was spreading.

Then there was Elizabeth Lippiatt. She was not yet twenty-one when her heart was broken and her family humiliated by Edward Smith. Elizabeth’s father was forced to take Smith to court for breach of promise of marriage. Smith it seems had found a better option, preferring the granddaughter of John Robert Wildman who was artist to Queen Victoria.

Elizabeth Lippiatt

The curse doomed the steamer ‘Kate’ which had taken many of the ‘Young Australia’ passengers to Ipswich. She sank in the mouth of the Brisbane River within fifteen minutes of being struck by another boat.

The steamer Kate

In 1885 Henry Barltrop, whose son was one of those who died the same year that the ‘Young Australia’ sank, opened the ‘Excelsior Turkish Baths’ at Petrie Bight in Brisbane. He also owned a boarding house next door. Someone tried to burn the house down, but the fire was extinguished, and the arson attempt thwarted.

It was at that point that the curse appeared broken, because Henry went on to set what must be a world record when he became one of four brothers all of whom celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Even Henry’s son William, who also came over on the ‘Young Australia’, he celebrated his 50th anniversary.

Mrs and Mrs William Barltrop

And Elizabeth Lippiatt – the girl who was humiliated in favour of an artists’ granddaughter – she got married and had eight children. One of Henry Barltop’s employees at the Excelsior then even opened a Turkish bath in Ipswich.

Love and Turkish baths – they created a formidable combination, even for the curse of the ‘Young Australia’.


Photo credits:
The Young Australia c1865 – State Library of South Australia
Captain James Cooper – State Library of Queensland
Young Australia wrecked 1872 – State Library of South Australia
Charles Stuart Mein – John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Elizabeth Lippiatt 1855-1933 – Jaclynn McKenzie-Hunt via Ancestry 2021
Queensland Government paddle steamer Kate c1870 – John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Mr and Mrs WH Barltrop celebrated golden wedding anniversary – Telegraph (Brisbane), 15 November 1933, page 6

One comment

  1. A reader Jacqui sent in this additional information:
    Patrick Raleigh and his wife Margaret, arrived on The Young Australia in 1870, with at least two of their adult children, also named Patrick and Margaret.
    Within 10 years of arrival, Patrick had lost his wife and four sons – Margaret Raleigh nee Hayde died in August 1871 of paralysis of the heart; Patrick Jnr drowned in the Mary River at Gympie; in 1877 William Joseph died of congestion of the brain (he had become an alcoholic after failed business ventures apparently); In 1878, John a Police Constable died while doing duty in the gold escort between Charters Towers and Townsville and fell victim to sunstroke and fell off his horse; In 1879, Thomas a police sergeant also drowned in the Mary River. Could this also have been the curse of the Young Australian.


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