Thursday, 23 August 2012

David Pinnuck (1837-1922) and Edward George Pinnuck (1843-1927), immigrants to Australia

David and Edward Pinnuck were sons of George Pinnuck (1808-58), who was a brother of my ancestor James Pinnuck (b1799). The following article is based on information from Lee Ross, who lives in Australia and is a descendant of Edward Pinnuck.

David and Edward came to Australia as Assisted Immigrants. The 'Netherby', a 900-ton sailing ship owned by the Black Ball Line, left London in April 1866 bound for Brisbane, 32,000 km away. There were 452 passengers and 50 crew. Among the passengers were Edward Pinnuck (23, single), David Pinnuck (aged 28), his wife Elizabeth (24) and their two sons, Albert (4) and David (2), all from Enfield in Middlesex. The ‘Netherby’ was an old ship but the weather remained fine for the whole journey to Fremantle. It was a well run ship with no brawls and no epidemics of typhoid or dysentery. This was due to the directions of Captain Owens, Second Officer Parry and a fine surgeon superintendent.

To prevent boredom on the ship and the long distance the captain ordered that a journal be written up and the passengers themselves could contribute articles of interest. The captain and medical officer would in turn keep the ship informed of all that happened on board, but were quite firm they would not tolerate petty grievances being aired in the journal. The journal of the voyage presently held in the vaults of the LaTrobe Library in Melbourne makes interesting reading. A few grievances understandably crept into the journal. This was to be expected when one considers that live pigs, fowls, sheep and other animals had the run of the small ship as well as 500 humans, for food rations kept better on hoof in those days unless all meat was salted. So on the crowded decks and narrow companionways up and down stairways, on stairs leading to the bridge there were too many people trying for a few inches of space. Animal droppings and the wet swaying decks tended to make the moving around the ship dangerous. However, tempers remained calm and any differences were settled by the captain before any fights started. To keep the passengers busy, the captain urged them to keep their cabins clean and tidy. Most of them did so, if only to fill in time and cut the chaos of living in such cramped conditions. One wonders how everyone dined on board or even found the room to lie down to sleep. Two small children died of illness and were buried at sea but there were also two births.

The ‘Netherby’ was said to be as good as a ‘Clipper’ which was the latest American sailing ship of that period, with speeds up to 20 knots. ‘Netherby’ had passed six other ships (some ships took six months for the journey to Australia), and in four months was in sight of land of the migrants’ choice. The ship was supposed to take a route to the south of Tasmania but Captain Owens decided to pass through Bass Strait (between Victoria and Tasmania) instead. The ship had encountered extremely rough weather earlier in the voyage that had seen the steerage passengers confined below decks for 14 consecutive days. In taking this route, Owens hoped to avoid further rough weather and ease the burden on the passengers. On July 14, 1866, the ‘Netherby’ was nearing the entrance to Bass Strait. Freakish weather conditions and thick fog at 7:30pm on this day prevented observation being taken on the crude instruments used at the time. To the dismay of the captain the ‘Netherby’ struck rocks on the western shore of King Island (about 100 km NW of Tasmania) near the southern tip on a treacherous outlying reef not in the captains reckoning. It must have been a shock to the diligent captain, having safely passed through the Great Australian Bight and the tricky southern Victorian coastline where many ships had been wrecked with all on board lost. Being in July, night had set in by this time and a high surf had risen. The breakers were so high and the rocks so numerous and rugged it was impossible to take a line to shore. The ship was taking in water fast. The crew took provisions from the lower hold and saved about 10 bags of bread and some bags of flour. The women and children behaved most patiently during this night of suspense. By this time a gale had blown up and rain began to fall and the sails were in shreds. One of the lifeboats was dashed to pieces nearly pinning one of the crew. With much difficulty, under the command of Mr. Jones, the chief officer, another attempt was made to carry a line to shore in a lifeboat, a distance of 300 yards of jagged rocks. They eventually succeed and the rope was fastened to the rocks and hove taut on board, the sea breaking furiously on the shore, which was lined with rocks. On July 15, 1866 at 8am a start was made to land passengers, women and children first, with sailors stationed on the rope ladders. Apparently a boat was hauled backwards and forwards on the rope. The boats kept passing back and forth with a dozen passengers in each, Mr. Parry in command of one boat and Mr. Jones the other. By 3 pm that day all passengers were safely ashore. It was a miracle that no lives were lost, including a Mrs. Cubbin, a pregnant mother who gave birth to a daughter that day on King Island. The lifeboats were nearly swamped by overcrowding but on the whole, passengers behaved very well and waited their turn, with patience and courage. It is interesting, from the captain’s notes, that the saloon passengers, both ladies and gents, refused to leave the ship until all the others were safely ashore.

It was decided next morning, July 16, after a well earned rest, to dispatch a party overland to the Cape Wickham lighthouse on the north of the island, to send for help by telegraphy as was thought to exist there. They did not know it was a walk of 35 miles from the wreck. The party consisted of Mr. Parry, a second officer, one of the crew and a party of volunteers. They started off at 7am with a small supply of bread and any food that could be spared. The people of the wreck left behind were able to save 18 casks of flour and six bags of bread and much of the passengers’ luggage, a tricky business as the sea was very rough. Eight guards were appointed to keep watch on the food to prevent pilfering. Shelters had been made from branches and tablecloths and sails - anything that could be found. Daily rations were ½ lb flour, a little oatmeal, and ¼ lb salt meat to an adult male with ½ lb flour and a biscuit extra to women and children.

Meanwhile, two of the party going for help gave in and returned to the wreck, the rest kept going with little food and some wallabies they had caught. Reaching the lighthouse on Thursday, Mr. Parry discovered there was no telegraph and found that rescue lay only in taking a boat to Melbourne. At the lighthouse was only a 24ft whaleboat, needing six men to the oars. The chances of making Melbourne seemed so remote that one refused to go which left Mr. Parry and three others to face high winds and rough seas and it is incredible the four reached land near Barwon Heads (on the Australian mainland) a distance of 80km from King Island, on Friday evening, and with luck still with them, met a surveying party who gave them assistance. Mr. Parry was able to borrow a horse and ride the distance of 26 miles to Geelong and after sending news of the wreck to the Chief Secretary in Melbourne, Mr. Parry proceeded to Melbourne by train. On July 20, Captain Owens, with the sailmaker and four sailors, set out on the long walk to the lighthouse to see if Mr. Parry and his crew had even reached the lighthouse and were overjoyed to find they had and had gone for help.

In Melbourne, the Government ship ‘Victoria’ was with all haste provisioned and sent to the wreck with Mr. Parry directing them. At the same time, the Harbourmaster at Williamstown got news of the wrecked ship and set out in his steamship "Paros", with clothing and provisions, and both ships arrived at the scene of the wreck within an hour of each other on July 23 and what a sight for the 500 hungry and shivering people. The two Pinnuck brothers and all other passengers were brought to Melbourne housed in the Exhibition Building, then in the process of being built. A testimonial fund was organized for the destitute people and they were supplied with clothing and other goods. Many of these people liked what they saw in Victoria and those to stay included David and Edward Pinnuck, who proceeded to the Ballarat region where they remained for some years.

David Pinnuck’s youngest child was born in Trentham in 1873, making a family of three boys and two girls. David moved to Broken Hill in 1886 with his family and died there in 1922 aged 84. His two sons, who were in the wreck, moved back to Victoria in 1895 to Strathmerton (about 200km north of Melbourne) and their families still live there.

Edward Pinnuck moved to Shepparton, Victoria (about 150 km north of Melbourne) in 1873 and was one of the first to select land when it became available. He later moved to Strathmerton where he continued farming until 1925, when he retired. He died there in 1927 at the age of 84. From a first marriage (to Henrietta Ball) there were two sons and two daughters. From a second marriage (to Agnes Felstead), two sons and a daughter. The original home built by Edward Pinnuck on land selected in 1873 in Shepparton still stands. Built of red gum timber over 100 years ago, it is situated four miles east of Shepparton on the Old Dookie Rd and is still lived in.

Further information on the wreck of the Netherby can be found at


  1. These are comments sent by Christine Mead :
    Edward George Pinnuck was my maternal grandfather, my mother Irene Alice. Edward was 65 when Irene was born, so we were able to hear shipwreck stories, which he had told our mother. It is a fascinating story, the Wreck of the Netherby, there is a reunion next year of descendants on King Island on the 150th anniversary. My brothers and sisters are grandchildren of Edward, which the King Islanders could not quite believe, as there would be no other living grandchildren, I would think,
    Nice to see your research, keep up the good work.
    Regards Christine Mead

  2. Hi Philip, interesting reading. I too am a descendant of of David Pinnuck as one of the Netherby survivors with my great, great grandmother Elizabeth as well. I will be going to King Island 14-17 Jul 16 for the commemorations. 150 years will be a great occasion. Last count was nearing 150 descendants with 20 being Pinnucks !! Can't wait to catch up, should be a great experience. Pass on the word and check out the website for updates.
    Cheers Glenn Pinnuck

    1. Hi Glenn. Thanks for your comment. I hope the celebration on King Island goes well. It's good to see that the Pinnucks will be well represented ! Best wishes. Phil Taylor.

    2. Glen, good to learn of your connection. I am a descendant of Edward Pinnuck. I will be interested to learn more - which son and the stories since the Shipwreck. See you in July. Marie Emmitt