Timaru shipwreck memorial

Timaru shipwreck memorial Timaru shipwreck memorial Timaru shipwreck memorial Timaru shipwreck memorial

This memorial, paid for by public subscription, was constructed as a token of gratitude to those involved in an endeavour to rescue the crew of two ships that foundered off the coast of Timaru on 14 May 1882.

In heavy swells the Benvenue broke loose from its moorings in Caroline Bay, just outside Timaru’s breakwater, and began to drift towards shore. The ship became grounded, turned broadside and capsized. Benvenue’s crew made for the nearby City of Perth, although soon thereafter this ship also began to drift ashore and became grounded alongside the Benvenue with the loss of three lives. A rescue party assembled on shore, including Timaru’s Harbour Master Alexander Mills, who intended to row out towards the City of Perth to see what assistance could be given to the ships’ crews. However, the three boats used by the rescue party were soon capsized by the swells and left forty men struggling in the mountainous seas, six of whom perished.

The memorial consisted of a stone obelisk with three brass plates engraved by Mr N. Wolfe of Christchurch, and was tendered for a total sum of £276. One of the plates lists the names of those who survived the attempted rescue and another lists those who perished. Newspaper reports suggest the monument was unveiled at some point between April 1883 and October 1885. A final plaque specifying the ships’ details was added at a later date. Its position in a prominent place outside Timaru’s former post office shows the importance the town’s residents placed on the memorial.

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Dave Whytock

Posted: 30 Apr 2017

The description of the the wreck of the Ben Venue does not tally with the description in the Timaru Herald written at the time.nor the findings of the court of inquiry . for a start the ship drifted stern
first into the rocks at what is now called Benvenue cliffs she then rounded broadside onto thevrocks and canted to with her decks towards the sea at no time did she capsize. Also I find it difficult tovsee her name in print as the Benvenue as she was registered as the Ben Venue.