Broughton Island, part of the Myall Lakes National Park, is approximately seven kilometres offshore from Hawks Nest. Its beauty belies the tragedy of the wrecking of the steamer Macleayon 11 October 1911. The North Coast Steam Navigation Company’s vessel was travelling from Newcastle to the Northern Rivers when it crashed onto rocks near Broughton Island. The mate, Mr Goldsmith, had changed the ship’s course when the Captain had retired for the night. It struck rocks with tremendous force and sunk within ten minutes. The rapidity of the sinking caused enormous suction which hampered all efforts of escape.
Of the 17 crew, only 2 survived – a Finn called Pettersen, who was at the wheel when tragedy struck, and Swanney, a Scotsman. Both men had been drawn underwater when the ship sank and when they re-emerged there was no sign of the Macleay. Two other men survived the initial suction and the four clung to debris all night. One man gave up during the night and as the remaining three crew approached shore, one of them succumbed to the waves. A local fisherman, Thomas Asquith, saved two of the men but was unable to save Jones who later washed up on the beach at Tea Gardens.1
The Captain, Donald Keith, who was a well-respected, trust-worthy officer left behind a widow, Annie, two young sons and a daughter who was a few weeks old. Annie heard of the tragedy on the streets of Grafton when a newsboy cried ‘Wreck of the Macleay. Great loss of life’.2
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1911.
2 Daily Examiner, 12 October 1939.