Captain William Cromarty was born in Scotland in 1788. He arrived in Australia in 1822 on the brig called “Fame” of which he later became captain.2 In 1829, Cromarty was granted 300 acres of land by NSW Governor Ralph Darling for “Efficient services rendered to the Government”.3
In 1834, Cromarty was appointed as pilot to Port Stephens where he guided ships into the often dangerous harbour.4 During a storm in 1838, a steamer lost its smaller boat which was stranded at One Mile Beach. Cromarty was asked to retrieve the boat and row it back to Port Stephens. This was a simple task and Cromarty didn’t even take food because he expected to back in a couple of hours.
He set out on the morning of 1 September 1838 along with his 16 year old son also called William, an unnamed convict servant and an unnamed Aboriginal man. The last time the four men were seen alive they were walking down the beach each carrying an oar.
When the men hadn’t returned by nightfall the alarm was raised. An Aboriginal tracker named Bill Wicki went searching for them but returned a few hours later with only Cromarty’s shoes, William’s shoes, and the servant’s hat. The boat was found upside down and 3 oars were scattered on the beach.5
The bodies of Cromarty, William and the convict servant eventually washed ashore and were buried at Carrington Cemetery. The body of the Aboriginal man was never found. It was presumed the men drowned while launching the boat into the surf.6
Author: Janine Roberts
The headstone of Captain and William Cromarty reads:
Here lie buried such remains as were found of the bodies of Capt William Cromarty, aged 50 years and William his son, aged 16 years. Who having left their homes on the morning of September the 1st 1838 accompanied by an assigned man servant, and an Aboriginal native for the purpose of recovering a boat which had been cast ashore at the heads were no more seen having perished it is supposed in launching it through the surf.
Reader! Let this admonish thee of the uncertainty of the present life; and may God’s holy spirit teach thee so to live that death may never find thee unprepared!
1 Find A Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/51021591/william-cromarty.
2 Ancestry.com.au 1828 NSW Census; The Australian, 30 March 1826, 4.
3 Sydney Gazette and NSW advertiser, 9 May 1829, 1.
4 Sydney Herald, 13 October 1834, 2.
5 Sydney Herald, 19 September 1838, 2.
6 Sydney Herald, 24 September 1838, 2.