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Alfred Frederick Bedwell was born in 1848 in New York City, New York. Alfred went to sea at the young age of 15 and then enlisted in military service and served during the Civil War in and around New York. After the war, Bedwell was aboard the ship “Coromandel”, a name later used by many such ships, on his way home from New Brunswick when his ship was wrecked off the Irish Coastline; fortunately, he was saved by the Coast Guard who

drug him out of the sea, through the breakers. Boarding another ship in England, the S.S. “Somersetshire”, Bedwell arrived in Melbourne, Victoria in 1869.   Upon his arrival in Australia Bedwell worked for a few years on local coastal vessels, before leaving for the Palmer Goldfields in Queensland, Australia.  Eventually leaving the goldfields, Bedwell next went to Cooktown in North Queensland where he acquired a passage by ship, serving as a member of the crew aboard the A.S.N. Company’s steamer “Leichardt”; named after the Prussian explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, for Sydney, New South Wales. In 1876 Alfred piloted his first vessel across Sydney Harbor, one of a fleet of vessels controlled by Mr. James Milson, whose company was the forerunner of the North Shore Steam Ferry Company; which later became known as the Sydney Ferries Ltd.. The North Shore Ferry Company ran a regular service between Circular Quay and Milsons Point and the 1893 extension of the North Shore railway line, terminating at the tram and ferry exchange, made Milson’s Point the hub of ferry traffic on the north shore; before the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Bedwell remained involved with the Sydney ferries for some 40 years and was recognized as a both a careful and skilful skipper. During his long period of service he had charge, at one time or another, of two different paddle wheelers and many of the modern screw propelled boats which came after them. He was on the earliest ship “Darra”, the night of the famous “Dandenong Gale” and continued making trips until midnight; making his way through the gale force winds with a hand steering gear mechanism. The “Darra” was a wooden planked hull ship on iron frames, launched by Hall and Company at Aberdeen; one of six fast ships built for the Orient Line and initially used as a tea-clipper in the Indian trade. That same gale pushed ashore and wrecked the ship “Tweed” on Cremorene Point, upon which Bedwell had originally arrived to Australia.

Alfred Bedwell took a wife, named Louisa, but the date of his marriage is not known. We do know they were living together at 22 Bentwood Street in Sydney in 1910. Bedwell was also a member the “Lily of St. Leonards Lodge”, the “G.U.O.O.F. Loyal Windsor Lodge” and the “Harbor, River and Merchants Branch of the Merchant Service Guild”.

The Rate and Valuation Books and the Sands Directory in Sydney, reveal Alfred lived at No. 18 Bentwood Street, from about 1890 to 1898, and from 1901 to 1929 he was known as Captain Alfred Bedwell at Bentwood Street in North Sydney; in 1910 he was living at No 10 and from the 15th through the 28th at No 22, where Bedwell owned a group of houses on Bentwood Street at Neutral Bay, up until his death in 1930.

Alfred was always described as a master mariner, a free holder of property and an engineer. According to G.V.F. Mann in his “History of North Sydney”, published in 1938, Captain Bedwell was a well-known ferry skipper and was actively employed for 40 years until he died.. He was at various times in charge of the ships “Coombra Gomea”, the “Galatea”, the “Camary”, the “Nell”, the “St. Leonards”, the “Victoria and the  “Bunya-Bunya”; all of which were paddle boats, and of course he was in charge of the “Darra” on the night of the Dandenong Gale in 1876.

Alfred Frederick Bedwell died July 6, 1930, at his residence “The Anchorage” at 22 Bent Street, North Sydney, at 82 years of age. His funeral services were provided by Wood Coffil Ltd., Motor Funeral Directors and he was buried on July 8, 1930 at Gore Hill Cemetery in  Sydney at 82 years of age; in the Church of England  Division, Section 2 Lot 15. He was buried without a headstone.

Alfred was survived by his wife Louisa Tibitha and one daughter. Louisa died at the same residence on June 18, 1936 at age 79.

 

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