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Blockade Runner

John Clark was born in 1841 in Denham, England and was the son of James Clark and Anne Lowe. Local and family oral history relates John served aboard a Confederate blockade-runner during the American Civil War, breaking through Union ships lying off the southern ports while smuggling cargo to be used by the southern armies.

John was said to have worked 7 years as a ship's carpenter, before arriving in Australia aboard the HMS "Resolute" in 1863. Six months later he was said to have returned to England and then went to the United States where he served aboard a number of blockade running ships during the Civil War; afterwards, again returning to Australia on the tug "Challenge" in 1867.

In 1880 a John Clark of England, purchased a 2100-ton P & O Mail Steamer named the “Ceylon” and converted it for cruising; the first attempt at commercial cruising ever made. It made the first ever around the world cruise departing from Southampton, England in September 1881 with forty passengers aboard; each paying 500 guineas, or about $830 for their passage. The “Ceylon” passed through several owners before being scrapped in 1907. This, however, may not have been the same John Clark from England that migrated to Australia.

By 1888 John Clark was living in Melbourne, Australia and was the Superintendent of the Floating Dock at Williamstown Naval Dockyard. John, unfortunately, died with his family in a boating accident the following year. John and his family were returning from a yachting regatta at Sorrento, located on Mornington Peninsula in Victoria on Port Phillip Bay, aboard the "Queenie", on Easter Sunday 1899, when the boat was overtaken by a squall about two miles south of the mouth of Little River. During the storm his boat was swamped and overturned and Clark, three of his sons and two others were drowned. The Melbourne, Victoria newspaper "Weekly Times" carried an article and photographs on the tragedy in their April 15, 1899 edition.

Johns sons were Ernest, whose body was not recovered, who was an engineering apprentice at a branch of the Melbourne Steamship Company; John James who was employed in shipbuilding with the same company; Norman at 14 years of age attended school at the Williamstown State School and Charles, though only 16 years of age, was employed at Messrs. Stott and Hoare.

John Clark’s death certificate, No. 1899/7892 shows that he was at that time 58 years of age. The three sons with him at the time were John James age 24, Charles Wallia age 15 and Norman Leslie age 13. Their death certificates, certificate 7889, certificate 7890 and certificate 7891 all show John Clark as their father and Sarah Wallis as their mother. All are buried in the “Williamstown Cemetery” where a large monument was erected over the graves of five of the seven people recovered.

Article - the Yachting Disaster
CSA Southern Cross
Ernst Clark aged 18
John Clark Senior
John Clark
John James Clark ages 24
John Clark

The Beginnings of Pleasure Cruising, Rob Henderson

Victoria and its Metropolis, Past and Present, A. Sutherland, 1888/2007

Victoria State Library

Weekly Times, newspaper, Melbourne, Victoria, April 15, 1899


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