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 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.
The Beginnings of Pleasure Cruising,
Victoria and its
Metropolis, Past and Present, A. Sutherland, 1888/2007
Victoria State Library
Weekly Times, newspaper, Melbourne,
Victoria, April 15, 1899