Grafton Rowing Club History: Early Shipping 8
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Flooding Grafton
Early Shipping on the Clarence

Early Shipping 8 - "Perseverance" and Henry Searle's Funeral

Drogher "Perseverance" near Copmanhurst (about 22 km [14 miles] upriver from Grafton).

A discussion of early shipping on the Clarence would not be complete without mentioning the droghers. These small local vessels were used for transporting all types of cargo on the river from logs, pigs, produce, etc, to deliveries of the latest goods offloaded from the sea-going steamers from Sydney.

The drogher "Perseverance", shown above, was typical of the design of the day, although she was fairly large for a drogher, which tended to be around 25 metres (82 feet) and 50 tons. She was an iron stern paddle steamer, built in 1872 at Mort's Dock and Engineering Co., Balmain (Sydney). S.P.S. "Perseverance" was 36.5 metres (120 feet) and 95 tons, and had two 36 h.p. engines. The "Perseverance" had a long career, even by the standards of the working river boats of the era.

By far the most famous cargo carried by the "Perservance" was the coffin and body of champion sculler Henry Searle. The body was transported from Sydney on board the "Australian" and then transferred to the "Perseverance" at Iluka with the aim of taking it to his family home at Esk Island.

The jetty at Esk Island was too light to take the weight of the coffin and bearers, so no landing was made at the house - the family boarded the "Perseverance" instead.

Some of the mourners at Henry Searle's funeral

The entourage travelled to the town of Maclean on the "Perseverance" where they were greeted by virtually every vessel on the Clarence, as nearly the entire population had travelled to Maclean for the funeral. It is estimated that over 2,500 people were in attendance at the funeral - the largest ever seen in Maclean. In fact, the total population of the Maclean area at the time was less than 900, so a crowd of this size would have been unimaginable.

The "Perseverance" continued her work on the Clarence until 1944 (a total of 72 years continuous service!), when she was "closed down - no longer required".

Early Shipping - Page 9