Captain and Crew Go Down with their Ship


It is the memorial to Joseph John Lewis, Captain of the ill-fated SS Protector that capsized over the Richmond Bar in 1901, taking all its crew with it. The Captain Lewis’ body, and that of his crew were never recovered from the sea.

Captain Lewis was born in Ballina and left a wife and daughter to grieve him.

SS Protector – The tugboat

The Protector was a tugboat owned by the Fenwick Brothers and on a Saturday was sent a wire, requesting it to tow the SS Oakland from Byron Bay back to Ballina for its propeller repairs.

Newspapers described the event and the ensuing heartbreak of the residents of Ballina when they

There were gale-force winds at this time so the Protector didn’t make it over the bar until Sunday at 4pm.

Deadly drowning

While returning to Ballina, the Protector was the second boat to attempt the bar crossing, after the Tomki had a cabin flooded and door smashed from the unruly waves.

According to AT&CJ describes its course, as he says, “She had reached the outer break of the bar…when a slight sea struck her and caused her to broach. Before she could recover, another very heavy sea struck her and turned her completely over.”

It was reported Captain Lewis and deckhand Tobias Tobiasson were holding the wheel when the water struck and the Protector disappeared beneath the waves with all her crew.

Rescue failed

Despite search parties looking for the crew men, only a comforter worn by Captain Lewis and a couple of pipes were found.

A leg and foot found at Cape Byron dressed in a ‘blucher’ boot and a black-striped woollen sock belonged to Tobiasson were some findings about the crew.

Ballina groans

As the day wore on, relatives who had raced to the beach in the hope of their loved ones surviving, were bitterly disappointed.

AT&CJ says the Ballina groaned for the captain, “Business for the day (in Ballina) seemed paralysed and everywhere could be seen groups of people discussing the unfortunate occurrence”.

Newspapers described the event and the ensuing heartbreak of the residents of Ballina when they realised five of their own weren’t coming home.

“There have been many wrecks and disasters on the Richmond River bar during the last twenty years,” Australian Town and Country Journal reported.

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Source: Northern Star


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