"Dunbar" & "Catherine Adamson"Print Page Print this page

A tomb commemorates the one hundred and twenty-one people who perished in the wreck of the Dunbar in 1857.   It contains the remains of 22 of those who died, along with the victims from the wreck of the Catherine Adamson which sank in the harbour two months later. The "Dunbar Memorial Service" is held in the cemetery in the August of each year.

The doomed ship arrived off Sydney Heads on the night of Thursday, 20 August, 1857. It was a dismal evening with heavy rain impairing vision and obscuring the cliffs at the entrance to Port Jackson. The ship broached and was driven by the swell heavily into the towering black cliffs. Alternatively, it has been suggested that they mistook "The Gap" for the entrance to the harbour when tacking towards the Heads. The impact brought down the topmasts, mounting seas stoved in the lifeboats and the Dunbar heaved broadside to the swells. Lying on its side, the ship began to break up almost immediately. One crewman, James Johnson, found himself hurled onto the cliffs where he managed to gain a finger hold. Scrambling higher, he became the sole survivor amidst a sea of bodies. One hundred and twenty-one people perished, including all 63 passengers and the remaining 58 crew.

Nine weeks later the Catherine Adamson was wrecked with the loss of over twenty lives. The bodies of the Catherine Adamson victims, as could be recovered, were interred in the mass burial set aside for the Dunbar victims nine weeks earlier.

DUNBAR MONUMENT. As a record of the public sorrow for the dead, and to mark the public sympathy for their surviving friends, the Government intend to erect a monument to the memory of the passengers by the ill-fated vessel. There is no one in the community who will not agree with us in regarding this as only a proper and becoming mark of respect to the dead on the part of the Government and people of this eolony. Such a memorial will be a fitting expression of the universal sorrow which the wreck has occasioned, and may afford a melancholy gratification to the relatives of the deceased. We are satisfied that if the Government had not taken the matter in hand, the people, would have generously responded to an appeal for such an object. But it is also proposed to erect a separate monument to the memory of Captain Green, and funds are now being raised for that purpose. It is intended to place the Dunbar monument in Camperdown Cemetery, where repose the recovered remains of the wrecked passengers, while the tablet to Captain Green is to be placed in St. James's Church, or the Sydney Exchange.
Excerpt from Northen Times (Newcastle), 24 October 1857. 

DUNBAR MEMORIAL. Recently the attention of the Government was drawn to the state of the memorial which had been erected in the Camperdown Cemetery to the memory of those who lost their lives when the Dunbar was wrecked near the Heads. The Public Works Department was instructed to have the memoral renovated and restored, and yesterday the work was commenced. 
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 8 December 1926. 


Address:Church & Lennox Streets, St Stephen`s Camperdown Cemetery, Newtown, 2042
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -33.894722
Long: 151.179722
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Disaster


Approx. Monument Dedication Date:Circa 1857
Front Inscription

Within this tomb were deposited by the direction of the government of New South Wales such remains as could be discovered of the passengers and crew who perished in the ships Dunbar and Catherine Adamson the former of which was driven ashore and foundered when approaching the entrance to Port Jackson on the night of 20 August 1857.

The latter after entering this port on the morning of the 24th October. AD 1857.

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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