Wallace & George SmalleyPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Sandra Brown

The monument erected over grave by public subscription commemorates cousins Wallace and George Smalley, who drowned in a boating accident on Lake Colac in 1872 while attempting to save the life of their companion Robert Macafee. 

The most sensational boating accident that has ever occurred on the lake took place on the 28th December 1872, when the two Smalleys were drowned. On the morning of the day in question Mr G. Smalley, Mr W. Smalley and Mr R. B. Macafee started from Dean's Creek in a boat, on a shooting excursion. When some distance from land the latter remarked that the sky looked threatening, and as a severe storm seemed imminent they all agreed to return to shore. The waters of the lake had by this time become lashed into fury, and the waves ran exceedingly high, so much so that the boat became unmanageable, and presently was completely swamped, its occupants being precipitated into the water. Several attempts were made to right the boat but without avail.

When about 
half a mile from the bath house Mr Wallace Smalley said to Mr Macafee "I doubt if I will ever see my poor old mother again," and the latter echoed the same sentiment with regard to his family. Both of the Smalleys were excellent swimmers, and as Mr. Macafee could not swim, they did their utmost to place him in the boat each time she turned insisting on him sticking to it. Their noble self sacrifice in such an hour of peril served, however, to still further exhaust the endurance of the cousins, and within five minutes of each other they fell off from the boat and sank beneath the cruel death dealing waves.

Mr Macafee was safely rescued by the search parties foremost among maybe mentioned Messrs Roach and Dermott. Mr W. Smalley's body was found about a mile from the shore, facing the old bathhouse and the body of his cousin was discovered on the beach at Calvert`s reserve about three miles from the scene of the catastrope.  So great was the sympathetic interest evoked in the public`s mind by this sad event that it was determined to erect a monument over their graves in the Colac cemetery. Subscriptions poured in freely and the tall column that adorns '' Gods acre " was erected in due course.

Mr. W. Smalley (aged 24) was the eldest son of the Rev. C. Smalley, M.A., rector of Thurrock in Essex, and at the time of his death held the position of head teacher of the Common school at Irrewillipe. His cousin, Mr. G. Smalley, (aged 25) was a teacher at Murroon, he being the son of Mr. G. R. Smalley, B.A., Government Astronomer, Sydney. 
Excerpt from The Colac District, The Colac Herald (Vic),
 4 September 1891.


Address:Gravesend Street (Colac-Lavers Hill Road), Colac Cemetery , Colac, 3250
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -38.349692
Long: 143.584715
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Grave
Monument Theme:People
Actual Event Start Date:28- December-1872
Actual Event End Date:28-December-1872


Front Inscription

In Memoriam 

Erected by public subscription 

To commemorate the heroic conduct of Wallace C Smalley and of his cousin George F Smalley who in a fatal accident on Lake Colac generously sacrificed themselves to save the life of their companion Robert Boyd MacAfee 

December 28th. 1872

Right Side Inscription

In memory of George F Smalley of Murroon.

Son of George R Smalley B.A.
Government Astronomer.  Sydney.

Born 7th February 1847 at the Cape of Good Hope
Died 28th. December 1872. 

From the upsetting of a boat on Lake Colac

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