James Craig voyages 1918 – 1930s


James Craig stripped down for bunkering steamers in Recherche Bay.

James Craig stripped down for bunkering steamers in Recherche Bay.

John “Sharkey” Keen served as crew member aboard the barque James Craig in the year 1920. His fascinating memoirs have been included as a special part of our web site here. These memoirs reveal a man of lively intelligence, who wrote with a descriptive ease and a natural flair for storytelling.
The photographs used to highlight the text are from his own album, for the 1920’s saw the dawning of the age of the mass-produced camera, and Sharkey was quick to record his experiences using this medium.
Featured as one of the more colourful characters in Alan Villiers booth “The Set of the Sails”, Keen was born in 1900 and died in October 1981. Aware of the resurrection of his former ship, he sat down in the months preceding his death, to pen his recollections of life on board.

Murray Geeves, of Geeveston, Tasmania, aged 15, served as a cabin boy on the James Craig on her last voyage, from Recherche Bay, Tasmania to Adelaide with timber, returning to Hobart with a cargo of calcines on 8th January, 1922. She awaited cargo but it never came.

Lying scuttled in Recherche Bay, Southern Tasmania.

Lying scuttled in Recherche Bay,
Southern Tasmania.

Shortly after the salvage of James Craig from Recherche Bay, in this letter dated 31 October 1974 to Captain John Lovell, Executive Director of the Lady Hopetoun and Port Jackson Steam Maritime Museum Limited, he relates with feeling this once in a lifetime experience.
Murray Geeves lived in Sydney and was of great assistance with information about James Craig. See his recollections of his time on board here.

For some time, she performed the humiliating service of bunkering the steamers which had caused her downfall, but when the coal mine closed in the early 1930s, she had the last say in her own destiny. While lying at anchor in Recherche Bay she broke her cable during a storm and ran aground. To avoid a possible hazard to navigation she then had a large hole blown in her stern and settled on the bottom of Recherche Bay in shallow water.
And so, in dignity, the grand old lady who had for over half a century given service to her masters, found her own resting place in her last port of call.


Arrival Comments Port Departure Cargo
19.08.1918 Purchased by Henry Jones, IXL, after World War 1. Brought to Sydney for extensive overhaul and recommissioned. Very heavy weather enroute. Put into Gladstone for repairs. In port for several weeks.
Captain Allison.
Gladstone, Australia
17.08.1919 Passed Cape Moreton, Australia
28.08.1919 Newcastle, Australia 30.08.1919
30.08.1919 Lengthy overhaul in Jubilee Dock. Captain Scott, Captain Murchison Sydney, Australia 06.05.1920
06.05.1920 Newcastle, Australia 13.05.1920 Coal & Bone Dust
22.05.1920 Put in badly damaged and leaking Sydney, Australia 30.06.1920
06.07.1920 Hobart, Australia 24.07.1920 Timber
25.07.1920 Port Huon, Australia 05.08.1920 Timber
13.08.1920 Port Pirie, Australia 28.08.1920
31.08.1920 This is where Tom the cat jumped overboard, you can read John ‘Sharkey’ Keen’s memories here. Adelaide, Australia 17.09.1920 Superphosphate
09.10.1920 Captain Purdon.Captain J. Maitland Thompson relives a strange nautical phenomena – click here to read about it. Auckland, New Zealand 17.11.1920 Timber
10.12.1920 Melbourne, Australia 15.01.1921 General Cargo
30.01.1921 Hobart, Australia 13.02.1921
14.02.1921 Port Huon, Australia 03.03.1921 Hardwood
03.03.1921 About, Anchored Kelly’s Point, Australia 08.03.1921
24.03.1921 Auckland, New Zealand 21.05.1921 Timber
08.07.1921 Long, eventful voyage. 49 days instead of the usual 14-20 days.Twice when in sight of Port Philip Heads she was blown back to sea again. Melbourne, Australia 21.09.1921 Unknown
10.10.1921 Hobart, Australia 17.10.1921
18.10.1921 First visit to Recherche Bay Recherche Bay, Australia 03.11.1921 Timber
24.11.1921 Adelaide, Australia 20.12.1921 Calcines for Electrolytic Zinc Co. at Risdon Tasmania
08.01.1922 Hobart, Australia 28.01.1922
28.01.1922 To await cargo but it never came. Hulked there eventually after being bought by Catamaran Coal Mining Company. Recherche Bay, Australia

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