George Russell survived wreck of Royal Charter

February 2, 2013

Dear Mr Gregory,

I wonder if you can help me... on Melbourne radio (3AW) last Friday 1/02/2013 I heard an interview with a person in Australia researching the Royal Charter, I believe he also mentioned that he was a Gold Panner.  Being a busy time of the morning one ear only was listening.

My great great grandfather was a passenger on the ship. 

The owner of a very successful goldmine, George Russell was travelling back to the UK with his daughters and wife.  When the ship was wrecked only one daughter, and George survived. He went on to Scotland, remarried and returned with his new wife to Australia. Reclaimed the goldmine and went on to make another fortune.

The goldmine is still there and my second cousin still farms the family land first settled in the 1850s.

He has a huge reservoir of relevant family and historical trivia. He still lives in the home of his great grandparents (on his father's side).

If you have been in contact with the person researching the wreck I would be grateful if you could pass on my details.

With thanks 
Mary Montagu


What a fascinating story. I have been interested in the story of the Royal Charter and her subsequent wreck for some time.Here are the details of the interview with the gold prospector Vincent Thurkettle:

Welsh Treasure Hunters turn focus to Melbourne  Posted by: Michael James | Michael James 1 February, 2013
- 5:21 PM 

I suggest you contact 3AW and ask them to put you in touch with Vincent.

Best regards,


I have a complete passenger list for Royal Charter which I gleaned during a visit to the Australian Archives here in Melbourne, and it runs to some 9 pages.

One needs a decent magnifying glass as the reproduction is quite hazy.

Vincent is obviously visiting Melbourne with Gwen.

A Professor in the US contacted me originally about RC as a relative of his wife Manus Boyle ( a former miner ) was a passenger who perished in the wreck, and he asked me for help, it took a year to bring Manus to light, and as a result, the Professor has visited Wales to place a marker for Manus in the churchyard. See Manus Boyle from the Royal Charter found.  

This whole saga is indeed an interesting and quite
wonderful story.

Best regards, 

Hi Mac,

Presuming you are a shipwreck expert you may be interested to know that as a child I knew, along with my parents, Roy Holden, very well. Up, I think until this year, at low tide I could  view the Orungal off the heads at Barwon  Heads.

Are you in Victoria?

Back to the Royal Charter, George Russell does not appear on the passenger list I accessed however if you Google the Lauristan Gold Mine (near Kyneton in Victoria) you will see, or link to, some information regarding him and his brother John.  (And the ill fated Royal Charter trip) 

My great grandfather was David McClure, also mentioned in the articles. 

It has always been family legend that George sold the mine to some Chinese miners from Ballarat on leaving in the Royal Charter, however when he returned the Chinese gave it back to him claiming not to have found any gold

The legend goes that the mine was a "wishbone" reef and the Chinese could only think in a straight line!!! The Russells' went on to make another massive fortune.

A couple of years ago we took my grandson, then 8, to visit the mine and I can not tell you the derision he was met with at Show and Tell when he announced he had spent the weekend at the family gold mine.

As I mentioned earlier my cousin has a massive amount of documentation which he is always willing to show and share.


Thank you.

Yes I am in Melbourne, we have an apartment on St Kilda Road just opposite Wesley.

My list shows Mr Russell aged 36, his wife Cath at 32, a child 10, and June Russell aged 2

I would be interested in any documentation that your cousin may care to share, so we might add it to material about RC on my AHOY website.

Best wishes,


Some details you may be interested in about Orungul.

LOCATION: Barwon Heads (VIC)
MAX DEPTH: 8 MetresAVG DEPTH: 5 Metres


Look for the boilers of the wreck at low tide. Swim
straight for


Length in m 118.90248
Beam in m 16.82496
Draft in m 8.56488
Engine specification:
Two turbines geared to one shaft, 4 boilers fitted to burn
oil, rated 13
knots. Lloyds Machinery Certificate LMC & TSE- 6/1927,

This can be a boat dive and can be a shore dive. It is
easier of course if
it is a boat dive, but due to to the location it is only a
couple of days a
year a boat can get safely amongst the reef and wreck to
drop and retrieve
divers so mostly better done as a shore dive by the fit
and agile.

This wreck is modern by todays standards and was wrecked
around 1940. The
ships captain mistook the lights of Barwon Heads for those
of Port Phillip
(War time lights were masked and difficult to read we are
told) and was
trying to sail his ship up the river. Anyway it didn't fit
up the river and
ground to a halt on a reef. It should have been refloated
and salvaged
except for the fire that broke out on her a couple of days
later and almost
all of her cargo was lost or thrown overboard in an
attempt to save it. The
lightened load (e.g. Cargo gone) allowed the ship to drag
further onto the
reef and
Made any further attempts to salvage her fruitless.

During the war Whelan the Wrecker had a demolition crew on
board salvaging
what ever they thought they could coz they had the rights
to the wreck when
early one morning the men on board were woken by the RAAF
straffing the
wreck for practice. The men quickly jumped overboard and
swam ashore with
out any loss of life or damage.

War time etc there was no big enquiry into it but could
you imagine that
happening today.

Well the seas have been extremely hard on this wreck and
knocked the be
Jesus out of the hull and not a lot exists other than the
boilers and a
section of the lower hull. There is extremely good
fossicking in this area
and a Cray or two can almost always be found.

Regretably there are next to no abalone left on her these
days as it is too
accessible to those on surf boards and the like and she is
pretty much
stripped clean as soon as people find an abolone there.

It is a good safe dive and one that we often degass on on
our return from
something deeper.

If approaching this wreck from the Bluff side (Barwon
Heads) be mindful of
the tides and water movement not to overlook the boats
that might be coming
out of the river. If swam to from the other side then
there is the surf to
contend with. Which one of the two evils is the worst is
hard to say.


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