Return to Home Page
The wreck of the "Joseph Craig"- 7 August 1914
Updated: 15 March 2019
Website Owner: Dr. Kenneth M. Baker
Extract from the Memoirs of Captain
Doug Bull, Mate on the barque "Joseph
Craig" at the time of the wreck on 7th
August 1914

      “The wind was blowing fresh from the
SW as we loosened and set sail from the
river.  We had only gone halfway through
the bar area with breakers on either side
when the tow line parted and we
commenced drifting towards the bar.  
Anchors were dropped but she was in a
hopeless position and shortly afterwards
she bumped heavily on the hard sand.  
Meantime the tug was in trouble with the
towline round her propeller and could not
assist us.  Each succeeding sea lifted the ship
and bumped her hard down on the sand.  
Soon the upper masts came down, seas were
breaking over all, and the life-boat was
stove in.   The gig was still intact and
Captain Airey decided to abandon ship
when the tide was suitable.
     The pilot station advised by signal to
leave about 3 pm so an hour before that
time oil was cast overboard to knock the
breakers off the seas between us and the
beach.   At 3 pm the gig was launched with
all hands (17) wearing life jackets, and got
her through the surf safely, with the help of
a number of Maoris who had waded up to
their necks to steady us in.
     We came ashore in underclothes mostly,
very cold and miserable.   The pilot was
there with welcome draughts of brandy,
then a walk to the beach inside the entrance
where a launch took us to the local hostelry
where we were dried out, fed and slept that
night.   A gale blew during the night and we
all journeyed to the beach in the morning,
found the ship broken up in sections.   The
bow part was still anchored where they had
been dropped and that section was still
afloat because the collision bulkhead was
intact.  Timber and gear was strewn along
the beach for miles, all criss-crossed and a
terrible mess.  We lost everything except
that I had put Father’s sextant in the boat
before launching, unbeknown to others
because we were instructed to take nothing
but ourselves, and I found out later on that
one of the A.B.s had done exactly the same
thing with his father’s sextant.
     We were all sent to Auckland where we
got our discharge from the ship and
presented with an order of £3.0.0 from the
Shipwreck Society to buy some clothes.  
With this and the money due to me from the
Joseph, I got some duds sufficient to set me
on my feet once more and to look for
another job.”
Looking over the beach and out to the ship "Joseph Craig" which is
stranded at the Hokianga bar. Some figures are silhouetted on the beach.
Taken on 7 August 1914 by James Hutchings Kinnear.
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference Number: 1/2-017198-G
Artists impression (artist unknown) of the "Joseph Craig" at sea.
Source: Collection of the HHS Museum and Archives and the WESanders
Archives (William Edward Sanders, VC, DSO, RNR 1883-1917)
Mrs Ngaire Tatnell of Melbourne, the daughter of Captain Doug Bull, the the Mate of the “Joseph Craig”, the ship
(barque) wrecked on the rocks at Niua, the North Head of the Hokianga Harbour on the 7th August 1914, recently wrote
to the Society. Mrs Tatnell sent an extract of Captain Bull’s memoirs which he had dictated and relating the wreck of the
Joseph Craig which we had promised to distribute.  We reproduce the extract here for those interested in the history of
the Hokianga and shipping.
Further notes:
            The “Joseph Craig’ was on her third trip  loading timber in
Hokianga  for Australian ports,  her first under new owners
Huddart Parker Ltd.  She had entered in ballast on 19th July and
been cleared to leave with her load of timber on 7th August,
1914.   She was an iron vessel of 714 tons gross, with a
reputation as a fast sailer.  J.J. Craig of Auckland had owned her
only since 1908, naming her after one of the family as all ships of
their line had been.  She had been built in Glasgow in 1878 as
the ‘Dunblane’.
    1914 was an eventful year for the “Joseph Craig” as she had
also hit the “Rough Rock” and gone aground in the Rangitoto
channel at Auckland in June of that year.
    Captain Bull went on to hold senior marine positions in
Tasmania .The sextant now resides in the Hobart Maritime
Museum which also contains several interview tapes made by
Captain Bull.
     The “hostelry” mentioned was almost certainly the Bryers
boarding house at Omapere which is now the Copthorne Hotel.

The HHS Society  Museum and Archives Centre holds copies
of newspapers of the time relating the story of the wreck and also
of the subsequent inquiry
compiled by Alexa & Owen Whaley and Ken Baker
Hokianga History and Memorabilia