Tam O'Shanter 1836

The last of the ‘first fleet’ of ships , the barque Tam O’Shanter, reached Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island on 20 November 1836.  Under the command of Captain Whiteman, the ship carried 74 passengers, most  employed by either the Colonial Treasurer Osmond Gilles or builder John White, whose supplies took up most of the cargo space.

After unloading emigrants and supplies at Kangaroo Island, Tam O’Shanter sailed to Adelaide with the remaining passengers and cargo.  

Part of this cargo, an iron trunk of books donated by both the South Australian Literary Society and Colonial Secretary Robert Gouger,  fell into the sea while being unloaded.  Luckily the books were not damaged as they became the basis of the Adelaide Institute’s ‘circulating library’ and eventually the State Library of South Australia. 

Departing Holdfast Bay, the Tam O’Shanter accompanied Colonel Light on Rapid up the Gulf to investigate the Port creek, running aground at the entrance on 18 December.  Refloated at about 4pm on 22 December, the ship anchored for the night, but was beached the next day in a creek, later known as Tam O’Shanter Creek.  

Repaired by a shipwright, the Tam O’Shanter left Port Adelaide on August 16 1837 headed for Sydney.  Taking on water and leaking due to severe weather in Bass Straight, the Captain decided to run before the weather and head for Tasmania.  On 27 August the Tam O’Shanter was anchored off the Tamar Heads in an attempt to ride out the weather, but when the anchor dragged, the Captain decided to run her ashore to save the lives and property of those on board.  The Tam O’Shanter however, was considered a write-off. The bay where she went ashore is named after the wreck.

An enquiry determined that the leak wasn’t the result of repair work carried out in Port Adelaide in December 1836.

Anthea Taylor

Published on Pioneers Association of South Australia Facebook, 20 Nov 2021

See also https://sites.google.com/view/first8ships/tam-o-shanter