The undivided postcard was addressed to Miss M. Bullett, “Criffel”, Trevethan Rd, Falmouth, Cornwall, England and it has two New South Wales stamps, a green ½d and the red ‘ONE PENNY’ Shield stamp, cancelled by a illegibly dated duplex NEWCASTLE/ N.S.W. with a barred numeral ‘55′ (Figure 1).
The reverse of this R. H. Hunter of Newcastle postcard shows the wreck of Barque “Adolphe” on the Oyster Bank, Newcastle, 30/9/04. The message reads: Dear Mabs, I saw this ship wrecked, Your loving Bro, Len (Figure 2).
The vendor provides some information: The Adolphe was built in Dunkirk, France. She was swept first into the wreck “Colonist’ and then onto further submerged wrecks on what then was then called the Oyster Banks, and now is the Stockton breakwall. No lives were lost in the disaster.
The wreck of the four-masted barque Adolphe lies off the Stockton breakwall. The account of the wreck is a story of the courageous and skillfull work of the lifeboat crew who saved every life on board. On 30 September 1904, the Adolphe under command of Captain Layec, was inward bound from Antwerp. It was picked up by the tugs “Hero” and “Victoria” about 9a.m. and with Pilot Stevenson on board made an attempt to enter port. When rounding the southern breakwater huge seas struck the barque and caused the “Victoria’s” hawser to snap. The “Hero” could not hold the barque up and another succession of rollers lifted the ‘Adolphe’ right on to the top of the remains of the wreck “Colonist”, where she remained hard and fast. The seas swept her from stern to bow, tons of water poured into the lower decks and the crew had to take refuge on the poop. The doomed vessel presented a splendid though terrible spectacle standing perfectly upright with her bow heading to the harbour – she seemed to be defying the shocks of the huge sea.
When the signal guns were fired, the lifeboat in command of Coxswain A. McKinnon was quickly launched and with thousands of spectators watching, made her way to the wreck. Several attempts were made to take the boat around the stern of the “Adolphe” but after breaking four oars this was abandoned. Through skillful manoeuvring, McKinnon was able to get a line onto the “Adolphe”. The lifeboat was then anchored and down this line the seamen slipped one by one. The “Adolphe” struck at 10:25 a.m. and at 12 o’clock the last of the ship’s company (Captain Layec) slid down the line to safety. With forty-seven men on board, the lifeboat made the return trip and when in smooth water was taken in tow by the Customs tug.
The Australian newspapers had a field day with extensive reporting on the shipwreck and the gallant work of Mr. A. McKinnon, but it took a year (23 August 1905) for his being rewarded for the saving of 47 French lives. The Consul-General for France in Australia (Mons. A. Pinard) paid a visit to Newcastle, and on behalf of the French Government, he delivered a glowing address referring to the gallant rescue by the crew of the lifeboat, followed by a presentation of a handsome pair of binoculars to Mr. McKinnon, in the presence of a large number of representative people. After lunch, the lifeboat was launched and the crew gave an interesting exhibition of lifesaving.