Last week I started exploring the fascinating intersection between needlework, craft and maritime history in the museum’s collection, examining an embroidered sampler made by young British migrant Julia Donovan in 1879. Today I will be looking at the sampler’s first cousin – the sailor’s woolwork picture or embroidered ship portrait, affectionately known as a ‘woolie’.
Australian surfer Mick Fanning is in the news after surviving an attack by a Great White Shark during a surfing competition in South Africa. The incident reminded the Museum’s USA Programs Manager Richard Wood of a family tragedy involving a shark attack in Sydney Harbour.
Marcia’s been taken by a shark
One of my favourite objects in the museum’s collection is a charming needlework sampler made by 19-year-old assisted immigrant Julia Donovan on board the Carnatic in January 1879. Immigration records show that Julia arrived in Rockhampton, Queensland, from England on 5 February 1879, and presumably went into domestic service in the growing port town.
From the 17th century, embroidered samplers were used to teach young girls the essential art of needlework, incorporating a repertoire of stitches and motifs that would be used to mark household linens and garments. While samplers typically featured a combination of letters of the alphabet in upper and lower case, numerals, geometric borders and small emblems, the specific arrangement of motifs was often highly personal to the maker.
Julia Donovan’s sampler is hand embroidered in cross stitch using green, blue, red and purple wools on a square piece of cloth. It includes the alphabet, numbers 1 to 17 and two sprays of blue flowers. Julia’s sampler is particularly special as it is signed and dated, and connected to her journey on Carnatic through the following verse that reveals a migration story in stitch:
Dearest Matron we must part you
On that strange and distant shore
For though across the stormy ocean
With great patience you us bore
May the seasons richest blessing
Rest within your home and heart
Peace and love and happiness possessing
And may all troubles from you part.
The sampler was probably given by Julia as a gift to the ship’s matron, Alice Wadley, who worked as a stewardess and matron on board migrant ships on the Australian route from 1879 to 1887. It illustrates the friendship between the matron and her young charge over the three-month voyage, while also highlighting broader themes such as late 19th century attitudes to the role of women, colonial education and domesticity, and the way in which gendered skills were transferred across cultures and continents – from a familiar land to ‘that strange and distant shore’.
Julia Donovan’s sampler is just one example of the intriguing intersection between needlework, craft and maritime history in the museum’s collection. Over the next few weeks I will be looking at some other wonderful examples of nautical craft at the museum. Next time – sailor’s woolwork pictures or ‘woolies’!
Curator, Post-Federation Immigration
My uncle John Messenger, known as Jack, was born in Ballarat, Victoria. He became a fitter and turner and studied to be a draughtsman. He was the eldest son, with six siblings. My father Albert was the second youngest. Jack was 20 when he was born.
Jack moved to Melbourne and enlisted in the Royal Navy as a crew member on the Australian Station in 1909.
Ern Flint, who died on 3 July at the age of 88, lobbied for many years to earn recognition for the service of the more than 3,000 Australian civilians who risked life and limb serving under contract in the US Army Small Ships Section during World War II.
Naval architect Warwick Hood AO passed away at Erina on the NSW Central Coast early in July, shortly before his 83rd birthday. To the general public and the yachting scene in particular he was well recognised and highly respected as the designer of Australia’s second America’s Cup challenger, the International 12-Metre class yacht Dame Pattie. This design was very significant in its own right, but was a part of Hood’s long career in naval architecture that was also filled with remarkably varied work that reflects wide interests along with an ability to manage diverse marine projects.
“Cock your hat.
An angle is an attitude”
– Frank Sinatra
Its hat week this week – for myself it’s an excuse to kit up for winter but among the vast collection of images by respected Australian commercial photographer Gervais Purcell the hats are generally more about form than function.
Win one of two $300 cash prizes and a trip to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney!
On 14 September 1914, in the first few months of World War One, Australia’s first submarine HMAS AE1 disappeared without a trace off Duke of York Island, near present-day Papua New Guinea. All thirty-five Australian and British officers and crew members were lost. To this day, AE1 has not been found.
To commemorate this tragic event, the Australian National Maritime Museum presents the Remembering AE1 National Speech Competition. It is open to Year 9 students who would like to investigate the story of AE1 and offer their insights on ideas of commemoration, war and the place of this tragic yet unsolved event in Australian history.
Two winners will each receive a $300 cash prize and be flown to Sydney to present their speeches as part of the official opening of a commemorative art installation on Monday 14 September.
The art installation, The Ocean Bed Their Tomb, will appear to float on the water outside the museum’s new Warships Pavilion (due to open in November, 2015) to commemorate the loss of AE1 and the thirty-five men aboard, and encourage visitors to reflect on its meaning. The form – a wreath – is also about loss in general, and so can speak to anyone who has lost someone at sea in war service.
Click here to enter, and for more details about the competition. HURRY, just three-and-a-half weeks to go – entries close 12pm Thursday 6 August.
The Australian National Maritime Museum is celebrating NAIDOC Week 2015 with the launch of our new exhibition Undiscovered, a collection of 10 photographic prints by renowned Aboriginal artist Michael Cook. This year’s NAIDOC theme is “we all stand on sacred ground”, so we feel that it is very fitting to see the photographic works set on the shore (sacred ground).
Are you planning a visit to the Australian National Maritime Museum? You can now take a self-guided tour with our newly-released mobile app, built on the Google Cultural Institute platform. Users can swipe, scan and scroll their way through collection highlights as they wander in and around the museum, or use it to virtually explore our exhibitions from anywhere in the world.