Charles EATON (Ship)
The Charles EATON sailed from Sydney on 28th July 1834 for Singapore and Canton under the control of Captain Moore.
She carried a crew of 23 and 6 passengers including Captain and Mrs D’Oyley and their 2 sons named George and William on route to India.
On 15th August 1834 the Charles Eaton struck a reef at the south-eastern entrance to the Torres Strait near Detached Reef.
4 of the crew took the only useable life boat and headed for Batavia leaving the rest of crew and passengers to fend for themselves.
The rest of the survivors managed to make rafts and drifted to an island where the Natives murdered all the remaining survivors except the ship’s boy John Ireland and young William D’Oyley aged 2 years.
Two young boys taken to a nearby Island where they were well treated and kept as curiosities being “white, fair haired who had come from the sea”.
Prior to leaving Sydney, Mrs D’Oyley had written a letter to other sons at school in London, asking the boys to write to her as she was missing them so deeply and stated “she was quite tired of this wandering life”. Letter in manuscripts at Mitchell Library.
In the meantime concern was beginning in London when reports started coming back.
The Charles Eaton had not arrived at destination.
Debris was reported in the ocean by other ships in the area.
The deserters reached Batavia, were interrogated, information sent to India.
Story did not reach London till 1836 when relatives urged action.
Eventually orders were sent to Sydney and a ship Captained by Charles Morgan Lewis was sent to investigate & found the 2 boys alive on Murray Island.
The ship’s boy John Ireland was able to tell the story of the happenings and that the other crew and passengers had been beheaded.
Lewis was able to locate the skulls which were brought back to Sydney and buried in the Devonshire Street cemetery under a monument removed to Bunnerong cemetery.
1838, Captain Lewis eventually took William D’Oyley back to relatives in England aboard the Buffalo.
Ships boy John Ireland had been given a passage back the year before.
Within this tomb were interred on XV11 November MDCCCXXXV1(1836) the remains of seventeen human bodies. Discovered after the most diligent research in the Island of Aureed, in Torres Straits by Mr C. M. Lewis, Commander of H. M. Colonial schooner “Isabella”, and by satisfactory evidence, identified as the mortal remains of certain of the Officers, crew and passengers of the Bark “Charles Eaton”, who after escaping from the total wreck of that vessel, on the XV August AD.MDCCCXXX1V( 1834), were savagely massacred by the natives of the Islands on which they landed. His Excellency Sir Rd. Bourke K.C.B. Gov’n in Chief of this Colony, by whose command the expedition to ascertain the fate of these unhappy persons was undertaken, caused the last offices of piety to be discharged towards them, by directing the interment of their remains with the rites of Christian burial, and the erection of this monument, to record the catastrophe by which they perished.
J. G. MOORE
C. G. ARMSTRONG
Master of the ship
Sources: Botany Pioneer Memorial Park headstone transcription, National Library of Australia – Trove, Australian National Maritime Museum