Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

City of York

The second wreck associated with contact art is the City of York . This ship was wrecked on the west side of Rottnest Island on 12 July 1899. The Captain was unfamiliar with the area and misinterpreted a signal from the lighthouse keeper and ran onto the reef. Captain Jones and his crew took to the two lifeboats but one overturned. A number of survivors from this boat made their way back to the wreck, but altogether eleven people died, including Captain Jones. An interesting aspect of this wreck is that several paintings of the ship arose from this incident. Two were painted by a European artist, George W. R. Bourne, and two by an Aboriginal convict who was an inmate of the Rottnest gaol. According to Fletcher the paintings by Bourne are ‘typical of the professional ship portraitist’. One shows the City of York broadside on in a stormy sea, the other shows it stranded and broken on the reef. The Aboriginal artist was Johnny Cudgely (he was also known as Jimmy Cudgel) who was given painting lessons by the Governor of Rottnest, Governor Bedford, who also enjoyed painting. Bedford was Governor from 1903-1909. It is not known whether Johnny painted his City of York depictions before or after his lessons with the Governor. He was an inmate at the time of the wreck, so one of his paintings is particularly interesting as an eyewitness account as it shows the wreck as seen from the shore and shows the presence of a rigged line from ship to shore along which the survivors are being rescued.

Associated Tribe Unknown

Contact Evidence Contact Art

Type of contact Unknown

Year 1899

Location Rottnest Island

Source European