A tale of two ships

 The Gayundah was Queensland’s first naval vessel, and is now a rusting hulk at the base of the Woody Point cliffs. 

It was built and launched at Newcastle-on-Tyne in England in May 1884, and arrived in Brisbane in 1885.

Gayundah is the aboriginal word for “lightning”. 

Commissioned with her sister ship HMQS Paluma by the Queensland Government for the colony’s Maritime Defence Force to deal with the perceived threat from the Russian Pacific fleet, the vessels were of a “flat-iron” design and were fitted with masts for sails to assist long journeys. 

It was the first colonial ship to fly the White Ensign.

After Federation in 1901, Gayundah was part of the Commonwealth Naval Forces and in 1903, ship-to-shore wireless telegraphy experiments were carried out on board via a makeshift aerial – a tall bamboo pole lashed to the mast.

In 1914, she was refitted and assigned to patrol Moreton bay and the east coast. 

The Gayundah was paid off in 1918 and sold to Brisbane Gravel Pty Ltd to haul sand and gravel in the Brisbane River.

In 1958, she was stripped at Bulimba Wharf and the hull used as a breakwater off Woody Point cliffs near Redcliffe, where she remains.

The Gayundah may not have exchanged shots with a raiding cruiser during the Russian scare, but she certainly was the centre of a sensation in late 19th century Queensland.

The Queensland Government ordered the Lucinda from the Scottish shipyard of William Denny and Brothers at Dumbarton in January 1884 at a cost of £13,000, and she arrived in Australia in May 1885. 

She was designed as a paddle yacht and lighthouse tender with a steel hull.

The press reported that “although technically designated as only as lighthouse tender, the Lucinda is in reality one of the most magnificent upholstered and effectively equipped steamers afloat.”










The Lucinda hosted the meeting of great minds formulating the Australian Constitution.

The Lucinda was named in honour of Lady Jeannie Lucinda Musgrave, second wife of Governor Sir Anthony Musgrave.

As well as servicing Queensland lighthouses, the steamer was used for ministerial visits along the coast (and to New Guinea on occasion), Cabinet meetings on the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay, picnic outings for various associations and annual excursions for school children in the state. 

Lucinda was also flag ship of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron and was referred to as the Queensland Government Steam Yacht (QGSY) Lucinda. 

She was used at one time as a mail vessel for delivering mail along the Queensland coast.

In March 1891, the first National Australian Convention was convened in Sydney, to consider a draft constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia. 

Queensland premier, Sir Samuel Griffith, had taken Lucinda  to Sydney and, on being elected chairman of the Constitutional Committee, made the yacht available. 

The first draft of the Australian Constitution was produced over 22 days on the Lucinda while cruising on the Hawkesbury River.

In 1921, in view of her age and cost of upkeep, Lucinda was laid up in Brisbane.

She was sold for £400 to local engineering company Evans, Anderson, Phelan and Co who partially dismantled her. 

Later, in 1926-27 she became a coal lighter for the Riverside Coal Transport Company to carry coal from Ipswich to Brisbane.

In January 1937, the vessel was beached on the south east side of Bishop Island at the mouth of the Brisbane River to form a breakwater, after she had been cut to a bare hull.

The hulk has since been covered by the expansion of the Port of Brisbane.

 Historian, broadcaster, TV presenter, journalist, film maker, film writer and producer, Richard Lancaster, who is also president of the Gayundah Preservation Society, will give a presentation at the Sandgate and District Historical Society and Museum, 150 Rainbow St, Sandgate, on November 25, 2pm. Entry $3 includes afternoon tea.   A raffle of the original painting of Gayundah donated by David Hill will be drawn on the day.