Shipwrecks on Kangaroo Island are well documented. The old Heritage Branch of the South Australian State government produced a report by Robert McKinnon in 1993, ‘Shipwreck Sites of Kangaroo Island’ and DENR (Department of the Environment and Natural Resources) produced a report in 1997, by Cosmos Coroneos, ‘Shipwrecks of Encounter Bay and Backstairs Passage.’ The publication of particular interest for the Loch Sloy project was Robert McKinnon’s text, which included well researched details about the ship and its demise.
Another publication was one written by Mr Gifford Chapman in 1972, ‘Kangaroo Island Shipwrecks’. This was updated and republished in 2007. These were both well-known texts and it was decided that a trip would be undertaken as part of my Directed Study to see Mr Chapman, at Moonta. Mr Chapman is a Kangaroo Islander who has spent his life around the sea and ships, both in his work and as a professional abalone diver. Mr Chapman proved to be a very interesting person with an encyclopaedic knowledge about Kangaroo Island and its people. He was able to suggest where we could find further information and the contact details for Mr Gordon May, a descendent of the May family who assisted the survivors of the Loch Sloy wreck, and also helped to bury the deceased.
It was fortunate for us that Mr May had retired in suburban Adelaide, and was an avid recorder of the May family history. In our innocence, we thought we could meet him for a couple of hours one afternoon, but it became quickly apparent on our first visit that Mr May was indeed a prolific collector and recorder of the May family history, all of which was very interesting and added to our pool of knowledge. We scheduled a second visit which lasted quite a few hours, over a very nice lunch, when we were able to photograph pertinent information, and, thank heaven for computers and particularly a senior person’s knowledge of computers, were able to copy his files for future perusal.
Another connection that was suggested to us, was a lady called Bev Overton, who lives on Kangaroo Island, and has connections with the museum. Not only that, but her daughter is also an avid historian, whose particular interest is genealogy. We were to meet Bev and her daughter on our trips to the Island, and gain valuable contacts.
Finding such enthusiastic people is a godsend to the researcher, as no one person, or small group can hope to find such information quickly, and as the funding for this project was restricted to a particular time period, our timing was of the essence. The distraction from the task of researching the Loch Sloy graves was the other interesting information which emerged from our oral histories. We recorded the interviews, but as time was the enemy, they have not been fully transcribed as yet. However, we also took notes at the meetings and had the backup of Mr May’s written work.
My next blog shows us drowning in the sea of information that began with the visit to the Mays.