Fatal boat ride for non-swimmer

“I don’t think anything could sink this boat”.

Bothwell, just before the boat sank

William Bothwell couldn’t swim. He lived in the driest part of the continent, yet he still managed to drown in a boating accident.

It was also the boat’s maiden voyage.

Image: Sharyn Moodie

It was made of galvanized iron, and was launched on a body of water known as Brickyard Dam, part of the Broken Hill brickworks. It was also known as Simpson’s Dam.

The boat had been launched and tested by a small group of men about 7.30 on a Friday night in spring 1903 when William Bothwell, 30ish, arrived and got in.

The inquest heard that the men  rowed across the dam, and as they rowed back again, Bothwell declared he didn’t think anything could sink the boat.

“To prove his point, he stood up and leant over one side to see if he could tip her over, the boat keeled and Bothwell, alarmed, rushed to the opposite side and the boat capsized”.

The other two men, Isaac Simpson and Warne, made their way to the bank, while Bothwell, who could not swim, clung to the side.  The boat soon sank. A witness on the bank said Bothwell made one or two strokes and also sank, and was not seen again.

Simpson, a tinsmith, was the brother of the brickwork’s owner.

Dr. Groves, Government medical officer, was scathing at the inquest.

While he stated that death was due to drowning he also said…

“It is a pity  that anyone was foolhardy enough to trust themselves in such a punt as I saw at the dam. It is a wonder the thing did not tip over the first time they tried it.

Government medical officer Groves

“It was a flat bottomed, shallow affair, and, to make it still more dangerous, the men had placed two air tubes along the side not on the gunwales, but just above the waterline where, as soon as the boat keeled over, the tube would be below the centre of gravity,” he continued.

Bothwell is buried in Broken Hill cemetery.

Broken Hill, NSW

SOURCE: Barrier Miner Monday 5 October 1903 p 3

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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