Yon­gala tragedy com­mem­o­rated 100 years on

Townsville Bulletin - - News - Ryan Mathe­son

JUSTIN Rooney will to­day re­mem­ber the grand­par­ents he never had the chance to meet as the city com­mem­o­rates the 100th an­niver­sary of the sink­ing of the SS Yon­gala.

Matthew and Cather­ine Rooney and daugh­ter Lizzie were among the 122 peo­ple who lost their lives in one of the worst tragedies in Aus­tralian mar­itime his­tory.

The 73-year-old will at­tend a num­ber of func­tions on be­half of his lost fam­ily mem­bers in­clud­ing a me­mo­rial cer­e­mony held at the Townsville Mar­itime Mu­seum to­day at 10am.

Mr Rooney said the mem­o­ries would never fade.

‘‘ A lot of the fam­i­lies in­volved never had an op­por­tu­nity to meet their rel­a­tives and that is some­thing we will have to live with for­ever,’’ he said.

‘‘ The whole tragedy has only been high­lighted in re­cent time, so it wasn’t re­ally some­thing we re­ally talked about when we were grow­ing up.

‘‘ We have made an ef­fort to at­tend the cer­e­mony at the mu­seum for the past 10 years and this year will be no dif­fer­ent.’’

The Yon­gala en­coun­tered a cy­clone on March 23, 1911 dur­ing the 208-nautical mile trip be­tween Mackay and Townsville.

The his­toric wreck was lo­cated 89km south-east of Townsville and 22km east of Cape Bowl­ing Green in 1958.

Mr Rooney will be one of 14 mem­bers of the ex­tended fam­ily ex­pected to at­tend a tribute din­ner held at the Yon­gala Lodge on Satur­day night.

The his­toric build­ing stands as a last­ing re­minder of the fam­ily’s con­nec­tion to Townsville.

Mr Rooney’s grand­fa­ther built the lodge as a pri­vate res­i­dence in 1884 from im­ported Ore­gon pine.

He do­nated the left­over tim­ber for the con­struc­tion of the wooden al­tar at St Joseph’s Catholic Church across from the lodge in Fryer St.

Mr Rooney was a lead­ing lo­cal busi­ness man and found­ing mem­ber of the Townsville Har­bour Board.


MEM­O­RIES: Justin Rooney’s grand­par­ents were among those lost at sea 100 years ago when the lux­ury pas­sen­ger ves­sel Yon­gala sank in a cy­clone

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