Yongala tragedy commemorated 100 years on
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