In addition to her master, the Wimmera was crewed by a further nine officers and over 70 crew members. The crew were organised into different departments under the management of particular officers.

A Merchant Marine officer possibly of the Scottish Shire Line
[A Merchant Marine officer possibly of the Scottish Shire Line]
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

Seamen, who performed the roles of deck hands, lookouts and ship’s maintenance came under the First Officer or Chief Mate. He was also assisted by a Second and Third Officer.

Postcard. Author’s Collection.

Engineroom personnel and stokehold crew, including the firemen and trimmers were under the control of the Chief Engineer. He was assisted by a Second, Third and Fourth Engineer.

The cooks, baker, butcher, pantrymen, waiters and stewards, were under the direction of the ship’s Purser and the Assistant Purser.

[Stewards and Stewardesses of the A.U.S.N. (Australasian United Steam Navigation) Company steamer Arawatta]
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

As an example, in April 1907 the crew of the Wimmera numbered some 73 members. From her master to her cadet mess room steward the total monthly wages paid to her crew at that time amounted to £495 and 10 shillings. The following table provides a breakdown of her officers and crew, the numbers of each together with their respective monthly wage.

NB: In this same year (1907) Justice Henry Bournes Higgins of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, delivered a judgement (known as the Harvester Judgement) which set out the minimum weekly wage for unskilled labourers, based on what was fair and reasonable. That wage, to cover food, shelter and clothing for a (male) worker and his family was set at £2 2s per week.

Crew and Wages 1907 (together with approximate value in 2017*)

NumberPositionMonthly Wage2017 AU$ value
1Master (Captain Wyllie)£34AU$5008
1Assistant Purser£5AU$736
1Chief Officer£17AU$2504
1Second Officer£14AU$2062
1Third Officer£11AU$1620
1Lamptrimmer£7 10sAU$1104
10Able Seamen£6 10sAU$957
1Officers’ Steward£3AU$441
1Chief Engineer£25AU$3682
1Second Engineer£18AU$2651
1Third Engineer£15AU$2209
1Fourth Engineer£12AU$1767
1Donkeyman£9  0AU$1325
11Fireman£8  0AU$1178
6Trimmer£6 10sAU$957
1Chief Steward£12AU$1767
1Second Steward£7AU$1031
1Assistant Pantryman£4AU$589
1Chief Saloon Waiter£5 10sAU$810
3Saloon Waiters£5AU$736
4Bedroom Stewards£5AU$736
1Forecabin Steward£6AU$883
2Assistant Forecabin Stewards£3AU$441
1Bathroom Steward£4AU$589
1Main Deck Steward£4AU$589
1Smoke Room Steward£5AU$736
1Mess Room Steward£4AU$589
1Assistant Mess Room Steward£2AU$294
2Cadet£1 10sAU$220
1Chief Cook£12AU$1767
1Second Cook£7AU$1031
1Third Cook£4AU$589
1Saloon Stewardess£3  10sAU$515
1Assistant Saloon Stewardess£3AU$441
1Forecabin Stewardess£3AU$441

* Based on the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Pre-Decimal Inflation Calculator.

Articles of Agreement

The members of the Wimmera‘s crew were not employed as full-time staff by Huddart Parker. They were essentially casual labour and had to sign up for a specific period or voyages. Literally they had to sign the ship’s articles of agreement which contracted them to serve in a particular capacity, eg: fireman or 1st grade steward, for a particular amount of wages (subject to any Awards), and agreeing to be orderly, faithful, honest and sober in conduct, to be diligent in their duties and obedient to any lawful commands. A scale of provisions to be served to crew members also formed part of the agreement.

Crew members relaxing aboard ship
[Crew members relaxing aboard ship]
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

Among others, each agreement required the following particulars (as appropriate) to be entered:

  • Signature of crew member
  • Age
  • Nationality (or if British their birthplace)
  • Port of Engagement / Home address
  • Ship on which they last served and year of discharge
  • Date and Place of signing of the agreement
  • In what capacity engaged
  • No. of certificate
  • Date and hour at which to be on board
  • Amount of wages per week or calendar month
  • Particulars of discharge, ie. Date and Place
  • Signature and date of release from the agreement

Members of the Wimmera‘s crew could continue to sign subsequent agreements to serve aboard the ship or else they could be discharged or released and be free to sign up on another ship of the Huddart Parker fleet or with another shipping company. This gave some flexibility to the crew members but not guaranteed continued employment. If a member of crew did not show up as required before sailing time, a replacement could be sought to sign up and undertake the intended voyage.

As witness to the listed signatures within the Articles the master would then also sign and date the agreement.

At the end of each voyage or period of agreement the crew member would be issued with a Certificate of Discharge. This would give details of the voyage undertaken together with a rating of his character for both conduct and ability. The crew member could then use this as both evidence of employment and a reference for future agreements.

An example of a crew member's discharge certificate
An example of a crew member’s discharge certificate, in this case for E. C. (Edward Cornelius) Davis, an Ordinary Seaman employed aboard the Huddart Parker steamer Ulimaroa, from 31 December 1914 to 25 January 1915, beginning and ending in Sydney. The master of the Ulimaroa on this occasion was Captain W. J. Wyllie.

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021