On Wednesday 24 July 1901, during a breezy, foggy night, the Lizzie Bell barque was totally wrecked on the Waimate Reef, a mile and a half south of the Oeo River in South Taranaki. The ship left Wellington that morning set for Newcastle. From a crew of eighteen, twelve lives were lost. Seven bodies were recovered, with five missing.
When the vessel struck a rock, two crew members fell overboard and were found dead, jammed against the rocks. The rest of the crew escaped in the boats, the largest of which overturned several times. The survivors managed to reach shore the following morning, Captain Reese and chief mate, W.G.E Barrow among them. Two of the crew died in the boat and another two died after making it ashore. The men made their way to the property of Captain Good seeking help. The wreckage of the barque was strewn along the beach.
An inquiry was held in New Plymouth on 30 July 1901, where it was found that the course as stated by the Captain was not steered and the loss of the barque was “occasioned by negligent navigation”.
A memorial to the men lost is at the Lizzie Bell Cemetery at Pihama, South Taranaki.
Luana Paamu, Collections Assistant
Papers Past—Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume VXII, Issue 7261, 25 July 1901.