A paddle steamer at Goolwa

The PS Renmark burned at Goolwa on 2nd February 1951, shortly after being refitted as a tourist steamer (according to “Redgum & Paddlewheelers” by Peter J Phillips). Here is a picture from the State Library of South Australia when the PS Renmark was a showboat: –

State Library of South Australia, B50613

According to Trove (The Advertiser, Sat 3 Feb 1951), “The paddle steamer Renmark, valued at £4,500, was burned to the water’s edge about half an hour after about 20 passengers had disembarked from a trip to Point McLeay Mission Station about 5.30p.m. today. The owner (is) Capt. Robin (Bob) Reed*….. the ship, which had just seen refitted, was not covered by insurance. ….. There was nobody aboard when the fire started, and the wharf caught fire before 200 firefighters had the blaze under control about 9 p.m. Units from Port Elliot, Victor Harbor and Goolwa helped to put out the fire in a big stack of timber near the main wharf shed.”

* (Captain Reed is NOT Robin but Robert Baden Powell Reed – Heather Everingham)

The Goolwa wharfHere is another picture of the PS Renmark from the State Library of South Australia: –


According to Trove at (Victor Harbour Times, Fri 14 Jun 1957), “An inspection has been made by a Harbours Board diver of the submerged paddle steamer. Renmark, which is lying near the wharf. The diver’s report will no doubt influence the Board as regards the removal of the Renmark as at present it is an obstruction to river traffic. The diver was assisted by Mr. Dick Woodrow with his boat, The Ida (Ida?). Harbours Board employees ….. have completed the demolition of the wharf from the ferry to the fishing shed. There is now 210 feet of well-conditioned wharf space which includes the re-decking of the portion damaged when the Renmark was burnt out several years ago.”

According to Trove (Times, Victor Harbor, Fri 15 Mar 1991), “(Re the) PS Renmark – ….. In 1912, Goolwa engineer P.W. Richards designed and built the engine for this paddle steamer. Following that time, she has proved the efficiency of his work in long years of cargo carrying and barge towing on the Murray. Mr P.W. Richards left Goolwa, but retired there about 1940. The Renmark came up for sale. He joined with Captain T.C. Goode in buying the Renmark. They laboured unnoticed for six months, converting the paddle steamer from cargo to passenger carrier. Slowly they built her deck, awning and guard rails, cabins, dining room and seating and after the use of much white paint and installing life belts she stood transformed – able to accommodate 200 people. It was during World War II (petrol rationing). Arrangements were made throughout the tourist bureau to run a steam train for passengers, to have a trip on the steamer return. On some trips Red Cross members supplied lunch, proceeds for Red Cross. The Captain was T.C. Goode, Assistant Captain Dave Ritchie, Mr Richards keeping an eye on things, and six crew, mostly retired men. In 1947, Mr Goode became ill and they decided to sell to Captain (Robin) Bob Reed, who ran trips until 1951. The wheel of the Renmark has pride of place in Goolwa Museum. A photo of Captain Good, “At the wheel of the Renmark” taken on one of the trips to Port McLeary, which everyone so enjoyed. It is now 40 years since the PS Renmark, with Mr Richard’s efficient engine, sank and it is pleasing to know that she is now remembered. – Mrs E.B. Growth, Yankalilla”

* (Spelling Mrs Growth is GROTH – Heather Everingham)

A paddle steamer at Goolwa

Paul Burnett says that the Renmark burnt to the waterline and sank (in the lower River Murray) just off of the Goolwa wharf. Paul says that he did a dive on the sunken Renmark around 1976 or 77 as a member of the Underwater Explorers Club of SA. “But diving in the Murray is hopeless with zero visibility …. but we had Mac Lawrie, the salvage diver, with us,” he says. “This guy was gutsy as he went right into the hold and came up with crates of soft drinks and two large searchlights from the vessel. The wreck is about 500 yards from the wharf and was, at the time, in about 12 feet of water. In fact, when snorkelling out to it, you get a scare, because of nil visibility. You end up over a large black hole which was the funnel. Once under, you just let yourself sink and follow the bow down until you hit the mud at the bottom. Not a very pleasant dive! It was, at the time, hausered to the shore by a steel cable.”

A paddle steamer at Goolwa

Paul agrees with Trove and Mrs E.B. Growth from Yankalilla when he says, “From what I have found it was sold to a family and used as a showboat in the late 40’s. It caught fire at the wharf, which spread to wharf buildings, so they moved it away until it burnt to the waterline and sank. This was about 1951 and, unfortunately, the poor guy had no insurance cover and it ruined him.”

The UEC of SA recovered the steering wheel from the Renmark and donated it to the local National Trust museum (according to Peter Christopher in the UEC’s “Let’s Go for a Dive” book, 2004).

(I have since found this photo of the PS Renmark in the paper titled “‘They call ‘im Crowie’: an investigation of the Aboriginal significance attributed to a wrecked River Murray barge in South Australia” by Amy Roberts, Wendy van Duivenvoorde, Michael Morrison, Ian Moat, Heather Burke, Jarrad Kowlessar and John Naumann (Department of Archaeology, Flinders University): –

The caption for the photo reads:

“‘PS Renmark with barges at river landing above Renmark loading cargo’, PRG1258_1_3201, from the Godson Collection. The library catalogue reads: ‘Partly obscured bow and side-view of ‘P.S. Renmark’ above Renmark, with barges loading cargo, and Captain J. Grundy wearing cap, on board ‘Renmark’, other crew shifting cargo with winch. The stern of one barge is in the centre foreground, with helmsman at wheel. The barge on the right is likely to be the ‘Crowie’, and the bow and derrick crane in the foreground is probably the ‘P.S. Wilcannia’. (Photograph courtesy of the State Library of South Australia)”)

By Steve Reynolds & Paul Burnett

By Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

One thought on “The sinking of the PS Renmark (and the recovery of some of its artefacts)”
  1. A Renmarkable Vessel by Jackson Wickham publ 2021 is the most comprehensive and best history of this vessel’s entire existence.
    Captain Reed is NOT Robin but Robert Baden Powell Reed.
    Speilling Mrs Growth is GROTH

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