# 34682

GIBSON, Lavinia (née Featherstone) (1823-1888)

Commonplace book of Lavinia Gibson (Featherstone), wife of Hugh Gibson of Glenample Station, southwest Victoria, containing important ephemera relating to the Loch Ard shipwreck, including the earliest known eyewitness sketch of the disaster scene (by F. H. Bruford, customs officer) and an autograph signed note by Eva Carmichael (Townshend), one of the only two survivors.

$25,000.00 AUD

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Small quarto album (235 x 190 mm), original binding of embossed burgundy morocco ruled in gilt (boards a trifle scuffed), spine decorated in gilt; all edges gilt; marbled endpapers; first blank with a gift inscription to Lavinia Featherstone (later Gibson) from Annabella Helen Gibson (later Sloane), her future sister-in-law, dated 1 January 1855: ‘Give me as token of affection / Some passing thought, some recollection / On which to muse in future years / A Talisman for smiles or tears: / Smiles shoulds’t thou live and happy be, / Tears o’er thy grief or memory’ (at the time Annabella wrote this dedication, both young women were engaged and were shortly to depart for Port Phillip, where they would marry their respective husbands); approximately [100] pp, filled with manuscript entries (mostly poems dedicated to Lavinia by her friends and family), pasted-in ephemera (mourning cards, newspaper cuttings including obituaries, death notices and articles relating to family and acquaintances in Victoria, England and Scotland), portrait photographs of Lavinia Gibson, her husband Hugh Hamilton Gibson, Hugh’s sister Annabella Helen Sloane (the latter two added from another family album, loosely inserted) and her husband Alexander Sloane, several pencil sketches (including a coastal view at Glenample dated 1871), and pressed botanical specimens; the earliest entries date from 1855, just prior to Lavinia’s departure from England for Port Phillip. The single-most important item – one of enormous historical significance, and never before published – is a pencil sketch of the Loch Ard shipwreck, drawn directly onto a page in Lavinia’s album by the Customs Officer Frederick Horatio Bruford (1846-1920), who had been dispatched from Warrnambool to investigate the wreck and take charge of any salvageable cargo; signed and dated June 1878, the drawing is undoubtedly the earliest eyewitness view of the scene, and it shows the flotsam and jetsam still floating in the water around the wreck in the gorge. Bruford, an accomplished marine artist, would later produce a large oil painting, The Scene of the Wreck of the Loch Ard (Warrnambool Art Gallery). In 1887 Hugh and Lavinia Gibson left Glenample to live with Hugh’s sister, Annabella, and her husband Alexander Sloane, owner of Mulwala and Savernake Stations on the River Murray. On Lavinia’s death in March 1888, her commonplace album passed into the possession of Annabella, who continued to add to it – starting with Lavinia’s own obituary. An autograph note signed by Loch Ard survivor Eva Townshend (formerly Carmichael), sent from England to Hugh Gibson in Mulwala at Christmas, 1907, reads: ‘We do not forget you, and we were very glad to hear that you were well, from Eva Townshend’. (Hugh and Lavinia had helped Eva to recuperate at Glenample after her rescue from the shipwreck – see below). Accompanying this note is a signed photograph of Professor Walter Skeat and his wife Bertha, whose brother Reginald Jones drowned in the Loch Ard. The Skeats also added their best wishes to Hugh Gibson on Eva’s note. This is remarkable evidence that three decades on from the Loch Ard tragedy, the trauma of that event could still bring together a survivor, a rescuer and a bereaved family member. (Eva, who died in 1934, also kept up a lifetime correspondence with Jane Shields, who had been a companion to her at Glenample while she was being cared for by Lavinia Gibson). Condition: Lavinia’s album – the entire contents as well as the binding – have been extremely well preserved, with only some occasional (but insignificant) spotting to the leaves.



The wreck of the Loch Ard was one of the most infamous events in Australia’s maritime history, and the story quickly entered Australian folklore. On 1 June 1878, en route from England to Melbourne, the Loch Ard was wrecked on rocks in a storm off Victoria’s southwest coast. Of the 17 crew and 37 passengers, there were only two survivors: young apprentice crewman Tom Pearce and 18-year old Eva Carmichael, whose family all drowned in the catastrophe. Pearce brought Eva ashore and sheltered her in a cave, reviving her with whiskey found amongst items washed up from the wreck. He climbed the cliffs and came across two riders from Glenample Station. Hugh Hamilton Gibson and his wife Lavinia took Pearce and Eva in at their Glenample homestead; Eva remained in Lavinia’s care for about six weeks while she slowly recovered, both physically and emotionally, from her ordeal. Pearce was awarded a medal and a financial reward for saving Eva from the heavy surf after she had stayed alive by clinging to one of the ship’s spars for several hours. After returning to England, Eva would marry a relative of one of the young men who drowned in the Loch Ard, G. Arthur Townshend Mitchell.



Lavinia was born in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, in 1830, and died at Mulwala, in the New South Wales Riverina, in 1888. She married Hugh Hamilton Gibson (1829-1911) at All Saints, St. Kilda (Melbourne) on 4 December 1855. Hugh and his brothers, James and Thomas, had all emigrated to Port Phillip from Ayrshire between 1847 and 1852. The Gibson boys’ sister, Annabella Helen, married Scotsman Alexander Sloane (1829-1907) – who had met and befriended her brother Hugh on a return visit to Scotland from Port Phillip in 1854 – at All Saints, St. Kilda, on 20 March 1856.

In Port Phillip, Hugh Gibson became a squatter in the Western District, initially taking up 3000 acres of land near Mortlake. This run, named Myrnong, later became Shadwell Park Estate. In 1862, in partnership with Peter McArthur, he took up land near Port Campbell, on which he built Glenample homestead, a magnificent Georgian-style sandstone residence, in 1869. The Gibsons had no children.

Alexander Sloane was, like his brother-in-law Hugh Gibson, a very successful grazier. He established Mulwala and Savernake Stations on the River Murray, where he lived with Annabella for many decades. The couple had 11 children.

When Hugh Gibson sold Glenample in 1887, he and Lavinia went to live with the Sloanes at Mulwala. Not long after their move, however, Lavinia died at Mulwala, on 20 March 1888.


Provenance: Lavinia Gibson (née Featherstone, 1823-1888), Glenample (later Mulwala Station); Annabella Helen Sloane (née Gibson, 1836-1920), Mulwala Station; thence by descent though the Sloane family.