Very little has been published about those who were lost, but they too had a story to tell. The obsession with gold masks the true stories behind this tragic event. To the best of my ability I will attempt to bring a few of these stories to life.

Cabin Class

Alexander Morinini & Amelia Morinini

Alexander was born in Gordola, Ticino, Switzerland, as  Alessandro Morinini.

His parents were Andrea Morinini and Domenica Fabretti.

How or why he emigrated to Australia I have yet to find out.

The first I find of him is in 1862 when he married Ann (Annie) Heasman, at Castlemaine Victoria.

Annie's parents were William Heasman and Jane Heasman. They were married in St Dunstan, Stepney. London on 18th July 1836.

They had the following children:

Jana Elizabeth Heasman 1838

Ann Amelia Heasman 1840 (died before family left England)

The family emigrated to Victoria, Australia on the ship 'Alexander' which left Plymouth on 30 August 1841, and arrived at Port Phillip 27 December 1841.

On arrival the family are listed as

William Haisman 25 Carpenter

Jane 22

Jane 3

Mary Ann 7 weeks. (born on voyage)

They later had

William Richard No date of birth Baptised 16 Sept 1846

Ann Amelia No date of birth Baptised 16 Sept 1846

Rachel Baptised Victoria 1848

Amelia born 18 Mar 1851.

At Annie's wedding to Alexander her father is listed as dead, (believed to be 1867) and Mother Jane as remarried to Ebernezer Bransgrove who arrived in Sydney in 1855.

Why Alexander Morinini and his young daughter were travelling on the General Grant to England is not yet known, sadly they both perished when the longboat foundered leaving the sinking ship.

Alexander's wife Annie went to New Zealand in 1865 and married a butcher John or Thomas Richings. They had two children Thomas Richings (1872-1958) and Lily Richings (1874-1917) both born in Blenheim.

Annie died aged 84. Her daughter Lily (Married Name Oates) is burried in the same grave as her mother.

I hope to find out more !

Mr & Mrs Ray

Mr & Mrs Ray Lost their lives when the 'General Grant' was wrecked.

Mr William & Mrs May Ann Ray arrived in Australia in October 1853 aboard the 'Standard' from London, with them was his brother John his wife Elizabeth (Betsy) and their children Mary (3) and son William (2) John was a Mason by trade. 

The family came from Cumberland, John the eldest being born in Carlisle (1820) and William (1822) in Stanwix. Their Parents were John and Ann Ray. In the 1851 census William is shown living with his mother Ann (68) at 88 Ellersby St, and his brother John and his family at No 86.

As yet I have found no more details of Father John and Mother Ann. I think it maybe possible that mother Ann died and the family decided to move to Australia.

Mr William Ray was a Carpenter/Builder, but ran a business as a publican in until 1858, when he built the Corio Hotel at Goolwa, and there resided until his departure from Australia.



Drawing of the Corio Hotel by kind permission of the artist Gary Bell (see note 2 below)

His hotel was well known as one of the best conducted in the south, and was much respected by all the residents in the district. The hotel still operates to this day,

William took an active part in most of the activities in his, and was instrumental in the formation, in 1859, of the Goolwa Company of Rifle Volunteers, in which he held the rank of Lieutenant.

Mr & Mrs Ray had no relatives in the colony; but it is claimed that they had an only child, who was left behind on medical advice when they sailed to Australia.(I have not as yet found any record of this child). Mr Ray by care and attention to his business secured for himself a moderate independence; and believe his intention in visiting England was to return after a short time bringing his son with him.

In August 1868, probate of his will was granted by the Supreme Court, on the assumption that there could be little doubt of his and his wife's death.

To be continued - more information soon


1. By some strange twist of fate the hotel had been named after the SS. Corio which foundered off the coast a few years before.

2 Gary Bell produces high quality pictures of Hotels and Bars in South Australia and Victoria see his web site at 

Elizabeth Oat (Nee Keith) & daughters Mary,Roxamina, Ada and Lizzie

Elizabeth Allen Keith was born on 24th July 1832, the second youngest of eight children. Her parents were James Keith 1800-1843, and his wife Mary nee Smith 1796-1848. They lived in the High Street, Arbroath. 
Angus. Scotland.

James Keith was by trade a Tinplate worker and gasfitter, and was head of a family of 12, himself his wife Mary the eight children, his 80 year old father George, and his younger brother John 35.

On the 17th September 1843 disaster struck the family when James drowned whilst swimming at Broughty Ferry. 

The family business passed to his eldest son George who was at the time just 19 years old. A heavy responsibility for a young lad.

By 1851, father George must have passed on as Elizabeth is listed as living in High Street Arbroath, with her 25 year old brother James. And 17 years old sister Mary. 

By this time eldest brother George is now an Ironmonger and master plumber, and has begun to build a substantial business employing 10 men and 6 boys.

In 1855 Elizabeth takes a very bold step, leaving behind her family she boards the 'Nabob' bound for Sydney. Australia. On the passenger list she is recorded as being a Housemaid and Child Nurse. The ship arrived in Botany Bay on 2nd February 1855. Elizabeth is never to see her family again.

In 1856 she marries William Barber Oat at Sandridge later to become Port Melbourne.
William is believed to have been born in Anstruther Scotland in 1817, I will follow this up later. He certainly arrived in Melbourne on 3rd August 1853 aboard the "Gem of the Seas"
Their first child Elizabeth Barber Oat was born the same year at Nott Street but dies before the age of two. In the electoral roll William is listed as an Innkeeper and has the leasehold on the property. A second daughter Victoria Adelaide is born in 1858 at Sandridge. The following year a third daughter Mary Keith is born, but sadly Victoria Adalaide dies. Sandgate was notorious for being very marshy land with a large stagnant lake. Slaughter house effluent and many other noxious substances drained into it with an extremely malodorous result. This possibly contributed to the demise of the two little girls.

The gold rush in Victoria was in full swing at this time and the family moved to Inglewood; a thriving 50,000 strong community based around some of the richest quartz reefs in the 
colony, earning the nickname "City in the Scrub". Roxamina is born here in 1861.

Situated 200km north west of Melbourne the town is just 800 strong today, a far cry from the time of William and Elizabeth Oat.

In 1863 the family move once more this time to Bealiba (Previously Cochran's Creek). The sole hotel built in 
1857 still stands and it is highly likely that William worked as a publican there.

Picture to follow shortly

Bealiba Hotel as it is today 

In 1864 the family move back to Sandridge. Melbourne and their last child Elizabeth is born.

Sandridge Pier

On the 4th May 1866, Elizabeth and their four daughters board the "General Grant" on route to London. Presumably to take the children home to meet the family. 

At home in Scotland her brothers flourish with their engineering businesses.

Five months  after the "General Grants" departure and presumably before news of the ships loss is known, William appears in the Victorian Government Gazette Friday October 26th 1866 issue 119 page 2332 for the registration of a Patent, as follows:

No 964. William Barber Oat, of Melbourne, publican, for "An invention of improvements in the construction of Hives for Bees" 16th October 1866.

On the morning of the 14th May 1868 Elizabeth and her four daughters were loaded in the final lifeboat which was heavily over laden with approximately 40 personnel on board.  How terrified they must have been with others panicking and the heavy breakers threatening to sink her. Their only hope lay in the other two lifeboats taking off some of the survivors. But this was not to be, before they could reach them the lifeboat overturned and spilled the hapless passengers into the sea, where they all fought for their own survival. The noble Elizabeth Oat was last seen slipping beneath the waves with a child under each arm. Fighting to the last to save her children. 

Alas in vain.

It is not clear when the loss of the "General Grant" was first reported in Australia, but the survivors landed in Bluff. New Zealand, and news soon travelled around the country and on to Australia.

The next we hear of William Oat is in September 1868, when he once again lodges a Patent application as follows;

No 1158. William Barber Oat, of Melbourne, publican, for "An invention of improvements in the construction of Hives for Bees" 21st September 1868.

The widowed William Oat (51) marries a Louisa Girdler Chester (22) in 1868 in Melbourne. Louisa was born in New Jersey USA and arrived in Melbourne aboard he "Alipore" along with her parents and 3 siblings at the age of seven. Her father was a painter and they lived at Webb Street. Fitzroy. Melbourne.

William does not appear to have fare well for  on the 4th of September 1872 he is listed in the Victorian Gazette once more but this time for Insolvency.

The last we hear of him is once again in the Gazette where he is listed as applying for unconditional discharge, pursuant to the provisions of Insolvency Statute 1871. So things must have improved for him.

As for Elizabeth and her four daughters there is one last and continuing memory of them and their awful fate.
In the grounds of Arbroath Abbey stands a fine memorial stone which originally stood at plot 1400, and has now been moved to a position adjacent to the old gated entrance.



 It bears the following inscription:


Photographs by Barrie Montgomery 



Arbroath Abbey


Reverend Paul Sarda

Little is known about the Reverend Paul Sarda, but I have recently found this article which may be of interest. It is sad to realise that only six weeks after this event he was to meet his fate off the Auckland Islands.



Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXII, Issue 2713, 28 March 1866, Page 5


The new Church of St. Francis of Sales at the Catholic cemetery was the scene of a most imposing ceremony on last Sunday. This church, which was crowded with a pious congregation, was blessed on that day by the Eight Rev. Dr. Pompallier, the beloved Bishop of Auckland, The main part of the blessing consisted in the procession, which formed in the sacristy, and proceeded through the nave to the front-door, where his Lordship, Tested in cope and mitre, chanted the usual prayers. The procession then advanced around the church, and, entering by the main door, approached the altar, where the blessing closed. The Bishop was assisted by the Very Rev. Walter McDonald, Private Secretary, who acted at Master of Ceremonies ; and by the Rev. Paul Sarda, as Deacon. The Rev. James A. Norris, who acted as tub-deacon, was cross-bearer. A number of sanctuary children, two-deep, joined in the procession. Immediately after, the palms were solemnly blessed by his Lordship, the Rev. James A. Norris singing the Epistle, and the Rev. Paul Sarda the Gospel peculiar to Palm-Sunday, the faithful received the blessed palms from the Bishop ; after which the solemn pontifical high mass commenced. The assistant-priest was the Very Rev. Walter McDonald, Private Secretary; Deacon, the Rev. Paul Sarda; and the Rev. J. A. Norris, Sub-deacon. After the Gospel a most touching and eloquent discourse was preached by his Lordship, who, towards the end of mass, pronounced the apostolic benediction. In the evening, at 6 o'clock, Divine service commenced with solemn pontifical vespers, after which hit Lordship gave the benediction of the most holy sacrament. The choir, under the direction of Miss Mary Shanaghan, contributed much to the solemnities of the day. Some very admirable pieces were ably performed. The decoration of the church was carried out with great taste. The altar, the sanctuary, and indeed the whole church presented an air of neatness rarely excelled. Three chandeliers, pendent from the ceiling, tended to heighten the effect. The church was ornamented too with an antependium for the altar, vases of flowers, and other rich decorations by the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of the Holy Family, and by several zealous faithful. This beautiful church, now complete, has been erected from designs, approved by the Bishop, drawn by Mr. Edward Mahoney, architect, Wellington-street. Messrs. Wade and Lynch were the builders. The plans were well executed, and reflect the greatest credit on those gentlemen. The shape of the church is cruciform, and the style is Gothic. A graceful spire towers above the roof, which, on account of the elevation of the site, gives to the building a commanding appearance from Symonds street. A rose window, filled with glass of various colours, occupies the portion of the tower over the organ-loft. The altar, composed entirely of New Zealand wood, is an elegant piece of workmanship. This church forms a useful and ornamental adjunct to the many Catholic churches of this city, and is most creditable to all connected with it. That it has been completed in so satisfactory a manner, and so quickly, is owing particularly to the zealous exertions of the Very Rev. Walter McDonald, private secretary, who was appointed by his Lordship to carry out that good work. It must be, indeed, most gratifying to the good faithful of Newton and its vicinity to see now accomplished the result of their zeal and generous liberality.