Yesterday, the Brisbane Times reported a “200-year old watch that was salvaged from the body of a shipwreck victim will be auctioned next week.” The pocket watch, made by famed Irish watchmaker James McCabe in 1811, was found in the waistband of Rebecca Carmichael’s dress as she was being buried. Carmichael was killed when the clipper Loch Ard ran aground on the Otway coast of Victoria on May 31, 1878.
The watch was given to her daughter, Eva, one of only two survivors and has remained in the family ever since. Eva’s grandson, 94-year old Robert Townshend, has put the family heirloom up for auction. Apparently, the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village has shown “strong interest” in buying the shipwreck timepiece. The Village already exhibits the only other artifact known to have survived the Lord Ard wreck, a $4 million dollar peacock. Peter Abbott, the Village’s executive director, is unequivocal about the watch’s importance: “The peacock and the watch make up the two most significant shipwreck artifacts in Australia.” Let’s hope they post the winning bid. (As an aside: Flagstaff looks like an amazing museum–I hope to visit someday!)