The 2nd of June 1958 was to be Gayundah’s last day afloat. Having been purchased by the Redcliffe Town Council, she was towed to Woody Point (at the Redcliffe Peninsula, north of Brisbane) where she was scuttled at the base of the cliffs, to serve as a breakwater to reduce cliff erosion.
The event was recorded in the Brisbane newspapers:
The Brisbane Courier. 3 June 1958
“Pride of the State is sunk.”
Redcliffe:- a gunboat that was once the pride of Queensland’s Navy was sunk last night to act as a breakwater at Woody Point.
The ship GAYUNDAH was the flagship of the Queensland Navy in 1885. She was one of two gunboats in the state at the time. Because the sea has been eroding a 60ft. high cliff at Picnic Point, the Redcliffe Town Council decided to sink GAYUNDAH at the base of the cliff.
SUNK at 10p.m.
Council workmen dug five feet excavations at the base of the cliff yesterday afternoon when the tide was out. The hulk was towed from Brisbane and was filled with water to sink it in the excavations at 10p.m. last night. Later the council will fill the hulk with concrete.
GAYUNDAH which had a beam of 115 feet and weighed 360 tons, was built in Scotland in 1884 and arrived Brisbane in 1885. In the First World War she was used as a floating battery in Moreton Bay and then as a minesweeper.
Some years after the war the vessel, which had been in disuse, sank. It was refloated in 1930 and used as a gravel barge.
She was declared unseaworthy last year and was bought from the State Government by the Redcliffe Town Council.
Ironically, her use as a breakwater saw Gayundah continuing in the role for which she was originally built, that of protecting the Queensland coast.
Not all people were in favour of allowing Gayundah to end her days so ignobly:
The Courier Mail, 13 May 1987. Letters to the Editor.
The good ship Gayundah
I refer to your news item and photos (C-M, May 5) about the Gayundah.
As an alderman on the Redcliffe Town Council some 30 years ago, I advocated and attempted, with the help of the Government, to give the Gayundah – Queensland’s first Royal Navy boat – an honourable discharge.
My idea was to stabilise the vessel, in an upright position, fill the bottom of the hull with concrete, then above this base set a dance floor and restaurant on the mid and top decks. This then would become a tourist attraction as well as a lucrative business venture.
Today this could be a viable proposition and at least give Queenslanders a little more pride in their State, rather than displaying a rusting hulk which no-one would wish to see or even write about. – A.R. Black, Maroochydore South.
I must say that Mr Black was wrong in his assessment that no-one would even wish to write about the Gayundah !
You can visit the ship yourself if you are in the area. Just make sure you go at low tide.
As far as stabilising the cliffs, there have also been a number of other vessels (barges) sunk at the same site, but the cliffs continue to be eroded; though perhaps more slowly than without Gayundah‘s protection.
Given time, nature will reclaim the Gayundah. Let us not forget her.