Lost at Sea - The M.V. Holmglen

Lost at sea some twenty miles off the coast near Timaru on the night of 24th November 1959

Memorial at last to Holmglen crew
By Jeff Tollan - The Timaru Herald 4/5/2010

The 15 crew of the ill-fated Holmglen died when the ship sank off the coast of Timaru. Only three bodies were recovered. Victims of the sinking of the coastal vessel Holmglen off Timaru 50 years ago will have their names cast in metal and be remembered again. The 15 crew died when the newest of the Holm and Company fleet sank on November 24, 1959. Only three bodies were recovered. The 484-ton ship was steaming to Wellington from Oamaru when it sank in about 55 metres. The cause of the sinking has never been established and it remains one of New Zealand's maritime mysteries. Now a memorial to the crew of the Holmglen is being planned for Patiti Point. The idea was sparked after Timaru woman Noeline Irving spoke to a family friend visiting the district. "He had a relative on the ship and he has been coming down to Timaru on occasions and wanted to know why there was no monument," Mrs Irving said. Work towards a monument has gathered speed since Wednesday and Mrs Irving, together with the South Canterbury Historical Society, has launched an appeal to track down the victims' surviving family members. Society president Ray Bennett said the aim was to unveil the monument on October 17, Seafarers Day, and he hoped to have relatives of the victims there for the occasion. Since the society began planning on Wednesday, a boulder has been donated, a builder has offered to donate his time and a plaque has been arranged at cost-price by a Christchurch firm. "It will have the names of all those who were drowned and an acknowledgment of the fishing boats and navy vessels that went out in the search." While the Holmglen was a regular visitor to Timaru, Mr Bennett said one reason the crew had no memorial was because the ship did not stop in Timaru on its ill-fated voyage. "The Holmglen was out at sea, going from one port to another, not from Timaru. It didn't seem to have the same sort of proximity as the other shipwrecks in Timaru." But he said the Holmglen's sinking was the most deadly on the South Canterbury coast and Patiti Point was the most fitting site for the memorial. "It's a shipwreck with more loss of life than any shipwreck in Timaru. However, it wasn't in South Canterbury per se, but if you go to Patiti Point you can see the area of sea where the ship sank."

Saddest of all epitaphs for a gallant ship is that of the 'missing.'

29 Nov. 2010  another photo
Lost at sea with all hands 23/24 November 1959
40KM east of Timaru
Unveiled by the Mayor, Janie Annear.
Dedicated by the Rev. Indea Alexander, Vicar of St. Mary's, Timaru 17 October 2010.

Holmglen lifeboat going back to Holland after sale on TradeMe
Timaru Herald 8/2/2008
A lifeboat from a coastal trader which sank off Timaru almost 50 years ago is about to head half way around the world -- back to where it was built. The M.V. Holmglen sank 35km south east of Timaru on November 24, 1959, with the loss of all 15 crew. Three days later the empty lifeboat was found. Wreckage and two bodies were also located. Even though the vessel was discovered in about 30 fathoms of water, a court of inquiry was unable to establish the cause of the tragedy. The lifeboat went on to serve as a hanging table in a Wellington restaurant for 20 years before being put up for sale on the TradeMe site. Dirk Meijers, a biology teacher at the Zuyderzee College of Emmeloord spotted the lifeboat. He decided it would be the perfect craft for students to use as a practice sloop and for rowing competitions. He plans to fully restore it. A memorial plaque to the men who lost their lives on the Holmglen, will be placed in the lifeboat by the college's rowing club. The lifeboat begins her journey back to the Netherlands tomorrow when the transport company Opzeeland Transport Ltd picks her up for the Wellington's Portside Bar and takes her to Tauranga. A week later the lifeboat will be loaded on to the Dutch vessel the Emmagracht for the trip to the Netherlands. Both companies are freighting the lifeboat at no cost to the school. A special ceremony will be held at the Timaru Cemetery later this month in which the Dutch Consul will lay a wreath to remember those who died in the Holmglen sinking. [The life boat was renamed Te Maru.] 


The Holmglen was only three years old and was not overloaded. A Mayday signal and a rushed radio message − which reported that the ship was heeling heavily to port − were received on shore, but searchers found no sign of the vessel except for a large oil slick and floating debris. The weather at the time was poor but should not have troubled a vessel of that size. The court said the need for inflatable life rafts, in addition to one or both of the Holmglen's boats, became apparent throughout the hearing. The court said lives might have been saved if these type of rafts had been carried, and recommended to the Minister of Marine that the shipping life-saving appliances rules should be amended to provide that inflatable life rafts be made compulsory for cargo vessels.

At 9.35 p.m. advice of the Holmglen's distress call was received by the Timaru harbour-master, Captain F. J. Callan, who directed the Search and Rescue operations. The first vessels to respond were the naval survey launches Tarapunga and Takapau which cleared harbour at 10.30 p.m., followed about an hour later by the fishing vessels Seafarer and Moray Rose. By early morning a further 17 fishing vessels had joined in the search. They were the Craigewan, Norseman, Kaio, Heather, Kelvin, Margaret, Rimu, Rambler, Stella, Dauntless, Nella, Bar-K-Lyn, Souvenir, Miss Te Maru, Susan, Ajax and Sutton Mac. All shipping in the vicinity was advised by radio that the Holmglen was in distress and the motor vessel Holmburn, then off Akaroa en route to Timaru, proceeded with all possible speed to the position given but owing to sea and weather conditions could not make better than seven knots.

Remembrance Service

23 February 2008 Timaru Cemetery (Row 51- side by side)
Gravesite of: Sydney Victor McKenzie (age 26) (born 7 July 1933, Nairn, Scotland) (of Glasgow) and James McEwan (Timaru) (age 62) (b. 1897)
Opening: Gowan McLeod, member of the Timaru Highland Pipe Band performs "Flower of Scotland" while dignitaries and visitors gather
Welcome:  Gowan McLeod, piper, "Sailing"
Mr DE Quested, Netherlands Consul of Christchurch, pays tribute on behalf of the Zuyderzee College Rowing Club
Councillor R. Bennett for Timaru speaks on the Holmglen disaster.
Mr Martin van Urk, Echo Radio Board Member, places wreath on behalf of Zuyderzee Roeiers.
Gowan McLeod, piper, performs "Amazing Grace" to end the service.

On 7.30 p.m. on Friday, November 27, 1959 the motor vessel Karu, picked up the overturned lifeboat from the Holmglen, 26 miles north-east of Timaru. There were no occupants in the lifeboat. On Saturday, the fishing vessel Norseman found a body about four miles south-east of where the lifeboat was found by the Karu. This was later identified as that of Wilfred Henry Harding (of Mangakino) was buried in Greymouth.

Another life lost 49 years later in 2008.

Holm window

Holm window. Photo taken 3 Dec. 2010.
New Zealand designed and executed.

In 1970, the Holm Window, over the three doors leading to the cathedral's refectory, St Paul's Cathedral, Wellington was installed. Designed by Beverley Shore Bennett, a leading New Zealand stained-glass artist, and made by Roy Miller of Dunedin. St Paul, the patron saint of the cathedral, is shown in the centre at the top of the window; the stars of the Southern Cross and the Holm Shipping Company flag are at the top, left. The three ships represent stages in the development of the Company. The Holmglen was the newest vessel in the  Holm Shipping Company fleet  - the lifeboat was probably returned to the company in Wellington before being used as a focal point in a Wellington restaurant. Beverley produced designs for Miller Studios from 1969 until the studio closed in 1988. In 1969 Roy Miller executed a window for a new designer Beverley Shore Bennett. He then did about 120 windows using her designs over the next decade. When Roy retired, Beverley worked with glass craftsman, Paul Hutchins, at Miller Studios, producing another 80 church windows, until their glass department closed in 1988.Beverley also worked with an originally English glass artist living in Toronto, Stephen Belanger-Taylor. Many significant window commissions, including the “I am the bread of life” window for Wellington’s Lady Chapel Cathedral, were completed by “mail order” across the Pacific before the Canadians moved permanently to Geraldine, NZ.

Roy Miller Roy Miller came from a family of artists and craftstmen. His grandfather Henry Miller was a Master Coachbuilder whose handsome-cabs won several championship awards at the Melbourne Exhibition. Roy’s father Oswell set the standard of signwriting in Dunedin with his firm O G Miller which started in 1913, became Miller Studios in 1958, then in 2016 was rebranded Miller Creative Group.  Miller Studios closed the glass department in 1988 following a recession and consequent drop in orders from churches. Roy started working with his father as a signwriter after leaving primary school in the days when paint was mixed each morning from powder. Acid etching on glass was a large part of the work in those days and Roy spent a large part of his time with this work. A progressive change came when the design work for Roy’s stained glass windows was done by Frederick Ellis A.R.C.A.of Wellington who produced designs from 1948 – 1961. Then to match competition from the English Studios Roy used designs from Kenneth Bunton (from 1959 – 1969) who lived in England.  Capturing Light: Roy Miller – New Zealand Stained Glass Artist. Published by Lifelogs Ltd. Oct. 2016. ODT ODT

Timaru Fishermen's Association Memorial Marine Parade, Timaru

There is another sailors memorial in Timaru, it is at the end of Marine Parade tucked in behind the Yacht Club building, a very private and a lovely place to sit.

Timaru Fishermen's Assn. 6th March 2005.
Est. 2004 by Timaru Fishermen.
The sea that gives us so much pleasure can also cause so much pain.
In memory of Timaru fishermen who lost their lives at sea.

Benvenue Cliffs. Photo taken 27 Aug. 2010, by M.  Photo taken 27 Aug. 2010, by M. The Dashing Rocks - the freezing works in the background. Photo taken 27 Aug. 2010, by M.

Another name will be added. Photo taken 25 Nov. 2011.

24 Nov. 2011. Timaru Herald  Peter Hunter, 58, a commercial fisherman was reported missing at 11pm last night when he failed to return from a day's trawling on his vessel the Journeyman. His body was found in the water nine nautical miles off the coast of Timaru by the crew of the Sanford trawler the Ikawai shortly before 11am. He was wearing a life jacket. A life ring was found nearby, but there was no sign of the life raft the 10 metre steel-hulled trawler was carrying. Around a dozen fishing boats and two planes had been searching for Hunter.  The last contact with him was around midday when he sent a text message indicating he was heading back to port.  Hopes had been raised this morning that he had made it into a life raft. Hunter was from a long established Timaru fishing family. He was from Pleasant Point.

25/11/2011 Timaru Herald
A rock near the North Mole has stood since 2005 in honour of Timaru fisherman who have died. A plaque on it reads: "The sea that gives us so much pleasure can also cause so much pain." The memorial was established by Timaru fishermen in 2004 at the instigation of Gordon Mitchell, and unveiled at a blessing attended by at least 200 people on March 5, 2005. Mr Mitchell decided to do something after his brother-in-law Bryon "Hec" Low died in March 2004. Searchers found the experienced 44-year-old's fishing boat Diane idling in water about four nautical miles south of Patiti Pt with no-one on board. An investigation concluded that the lack of any distress message by Mr Low indicated he was probably lost overboard after a sudden catastrophic event that prevented him from accessing communications equipment. Mr Mitchell told The Timaru Herald at the time that it was important to have something tangible because in many cases the bodies had not been found and the memorial would be a place for people to go to remember them. Plaques on the memorial, which is on the seaward side of the Timaru Yacht and Power Boat Club, acknowledges Mr Low, as well as Mr Mitchell's brother, Brian.
The memorial also has the names of seven other men.

Timaru fishermen who have lost their lives
Byron Robert Hector Low (Hec), 44, was lost at sea on March 6, 2004.
David Hartley Laurie (Dave), 41, was lost off the Oamaru coast on February 28, 1993.
Campbell Nicol (Whale), 33, drowned on March 26, 1992.
Christopher James (Chris) McCarthy, 35, and Patrick Joseph McCarthy, 25, died in an accident at Motunau Beach on October 9, 1986.
Brian Philip Mitchell (Herk), 29, was lost at sea on June 9, 1983.
Ross Neil Baird, 29, was lost at sea on November 7, 1981.
Robert E Beaumont (Bob), 32, drowned at Akaroa on April 4, 1981.
James William Odey (Jimmy), 23, was lost at sea on May 27, 1966

Press, 16 June 1896, Page 6
This morning a diver made a thorough examination of the bottom of the steamer Herald, which grazed on the outer edge of the Patiti Reef when entering Timaru on Thursday morning, and found three slight dents on the bilge, abreast of the fore hatch on the port side.

Thames Star, 17 December 1904, Page 2
Heavy Squall at Timaru.
Yesterday a heavy squall with rain came on. The squall struck a couple of fishing boats in the roadstead. One was a good sized sailing boat and the other a small open boat with mast. The larger boat occupied by Christopher Gruhn (age 60) and Harry Harris, fishermen, was driven, ashore and struck the Patiti reef a few hundred yards from the beach. Gruhn sprang overboard, but Harris sat fast and cut away the mast, and the boat drifted. Gruhn struggled a long time in the water, Efforts were made from the shore to save him, but he sank. After some time a boat, from the harbour, about a mile away came and rescued Harris uninjured. Attempts to find Gruhn's body were not successful. The other boat, which was quite unfit to the heavy weather, contained a Scandinavian and a water man named Mills. Nothing, has been seen of them. An oil launch went out and searched till dark, and the search will be continued at daylight. Grave doubts are entertained as to the safety of the missing party.

Evening Post, 31 July 1911, Page 8

PICKED UP IN TORY CHANNEL. BLENHEIM, This Day. On Friday afternoon Mr. C. Kenny, who lives on the shores of Tory Channel, picked tip on the beach a bottle containing the following message, addressed to a Timaru resident, Mr. G. T. Johnston :-—"Boat capsized three miles from Timaru." The discovery was reported to the harbourmaster at Timaru, who replies :— "Circumstances correct. Preserve message."

Evening Post, 2 August 1911, Page 8
On Saturday last Captain Tait, the harbourmaster at Timaru, received a telegram stating that a bottle had been picked up in Tory Channel, Cook Strait, containing a message to Mills, Church-street, Timaru, from T. Johnstone (age 22). The message says : "Boat capsized three miles from Timaru, farewell message to Lily." The date is indistinct, but apparently 19th November or March. This communication [says the Herald) recalls one, of Timaru's bad days, Anniversary Day, December, 1904, when four lived were lost by drowning, Christopher Gruhn, a fisherman, was drowned off Patiti Point, within sight of a number of people on shore. The boat he was in stuck the reef and half filled, and he jumped out to swim ashore. His companion Harris remained in the boat and was rescued. The other three deaths were those of a young man named Johnston, who was employed on the coal hulk, and two lads, sons of Mr Ellis Mills, John aged 16, and Cecil aged 14. These three went for a sail on the holiday in the little dinghy belonging to the hulk. First they were driven seaward by a stiff nor'-wester, and then a fierce southerly blew up (the cause of Gruhn's disaster), and they were lost sight of and never afterwards seen. Johnston was engaged to Lily, a, daughter of Mills, father of the two lads drowned.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

Another death