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Ballina Maritime Museum


SS Protector:  – Fenwick Brothers Ballina

Most famously Tom Fenwick a blunt, strong willed man. Who came to rule the river mouth at Ballina as an operator of tugboats.

SS Pprotector was esigned by James Pashley – South Ballina especially for work on the bar and shallow river mouth

Built in 1884

110 ft long  25ft beam  draught of 8ft

Twin funnel steam driven paddle wheel tug

Used the engines from the Francis Hixson

Dangerous bar: The Fenwick Bros had lost  prior to:  Protector, Comet, Union, Francis Hixson,  William Langford, Sarah Fenwick

Protector had been previously involved in the rescue of the steamer Chingtu for which Cpt Thomas Fenwick had been award a gift by the people and crew recognised for bravery as the rescue took place in mountainous seas.

Two members of this crew were aboard the Protector when she sank:  Messers Walton and Tobiason

None of the Fenwick Bros on board when Protector went down but all the crew were local with families

Crew :  Joseph Lewis (Cpt)

Benjamin Walton (Engineer)

John Vickery (Fireman)

Tobias Tobiason  (Mate)

David Philips ….. (Deckhand)


As the crew were local men caused a great deal of regret and sympathy within the community

Heavy gale and high seas

NCSNC SS Oakland arrived off the bar but initially the Protector could not get out and travelled on to Byron Bay for shelter; Oakland lost a propeller and a request sent to Ballina for Protector to tow her into the Richmond for repair. Under tow by the steamer Macleay with Protector standing by

Early on Monday morning arrived off the bar.  6. am

TS Tomki arrived and attempted to cross in heavy sea, made it across after taking a battering

Protector next to cross. Reached the outer break near the northern breakwater was caught by a wave and broached. Before she could recover struck by a huge sea, over turned and immediately sank without trace with all hands.

Witnesses state that Cpt Lewis and T Tobiason were at the wheel when she went down.

Despite a determined search no trace could be found at the scene apart from a comforter (Cpt Lewis) and some smoking pipes thought to belong to the crew. General consensus was that men could not survive the seas and the possibility existed that they were taken by sharks as many mauled fish were found on the beach while searching.

On Thursday Byron Bay police advised that a leg had been found at Cape Byron. On the foot was a newly soled boot and a woollen sock with black stripes thought to be the remains of Tobias Tobiason. Subsequently some remains believed to have been from the crew found near Tweed Heads.

Subsequently bell found at Lennox Head by spear fishermen who noted glistening object on seafloor

Gary Vidler and Des Mc Donald.

The  ‘Protector’s’ bell is on loan to the Ballina Naval And Maritime Museum (2010).

A reminder that any material from ship wrecks must be reported to authorities.

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Monday - Sunday: 09am ‒ 04pm
7 Days per week
Closed: Christmas & Good Friday

Adults: $5
Children & Students: $2
Children with height under counter top: FREE

Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum
8 Regatta Lane Ballina NSW Australia
+61 2 6686 1002