Gordon Ambrose Willis

Gordon Ambrose Willis
24 April 1905
Fell off Busselton Jetty striking his head causing him to drown;
Body recovered

A picture of the headstone memorial in Busselton

Gordon Ambrose Willis was buried in Busselton

Gordon Ambrose Willis returned from a fishing trip with his Father Charles Ambrose Willis at about 10am on Easter Monday, the 24 April 1905. They packed the fish for market, and the Father proceeded to the railway station, leaving his son engaged in mooring the boat.

It was presumed an anchor was thrown overboard. Willis moored his boat so that the stern would swing near the jetty, the stem of the boat being connected with the jetty by a line.

Willis was seen landing on the jetty, where he placed his billy can. Upon reaching the jetty, Willis found that one of the oars was left in the rowlock, so he climbed down on to the whaling and proceeded to haul the boat in by the line to secure the oar. It would then appear that the anchor held fast, and he put further strain on the line, with the result that it parted or broke, and he fell backwards into the water, striking his head on the cross beams as he did so. He was described as a good swimmer, but he did not emerge from the fall.

His hat was picked up on the beach near the jetty. Grappling operations were initiated to recover the body incessantly, and it was eventually found adjacent to the spot where the accident happened.

He was fully dressed and bore no signs of external violence, beyond a contused wound or large cut on the right (or left) temple.

An inquest was held on 27 April 1905 before J.P, Acting Coroner, Mr. George Cross, and a jury comprising of Messrs. A. Payne (foreman), Job Davies, and J. L. Ost. The examined were Charles Ambrose Willis, father of the deceased, Thomas Johnson, a fisherman, George Buck and Dr. Farmer.

The evidence showed that the deceased fell against one of the railings of the jetty, owing to the stern line of the boat giving way and was accidently drowned.

The funeral took place in the Busselton Cemetery and was very largely attended. The Mayor and councillors of Busselton and the town clerk were amongst those who paid their respects.

The Reverend Mr. James read the burial service in the Congregational Church and at the grave side. The Church was draped in black, and in front of the pulpit there was a black banner with large white letters – “God is Love”. The pall-bearers included Paul and Frederick Klachan (two of Willis’s mates).

Sympathy was expressed for the bereaved parents, who had previously lost another young son through a sudden death.

Willis was born in Brisbane, and was described as being of a quiet and unassuming nature, and much respected by all who knew him. He had only been in Busselton for a few months and was just 20 years of age. He was single and left behind four sisters and two brothers and his parents.

His name remains inscribed on a plaque in the Busselton Pioneer Cemetery.