Marlene Ann

Vessel Name: Marlene Ann

George Barbarich
Mate Parentich

Drowned at Sea; Both buried at Karrakatta Cemetery
16 March 1961

George (Juraj) Barbarich was born on 18th February 1909 in Zastražišće, Hvar in Yugoslavia (Croatia). He was the son of Mate and Ame Stella. He arrived in Fremantle on the 19 December 1925 onboard Ville De Strasbourg. He married Tonka (Tomica) Parentich on the 29th March 1940 in Kalgoorlie.

The Marlene Ann

The Marlene Ann unloads next to the Lakanuki

George Barbarich

George Barbarich

George Barbarich Identification Papers

George Barbarich Identification Papers

Mate Parentich

Mate Parentich

Tonka Barbarich

Tonka Barbarich

Tonka was born in 1922 in the town of Zaostrog, near Makarska, to parents Ivan Parentich and Milka Antunovich. Tonka’s father, Ivan had worked in the mines in Boulder where his family experienced the Kalgoorlie race riots of 1934. He decided to move his family to Beria (near Laverton) the following year and built a boarding house to accommodate 40 or so miners (mostly Italians and Croatians).

Milka and Tonka (the eldest daughter) ran the boarding house for five years, until the closure of the mine, due to flooding in 1940. It was in this boarding house that Tonka met George Barbarich, whilst he was lodging there. They had two children, Marlene Ann and Barry.

By 1942, they left Kalgoorlie and operated a vineyard in the Swan Valley with other Croatians, but moved closer to the coast to start fishing. At one stage they lived at 22 Norfolk Street, in Fremantle, later at Rockingham Road in South Fremantle, and also at 21 Russell Street in Fremantle. George also lived and worked from Penguin Island with his father-in-law Ivan, and Ivan’s brother, Mate.

Although they were initially living in Fremantle, Ivan and Mate spent more and more time fishing the waters around Safety Bay and Penguin Island to the extent that they used the island as a base. In 1946, they established living quarters on the island by lining the walls of one of the caves with hessian, setting up a kitchen and a sleeping area within the cave. In the main, they would fish the local waters during the week and in most cases go home to Fremantle on weekends.

The two brothers stayed on the island for nine years and with the development of the crayfishing industry in 1947/1948, went into crayfishing. During this time, they were operating two, six metre boats and brought in George Barbarich, as a partner.

The fishermen continued their net fishing throughout the year and were only involved in crayfishing for a few months each year (November to February) when the crayfish were close to shore. Ivan and Mate became well-known in the area and eventually spent their weekends on the island entertaining their many visitors and feeding them with grilled herring (pecene bukve) and crayfish.

In each of the years 1952, 1953 and 1954, when the South Fremantle Football Club won three consecutive Premierships in both the League and Reserves, Ivan and Mate entertained about 70 members of the Club on the island. The club supplied the drinks and Ivan and Mate supplied the food (grilled herring and crayfish) for the day. Ivan’s son, Tony Parentich, became a famous South Fremantle Football player - winning the 1952, 1953 and 1954 Premiership, the 1955 Simpson Medal, and the 1957 Best and Fairest Award.

In 1954, WA Holiday Resorts Pty Ltd. had acquired a lease of the Island and the resorts managing director, Laurie Gill, who had befriended Ivan and Mate and on many occasions had been supplied fish and meals by them, had them evicted from the Island in December 1955 (through the State Gardens Board). The two brothers continued to fish from the Safety Bay area.

In the Easter period of 1957, the Barbarich family purchased a home on Forrest Road in Hamilton Hill. In 1960, George Barbarich purchased his own boat – a seven ton, 26-foot fishing vessel, named after his daughter, the Marlene Ann. It was built by Mladen and Drago Sambraillo in East Fremantle. For 10 shillings, George secured a 120 pot license and was eager to fish the whites in Jurien Bay to pay off his new boat as quickly as possible.

That season, George had moved all the necessary gear and pots loaded on the Fremantle Fishermen’s Co-operative Processing boat, the Laakanooki, to Jurien Bay in time for the 15th November start date. Barry had just completed his last school exam and slept the night onboard the Marlene Ann before making the trip up to Jurien Bay with his father. Marlene and Tonka stayed behind in Fremantle.

Barry describes the style of reef fishing, and the skill involved;
“ … We would navigate by sight and compass only. Just south of Escape Island, there is a reef that runs from Jurien Bay to Cervantes (except the south passage). Dad had worked these areas on other boats before, including the Water Lilly. Alongside this reef, Dad used to put a line of pots just south of Escape Island 50 metres away from the reef - the problem being the big swells used to put pots on the reef; so we used a long rope with four floats on it for each pot set. In this part of the coast the swell can be massive and the boats in these days were displacing hull boats with their best speed around eight knots. To retrieve your pot you would navigate near the reef and you had to “pick your time”; go in, do a “u” turn and grapple the four floats and pull the pot out after tying it to the rear bollard..”

Barry left Jurien Bay to return to school in February, and his place was taken by Mate Parentich (63). Mate, having finished crayfishing in the Safety Bay region for the season, joined George Barbarich (50) in Jurien Bay. Tragically, on the 15th March they were hit by a breaker. The vessel was swamped and sank in four fathoms of water 1.5 miles from the mainland south of Escape Island. Both lost their lives.

Years later at a Police Ball, Barry discussed the loss with one of the Police Divers at the time, Tony Martin (Martinovich). Martin had known the Barbarich family. The vessel was discovered inside the reef with the entire bottom of the boat smashed out.

The day prior George had been seen in the water cutting rope off the propeller. Tony and Barry both speculate that on the day of the tragedy, it is likely a pot felled the propeller and a wave took the boat onto the reef. The two men were strong swimmers so it was likely they were knocked unconscious and drowned. Four days later their bodies were recovered and identified by Ivo Parentich. According to Ivo there was a visible “knock” on Mate’s forehead. He had no aprons or boots on, whereas George had fishing clothes on.

Tonka’s sister, Lily, informed the family of the tragedy after the boat had been reported missing. Both bodies were buried in side-by-side plots in Karrakatta cemetery to a large cortege.

Life went on without George and Mate, but the adjustment for both the Barbarich and Parentich families was difficult and life’s journey took a different path for all those affected.

Tonka picked up extra work running domestic duties; She worked two cleaning jobs in the early hours prior to her 8am start in the Westralian Soap Factory in North Fremantle. She wore black in mourning for 12 months, but never re-married. By all accounts she was a hard woman, and became even more so after the loss of her husband. Equally, she was an extraordinary woman and worked hard to fend for her children.

For a brief period, a young Marlene worked in the office at the Fremantle Fisherman’s Coop, which was offered as a gesture to assist her after the death of her father at sea. Marlene describes herself as a romantic at heart, with aspirations to travel the world. She was very close to her father, George, who she describes as gentle, worldly and wise, encouraging her to dance and to travel the world. These aspirations were dashed upon the loss of her father.

Owing to her Mother’s demanding nature, and the pressures that unfolded after the tragedy, a marriage was arranged with Lawyer and Sports Commentator, George Grljusich. Marlene gave birth to one son by George, Rodney Grljusich. The Grljusich family remains well known in both the Sports and Journalism world.

Barry Barbarich ended up in many and varied jobs. After school he worked for a salvage dive company called John Franetovich and Co, which was involved in the salvage of the Alkimos (twice) and the Carol Lee. He went on to farming/truck driving and even tourist bus driving around Europe. He still resides in the family home in Hamilton Hill and his surviving daughter resides in London.

Mate Parentich was born 10th October 1898 in Zaostrog, Split-Dalmatia in Croatia. He married Marija Prlenda in 1925. They had four children – Smiljana, Ante, Ivo and Tonka.

Leaving a wife and young family in Zaostrog, he came out to join his brother in Beria in 1936, working on the mine and helping in the boarding house. At the time of the tragedy, he had been in Western Australia for 25 years and had not seen his family in that time. He had been making plans to return to Croatia that year.

His son, Ivo, had joined him in Australia in 1957. Ivo continued the family tradition in fishing, becoming involved in crayfishing between 1961 and 1982 onboard his vessel, the Zora-Dawn. The family’s involvement in fishing in Western Australia extended over a period of almost 40 years.

In recognition of Ivan and Mate’s contribution to the Safety Bay area, the City of Rockingham has approved the use of the name ‘Parenta’ in the allocation of street names to new subdivisions in the area.