Photograph, Charles Gilbee; Muir & Ingill; 1910-1920; WW.1992.766


Photograph, Charles Gilbee

About this object

This portrait is of Charles Gilbee. Charles farmed in the Fortrose-Waimahaka district until his death in 1923 and is remembered as the hero of the Tararua disaster.

The Tararua Disaster:

In 1881, the screw steamer SS Tararua set sail for Melbourne from Port Chalmers with a total of 151 passengers and crew on-board. The ship didn’t get far, when on April 19, 1881, it hit a reef 1 km off Waipapa Point on the Catlins coast.

At the age of 28, Charles Gilbee was working on a station near Waipapa Point. He rode his horse 50kms to Wyndham to raise the alarm about the sinking ship. Despite Charles efforts, the ship had been sinking since the early hours of the morning and many people had been washed overboard in the darkness. In total, 131 people were drowned, including 12 women and 14 children.

As a result of the SS Tararua disaster, the Waipapa Point Lighthouse was built, first shining its light in 1884. As at 2018, the sinking of the SS Tararua remains New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster involving civilians.

Place Made

Oceania, New Zealand, South Island, Southland


Muir & Ingill

Maker Role


Date Made


Inscription and Marks

Markers mark stamped in bottom right corner of portrait: 'Muir Ingill'.


h 570 mm x w 450 mm x d 20 mm



Object Type


Subject and Association Keywords

Disasters (including floods and fires)

Subject and Association Keywords

People and Families (including births, weddings, deaths)

Medium and Materials

organic, vegetal, processed material, paper
organic, vegetal, processed material, wood
inorganic, processed material, metal, alloy, silver metal

Object number


Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved

This object is from

Include tags such as place names, people, dates, events and colours. Use commas to separate multiple tags. e.g. Pablo Picasso, Madrid, red, 1930s.