Sam Isaacs (1845-1920)
Sam Isaacs was an Aboriginal stockman who became a hero in 1876, when he helped rescue the passengers and crew of the stricken vessel, S.S. Georgette .
Sam was born in Augusta in 1845 and was given the tribal name Yebble by his Aboriginal mother. His father was a Native American mariner who came to Western Australia in the early 1830’s on a whaling ship. Sam grew up to be an expert horse and bullock handler.
Sam Isaacs and the S.S. Georgette
In December 1876, whilst working as a stockman for Ellen and Alfred Bussell , thirty year old Sam saw a stricken ship (S.S.Georgette) from the cliffs of Calgarup Bay near Redgate . Though on foot, he rushed to the Bussell’s property, Wallcliffe, some 20kms away to raise the alarm.
Only the women of the household were home at the time but on hearing Sam’s story, Grace, the Bussell’s 16 year old daughter, volunteered to help him try to rescue who they could.
After they saddled the horses and grabbed some rope, the two headed off to the bay. From the cliffs they could see the ship breaking up on the rocks as people scrambled into lifeboats. The two galloped along the cliffs and then rode their horses down the rocky slopes into the pounding surf. Being both excellent horse handlers, Sam and Grace, encouraged their horses to swim through the surf to the frightened passengers.
On reaching the ship they both shouted for the people to grab hold of the horses. Many grabbed hold of anything they could, the horse’s saddle, tail and mane or Sam and Grace’s clothing. The two continued to ferry the passengers to safety until there was no one left to be rescued. By the time the drama was over there were fifty wet, distraught people lying on the beach. The survivors were taken to the Bussells homestead, Wallcliffe, where they were fed, comforted and given dry clothing.
Sam Isaacs An Aussie Hero
The incident was reported in both local and international newspapers, making Sam Isaacs and Grace Bussell more than just local heroes. They both received medals from the Royal Humane Society of England but Grace was to receive a silver medal whilst Sam only a Bronze .
Though it seemed unfair that Grace was to receive a higher award, Sam was awarded by the State government, a Crown Grant of a 100acres of land. He chose a farming property along the banks of Margaret River, not far from the Bussell’s Homestead and named it “Fernbrook”.
Sam cleared the block and then built his own home where he raised his six children. He made his living working on farms and bullock driving at the saw mills of Karridale and Boyanup. The rock where the Georgette sank is now known as Isaacs Rock in his honour.
Sadly, Sam Isaacs died in 1920 following a fall from his sulky. He was returning home after dropping his son off at the Busselton Train Station. His son was heading to Perth to join the 10th Light Horse Brigade.
In Busselton Park, a plaque was erected at the grave site of Sam Isaacs, a true Australian Hero.