Minute Gun; 1842; 8046


Wingham Museum


Minute Gun

About this object

This cast iron minute gun or small signalling cannon is a relic from the coastal steamer Gipsy a wooden cutter built in 1842 and wrecked on the Manning River bar near Harrington in April 1856.

The Gipsy owned by the Manning Steam Navigation Co. carried goods and passengers between Newcastle, Sydney and communities on the Manning River including Ghinni Ghinni, Croki, Cundletown, Taree and Wingham. Coastal steamers were also the only means of communication for many people living on the Manning bringing mail or news from the cities and other centres and their arrival would have been much anticipated by those living in these rural communities.

The gun was used as a communication device to signal the impending arrival of the steamer at river ports and wharfs of farming communities along the Manning. Each gun had a distinctive sound based on its size and the charges used and were easily recognised by river communities.

Guns like this one were originally installed on ships to be used as a distress signal if necessary, and have been replaced in modern times by satellite and mobile phones.

The Manning River bar at Harrington was a dangerous one with a narrow and constantly shifting channel it claimed several shipwrecks including the Gipsy before a pilot for the Manning River was appointed in August 1856.

The minute gun was recovered some 20 years after the wrecking of the Gipsy by John William Smith whilst building the Crowdy Head Lighthouse and associated residence in 1878.

The gun is a rare reminder of the Manning district's reliance on coastal shipping and river trade to move cargo and passengers to and from cities including Newcastle and Sydney and to bring news to isolated and remote farming communities. It is also a reminder of the plight of many coastal ships wrecked whilst attempting to cross river bars on the Mid North Coast

Barbara Waters and Debbie Sommers
10 May 2014

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