My third great aunt Helena Gill was drowned in a shipwreck in 1932.

Helena Lucy Gill née Hughes (1866-1932 ), seventh of the eight children of my 3rd great grandparents Samuel Hughes (1827-1896) and Sally Hughes née Plaisted (1826-1900), was the younger sister, by twelve years, of my great great grandfather Edward Walter Hughes (1854-1922).

Recently I came across a transcription of her headstone (in the series ‘Victoria, Australia, Cemetery Records and Headstone Transcriptions, 1844-1997’), which reads:

Name Helena Lucy Gill
Death Date 10 Jul 1932
Burial Place Victoria, Australia
Cemetery Melbourne
Section B
Religion Baptist
Transcription In loving memory of dear mother Helena Lucy GILL died heroically helping others in shipwreck of “Casino” at Apollo Bay, 10 Jul 1932, age 65 Duty nobly done.

Helena married Luther Albert Gill in 1892. They had two children:

  • Gwendoline Ruby Phyllis Gill (1893-1977) who married Henry Vincent Budge in 1910
  • Vera Ila Gill (1903-1986), known as Ila, who married Charles Dudley Care in 1926.

In 1909 Helena, then living in Maribyrnong Road, Moonee ponds, sued her husband in the Prahran Court for maintenance. His address was Chapel Street, Windsor. The court found in her favour.

From 1914 Helena appears on the electoral rolls as ‘stewardess’ with her address ‘SS Casino, Prince’s Wharf, S.M.’ On the 1913 roll her address was 68 Maribyrnong Road, Moonee Ponds, and her occupation home duties. It seems that when her daughter Ila turned 11, Helena went to work as a stewardess.


The Belfast & Koroit S.N. Co’s S.S. “Casino” . Image from the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H92.302/23

The SS Casino, 160 feet, was an rivetted-iron coastal steamer, based in Port Fairy on the south-west coast of Victoria, owned by the Belfast and Koroit Steam Navigation Company (Belfast was the early name for Port Fairy).  The company was formed in March 1882 and took delivery of the Casino the same year.

The ship, built in Dundee, Scotland and launched in February 1882, was intended to service the north coast of New South Wales and was named for the town of Casino, New South Wales. The owners of the new company successfully bid for her when she was travelling through Warrnambool, Victoria, and the Casino arrived in Port Fairy on 29 July 1882.

She carried cargo and 25 passengers between Melbourne and Portland, stopping at Apollo Bay, Warrnambool and Port Fairy, over the next five decades making around 2,500 voyages.

South west coast Victoria

South-west coast of Victoria from Google maps

Casino saloon

The saloon of the SS Casino with “swivel chairs that were bolted to the floor to allow passengers more comfort when the ship was moving through rough seas”. Image from the Port Fairy Historical Society retrieved from

Early on the morning of 10 July 1932 the SS Casino sank in Apollo Bay while trying to secure a mooring. There was a south-easterly gale and a heavy swell. Coming alongside the jetty the Casino grounded on its anchor, fatally piercing the hull. The captain first tried to get an offing, but realising the vessel was sinking, turned to beach her. A few cables from the shore she was overwhelmed and sank in three or four fathoms.  Captain Middleton and nine other members of the crew were drowned, Helena one of them.

S Casino wrecked

S. CASINO WRECKED (1932, July 11). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from

Melbourne Herald 1932 07 11 page 1

(1932, July 11). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from

Gill Helena Melbourne Herald 1932 07 11 page 1

Drowned Stewardess (1932, July 11). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from

Helena’s body, with the bodies of four other crew, was recovered. She was buried in Melbourne General Cemetery.

Gill Helena burial Herald 1932 07 13 pg 6

STEWARDESS OF CASINO BURIED (1932, July 13). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from

The wreck of the Casino, now a scuba diving site, lies in nine metres of water 400 metres from the shore. Her propeller and bell are part a memorial to the ship at King George Square in Port Fairy. The ship’s wheel is displayed in the Apollo Bay Hotel.


The name “Franklin Gill” is transcribed with the dedication on Helena Gill’s gravestone. I do not know who he was or how he was related to Helena. I have since visited her grave at Melbourne Cemetery and there is no mention of Franklin Gill – apparently a transcription error. I have amended my copy of the transcription above.

Gill Lucy headstone 20180606_134536

Headstone on the grave of Helena Lucy Gill at Melbourne General Cemetery Baptist section B grave 731.