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The  Lawrence Historical Society's Gladstone Skiff ULLA GUNDAH

Ulla Gundah

Vessel Number: HV000709
Vessel type: Gladstone skiff
Vessel Dimensions: 5.94 m × 0.7 m (19.5 ft × 2.3 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
ULLA GUNDAH is an example of a Gladstone skiff rowing craft. It has been identified as a George Towns built Gladstone from the 1930s.The Clarence River was home to a number of champion rowers, and ULLA GUNDAH has strong regional connections to the Clarence River where it was rowed by Gerald Commerford to a championship win in 1940, and later used by the local MacLean High School.
DescriptionULLA GUNDAH is a clinker built example of the Gladstone skiff, which was the typical construction for the period. The 19’6” ( 5.940m) long hull is just over 700mm wide, and is made from Queensland red cedar and spotted gum. The hull and fitout is complete but missing the builder’s plate, however the construction layout and details closely match other Town’s Gladstone skiffs such as HV000465 and help confirm what was understood from oral history about the craft. It is in good condition and on display at the Lawrence Museum, with supporting material about its history.

The Clarence River has long been a region that had a strong rowing community, amongst some of the many champion rowers from the area is the legendary sculler Henry Searle. Gerald Commerford from Lawrence was establishing his own reputation as a future champion when he won the NSW lightweight Gladstone Skiff Championship in ULLA GUNDAH in 1940. He had been rowing the craft since 1938. Commerford then left to join the army and fought in World War II but died in captivity as a prisoner of war.

The skiff remained with the family but was later sold to the Maclean High School also on the Clarence River and used by the school’s students. During this time it was fibre glassed on the exterior. After the school sold the boat to Ian McLennan he removed the fibreglass and restored part s of the craft before donating it to the Lawrence Museum, where it stands a an example of the rivers rowing history and a reflection on the life of Gerald Commerford.

There is a clock monument dedicated by the residents of Lower Lawrence in memory of Gerald Commerford and Jack Northcott, both from Lawrence and both died in World War Two

The Australian War Memorial notes the following: “Gerald Francis Commerford was a private in the 2/10th Field Ambulance, Australian Army Medical Corps. He was one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore as a part of B Force. The 1494 POW's that made up B Force, were transported from Changi on 7 July 1942 on board the tramp ship Ubi Maru, arriving in Sandakan Harbour on 18 July 1942. Private Commerford, aged 25, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 9 February 1945. He was the son of Denis and Margaret Sarah Commerford, of Lower Lawrence, NSW.”

The name ULLA GUNDAH is Aboriginal and is derived from Ulgundahi Island whose name means ‘shape of an ear’, describing the outline of the island and its proximity to the shore opposite Comprising a mere 45 acres, Ulgundahi lies a few hundred metres off the mainland of Maclean in the Clarence River. It is an important heritage site for the Yaegl Aboriginal Community.

Vessel Details
Deck layout:open
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:oar
Hull material and construction:clinkerglued lapstrakelapstrake
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:round bottom

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