On this day: the Cataraqui sank in 1845

Cataraqui_wreck.The 4th of August, 1845 was the date of the deadliest ship sinking in Australia’s history. The British barque Cataraqui

The Wreck

The 4th of August, 1845 was the date of the deadliest ship sinking in Australia’s history.

The British barque Cataraqui (also known as Cataraque) was cast onto jagged rocks and sank off the south-west coast of Bass Strait.

The ship had departed from Liverpool, England and was heading to Melbourne, Australia with 410 people (369 emigrants and 41 crew) on board. 400 people died in the sinking.

Before the sinking one crew member had already been lost overboard, five babies had been born and six others had died.

After the sinking, eight crew members survived by clinging to wreckage and one passenger, a man named Solomon Brown also survived.

The nine survivors were stranded on King Island for five weeks until being rescued.

On this day: Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto premières

On the 13th of March 1845 Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto premièred in Leipzig, Germany.

449px-Mendelssohn_BartholdyFelix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn in 1839

German virtuoso violinist and composer Ferdinand David was the soloist.

480px-Ferdinand_davidFerdinand David

Ferdinand David

The Little Match Girl

 The Little Match Girl

Shivering with cold and hunger she crept along, a picture of misery, poor little girl! The snowflakes covered her long fair hair, which fell in pretty curls over her neck; but she did not think of that now. In all the windows lights were shining, and there was a glorious smell of roast goose, for it was New Year’s Eve. Yes, she thought of that!

Regularly – incorrectly – referred to as a Christmas story set on Christmas night, Hans Christian Andersen’s tragic tale, The Little Match Girl, actually takes place on New Year’s Eve.

It’s easy enough to see why people make the mistake, as a Christmas tree is mentioned, amongst other things. However, you have to remember that in the past people weren’t ripping their decorations down on Boxing Day!

 The Little Match Girl tree

She lit a new match. Then she was sitting under a beautiful Christmas tree, with thousands of candles burning upon the green branches.

The Little Match Girl was first published in 1845 and tells the story of a poor girl who tries to make money by selling matches. However, in the morning she is discovered in the street, dead.

Andersen was my favourite storyteller back when I was a child. There was something about his tragic, decidedly non-Disney endings that spoke to me. I’ll never forgive Disney for ruining The Little Mermaid!

Here is what trusty Wikipedia had to say about the plot of the book:

On a cold New Year’s Eve, a poor girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is freezing badly, but she is afraid to go home because her stepfather will beat her for not selling any matches. She takes shelter in a nook and lights the matches to warm herself.


In their glow, she sees several lovely visions including a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. The girl looks skyward and sees a shooting star, then she remembers her dead grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone has died and is going to Heaven. As she lights the next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. She strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother alive for as long as she can.


Running out of matches, the child dies and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the child dead in the nook and take pity on her. They do not know about the visions she saw, or that she will not be cold or hungry any more in Heaven.