Garbin and Barbich

Vessel Name: Unknown

Antony (Ante) Garbin
Andrew (Andrija) Barbich
Drowned at Sea; Body of Garbin recovered
6 July 1911

The first missing reports for Antony (Ante) Garbin (33) and Andrew (Andrija) Barbich, two fellow Croatians (Austrians), surfaced in the local newspapers on 20 July, when it was suggested the two fishermen had left Fremantle on the 14 July for Garden Island, intending to beach the boat to paint her.

Later reports suggested they had left for a 2 day fishing excursion. Both men had been “clad in oilskins” and they were last seen at 6pm off Woodman’s Point where they had “put in for tea”.

Barbich family immigration papers

Immigration papers for Barbich family from 1911

On the 3 August the fishing boat was discovered. A man named Halliday had seen a net floating in the sea off Woodman’s Point and alerted nearby Fishermen. 6 of the missing Fishermen’s compatriots, including Nicholas Tzar, and a couple of Englishmen proceeded to the spot and found the net floating about a mile and a half off the Point and slightly to the southward, attached to the boat lying in 8 fathoms of water. The men spent upwards of 12 hours in raising the boat and emptying the water out of her. The fishing boat was towed to Careening Bay at Garden Island. All the boats gear and nets were found safely stowed away, and for’ard, hanging on a hook inside the decking was a watch. It was reported that from the position in which the boat was lying it is believed she was caught in the night gales and must have taken a dive, and being a ballasted craft, foundered immediately.

Antony’s body was recovered more than a month later on the 12 August, found firmly wedged between two rocks about 4 miles South of Woodman’s Point (9 miles south of Fremantle). The body was found by Italian fishermen, and was still fully clad in oilskins. It took until the 14 August to recover the body and with great difficulty.

On the 17 August an inquest was held at Fremantle. Evidence was given, through an interpreter, by Nicholas Tzar (a compatriot of Garbin and likewise a fisherman living in Fremantle). His reported statements date the tragedy more than a week earlier – the 6 July. He stated that early on the morning of 6 July, he had seen Garbin and Barbich asleep in their boat, which was at anchor at the bank near Woodman’s Point. Coming the same way, at 8am that day, he had observed that the boat was no longer there and surmised they had left on a fishing excursion. Matteo Kazea, a wine saloon-keeper and licensed Victualler in South terrace, expressed the opinion that the boat suddenly dived, and the deceased was too heavily dressed to save himself. The body of Andrew Barbich was never recovered.

Antony was born in 1878 on the Island of Solta, Croatia, just 9 miles from Split. He married Vica Jakovcevic in Croatia and moved to Western Australia in 1908. Antony left behind his Pregnant wife, and 3 children (Ramie Mary – 11, Semie – 8 and Victor – 5). After the disappearance of Antony, Matteo Kazea provided food and lodging for the family, and began a relief fund to help the family. Antony had been working in Kalgoorlie for 3 years, prior to purchasing a fishing boat and nets with a partner in 1911. The family had only just arrived to join Antony in Fremantle onboard the S.S. Roon on the 19th June 1911.

Left destitute in a strange country with a family to support, Matteo advised Vica to go to Kalgoorlie where she would find friends. She left her two daughters Ramie and Semie in St. Joseph’s orphanage in Subiaco and moved to Boulder with her son Victor. One of the local newspapers, the Golden Gate, suggested that “Jack” Myers, the leader of the Fremantle band, should organise a benefit for Garbin’s widow and orphans. In reality, five families donated money and built Vica a bag and sapling home in Kalgoorlie.

Vica was an extraordinary woman. She was described as independent, self-sufficient and prepared to work hard. Now expecting her fourth child, Vica took in washing, ironing and mending until she was secure enough to reunite her family. She gave birth to Lucy Antoniette in April 1912. By 1914, Ramie, now 14, was able to join her and in 1915 she re-married Marin Bavich and the family moved to Spearwood. With Marin, she went on to have 4 more children. Her two daughters, Ramie and Semie married two Gericevoch (later shortened to Gerovich) brothers – Jack and Len. Semie and Len produced 6 children, the youngest being John Michael Gerovich. John played 221 league games for South Fremantle between 1955 and 1969, kicking 774 goals during an illustrious career. Gerovich is best known for the “Mark of the Century”, when in the 1956 WAFL Preliminary Final he took one of the most famous marks in history, captured by a photographer for the West Australian. The unfortunate “step-ladder” was Ray French of East Fremantle. The “Mark of the Century” statue was unveiled in 2006 and sits proudly at the intersection of Parry and William Streets. In another twist of fate, Ray French, a waterside worker, died in an industrial accident in Fremantle a few years after the famous mark was taken.

It is hoped that someday, Antony Garbin’s memory and legacy is also remembered in a memorial dedicated to all of those lives lost tragically at sea. Part of the remembrance would go some way to acknowledging the extraordinary resilience of Vica Garbin in adapting to her new life, accepting the circumstances of the tragedy and raising a family in Australia. And both would be proud that their Grandson scaled new heights in Australian Rules Football.