Eyewitness account | State Library of New South Wales

Eyewitness account

The Clontarf picnic attended by the Duke of Edinburgh attracted large crowds. Among the attendees were Emily Thorne, daughter of Sydney businessman George Thorne, and her family. Emily's notebook contains an eye-witness account of the picnic and the attempted assassination of the Duke. A second bullet from O'Farrell's gun lodged in her father's foot. Emily's notebook is illustrated with pencil sketches of the picnic crowd and marquees, and also includes newscuttings.

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Transcript: Emily Nuttall Thorne - 'Clontarf', an account of the attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, at Clontarf on 12 March 1868  (MLMSS 1600)

'Clontarf', What a calamitous day that name brings before our minds, & what a happy day it might have been. We little thought when starting how sadly the day would terminate….

'Clontarf' is a short distance up Middle Harbour directly opposite The Spit, & it was there on the 12th of March 1868 at the Sailors' Home Picnic that the sad event which I am going to relate happened.

Papa, Mama, Annie, George, Rosalie, Annie Grice & I,

started from our wharf at Claremont (Rose) about 1/4 to 12 & reached the place of our destination about 1 o'clock, directly we landed we walked to see the Prince's Tent. It was a double one a pliceman stood before the door to keep the people out it was carpeted with a red drugget plenty of cane chairs & a little (chair) table in the middle covered with a red cloth embroidered with gold leave it looked very comfortable. Then we went into the Luncheon tent it looked so pretty, such long tables up & down,

the Prince's table was almost in the middle of the tent, but we were not allowed to stay in there, for Raphael the ……. entreated us to go out. A short time after we met Mr.H. Mort then the Knoxes & talked to them a good while.

Afterwards we stood under the trees near the beach & listened to the bands of which there were two 'The Queen's Own' & the 'Galatea' band. About 1/2 past one the people began to go into Lunch & by two o'clock the ground looked almost desserted but as we came more especially to see the

Prince we did not mean to go to lunch before he (the Prince) came.

At last he arrived, directly we saw the little 'Fairy' coming we ran along the beach to the little pier at which he would land. All the yachts saluted him as he passed by them.

Directly the steamer came along side all the gentlemen of the Picnic Committee went to the end of the wharf & presented him with an address. After which Sir William Manning conducted H.R.H. to the

luncheon followed by the Vice-Regal party & suite. We followed a few minutes after & we found the tent so crowded that we could only just creep in with the people, but we did not mind for how long we were as we went in at a door close to the Prince's table, & we had a long look at H.R.H., he was just asking the Countess what she would take.

In a short time we managed to find places which had just been left by some other people, so the consequence was that the only thing to be seen on the table were empty dishes dirty plates

& bones, so we thought ourselves fortunate when we found two dusty plates, a tumbler, a champagne glass a knife a carving fork & a small fork, between 4 of us. We were about 10 minutes eating our lunch & then we walked up to the Prince's table again, where we were stopped again by the crowd of people, (Lord Newry gave us a good stare) not being able to get out of the same door we came in by we went out by another one & in going passed close behind H.R.H.'s chair he was taking to Sir W. Manning. Rosalie who was walking just in

front of me heard him say, 'In those days' & I heard him say 'And I had to go to them you know' he has such a nice voice.

We then walked slowly across the grass to the trees bordering the beach where we saw Mrs. Lamb & Connie for the first time after their return from Tasmania, we had a short talk with them & then they passed on while we stood at a little distance from the trees in the shade.

Papa & Mama where sitting down somewhere & George was getting something to eat & presently we heard cheers in the tent so we looked eagerly towards it

expecting that H.R.H. would soon come out, which he did leading Lady Belmore to his own tent, he had not been there long before he came out again with Sir William Manning & they walked down towards the beach in a straight line for us. The people by degrees began to disperse & they walked alone. Just then Papa came & we began to congratulate ourselves upon the beautiful opportunity we should have of seeing H.R.H.

While he was still a good distance from us a Gentleman went & shook hand with him. (We found

afterwards that it was the Hon. George Allen) & introduced Mrs. Allen to H.R.H.

As soon as they were about sixty yards from us Annie said 'We had better walk on a little it seems so rude to stand staring at him here' & I was just going to say something to her when we heard a sharp noise like a chinese cracker & looking towards the place from which the sound came I just saw the Prince fall. Then the whole flashed across our minds in a moment & we all exclaimed 'The Prince is shot'. I covered my face with my hands & hardly

any thing all I can remember is someone falling down beside me (Annie) some one falling down beside the Prince, people rushing up from all directions & then Annie Grier & I were alone. We heard another shot. Presently we saw Papa limping out of the crowd. I almost screamed out 'Oh Papa what is the matter' & he said 'I'm shot I'm shot.

I then caught hold of his arm & tried to bring him to where Mama was but he turned round & was going amongst the crowd only as soon as I caught sight of the

Man struggling with the crowd, I said 'Oh don't go there Papa the man might shoot us both' then Rosalie came up. (Annie Grier had told her) & we took Papa to a seat & left him with Mama while we ran for brandy & water. The people around were very kind they, one Lady sat us all on a seat & told us to be quiet for Papa's sake, as we should make him worse if he heard us crying. Papa kept asking 'Is the Prince alive, how is the Prince.' & when someone said the 'Prince is alive' he seemed better. A gentleman called two water policemen & they

carried Papa down to a boat & we all got in & they rowed us to our steamer but there was no one on board, so we were going on board one of the large ones when we met Mr. J. Lamb going to the Xerifa & he said he knew Mr. Parbury would take us home before any of the steamers so we went with him. Mr. P. was not on board so we had to wait for him, it seemed an immense time but at last he came & we set sail. Mr. P. told us he had heard that the bullet had been taken out of the Prince & that

he had come to the door of the tent to shew the people that he was not much hurt.
The sail in the yacht would have been very pleasant had not our minds been filled with the late outrage on the life of the darling son of our Noble Queen, & as we had at then time plenty of time to think over it I will will go back a little & give a few more particulars. It is impossible for anyone to imagine what a shock it was to us unless they had been there. It was an awful moment. What I see most vividly in my mind is our Noble Prince falling, first on

his hands & knees & then over on his back, look up & uttering two dreadful Oh's! I only have a dim reccolection of a revolver being held close to the Prince's back but I did not see the man at all. I must have been look another way at the moment. But now I must go on with my story. Mr. Parbury landed us at our wharf & Rosalie, the two Annies & I ran up to the house & sent the Gardener & coachman down to carry papa up.

I ran down to Mrs Dumaresq's to see if Dr. Nathan was down there, he was not & Mr. [Hope?] came up with me to see if he could help . Then Rosalie Millie & I found the cart & horse where John had been working, so we took it down where Papa was & it brought him much quicker than if they had carried him all the way. As soon as he was on the sofa in Mother's room - George drove in to Dr. Belmont, he was a long time - just as we had finished tea he came back with Dr. B. & Dr. Milford.

> Read entire account via the Library's online catalogue catalogue link