St Nicholas, Tackley, commemorates the 42 souls lost in the Cataraqui shipwreck of 1845

175 years ago this month, news reached Britain of the shipwreck of the emigrant ship Cataraqui. The ship left Liverpool on 20 April 1845 with emigrants bound for Melbourne. A quarter of the 369 passengers were from Oxfordshire, including 42 from Tackley – the most from any village.

Close to its destination on 4 August, the Cataraqui was shipwrecked on the uninhabited King Island in the Bass Straits between Tasmania and mainland Australia. 400 people were drowned; there were just nine survivors.

To commemorate the loss, on Sunday 21 February at St Nicholas, Tackley, funeral bell tolls will be rung – one for each Tackley villager who died in the wreck. This will follow the five-minute solo bell at 6pm that has signalled the Prayer for the Nation throughout February, to remember those who have died from COVID-19. The sound should carry around the village but, due to COVID-19 restrictions, people can’t visit the church.

The team at St Nicholas have sent a recording of their Prayer for the Nation 6pm bell toll to BBC Radio 3 for its Sunday Bells slot. As well as hearing the bell, they have suggested The Stormy Sea Voyage, from Britten’s St Nicholas Cantata, as an accompanying piece of music, to highlight the parallels to the 1845 Cataraqui shipwreck victims also being remembered now. This is due to be broadcast on the Breakfast Show at 0740 on either Sunday 21 February or 28 February.

To read more about this story and to view the names of the 98 Oxfordshire emigrants who died in the Cataraqui shipwreck, visit

17 February 2021