Sometimes it takes years for a song to rise to the surface. I first read about The Pearl when the late journalist, Ken Blanch, wrote an account in the Sunday Mail. I wondered why nobody had written a song about that, but then went on to other things. The Pearl came to grief on a February evening in 1896. The river was in flood and the ferry was swept by the current into the anchor chain of The Lucinda, which was moored in the river. The Pearl capsized and was torn apart by the impact. As the lyrics say, the death tally was never known, but it remains among Australia’s worst ferry accidents. The song is based on newspaper reports of the day and also from talking to historians who have researched the story. The leaps of imagination are all down to me. As usual, the unreliable narrator (me) has the last word, casting himself as a character in an otherwise true story.
Those with an interest in this topic can find accounts of the time at the State Library of Queensland. Historian Paul Seto has also written a book about The Pearl.