HMAS Sydney’s whiskey and silver dollar given to Australian Navy Heritage Museum

Birdon Group disposal manager Trent Raines presents the whisky bottle and coin display to Captain Bradley Smith at Garden Island in Sydney earlier this week.
The bottle has been framed, along with the cladding it was wrapped in, with certificates and photographs of the warship for permanent display in the museum.
Birdon Group disposal manager Trent Raines presents the whisky bottle and coin display to Captain Bradley Smith at Garden Island in Sydney earlier this week. The bottle has been framed, along with the cladding it was wrapped in, with certificates and photographs of the warship for permanent display in the museum.

A BOTTLE of whiskey and an American silver dollar hidden on the former HMAS Sydney for 35 years has been given to the Australian Navy Heritage Museum.

The items were presented to Captain Bradley Smith by Birdon group disposal manager Trent Raines earlier this week.

The bottle, since framed with the cladding it was wrapped in, and certificates and photographs of the warship have been presented for permanent display in the museum.

The former warship is now at the common user facility in Henderson where it is being deconstructed and recycled.

“This ship is very dear to the hearts of the hundreds of ex-service men and women that served our country aboard her,” Mr Raines said.

“Every step of this process will be conducted with the honour that the ship deserves.”

As Birdon’s disposals team set about breaking down and recycling the ex-HMAS Sydney they were contacted by a retired shipyard worker, Paul Nickelson, from the other side of the world.

He had heard the news of her retirement via Facebook and was “saddened to see that those days are over, similar to the retirees here who built it” but wanted to share a bit of history “that might be of interest and amusement to your personnel”.

A fellow employee of Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Alex Otero, had mused online that “if my memory serves me correctly, there is a small bottle of Jack Daniel’s, wrapped in pipe insulation in the forward starboard leg of the main mast”.

“Our team set off to find the hidden treasure! What they uncovered was an American silver dollar as well as bottle a of MacNaughton Canadian Whiskey from 1982,” Mr Raines said.

He said maritime tradition dictated that a coin be set at the bottom of a mast of a new ship for good luck.

“This tradition is said to have its origins in the ancient Roman custom of placing coins in the mouths of men killed in battle,”Mr Raines said.

“One theory is that due to the dangers of early sea travel, the coins were placed under the mast so the crew would be able to cross to the afterlife if the ship were sunk.

“The coins were supposed to pay Charon, the mythical ferryman, for transporting the dead across the River Styx.”

Mr Raines said the presence of the whiskey was not as easy to explain, other than it may have been intended to ease their passing.

Despite the lure of drinking the whiskey, Birdon’s team had the memorabilia framed and authenticated.

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