On 4 August 1888, the Torres Strait Pilot and New Guinea Gazette reported on the presentation of a medal to Andrew Jacobsen in acknowledgement of his bravery in saving a man from drowning. Mr. Jacobsen was aboard the ship Nautilus, in August 1887, when a man named Jimmy Tait fell overboard and, being unable to swim, was in danger of drowning. With little concern for his own safety in the rough seas, Jacobsen dived in, reached Mr.Tait and kept him afloat until other crew members could reach them and assist them to get back on board the Nautilus.
This act of bravery came to the attention of the Humane Society of Australasia, which then decided to award the society’s Clarke Medal to Andrew Jacobsen. The award ceremony took place on Thursday Island, at the Government Residency, in front of a large gathering of local officials and residents. The medal was described as being of silver, of excellent workmanship, bearing the inscription, “awarded to Andrew Jacobsen 1st August 1888 – Royal Humane Society of Australasia”, and on the other side the society’s motto, Virtute Peratum, was inscribed. The Clarke Medal was named after the Hon. W.J. Clarke MLC, who donated funds to found a medal to promote the interests of the society, as well as to honour acts of gallantry and selflessness. The Clarke Medal was intended to be awarded to the person “who has shown the most conspicuous act of gallantry during the previous year”.
The government resident, Mr. Milman, presided at the award ceremony, giving an address within which he noted Mr. Jacobsen’s bravery, saying further that “when you take into consideration that your case has been selected from a number of gallant acts, it will enhance the medal’s value in your estimation”.
This image shows the ship Nautilus, upon which Andrew Jacobsen served, moored in Brisbane in around 1887.
As well, this second image shows the society’s Clarke Medal, with its design largely unchanged from the time it was awarded to Andrew Jacobsen for his act of bravery.
Brian Randall – Specialist Librarian, State Library of Queensland