THIS year the Bundaberg Doll and Bear Fair at the Civic Centre on Saturday will feature two dolls with a tragic story behind them.

The dolls survived one of Queensland's worst maritime disasters early in the 20th century and have been handed down to Bundaberg resident Joyce Toft.

Doll Crafters and Collectors of Bundaberg president Barb Taylor said Mrs Toft had a relative who was one of 120 passengers and crew lost when the Yongala sank off the Queensland coast near Townsville.

"The dolls belonged to Mary Ann Manbey, who was sailing with her son Charles and who had arrived from London on the Orient," Mrs Taylor said.

After six weeks at sea they had transferred in Sydney to the Yongala for the last, and what they thought would have been the safest part of their trip, before joining relatives in Charters Towers.'

But the ship went down during a storm on the night of March 23, 1911.

Wreckage found included a lifebuoy, a cribbage board and a cedar trunk belonging to Mrs Manbey

. The trunk was passed on to her relatives, and among the items in it were two old dolls and four farthings, equivalent to one old penny.

The wreckage of the Yongala was not found until 1943 when a naval minesweeper charted what seemed a large shoal in 33m of water 19.45km off Cape Bowling Green.

"In June, 1947 it was charted again," Mrs Taylor said.

"This time it was assumed to be a fair-sized steamer," she said.

"But not until a trawler-man and three divers located her remains in the main north-south shipping channel in 1958 was the ghost of the Yongala laid to rest."

Mrs Taylor said the dolls who have had clothes and hair replaced are both Floradora dolls made by Armand Marseille in Germany, both identified by markings on the back of the porcelain head.

The markings A9M are the registered mark for Marseille Armond, 1865-1925+.

When made the dolls were given leather bodies, though the more common are mounted on jointed composition and wood bodies.

"The legs were often very gangling and amusingly spidery," Mrs Taylor said.

Mrs Toft's two dolls no longer have their original bodies and clothing, both damaged and replaced.

However the porcelain faces remain as they were when first marketed.

"The hair has been replaced but no restorative work has been done to the original painting of the faces," Mrs Taylor said.

Mrs Toft said she had no idea about how much the dolls would be worth because she had never thought of letting them leave the family.

"I got one doll from my mother and her sister, who never married, had one," she said.

"When she died she left her doll to me."

Mrs Toft said she planned to pass on the dolls to her daughters and granddaughters.

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