Index of vessels:
Robert Bruce 1821, fire, Anglesey, 0 lost
Prince Regent 1822, aground, Mersey, 9 lost
Belfast 1822, aground, Mersey, 0 lost
Lusitano 1823, aground, Portugal, 60 lost
Earl of Bridgewater 1824, explosion, Liverpool, 3 lost
City of Glasgow 1825, aground, Douglas, 0 lost
Town of Liverpool 1828, aground, Ireland, 0 lost
Venus 1828, aground, Ireland, 9 lost
Sheffield 1828, aground, Ireland, 0 lost
Earl of Roden 1828, aground, DerbyHaven, 0 lost
Manchester 1829, foundered, Irish Sea, 0 lost
St. George 1830, aground, Douglas, 0 lost
Rothsay Castle 1831, aground, Anglesey, 130 lost
St. Patrick 1831, aground, Ireland, 0 lost
Escape 1832, wave damage, off Holyhead, 2 lost.
Restaurador Lusitano 1832 (ex St. Patrick), foundered, Portugal, 200 lost
Lord Blayney 1833, aground, Hoyle Bank, 46 lost
Water Witch 1833, aground, Ireland, 7 lost
Thetis 1834, fire, Mersey, 0 lost
Superb 1835, aground, Burbo Bank, 0 lost.
Rhyl steamers 1835/6(Countess of Glasgow; George), aground Mersey/Rhyl, 0 lost
Killarney 1838, aground, Ireland, 36 lost
St. Patrick 1838, aground, Ireland, 6 lost
Urgent 1839, explosion, Mersey, 0 lost
St David 1839, exposure, Irish Sea, 3 lost
Lee 1840, foundered, Irish Sea, 0 lost.
Earl of Roden 1843, aground, Ireland, 0 lost
Prince 1846, aground, Ireland, 0 lost
Grana Uile 1847, fire, Irish Sea, 20 lost
Londonderry 1848, suffocation, Ireland, 72 lost
Prince Arthur 1850, aground, Southport, 2 lost
Leeds 1852, foundered, Irish Sea, 0 lost
Queen Victoria 1853, aground, Ireland, 57 lost
The first sea-going steam-powered ship was PS Comet on the Clyde in
1812. By 1815, the PS Elizabeth (a
wooden paddle-steamer) was providing a ferry service on the Mersey. The
first paddle steamers to cross to Ireland were in the 1820's. Steam
ships were more expensive and had less cargo space -- so they were
initially used for passenger transport (where time was of the essence) or
as tugs to tow sailing vessels in and out of port. The early steamships
had wooden hulls, masts with sails, and paddle engines amidships. Image of typical early steamer.
Screw propulsion became more common after the mid 1840s and iron (later steel) was used for hulls increasingly from a similar date.
Passenger numbers were often not accurately recorded - so numbers lost are often estimates only.
For a brief summary of some of the leading early steamship
City of Dublin Steam Packet Company,
St. George Steam Packet Company
Details of some early steamship wrecks (all except Prince Arthur are
wooden paddle steamers) in the Liverpool area (or
with connections to Liverpool); mainly passenger vessels:
The P S Robert Bruce pioneered a Glasgow-Liverpool Service in 1819. Later
she was used on other routes.
Report in Cambrian newspaper:
Postcript: A letter writer in the Liverpool Mercury suggested
that, to avoid such disasters, steamships should be fitted with fire
extinguishers. The idea that such equipment was not provided is amazing
compared to present day safety standards for passenger ships.
[see also "Report of Steam-vessel Accidents. July 1839" by Board of Trade; here]
wooden paddle steamer; b 1819 Scott, Greenock; 94' x 19' x 11', 92 grt
engines: b Napier, 2 cyl side-lever 60nhp
Captain Carlyle and 14 crew; 24 passengers
caught fire 27th; abandoned 28 August 1821 (scuttled).
Captain Carlyle writes, that, when a little past the Great Ormeshead [from Liverpool to Dublin], the packet took fire, owing to a want of attention to the boilers. With much difficulty, we got her into the creek of Cemaes, near Amlwch, and scuttled her; the cabin and deck are much burnt. She may be got off again and repaired. The passengers, consisting of 16 cabin, and 8 steerage, and the crew of 14 hands, with the luggage, etc. are all safe.
The Robert Bruce steam-packet from Liverpool to Dublin, encountered more serious and alarming difficulties. - About three o'clock on Monday morning, [27 Sept 1821] she was seen off the coast of Anglesea, enveloped in fire: which was only first generally known to the passengers (between 60 and 70[sic]), when off the Ormshead. The consternation may be imagined, description is impossible. The preservation of so many souls, is mainly to be attributed to the extra assistance afforded in their number, and to the great order and quickness maintained in passing the supplies of water to the magnitude of the extent required. The vessel at length neared the port of Cemmaes, boats went off to their assistance. The passengers were all safely placed on the rocks, where they remained for about two hours, until the tide had sufficiently receded to enable them to pass to the shore. The vessel was burnt to the water-edge, and scuttled. There were eight ladies on board, who, together with the gentlemen, presented a most distressing sight, with scarcely any clothing, and the rain failing in torrents. One of the passengers states that the coals, above 20 tons, were on fire, between decks.
Attempts were made at salvage but a gale made her a total wreck [28 Sep 1821].
A court case arose to decide whether marine insurance (for £3000) included damage by fire or not. Extra confusion arose as to whether Scots or English law applied.
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The P S Robert Bruce pioneered a Glasgow-Liverpool Service in 1819. Later
she was used on other routes.
Report in Cambrian newspaper:
Postcript: A letter writer in the Liverpool Mercury suggested
that, to avoid such disasters, steamships should be fitted with fire
extinguishers. The idea that such equipment was not provided is amazing
compared to present day safety standards for passenger ships.
From Annual Register LXXIII Chronicle pp 129-137 (verbatim)
LOSS OF THE ROTHSAY Steam Packet.
At an early hour on the morning of Wednesday, a severe storm had, more than usually, agitated the waters of the Mersey; so much so, that an American ship, which had attempted by means of a steam-boat to put to sea, was compelled to return. At eleven o'clock, the Rothsay Castle steamer sailed from Liverpool for Beaumaris. Her deck was thronged with passengers. The precise number cannot be known, because, in addition to those who registered their names in the books, many individuals, by whom no previous application had been made at the packet-office, were taken immediately from the pier-head. The captain, crew, and musicians, amounted to fourteen or fifteen; and besides these, one hundred and twenty or one hundred and thirty persons were on board. The greater proportion of the passengers consisted of holiday or family parties, residing in country places. In one of these companies were twenty-six persons who set out on an excursion of pleasure from Bury, in Lancashire.
The weather was not at all tempestuous, when the packet weighed anchor; but, soon after her departure, the wind blew strongly from the North West; and as she had to contend with the tide which began to flow as she passed the Rock, and had but one engine, her progress was slow. When she arrived off the Floating light, about fifteen miles from Liverpool, the roughness of the sea alarmed many of the passengers. Mr. Tarrey, of Bury, who had on board with him his wife, their five children, and a servant, being under great apprehension for his own safety, and that of his family, went down to the cabin, where the captain was at dinner, and earnestly begged that he would put back. The captain's reply was, "I think there is a great deal of fear among you, and very little danger. If we were to turn back with passengers, it would never do, we should have no profit." To another gentleman who remonstrated with him, he is reported to have said, in an angry tone, "I am not one of those who turn back." For the space of two hours he remained in the cabin, and peremptorily resisted all importunities, observing, that, if the passengers knew him, they would forbear so to trouble him. After dinner, he became violent in his manner; and his language, especially to his men, was coarse and abusive in the extreme. When anxiously questioned by the passengers as to the progress of the vessel, and the time at which she was likely to reach her destination, he gave always trifling, and often contradictory, answers. During the early part of the day, he had spoken again and again of their being able to reach Beaumaris by seven o'clock; but the evening wore away, night drew on, and they appeared to be still far from the termination of their voyage. They were long in getting from the Little to the Great Ormeshead. One of the passengers implored the captain to put into Conway. His reply was, "God keep me from attempting it; it would be certain destruction." In this instance his judgment was correct.
It was nearly midnight when they arrived at the mouth of the Menai Strait, within five or six miles of Beaumaris. The tide had for some hours been running out, and, in consequence, had impeded their progress: but it was now just upon the turn. According to the statement of Jones the fireman, and two of the seamen who were saved, they had "rounded the buoy," at the extremity of what is termed the "Spit," and had proceeded up the river, as far as the tower upon Priestholme, or, as it is generally called, Puffin Island; when, on a sudden, the steam failed to such a degree, that the engine had not power to keep the vessel in her proper course. The fireman, on being asked why there was no steam, said that the vessel had been leaky throughout the whole voyage, and that some time before she reached the Strait, the bilge pumps were choked. The water in her hold overflowed the coals; so that, in renewing the fires, a considerable quantity went in with the coals, slackened the fires, and made it impossible to keep up the steam. She now drifted, with the flood-tide and a heavy gale from the North-West, towards a bank situated about three quarters of a mile from Puffin Island, and known by the name of the Dutchman's bank; and on this spot she struck. The vessel rolled in a terrific manner. Lieut. Atkinson directed the steersman to put the helm astarboard. The man, instead of doing so, put it to port; when the mate observing what had taken place, ran aft, seized the helm, and put it to starboard. The engine had previously stopped for above ten minutes - the reason was, that the coals were covered with water, the pumps were choked and quite useless, and the water had extinguished the fires. Finding that the vessel had struck, the captain carelessly remarked, "Oh, it is only sand, and she will soon float." On this, with the aid of three or four of the passengers, he contrived to get the jib up." It was unquestionably his intention to wear the vessel round and bring her head to the northward. The captain begged the passengers to run aft, in the hope that by removing the pressure from the stem of the vessel, they might cause her to float; and when this expedient failed, he ordered them to run forward. Every exertion was fruitless, and all gave themselves up for lost. Several of the passengers urged the captain to hoist flags, to fire a gun, and to make other signals of distress; he, however, positively refused, declaring that there was no danger, that every thing was just as it should be, and that the packet was afloat and on her way. To every one else it was obvious, that she was sticking fast in the sand, and her cabins were rapidly filling with water. The alarum bell was rung; but in less than a quarter of an hour, the clapper dropt, and could not afterwards be found. Some of the passengers continued to strike the bell for some time with a stone or a piece of coal, and it was faintly heard at Beaumaris, but as no lights were hoisted on the mast of the steamer (a fatal neglect!) it was impossible to know whence the sound proceeded.
The moon, though in a slight degree overcast, flung a pale and trembling radiance on the surrounding objects, so that they were distinctly visible. A strong breeze blew from the North West, the tide began to set in with great rapidity, and a heavy sea beat over the bank, on which the steam packet, after "dragging and lurching" for more than half an hour, was at length firmly and immoveably fixed. It was just before this, that a Liverpool branch pilot on board, William Jones, became aware of the full extent of the danger. The poor man had that very morning reached Liverpool from a foreign voyage, and had joined the packet by way of recreation. Fatigued by the labour that he had undergone before entering the packet, he had lain down in the forecastle to sleep, when he felt the vessel strike. Hastily rushing upon deck, he exclaimed, "We are all lost!" and his courage and coolness were for a moment quite overcome. "I saw," said he, "the quantity huddled together in the waist of the vessel, and the praying and crying was the most terrible sight to witness. The sea broke over on both sides, and took away numbers at once. They went like flights, sometimes many, sometimes few; at last the bulwarks went, and none were left." The vessel had scarcely struck, when two of the stays that supported the chimney, broke. These with much difficulty, were again made fast. They soon, however, yielded a second time, and the chimney fell. It brought the main mast with it: but all within its reach had timely warning, and were careful to get out of its way. "Just now," says Mr. Coxhead, one of the most intelligent of the survivors, "a singular circumstance attracted my observation. One of the seamen came to the binnacle, deliberately took out the lantern which it contained to afford light to the helmsman, and threw it with great force upon the deck, breaking it into many pieces, and of course extinguishing the light. I cannot bring myself to any other conclusion than that this was intentional, although the man immediately lamented that the only chance of making a signal was now destroyed: for what purpose it was done I cannot tell; he instantly disappeared, and I saw no more of him to my recollection." The steward and his wife lashed themselves to the mast, resolved, as seems to have been the case with several other husbands and wives, to abide the momentous issue together. They were found locked in each other's arms. The parents hung over their children, and mothers perished clasping their little ones. The carpenter of the vessel was seen embracing his wife in the extreme of agony. The poor woman had an infant at her breast, and it appeared to be almost the only object of her care. She besought a young man who stood near, to wrap her shawl more closely around her neck, that it might prevent the water from touching the child. The very next minute a tremendous wave washed her and her babe, and eleven others, into the sea. With a last effort, she raised her hands above the water, and held up her infant, as if to supplicate in its behalf, the pitying eye of Heaven! Soon after the fall of the chimney, the captain's voice was heard for the last time; he and the mate were the early victims of their own lamentable imprudence. For a short time the vessel continued to resist the action of the waves. She was beaten and tossed about with a violence which made the hearts, even of the stoutest, tremble and faint within them; for it threatened every instant to dash her into fragments. About forty of the passengers were now upon the quarter deck, clinging to each other in expectation of the moment when they were to share the fate which had overtaken so many of their companions, and occasionally uttering the most piteous cries for help. Of a sudden, a mountain wave rolled towards them with impetuous fury, separated the ship in two, and plunged them headlong into the foaming element. Those who could preserve any degree of collectedness, endeavoured to catch at whatever was floating around them: many grasped at the slightest object that offered itself, but they either were too weak to keep their hold, or were forced by the raging of the surge to relinquish it. The small number of those who attached themselves to the portion of the wreck which was left on the bank, gradually grew smaller as they sunk, one after another, under their fatigues, or were hurled into the deep by the waves. The lives of a very few were ultimately snatched from destruction.
The sad catastrophe was not known on shore, until nearly four o'clock in the morning; when one of the pilots at Penmon point, in Anglesey, observed what he thought to be a vessel "rolling over the Dutchman's Bank towards Conway Bay;" but what, when he viewed it through a glass, he discovered to be the remains of a vessel on the sands, with a man clinging to her mast. By this time two other pilots had come down to the point, and all three instantly launched their boat, hoisted sail, and directed their course to the wreck, which was two miles distant. On arriving at the spot, they found a gentleman, Mr. John Duckworth, of Bury, supporting himself amidst the surf on a fragment of the steamer, called "the belfry," his head being above water only at intervals. They rescued him from his perilous situation; and took four men off the foremast, which was all but unshipped. The pilots inquired of these individuals whether they thought it would be possible for them, by beating about, to save any more lives. They answered that all except themselves had been swept away by dozens and half dozens, hours before. The pilots then made the best of their way to Beaumaris. Shortly after leaving the wreck they picked up Mr. Tinne, of Liverpool, who was floating on a plank. He was senseless, and had nothing on but his shirt and waistcoat. The church clock was striking six when they reached Beaumaris. About half an hour before this, a young collegian, Mr. Wm. Lewis Walker, happening to be on the Green at Beaumaris, had seen, a great way off, something which he imagined to be a boat drifting among the billows, but which in the end was found to be that part of the shattered steamer on which were nine human beings, who had hoisted a handkerchief as a signal of distress, in the hope that it might attract notice. Mr. Walker manned the life-boat at Beaumaris, and proceeded on his errand of mercy. Mr. Williamson of the Campeadora, a yacht lying in the Bay, under Beaumaris Green, immediately manned his three boats, and went himself for the purpose of bearing a part in this work of compassion. From the direction of the wind and the state of the tide, it was natural to conclude that such part of the luggage as might float, would be washed ashore on the Carnarvonshire coast; and under this impression, Sir Richard Dulkeley, with his agent, Mr. Thomas Williams, crossed the sands at an early hour to Penmaen Mawr, and ordered his tenants to secure for the rightful owners whatever might come into their possession. Scarcely a boat remained at Beaumaris: all were despatched to the fatal spot. Anxiety and sorrow were painted on every countenance; the pursuits of business and pleasure were suspended; the yachts and other vessels in the Bay had their flags half-mast high.
The sufferings and perils of the few who survived were various. A Mr. Nuttall was one of a group who were lifting up their hearts to the Almighty in silent but earnest prayer. Whilst thus engaged, a heavy surge rushed upon them, and they occasionally knelt down to avoid the fury of the dashing waves. Scarcely two minutes had elapsed before the side of the vessel, near which they were stationed, was forced in by the sea, and they were all hurried into the roaring abyss. The party consisted of Mr. Nuttall, Miss Lamb, Miss Whittaker, two little boys of whom Miss Whittaker had taken charge, Miss Walmsley, and others. Mr. Nuttall fell head-foremost into the sea; not being able to swim, in his first struggles he went over head three or four times, and each time, as he rose to the surface, his temples struck against pieces of the wreck. He was about to sink, and reclined his head upon the water in the hope that death would terminate his sorrows; but this feeling was succeeded by another, that it was incumbent upon him for his own sake and that of his wife and family, to use his best exertions to save himself from a watery grave. He lifted up his head, and observed floating near him the side of the packet, which, by giving way, had precipitated himself and his friends into the water. He seized it with some difficulty, got upon it, and rested there for a few moments on his knees. At this very time, a boy, about ten years of age, the son of the steersman, mounted upon Mr. Nuttall's back, and notwithstanding every entreaty and remonstrance, clung fast and would not quit his hold. Mr. Nuttall was encumbered with all his clothes, with his great coat, and with the additional weight of the boy; so that he expected every moment to sink. He perceived a rope hanging on the outside of the quarter deck; after a desperate struggle, he grasped it and found that it was firmly fixed to the side of what remained of the vessel. He clambered up the rudder-wheel with the boy still on his back, and at length succeeded in reaching the quarter-deck. When he had obtained a footing upon the wreck - for the packet had separated some time before he had left her - he heard a piteous cry; and looking down upon the surface of the water, observed a female hanging by the side of the wreck, and apparently about to sink. He knew not who she was, but being anxious to extricate her from her appalling situation, he descended, by means of the rope before referred to, and seizing her by the hair of her head, placed her safely upon the quarter-deck. With astonishment and pleasure he discovered that the individual whom he had thus rescued was his neighbour, Miss Whittaker. Jones the steward, and his wife, were on this portion of the packet. After hurrying to and fro, and trying a variety of expedients, the poor man lashed himself and his wife to the mast which was then lying across the quarter-deck. Several ladies, all of whom had their caps and bonnets off, were leaning against the bulwarks, in the most acute anguish of mind. Their distress was of short continuance; for in a few seconds the waves forced in the railing, and all of them, together with Jones and his wife, were swept into the sea. Mr. Nuttall, Miss Whittaker, Jones the Liverpool pilot, the boy, and two gentlemen, were preserved on the quarter deck at this time, by firmly grasping the rudder-wheel. The fragment of wreck on which they were left was about three yards square, including the wheel. It soon began to float, and it continued to do so, until the passengers upon it were delivered by the Beaumaris life-boat. Whilst they were tossing about, they picked up three gentlemen, one of whom was Mr. Henry Wilson, of Manchester. When day-light appeared, Mr. Nuttall pulled out a silk handkerchief from his pocket, and it was raised on a piece of wood, in the hope that it might be observed and prove the means of bringing relief. The party could perceive individuals walking in the fields on the Carnarvonshire side of the bay, but no eye seemed to glance at the distressed and anxious sufferers. At length Miss Whittaker resigned part of her flannel petticoat to serve as a sail, and it was hoisted up. They continued to drift towards the Carnarvonshire shore, but still seemed to be far from effectual aid. Mr. Nuttall, and Jones the Liverpool pilot, then determined to seize the first fragments of wreck that should present themselves, and to employ them as oars. They almost immediately picked up two pieces of wood, and with these the raft was propelled by them on the bosom of the deep. Whilst they were thus engaged, they saw the Beaumaris life-boat on its way towards them!
Mr. Robert Whittaker, brazier, of Bury, states, that, when he left the vessel, there were about fifty persons on board; of whom, some were on the mast, some on the paddle-box, and some on the cross pieces of timber which served to connect the wheels. He saw Mr. John Wilkinson, of Bury, hanging by his hands from a piece of iron that ran from one paddle-wheel case to the other. He had, himself, clung for some time to the same object. Mr. Wilkinson was crying, with importunate earnestness, for mercy. Mr. Whittaker was driven by the waves through the paddle-box casings into the sea, on the higher or lee side of the vessel. After he had risen to the surface of the water, he seized part of the casing of the paddle-wheels, and contrived to pull over it a short broad plank, at right angles. He got astride on the narrow piece, and lay with his breast on the other. The narrow piece of timber was about nine feet in length, and four inches in breadth; and the transverse plank about five feet in length. He had on only his shirt and stockings. At an early part of the night, he had thrown off his coat and waistcoat, and just before he was plunged into the sea, he divested himself of his trowsers, in the pockets of which were eighty sovereigns. On his frail support he continued to float about for nine hours. The waves occasionally beat over him, so as to threaten immediate destruction, and it was not without the utmost care that he was able to preserve his seat on the timber. After he had been a short time in the water, he conceived that he had been there for several days. At the period when the dread of death was most powerful, he heard the sound of human voices hailing him. He answered; and in a moment some one cried out, "Hold on, my hearty!" His deliverers were Mr. Williamson and the crew of the Campeadora schooner. Mr. Whittaker, it appears, had long before entirely lost his sight. He imagined that day would never break, and had a horrid idea that the sea-birds would peck him to death. He was astonished when the sailors told him that it was open day. From the very first shock he had given up all hope of escape. Just before the vessel separated, he kissed his own little boy and his nephew, and bade them farewell; and at the same moment, he saw his sister sink, as he thought, to rise no more. On being carried to the Campeadora, he was rubbed with cloths, and warm water was applied to his feet: and, after a short time, he recovered the powers of vision, and felt himself comparatively strong. At eight o'clock the next morning, he was removed to the inn at Beaumaris, where a most affecting interview took place between him and his sister.
James Martin, another of the passengers, gives the following account of what befel him and his friend Mark Metcalf: "Observing several individuals on a plank, which reached across the vessel and rested upon the paddle-boxes on each side, upon this plank I endeavoured to get, and, after some effort, succeeded. I then exhorted Mark to try and do the same; he made several attempts, but failed through want of strength. He then got near one of the paddle boxes, and laid hold of the iron. I was situated just over him, and had frequent opportunities of conversing with him. The waves were continually dashing over us with great impetuosity, sweeping away the passengers at every stroke. A short interval of ease occurred and I looked for my friend: I found him still at his post, clinging to the iron. I asked him, if he had a firm grip. He answered "Yes; but I am nearly exhausted." At this period, all the passengers who had previous hold of the iron which was under the plank, had disappeared from the violence of the breakers, except my friend Metcalf and another person. A short time only had elapsed, and I saw him carried away by a dreadful wave towards the paddlebox, poor Metcalf exclaiming, "James, I'm afraid its all over!" I replied, "O, Mark, Mark! lay hold of the paddle-box!" He then attempted to do so, and I saw his hand laying hold, when another wave came and swept him right away. "O, James!" said he, as he was carried into the sea, "it's all over now!" I then saw him throw back his hands over his shoulders; I saw him no more.
"Shortly afterwards, the plank on which I myself and about twenty other persons were situated, gave way, and we were all precipitated into the deep, in the midst of the breakers. I rose to the top of the surge, and struck out my arms, in the hope of laying hold of some floating substance, when I providentially grasped the identical plank by which I had just before been launched into the sea. On recovering from the stupor of the moment, I discovered two others who had hold of the same plank; one of whom was without clothes. We were not long in getting into smooth water, and the tide was taking us on towards Beaumaris. The naked person, after floating some time, disappeared, and shortly afterwards the other individual, leaving me alone with the plank. As I was struggling and floating, I bethought me it would be much easier for me to get on the plank; I accordingly made an effort, and succeeded, after which I found myself greatly relieved; my chief fear now was, that the tide would turn before any one could perceive me, and that I might thus be carried back and lost after all. Presently I came in sight of Beaumaris harbour, could see several boats, and perceived chimneys smoking. I could distinctly see boats passing to and fro, at a considerable distance, near to Beaumaris. I shouted, in the hope that some one might hear me; and, finding a small spar with a spike, I endeavoured to secure it, and succeeded. To this pike I affixed my handkerchief, waving it over my head, and shouting with all the strength of my lungs. Presently I perceived a boat making towards me, the boat was brought alongside, and I was pulled in, being the second rescued, one having been taken into the boat before me."
Mr. Coxhead, another of the passengers, when the chimney fell, immediately seized one of the ropes attached to the mast, and folded it round his left arm: he earnestly recommended some of the females to adopt the same plan, and did all in his power to comfort them. At that part of the vessel there were then perhaps forty or fifty persons; nor had any as yet been washed away from it. A tremendous sea however, soon struck over, which appeared to split the vessel from one end to the other; the vessel "lurched" so much, that it was upon its side, in almost a perpendicular position; the passengers naturally clung to one another, or to the side of the ship. "This," says Mr. Coxhead, "was indeed a terrific moment; the sea did not immediately wash us over, but we remained for an instant, as it were with our heads touching the water, when our collective weight carried away the side of the ship, and we were all at once precipitated into the raging element." As he rose, an agonizing cry reached his ear; it was the cry of death. But all was soon hushed; those who could, seized the first thing that presented itself. "Although when I went into the water, I had forgotten the circumstance, I found myself with a rope around my arm, and a wave almost immediately carried me against the side of the wreck. I came with great force, and was knocked away a second time; I tried to recover myself with the same want of success, and as I suffered much from the bruises that I received, I thought for a moment of releasing myself from the rope: Providence, however, interposed, and I caught the rope with my right hand. This I had before been unable to do, and making great exertion, I threw myself into the net-work at the stern of the vessel. Here I managed to support myself a considerable time, tossed about with the wreck, and incapable of shewing my head above the deck to procure assistance. After the lapse, however, of about a quarter of an hour, I did so, and prevailed upon two of my fellow-sufferers to give me a hand, by which I was enabled to throw myself on deck, and seize the rudder wheel." This portion of the vessel almost immediately after parted from the wreck, forming a sort of raft, which proved the means of preserving nine persons, who after floating about from seven o'clock, were picked up by the Campeadora's boat.
Of all who were on board, only twenty-two were saved.
A report of a court case (libel action against the Albion newspaper for suggesting that the ROTHSAY CASTLE was unfit to sail) is available here
In 1981 divers reported to the Hydrographic Office that they had
found wreckage which could be the remains of the Rothsay Castle.
Charted as "Foul": position is East of Penmon Point and West of B2 port hand (red) buoy; in about 8m depth at LW. 53° 18.299' N, 4° 2.340' W
Hydrographic Office notes:
*H1310/81/31 18.11.81 LOCATED, AND DIVED ON, 173DEGS, 900MTRS FROM TRWYN-DU LT. 55FT OF KEEL AND RIBS, AND THE STERN REMAINS FAIRLY INTACT, LYING UP TO GUNWHALE IN SAND. AVERAGE DEPTH 40FT. (M BINSTED).
CHART AS F IN 531817N, 040216W [OGB]. NE 1464. POSITIONS BELOW THIS POINT ARE IN DEGREES, MINUTES AND DECIMALS OF A MINUTE
**29.3.04 EUT POSN: 5318.299N, 0402.340W. BA 1463 [MAY'02 EDN].
For an account from the viewpoint of (surviving) passengers aboard see the Chapter in Come Hell and High Water by Jean Hood.
Denham 1840 cites approximately 5 miles from Point of Ayr - on the extreme western tip of the West Hoyle Bank (West Hoyle Spit) as
that fatally remote sand called 'Blaney Patch' [so-called by me] or bank upon which the Lord Blaney steamer was wrecked with all hands in December 1833 on the night the N.W. Lightship was driven from its moorings
The PS Lord Blayney was on a voyage from Warrenpoint (in Carlingford Lough near Newry) to Liverpool. She was expected to arrive off Liverpool about 2am on Thursday 12 December. The weather was stormy and the North-west floating light was off station, so she was unable to find the correct entrance channel. She ran ashore on Hoyle Bank (near the location where she expected to find the floating light). On board were the captain and 16 crew and 30 passengers (1 cabin, 1 deck, and 28 pig dealers). Among the varied cargo was a racehorse valued at £800, a huge sum in those days. When the weather abated, vessels were sent out to look for her wreck but there was no sign. There were no survivors - apart from 1 pig. Her wreckage has never been located on the seabed.
On 16 Dec 1833, William Darlington, aged 47, engineer on the Lord Blayney, was cast ashore and buried at Llanasa (parish that includes Point of Ayr).
Here is a report from the Annual Register:
On the afternoon of Tuesday the 10th a succession of sudden and violent squalls prevailed at Liverpool, which lasted till noon on the following day. About 2 o'clock on Wednesday morning, the hurricane being then at its height, and the sea running mountains high, the chain of one of the anchors of the North West Floating Light-ship snapped asunder. That vessel is moored in the Channel, for the guidance of vessels approaching the port of Liverpool. She is secured by two anchors head and stern, which are attached by strong chains to a massive ring, to which her cable is made fast, One of the chains gave way, and, the captain unfortunately not being on board, the crew became alarmed. About this time the Government steamer, Dolphin, from Dublin, was seen approaching, and the crew of the light-ship took the opportunity of unshackling the remaining chain, and were towed by the Dolphin into port.
This was early on Wednesday morning, and as soon as it was light the information was communicated by telegraph to the pilot-boats on the different stations. By this means, however. the important information was still very inadequately diffused, and the commanders of the inward-bound vessels, were thrown into a state of the utmost uncertainty and confusion by the disappearance of the light. With a laudable zeal for the safety of the shipping, the agent for the Post-office steamers, gave instructions to the commanders of those vessels to apprise all inward bound vessels on their track that the light-ship was adrift. Captain Emerson of the Etna, burnt blue signal-lights, and gave notice when within hail, to all the vessels he met, that the light-ship was not at her station. By this means no doubt many vessels escaped shipwreck.
Unfortunately, however, it was impossible to warn every vessel of her danger, and to this is attributed the loss of the Lord Blayney steamer, with all on board. That vessel left Warren Point, Newry, about 11 o'clock on Wednesday forenoon, with a valuable cargo. Her crew consisted of the Captain and 16 hands, her burden per register being 201 tons. At her usual rate of sailing, she would reach the station of the light-ship about 2 o'clock on Thursday morning. It is presumed, however, that, in the absence of the floating-light, the captain must have imagined he was out of his course, and must have steered for Ayr-point (north-west entrance to the Dee), supposing it to be the floating-light. The consequence was, that she ran on the banks which lie in that direction, and went to pieces, all on board being lost.
Report from John Dawson of items ashore:
At dark last night, a great number of dead pigs, a horse, a great number of sacks of flour, firkins of butter, and two dead bodies, were washed ashore near the Point of Ayr Light. I heard that a person saw a mast of a vessel above the water yesterday morning under Prestatyn. Captain Stewart's trunk and the register of the vessel have come on shore. I am afraid the Lord Blayney steamer is lost, and all hands on board perished - there are, I think, two or three hundred dead pigs on the shore, but we can scarcely tell as it has been so dark all night. I am so tired I scarcely can write; as soon as it is light I will go down to the shore again.
Messrs. Watson and Pym, the owners of the Lord Blayney, sent out a steam boat on Sunday to examine the banks and shores near which that vessel was lost, and if possible to pick up part of the wreck. Not a single article of any kind could be found, and the steamer returned into port without having gained the least information relative to the causes or circumstances of the disaster.
The number of individuals on board, including those
who belonged to the vessel, was 47; the names and descriptions are as
Capt. Stewart (Royal Navy), commander; Stephen Roberts, chief mate; James Smith, second mate; Wm. Darlington, first engineer (body found); Matthew Stanton, second engineer; Mark Quilleash, steward; T. Tobin, cook. The remainder of the hands are not given, as their names are uncertain. The only cabin passenger known to have been on board was Mrs. Robert Purdon, of Newry; only one deck-ticket was issued - to Mr. Polin (body found). There was a person named James Gordon, with a man-servant, on board, and a racehorse called Mounteagle, valued at £300, which was lost. The names of the other passengers, who were, as already stated, dealers in pigs, are as follows;- - O'Hear, P. M'Coy, P. Hanlon, P. O'Hear, and another, D. Gorman, H. Dunn, J. Cassidy, - O'Kenry, P. Trainor, O'Rice, J. Duffy, - M'Larkins, P. Rice, H. Hughes, H. Conisky, P. Clarke, J. Quigley, P. Fryers, J. Sloan, M'Anulty, P. Dunn, - Feenan, - Hanlon, W. Somerville, J. Mills, and - M'Ardle (uncertain).
The following is a statement of the cargo on board: - 565.5 casks of
butter, 106 bags of flour, 26 bags of oatmeal, 37 bags of oats, 8 bags
of wheat, 2 bales of linen, 20 crocks of butter, 6 boxes of eggs, 4 bags
of potatoes, 11 hampers and bags of fowl, 2 hogsheads of oysters, 13
boxes and bags of quills, and 603 pigs. The only living thing that
escaped from the wreck was a pig, which was found upon the beach.
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The St David, Liverpool and Newry steamer [b 1824 Humble & Hurry
Liverpool, lengthened 1833 to 120' x 18', 110 tons burthen, reg Dublin,
owned St George Steam packet Co], encountered a severe gale and storm of
sleet and snow on Saturday night week [16 March 1839], and three of the
passengers (peasants) died from excessive cold and the sea breaking over
them, several others were in such a state of destitution, and so
exhausted, that it was deemed advisable to take them to the Hospital on
their arrival at Liverpool on Sunday. Seventy head of cattle, in the
extremity of distress and to lighten the vessel, were thrown overboard.
It was often noted that the treatment of deck passengers on these crossings was worse than that afforded to the many of the cattle and animals carried (when they were sheltered in the hold).
Another example of the atrocious conditions suffered by passengers is here reported:
APPALLING CATASTROPHE. - 72 LIVES LOST ON BOARD THE LONDONDERRY
The steamer Londonderry, Captain Johnstone, was one of the vessels belonging to the North-West of Ireland Steam-packet Company, and was mainly engaged in sailing between Sligo and Liverpool. She was a relatively large wooden paddle steamer (277 tons net; 511 tons gross; registered Londonderry; built 1841 by R. Steele of Greenock with engines by R. Napier at Glasgow) and had a primarily Scottish crew of 23. She left Sligo at four o'clock on Friday evening [1st December 1848] for the latter port, with a cargo, a large number of cattle and sheep, 174 steerage passengers, emigrants on their way, via Liverpool, to America, and two or three cabin passengers. As she proceeded on her voyage, the weather became exceedingly foul, and after midnight, the wind rose to a perfect gale. About one o'clock that night, or rather Saturday morning [2nd December], it was deemed expedient to put the steerage passengers below, and the order was executed, not, we understand, without some resistance on the part of many of them.
The size of the steerage cabin of an ordinary steamer is a compartment rarely more than 18 feet long, by 10 or 12 in width, and in height about seven feet. Into this space, an aft cabin, ventilated only by one opening - the companion - 174 human beings, as we have been informed, were packed together. We can only guess at the necessity which gave occasion for this apparently inhuman, and, alas, fatal order, but it is reasonable to suppose that there was an apprehension lest some of the unfortunate passengers might have been washed overboard had they remained on deck, as the sea was at the time breaking over the vessel. The steerage being thus occupied, it was next, as alleged, feared lest the water should get admission through the companion, and this, the only vent by which air could be admitted to the sufferers below, was closed, and a tarpaulin nailed over it, thus hermetically sealing the aperture, and preventing all possibility of any renewal of the exhausted atmosphere. The steamer went on her way, gallantly braving the winds and waves, and unconscious of the awful work which death was meanwhile doing within her. At length, one man - the last, it is said, who had been put down - contrived to effect an opening through the tarpaulin of the companion, and pushing himself out, communicated to the mate that the people in the steerage were dying for want of air.
The mate instantly became alarmed, and, obtaining a lantern, went down to render assistance. Such, however, was the foul state of air in the cabin that the light was immediately extinguished. A second was obtained, and it, too, was extinguished. At length, on the tarpaulin being completely removed, and a free access of air admitted, the real nature of the catastrophe exhibited itself. There lay, in heaps, the living, the dying, and the dead, one frightful mass of mingled agony and death - a spectacle enough to appal the stoutest heart. Men, women, and children were huddled together, blackened with suffocation, distorted by convulsions, bruised and bleeding from the desperate struggle for existence which preceded the moment when exhausted nature resigned the strife. After some time the living were separated from the dead, and it was then found that the latter amounted to nearly one half of the entire number.
The vessel put into Lough Foyle at 10 o'clock on Saturday night, but for some reason, with which we are not yet acquainted, she did not come up to the quay of Derry until ten o'clock on the following (Sunday) morning. The excitement and consternation of the inhabitants may well be conceived when the astounding intelligence was circulated, that the Londonderry had put in with a multitude of dead bodies on board, the intelligence heightened by the exaggerated stories of robbery and assassination.
The authorities at once hastened to the spot, and immediately orders were given for the arrest of the captain, crew, and surviving passengers. Fifty men of the 95th depot, under the command of Major Raines, supported by the city constabulary, were present, and prevented the egress of any portion from the vessel. Mr. Alexander Lindsay, the Mayor, and several of the local magistrates were in attendance. The scene on entering the steerage of the steamer was perhaps as awful a spectacle as could be witnessed. Seventy-two dead bodies of men, women, and children, lay piled indiscriminately over each other, four deep, all presenting the ghastly appearance of persons who had died in the agonies of suffocation, very many of them covered with the blood which had gushed from the mouth and nose, or had flowed from the wounds inflicted by the trampling of nail-studded brogues, and by the frantic violence of those who struggled for escape. For it was but too evident that, in that struggle, the poor creatures had torn the clothes from off each other's backs, and even the flesh from each other's limbs. It required three hours to remove the bodies. It is almost unnecessary to say that all these passengers were miserably poor - many of them half naked.
An inquest on the sufferers was held. The details disclosed scenes of horror truly awful to contemplate. Some of the men became mad, and killed their companions. The passengers also robbed each other, and violation was attempted. Owen Kane said there would have been fewer deaths had there been no fighting. Anne Gannon deposed that the gold rings were taken out of her ears, her purse was stolen, and an attempt made to take the rings from her fingers. The horrors endured in the black-hole of Calcutta, which will never be forgotten, were actually exceeded in the hold of this accursed ship. There, death only by suffocation was apprehended - here, in this vessel, it was accompanied by other horrors.
The following is the verdict of the jury: "We find that death was caused by suffocation, in consequence of the gross negligence and total want of the usual and necessary caution on the part of the captain, Alexander Johnstone; Richard Hughes, first mate; and Ninian Crawford, second mate; and we, therefore, find them guilty of Manslaughter; and we further consider it our duty to express in the strongest terms our abhorrence of the inhuman conduct of the seamen on board on the melancholy occasion; and the jury beg to call the attention of proprietors of steamboats to the urgent necessity of introducing some more effectual mode of ventilation in the steerage, and also affording better accommodation to the poorer class of passengers."
From August 1826, the Post Office had a fleet of steamships to
provide the mail service from Liverpool to Dublin (actually to Dun
Loaghaire - then called Kingstown). Initially these were the Thetis,
Dolphin, Etna and Comet [built Liverpool of 300 tons burthen]. They
also had a steam tender, Richmond, available. They provided a passenger
service on these government-owned boats in competition to companies such
as the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. Since they did not take
cattle, their passenger service was at a premium.
They had instigated using steamships (Meteor and Lightning) on the Holyhead-Dublin (actually to Howth near Dublin) route in 1821. King George IV, on his visit to Ireland in August 1821, transferred from the Royal Yacht (sailing vessel Royal George) in Holyhead and took the Lightning to Dublin to avoid delay from contrary winds. See image of PSS Lightning at Holyhead. Because of this "fit for a king" approval, Lightning was renamed Royal Sovereign (or sometimes just Sovereign).
See also an earlier accident to P S Escape in 1832 on the Howth to Holyhead post-office service.
Contemporary newspaper report:
On Tuesday morning last [7th October 1834], his Majesty's steam packet Thetis, Captain Townley, one of the most beautiful and fast sailing Government packets on the Liverpool station, was nearly destroyed by fire, while moored in the Mersey. Many erroneous reports are in circulation, both as to the origin of the fire and extent of the damage, but the following particulars may be relied upon as authentic:-
The Thetis arrived from Dublin with the Mail and passengers early on Monday morning, and, after having discharged them at the Pierhead, proceeded to her moorings opposite Tranmere. As is usual, the fire under the boiler was put out. During the day fresh coals were taken on board, and on Monday evening everything was in a state of readiness for her voyage to Dublin on the following day. At nine o'clock on Monday night one half of the crew, as is customary, went on shore, the remaining half sleeping on board, and the vessel then riding at her moorings. Everything continued quiet throughout the night, the watch on deck being changed every four hours. At four o'clock a. m., the man who had the middle watch was relieved, and the fresh man, on coming on deck at that hour, made his round of the vessel and considered that all was right. About half past four, however, he was alarmed by a crackling sound, accompanied by strong smell as of something burning, and on going aft, the galley, or cook house for the passengers, which adjoins the after part of the funnel, was discovered on fire, and the flames issuing through a grating on the deck called the man-hole door, over the after part of the boiler. All hands were immediately roused, and on lifting the iron covers from off the coal lockers, a mass of flame and smoke burst - The alarm was immediately given to the shore, but at that early hour little aid was obtainable, especially as every effort of the crew was employed in quenching the devastating element, which was fast gaining ground.
Soon after five, the Birkenhead steamer came to their assistance, and subsequently the Lady Stanley, Eastham packet. At this period, however, the flames had burst into the first cabin, and assumed so alarming an appearance as to threaten the total destruction of the vessel and, finding all efforts in the ordinary mode unavailing in staying its progress, it was deemed expedient to scuttle her. She was accordingly slipped from her moorings and dropped to Woodside, where she was run on the bank, a short distance from the slip. She here received the assistance of his Majesty's packet, Richmond; Mr. Williams's Woodside boat; the Runcorn packet, the Rival; and his Majesty's packet Dolphin, Captain Smithett, likewise, which had just arrived from Dublin, contributed her aid, in the endeavour to save her consort. The Norwich Union engine was likewise brought into play on board one of the Woodside steamers, and the whole united endeavours of this powerful aid were used to stay the progress of the fire, which, notwithstanding, even seemed to gain upon and threatened to ignite a small copper magazine of powder, which was stowed under the after part of the ship. Soon after six o'clock the flames had spread through the whole of the cabins, and about half past six the powder blew up with a loud explosion, tearing away all of the deck and top sides which the flames had left. We may here correct an erroneous impression that has gone abroad, occasioned, doubtless, by the violence of the report: - the quantity was only five pounds, it was, however, closely sealed in a small copper magazine, the resistance of which would occasion the loud noise. Providentially no injury occurred, but having succeeded in opening the scuttle, she soon after filled with water and sank to the bottom, thus fortunately saving this fine vessel from the total destruction with which she was at one time threatened.
No satisfactory cause can at present he assigned for the origin of the fire, but it is conjectured that it must have arisen from some of the combustible particles of the coal having ignited from the heat of the boiler, which would take some time to cool even after the fires had been drawn, and that it had slumbered for several hours. It certainly was first observed among the coal, and not in the cabin, as that apartment was locked early the night before, and no light was left, nor did any one sleep there. The extent of the damage sustained is not as great as might he expected. The decks and upper works from the funnel aft are entirely consumed, as well as the whole of the cabin furniture, linen, and plate, This last does not amount to £700, as has been stated, nor to one-fourth of that sum. The whole of the fore-part of the vessel and the entire engine is preserved, with no other damage than will be sustained from salt water.
Report of repairs to put the Thetis back in service:
Last year , the Thetis was obliged to have her boilers and engines put in at Liverpool, they having been taken out in consequence of a fire which occurred on board the vessel. Engineers from Bolton and Watts manufactory were employed. When they commenced putting in the engines, the Thetis was stationed at Mr Laird's establishment on the Cheshire coast where there happened not to be sufficient depth of water to keep the vessel afloat at ebb tide. She consequently grounded in the mud and the engineers declined setting the engines as they said they could not possibly work with any degree of accuracy, unless the vessel was kept afloat while they were at work. The Thetis was in consequence of this removed to the wet dock at Liverpool before her engines were put in.
The Thetis was repaired at Liverpool from her being in so disabled a state that she could not be taken to Holyhead. The repairs she received were very extensive. The boilers were taken out and overhauled, new cylinders and slide valves put, the shafts raised and the diameter of the wheels increased, at the same time the vessel was lengthened 15 feet. As many as 200 men were at work at the same time and the repairs were conducted with great expedition and in the most satisfactory manner.
PSS URGENT 1839
Post Office wooden paddle steamer: Liverpool to Dublin. 10' draught.
Explosion 13 April 1839 while alongside Liverpol Pier.
7 injuries, no fatalities.
Around this date there were 4 wooden paddle steamers (Avon, Lucifer, Shearwater, Urgent) providing the Government (Post Office) mail service from Liverpool to Ireland (Kingstown - now Dun Laoghaire). They left the St Georges Pier Head at 5pm - and passengers could board them as they lay moored, using a small steam packet. Since these steamers did not take cattle, they were regarded as a better option than the commercial services (from City of Dublin Steam Packet Co, etc).
Contemporary report: EXPLOSION AT LIVERPOOL Considerable alarm was excited in the neighbourhood of the George's Pier on Saturday evening, at five, by the sudden explosion of the boilers of her Majesty's steamer, Urgent, just as she was on the point of sailing with the mail and passengers for Dublin. The mail bags had just been put on board the vessel, which was lying off George's Pier, and the passengers being on board, the bell was ringing as the signal of departure at the moment of the explosion. Very fortunately, the most dense portion of the steam found vent through the funnel, blowing the damper out at the top; the passengers, most of whom were on the quarter deck, escaped entirely unhurt, but nine men who were below in the engine room were more or less scalded; one man named Peter Hughes so badly, that his life is despaired of. As quickly as possible these persons were conveyed to the Northern Hospital, but that asylum being full they were obliged to be carried to the Infirmary, where seven of them were admitted into the house, and the other two, whose injuries were of a slighter description, were taken to their own homes. We have not learned how the accident happened, or what injury the vessel has sustained. She was esteemed the best, and was certainly the swiftest, packet on this station. The Shearwater was ordered to take the place of the Urgent, and was got ready as soon as possible; She sailed with the mail and passengers about eight o'clock.
The Urgent was put back in service.
The PS Superb had travelled widely - being on charter to Portuguese interests and then pioneering a North Sea route from Hull to Gothenberg. She then returned to Irish Sea duties.
Report from Liverpool Mercury Friday 27 Feb 1835:
About four o'clock in the morning (Friday) as the Etna [Post Office Liverpool-Dublin Steam-packet], Captain Emmerson, was on its course towards this port [Liverpool], when off the north shore, the crew descried the blue lights, (being signals of distress,) near the Brazil Bank. The captain immediately lowered a boat, which, with a sufficient number of men, he sent to the aid of the distressed vessel, which they ascertained to be the Superb steamer, bound from Cork to this port, laden with pigs, cattle, merchandise, and passengers. From the situation in which the steamer was placed, it appeared impossible to get her to sea again, and Captain Emmerson very handsomely took the whole of the passengers, letters, etc., on board the Etna, and conveyed them to Liverpool. Prior to this many head of cattle and fifty-four pigs had been consigned to the deep, in the vain hope that by lightening her she could be got off the bank.
The wreck of the Superb, steamer, lay on the Brazil Bank, opposite New Brighton, about a mile from the shore. In this situation the Superb remained until Sunday, when it became necessary, as the storm increased, that the crew should desert her, which they accordingly did, and on Monday she was shattered to pieces by the hurricane, the greater portion of her timbers being carried out to sea.
In June 1835, at the St George Steam Packet Company Office in Liverpool, the engine, boiler and wreck of the Superb, as she lay on the Burbo Bank, was advertised for sale. The hull was described as newly coppered in November.
Note that several other vessels were lost during this same storm.
The steam ship service between Rhyl (and Rhuddlan) and Liverpool was associated with some early steam ship losses. Steamers left Liverpool daily about 3 hours before high water, and arrived at Rhyl (Foryd harbour) at around high water, before returning the same day.
The PS Vale of Clwyd (wooden b 1829 Wood & Richie, Port
Glasgow; 101' x 16' x 10'; engine 60 hp) was transferred from the Rhyl
service to a general North Wales service in 1834; while the PS Saint
Wenefrede (wooden b 1830 Denny, Dumbarton; 100' x 16' x 5'; engines
Napier 50hp; 125 tr) which had served Rhyl, Mostyn and Bagillt from
Liverpool was sold to Naples in 1833.
While on the Rhyl Service on 31 Dec 1833; the Vale of Clwyd steamer drifted from her moorings, thumped against the pier at Liverpool, and after receiving considerable damage, as well as doing serious injury to the pierhead, went down opposite the baths. A considerable quantity of the cargoes, consisting chiefly of cheeses, tea, furniture and fruit, was unloaded just before the vessel sank, and saved; principally through the exertions of the spectators, who had thronged to the pier-head to witness the magnificent scene which the river presented. It was thought that the Vale of Clwyd was scuttled, and sunk purposely, in order to prevent her being dashed to pieces against the pier and has since been got up and taken into dock, without having sustained much injury.
From mid 1834, the PS
Countess of Glasgow (wooden b 1826 Scott & Sons, Greenock; 100' x 18' x
8'; 90tons; engines by James Cook) provided the Rhyl-Liverpool service until 26
November 1835 when she collided with the pier head at Woodside
(Birkenhead) and was wrecked. Her wreckage was broken up in Liverpool in 1836.
She had only arrived in Liverpool, from Rhyl, on the previous evening. It was thought that this loss was occasioned by some mismanagement on the part of the man at the helm. She was worth from £2500 to 3000.
The PS George (b 1834 Chester; 85' x 16'; 55 nt; previously a ferry
in the Mersey) was chartered to provide a replacement service. On the
morning of Friday 29 January 1836, on approaching Rhyl, she hit a buoy
which damaged her rudder. Early paddle steamers had both paddles fixed
to the cross-shaft, so could not steer using the engines. She was
driven on shore near Rhyl and became a total wreck. All hands were
saved. This wreck was reported in several English newspapers but not in
Lloyds List or the Liverpool or Welsh Newspapers. A great quantity of
crown staves and pieces of wood were reported to be washed ashore from
Rhyl to Abergele - possibly from another wreck.
A PS George with the above size and date of build was still listed in service in 1861 - so the wreck at Rhyl was most probably salvaged and repaired.
The new steamer Snowden (wooden b 1836 Hunter and Dow, Glasgow; 106' x 17' x 10'; 160grt; 94nrt; engines Caird 70 nhp) entered service in May 1836 and, later that year, a rival service was also available from the PS St. Mungo (wooden b 1825 Robert Duncan, Greenock; 116' x 17' X 10'; engines Murdoch & Aitken 75 nhp; 108 grt).
The Snowden and St Mungo are still listed in 1839 as operational.
There is a report to the Board of Trade in July 1839 about steam ship losses and accidents. It cites a steam ship (unnamed) taking 40 passengers on an excursion from Liverpool to Rhyl which had a boiler malfunction on 29 June 1836, requiring passengers to be rescued by fishing boats (since she carried no boats herself). I have been unable to find a newspaper report of this incident (some of the dates in this report are inaccurate - it may refer to the loss of the PS George).
The steamer Prince Arthur last Sunday [ie 4 Aug 1850] started from Preston on a pleasure-trip to Bangor, to view the bridges spanning the Menai Strait. She had some fifty passengers. When off Southport, the vessel sprung a leak, in consequence of the supply-pipe of the engine's feeding-pump breaking. The water entered rapidly. All hands did what they could to bale out the water; but there was only one bucket, and two others were made from a tub. The leak increased, and after a time the fires were extinguished; one small sail was got up, but the vessel was quite unmanageable.
About five o'clock the vessel was run ashore near Formby, where she quickly went to pieces. The four lady passengers (and 3 others) were landed in the miserable little boat belonging to the steamer; but as this boat could not return through the surf, the rest of the passengers and crew were left clinging to the wreck, shifting their quarters as portions of the steamer were washed away, until at length they had to cluster about the iron frames of the paddle-wheels.
The engineer and the two firemen attempted to get to shore on a plank; but the firemen perished, and their companion was picked up in a very bad state. When the disaster was discovered at Southport, two boats were transported to the wreck. They took off all the people, some in a wretched plight.
That day the evening HW was at 8pm (local time) with a neap tide.
The engine components of the Prince Arthur were reported in Sept. 1850 to have been moved from the beach to Southport as salvage.
Full report from Preston Chronicle of Sat 10 Aug 1851:
WRECK OF THE "PRINCE ARTHUR" STEAMER, OFF SOUTHPORT. TWO LIVES LOST.
On Sunday last, one of those fearful casualties resulting in loss of life and great destruction of property, which have been so frequent of late upon the western coast of England, occurred to a vessel called the Prince Arthur, bound from this town to Bangor and Menai Bridge, upon a pleasure excursion. The Prince Arthur is a steam-ship of 83 tons burden, which for some years past has been running upon the Clyde, under the name of The Dumbarton Castle. A few months ago she was sold to Mr. T. Presto Pino, of Liverpool, for the sum of £1100, and she was placed upon the Mersey, running for some time under the name of Sam Slick. Last week, Mr. Pino announced, by advertisement, that the vessel, which had been newly christened The Prince Arthur, would make a pleasure trip to Bangor and Menai Straits, from the Old Quay, at the Marsh End, in this town, and a considerable number of gentlemen from Preston and the neighbourhood took tickets for the excursion.
Before proceeding further in narrating the circumstances attending the trip, it may not be uninteresting to state that the Prince Arthur or Dumbarton Castle is an iron steam-ship, with one deck and one mast. She was built, according to the register, in 1840, is 114 7-10ths feet in length, 16 7-10ths feet in breadth, and the depth of her hold is 18 3-10ths feet. The cylinder of the engine is 42 1/4 inches in diameter, and the stroke of the engine - which is of the upright kind, and has been recently furnished with a new boiler, cross-head, and funnel- is 3 feet 6 inches. The iron plates of which the vessel is composed, are represented by parties connected with her to be 3/8ths[?] of an inch in thickness, but those who have examined the wreck say that some of the plates are only about 1/8th of an inch in thickness.
At about half-past eight o'clock on Sunday morning, the Prince Arthur left this town, with between fifty and sixty passengers on board, and nine persons composing the crew. After a beautiful sail of about an hour down the river, they arrived at Lytham, at which place the vessel touched, taking in five passengers and putting out nine. They sailed well out of Lytham, and nothing of any consequence occurred till they were some twenty miles out at sea, when the water was found to be making considerable way into the lower part of the vessel, the starboard injection pipe in connection with the machinery having broke. The engineer finding the quantity of water rapidly increasing, at once sent for the captain, who went below, and was immediately made acquainted with the disaster. The engineer requested him at once to put back; but he thought he could run the vessel into Liverpool, and therefore proceeded upon his way. In the meantime the water was gaining rapidly, and it at once became apparent that the fires beneath the boiler must soon be extinguished.
Shortly after the discovery of the leakage, and after the engineer had represented to the captain the danger in which the vessel run, a fishing smack passed her within hailing distance; and though urged by those of the passengers who had become aware of the leakage, to hail her, the captain allowed the smack to pass by almost unnoticed, merely telling them that though there was great danger, every one would have a chance for his life, and, if possible, he would run the vessel into Liverpool. What renders the conduct of the captain, in not hailing the fishing smack, still more culpable, is the statement of the engineer, that at the very time she passed he knew that one of the fires was out, and that very soon the engine must stop running.
The fishing smack, which was the Rapid, from Liverpool, had not passed the Prince Arthur more than a quarter of an hour when the passengers succeeded in persuading the captain to hoist the signal of distress. The flag was hoisted half mast high, union down, a bell was rung, and the passengers shouted and waved their hats and handkerchiefs to attract the attention of the crew of the smack, but all to no avail. There was a strong breeze blowing at the time, which would prevent the sound reaching the smack, and it proceeded upon its journey, leaving the unfortunate passengers and crew of the Prince Arthur a prey to anguish and despair.
Soon after the Rapid passed the fires were extinguished, and the engines stopping, the vessel became unmanageable, lurching heavily in the sea, and refusing to answer her helm. The water kept rapidly gaining all this time, and was soon very deep in the hold. The passengers and crew at once set to work to bail the water out, the only chance of saving their lives being to keep the vessel afloat till she could be put ashore. Providentially the wind was blowing on shore, which with a floodtide enabled the vessel to drift towards the land. The only piece of canvas on board - a jib was hoisted, but it was of very little use. The passengers and crew worked most energetically in lading out the water, everything capable of holding water being converted into a lading bucket. Even the compass box was taken, and a quart of brandy was thrown over-board, in order that the jug containing it might be used. To add to the disastrous situation, the flag-staff upon which the signal of distress was hoisted, blew away, taking the signal with it, and the captain was compelled to hoist another, in a much less conspicuous place, at the stern of the vessel. The ship was seen from the Formby boat-house, but the signal of distress could not be made out; it was imagined that she was drifting about to avoid the heavy sea.
After having been at the mercy of the waves for upwards of five hours, every one on board expecting the vessel to go to the bottom every moment, she struck in about two fathoms of water, on a portion of the land near to Ainsdale, and lying between Formby and Southport. Immediately after she struck, the only boat on board, a small jolly boat, was launched, and the females, four in number, two sailors, and two passengers, put off in her. They succeeded in gaining the shore, and the sailors endeavoured to take the boat back to the vessel again, but the breakers ran so strong that they were unable to get her out at sea again.
Soon after the boat put off from the shore, the deck of the Prince Arthur broke up, and shortly afterwards the vessel was a complete wreck. Seeing the dangerous situation in which they were in, the engineer bored a hole through the gangway plank, and making himself fast to it, set out for the shore. On his leaving the vessel, a fireman named Alexander Shand jumped into the sea and got hold of the same plank. He was twice washed off by the breakers, but managed to regain the plank. At length, when within about 70 yards from the shore, and within sight of the boats from Southport, he was again washed off, and sunk to rise no more. The engineer drifted ashore, and was saved, though much exhausted. Another fireman, named William Hatton, also set out on a plank, and unfortunately was washed off and drowned.
Not many minutes after the engineer and two firemen had left the vessel, the persons remaining on board of her could perceive two boats from Southport hastening to their assistance along the shore. It appears that the perilous situation of the Prince Arthur had been observed in the town by some parties with telescopes, and two bay-boats were promptly dispatched to the spot upon carts. When they arrived opposite the wreck they were immediately launched and manned, and in five trips to and from the shore they were enabled to bring ashore all the passengers and crew left on board. Several were picked up in the sea, floating on spars, and many were in a state of great exhaustion. Mr. Booth, auctioneer, of this town, and Mr. J. Paley, jun., stripped themselves to swim to the shore before the arrival of the boats, and were picked up out of the water by the bay-boats. Mr. Clerihew, brother to the surgeon of the 85th regiment, both of whom were on board the Prince Arthur, was taken into the boat nearly spent, and friction had to be resorted to to restore animation.
Directly after the vessel struck, the funnel fell, and it was very providential that it fell upon the seaward side, for had it fell the other way many lives might have been sacrificed. Many of the passengers were considerably bruised, their clothes torn, hats lost, etc, and they were taken to Southport in omnibuses and other conveyances. At the inns in Southport they were treated with the greatest kindness, every attention they could wish being paid to them. Many stayed at the inns all night, but several preferred returning the same evening.
The wreck now lies where it struck - about 400 yards from high water mark, and 70 yards from ordinary low water mark; but during the low water of the present week's tides the coast has been lying dry, and many persons have walked and driven round the wreck. There is now (Thursday) only the skeleton of the boat, - the stem and stern of the vessel, and the iron work of the paddle wheels, with engine and boiler, the intermediate portion being swept away. On the shore are lying scattered about at least 10,000 pieces of timber, and almost every piece appears to be completely rotten. A portmanteau and several other things were washed on shore, along with clothes innumerable, bottles of brandy, bread and cheese, etc. The place where the vessel struck is three miles from Southport, five from Formby, and one mile from Birkdale Point. The bodies of the two unfortunate deceased were washed up within a short distance of each other - one on Sunday night, and the other early on Monday morning. They were removed to the Original Hotel, where they awaited the coroner's inquest.
A great number of visitors accompanied the bay boats to the wreck, to render any assistance in their power, and among those to whom the highest praise is due for their praiseworthy exertions are Captain Rawliffe, Captain Rigby, and Mr. Albin Ball. A boy - son of Mr. Coupe - swam nearly to the shore, having hold of a chest, when he was picked up by a boat. On the arrival of the passengers and crew in Southport, the visitors provided them with restoratives, refreshments, and clothes, and people who had never been to sea before now looked the picture of "shipwrecked mariners." Notwithstanding the dangers they had encountered, and the dispiriting circumstances they had gone through, they could not help having a laugh at each other's forlorn and ludicrous appearance. Most of them stayed all night, and many having recovered, held levees to the visitors, and narrated to them their hair-breadth escapes. The deceased, Alexander Shand, has, we regret to say, left a wife and two children to lament his untimely end.
The bodies of the two unfortunate men were buried on Wednesday evening, in the burial-ground of ChristChurch, Southport. The deceased were borne to the ground by four sailors, and were followed by the relatives of the poor fellows, and a great number of inhabitants, most of whom were deeply affected by the sad occurrence. Collections were made on the burial-ground, and since, in the town, in aid of the families of the deceased.
The following are some particulars of the wreck, which have been
gleaned from the passengers and crew. Mr. Coupe's account seems to be
very clearly given, and states most of the facts:-
Mr. H. C. Chapman, agent for Lloyds, who was at Southport at the time, wrote as follows, to Mr. Court, of the Underwriters' Rooms:-
"The visitors and inhabitants of this place were roused this afternoon, about half-past four, by a report that a steamer was on shore on Trunk-hill-brow, apparently full of passengers. The life-boat was unfortunately at Liverpool, for the purpose of being lengthened; but the Southport boatmen got two of their large boats on trucks and proceeded along the shore to her, a distance of three miles. I procured a conveyance, and, with Mr. Irving, of Liverpool, proceeded to render every assistance in our power to the survivors. On arriving opposite the vessel we found that some of the female passengers had been landed in the steamer's punt, and the remainder were clinging to the paddle. boxes. The sea was breaking over the vessel, which lay about half a mile from the shore. The first boat soon afterwards arrived, and was launched in gallant style; the crew would not allow any volunteers to go with them, as they stated that the boat was too small to admit of saving many at one time. The second boat arrived about half of an hour afterwards, and after several trips succeeded in saving the lives of nearly sixty persons, two firemen only being missing. When the last boat left, the vessel almost instantly disappeared, the masts, funnel, and decks having gone previous to the arrival of the first boat, and so ended this fatal Sunday pleasure trip at last. The vessel is so complete a wreck that nothing will be saved out of which to reward the gallant boatmen, whose conduct is deserving of every encouragement, and who were the means, under God's providence, of saving so many lives. The Formby life-boat never came out, and when I sent a messenger on horseback to the station, the people knew nothing of the disaster. I trust the Humane Society will assist in raising funds to reward the boatmen for their meritorious services, and as an encouragement for the future. The names of the firemen drowned are Alexander Shand and George Howard. They floated away on spars; had they remained on the vessel they would have been saved. All on board, both crew and passengers, behaved well. At first the mast and funnel went, next the bull-warks and quarter-deck. The passengers then took to the paddle-boxes, but these were quickly swept away, and the unfortunate excursionists left to cling to the iron-work of the wheels, etc. The late mayor of Preston's son attempted to swim ashore, but was picked up by a boat; he narrowly escaped drowning, Many stripped off almost all their clothing, and received garments from the boatmen. The captain was the last to leave the vessel, and in a moment afterwards, instantaneously, every vestige disappeared."
The following is the deposition of Samuel Webster, master of the
"Sailed from Preston this morning, at a quarter before 9 o'clock, on a pleasure excursion to the Menai-bridge, with about 52 passengers, in addition to the crew, consisting of nine seamen in all. Proceeded to sea through the New. Channel, wind S.W., by W. blowing hard. About 1 p.m. the vessel began to make water, having broken one of her injection pipes; set the pumps to work, and all hands turned to baling the cabin and engine-room. Finding the vessel could not make way, slacked the fires out, set jib, etc., and ran her on shore. Wanted the Preston pilot to bear away for Southport Roads, but he said there were no buoys to lead him in, therefore he durst not attempt it, and ran her on shore, stem on. The crew and passengers were saved by the Southport boats, and the women by the steamer's punt, the only boat belonging to her, two firemen alone being missing."
Deposition of Moore Eaves, Pilot, taken before Mr. Henry C. Chapman,
agent for Lloyd's Southport, Aug. 5.
"Moore Eaves - Acts as a Ribble pilot, but has no branch or authority for so doing, there being no branch pilots or any parties licensed for so acting. Was engaged by Mr. Presto Pine, agent for the steamer Prince Arthur, employed at times in towing and at others on excursion trips, to pilot the vessel in and out of Preston on a pleasure trip to Menai-bridge. Left Preston at half-past eight on Sunday morning, with about 60 passengers; arrived at Lytham at half-past 9; landed seven or eight passengers, and took on board about five, and then proceeded safely to sea through the New Gut. When about five miles beyond the outer buoy water, the engineer reported that the vessel was making water. We then edged away for the Bell-buoy. When distant from it about one-and-a-half miles, the water in the the engine-room put out the fires. The passengers turned to and baled willingly, but had only one bucket on board. Cut up a keg and made two others. Set the jib, and got the vessel before the wind to beach her and save the lives of the passengers. It was four hours before she struck, half-way between Formby and Southport, the vessel being full of water and unmanageable. Had she been under command could have got into Southport-roads (as deponent knew the channel perfectly), where the vessel would have been safe: wind blowing WSW, blowing hard. Southport-roads is a safe anchorage, and a place to make for with a desirable vessel caught to leeward and not able to fetch Liverpool, with the wind from W.S.W. to S.W., but the channel is not buoyed or known to strangers."
Mr. James Coupe, of this town, who was the last passenger taken from
the wreck, informs us:
"We left Preston at half-past eight, and reached Lytham in an hour and two minutes. The vessel seemed right enough before we went out, and we had a beautiful passage down to Lytham. At the Chain Caul, about three miles from Preston, we touched the bottom of the river; and having arrived at Lytham, we took five passengers in, and put out nine. Between ten and eleven o'clock, when we had got some ten or a dozen miles from Lytham, I was sitting in the cabin, when a heavy sea came and struck the cabin window, letting in a good deal of water. I tried to shut the window, but found that I could not do so within about three inches, and one of the men employed on the vessel said it would not shut. I asked if the steamer was straining, and the man said she was, and I then made an observation as to the want of dead lights. The captain's wife, who was the stewardess, was greatly alarmed at the sea coming in at the window, and was quite incapacitated from serving. Some parties on deck wanting some brandy, the stewardess would not fetch it, but asked me to go down to the cabin for it, she saying we should all be drowned; and observed, as did also the cabin-boy, that she was a bad boat, I told her not to alarm herself, as there was no danger, and I went down to the cabin for the brandy. I then noticed some water upon the floor of the cabin, and after having served the brandy, and returning with the empty glasses to the cabin, I found the water had considerably increased in quantity. It was my opinion at that time that the water had come through the cabin window, and the floor being covered with oil-cloth, it could not escape into the hold of the vessel. I subsequently went down again to the cabin, and found Mr. Rigby, the owner of the vessel, there. The water was then ankle deep in the cabin, and I observed to Mr. Rigby that there was sadly too much water there, and that the pump ought to be at work. He said the pump was down in the hold, and would not work because it was out of order, and he then sent me for the captain. I went to the captain and told him, and he went below directly. When he came up - almost immediately afterwards - he told the pilot they must make for Liverpool. About that time I went to the engine driver, and asked him why we had so much water, and why the pump was not going? He said the pump was out of order and would not work, and that in less than a quarter of an hour the engine would stop. I asked how that was, and he said because the fires would be slacked out by the water. I said "That's a pretty how d'ye do; the buckets must be got to work." He said they had no buckets with the exception of one. I said, "What are those iron cases you get the ashes out with ?" and he said they would let the water out as fast as it could be put in. I then said "Well, without a pump, and only one bucket, we are in a nice mess. With a pump out of order, and one bucket, what's that for a sinking ship ?" he said, " Well, what we must do will be, to go to the bottom"; and I observed that that was very fine consolation indeed. I looked at the forestay, where there ought to have been a jib bent, and to the mast, for a main sail; and I said to the captain, " Have you no sails on board, you've nothing bent." He called to the mate, and a jib was brought out of the forecastle, and after some time it was temporarily rigged. I then wished the captain to have the awning put up as a temporary sail, but he said they could not steer with it. Previously to that I had asked the pilot, with whom I was acquainted, where he was taking us to, and he said, "To Formby." I said, "There's no chance for Liverpool?" and he said "No. If I can get the vessel into Formby Gut, I can save the vessel and all hands." The captain said "Never mind the vessel, save the lives." I afterwards went to the pilot, and said, " Moore, you cannot get to Formby. The flood tide is setting us up towards Southport, and it will be a good thing if we could get towards that point." "Yes," He said, "but the vessel won't answer her helm." This occurred at about four o'clock, and the fires were slacked out at about one. Just previously to the fires going out, a fishing-smack passed us, within a very short distance. She was the Rapid, from Liverpool; I could read the name on her stern. Two persons were upon her deck, one sitting smoking a pipe, and it was blowing a good breeze at the time. When she passed us we were taking in water, and the engines were just about to stop, being working at the time very slow. The passengers advised the captain to hail the smack, but he said, "Oh, we can get to Liverpool. Don't put yourselves out of the way." Directly after the smack passed, one of the fires went out, and the engine was very near stopping. With some persuasion the captain then hoisted the signal of distress up the topmast, and it would be up an hour before it was blown down. We rung the bell, shouted, and waved our handker-chiefs, to make those on board the smack hear us, but it was all of no use - we had allowed her to proceed too far. She was large enough to have taken in all the passengers. It would be around six o'clock when the vessel struck. She was completely waterlogged, and had she only gone for a quarter of an hour longer, in deep water, she must have gone down, and all on board perished. No person felt her strike, but she directly afterwards stopped, in about two fathoms of water. On asking for a lead line to measure the depth, I found there was not one on board, and observed that everything was alike. First of all they had to borrow a compass of Mr. Bond, at then Marsh End, on starting; next, the pump, would not work; then there were no sails, excepting a jib; next, there was nothing to lade the water with but a bucket, the bottom of which came out in a very short time; and lastly, there was no lead line, and only a small jolly boat on board, capable of carrying seven or eight persons. Then, again, there were no dead lights, and as the windows of the cabin could not be shut within three inches, the water kept pouring in; and ultimately, one of the windows was driven out of its place by the force of the sea. On the bottom of the bucket giving way, we took the compass from the box, and used the latter to bale with. Finding the water still gaining upon us, we cut in halves two water-casks, and so commenced baling with them; and I am of opinion, that had it not been for this circumstance, all on board must have perished. Directly after the vessel struck, the boat was launched, and it was agreed upon all hands that the women should go first. Accordingly four women were put in, with two sailors, and the cabin boy; and Mr. Farington, the manager at Messrs. Dawson's mill, and a man named Pilkington, a breaksman on the Lancaster and Carlisle line, also got in. By the time the boat got to the shore, the vessel was a complete wreck. The engine driver got an auger, and bored a hole through the gangway plank, put a rope through it, and lashed himself to it. One of the firemen jumped after the engineer, and also got hold of the plank. They had not got many yards from the vessel before the wood rolled over with them, but they mounted it again. The engineer was saved, but the other poor fellow was drowned. Another fireman took a piece of casing off the boiler, and getting into the hollow of it, got a piece of wood and began sculling. Soon afterwards he was turned upon his back on the piece of wood, and I afterwards learned that he was one of the persons drowned. He was a fine fellow, and worked uncommonly hard. On leaving the vessel, he called out "Keep your hearts up, lads," and with a smile upon his face, he went away as lively as a cricket. One of my own sons was saved upon a piece of wood, being the second person picked up by the boats. I was the last person taken off the vessel, and for some time I refused to leave it, fearing I could not get into the boat with safety.
With reference to the fishing smack, another of the passengers informs us that it passed at a very little distance from the vessel, and at the time the captain ordered all on deck. He asked the captain himself if there was any danger, and the answer he received was that there was great danger, but they would give every one a fair chance for his life. The passengers told the captain that one of the fires was out, but he thought they could do without assistance from the fishing smack.
Another passenger says: We started from the Quay at about half-past eight, and reached Lytham in about an hour, where we stopped a few minutes to take in and put out passengers. There were more passengers than 52, as stated by the captain, for there were several on board who had not taken tickets, but who intended to pay on board. These were not included in the captain's calculation. Shortly after leaving Lytham, I heard a dispute between the captain and pilot, when the pilot said if he was not allowed to steer his own course he would turn the vessel back. Immediately after that the engineer came up from below and said to the captain, "She's making water fast now - faster than what she did." The pilot overheard what the engineer said, and asked how long she had been making water? The engineer said he didn't know, but it was then very deep in the hold. Not long after that a little fishing smack passed us, going in the direction of Liverpool, and the passengers wished to hail her and get into her. The captain, however, told us not to mind, and he would run the vessel into Liverpool. Shortly after, the vessel passed us, and there was a good breeze blowing at the time. The stewardess came running out of the cabin crying out that the water was making very fast in the cabin, and they would all be drowned. The pilot told her to hold her tongue and not frighten the passengers; and a short time after the smack had passed the captain hoisted the signal of distress. The passengers shouted, rung the bell, waved their coats and hand- kerchiefs, and did all they could to attract the smack's attention, but all was of no avail. In about an hour after the smack passed the fires were put out, and the engine then stopped working. The water kept gaining very rapidly; and about this time there was a dispute between the captain and the pilot as to which was the Bell buoy. The mate and captain contended that a buoy they saw near them was the Bell buoy; but the pilot said he knew the channel better than them, and it was not the Bell buoy. The pilot was afterwards found to be correct; for when we had drifted for about two hours longer we came in sight of the Bell buoy. We hoisted a jib - the only sail on board - but it was not of much use; and the sailors kept fathoming to see what depth we were in. Just previous to the time we struck, the vessel was in three fathoms of water. The captain and sailors were very much dispirited. They said it was no use doing anything, for it was impossible to save themselves; but the pilot would not give it up in that way. He said if they would work, and keep baling out the water, he would keep the vessel afloat and run her ashore somewhere. We drifted towards the shore for some hours, and at about six o'clock we struck between Formby and Southport. As soon as she struck the boat was launched, and the women, with two sailors and a boy, were put into it. Just as it was starting, two or three men jumped into it. When the boat had got half way to the shore, a good portion of the vessel went in, and by the time the boat reached the shore, she had gone to pieces, and the passengers were holding on to whatever they could reach of the wreck. When the water was making so fast upon us, the passengers and crew set to work to bale out the water; but there was very little facility for lading it out. There was only one bucket on board, and soon after it was used, it went to pieces. A quart of brandy was thrown over-board, so that the jug might be used for lading, and the compass was taken out, and the compass box used as a lading bucket. One fellow, a teetotaller, exhibited the most heartless conduct. The men employed in baling the water out of the cabin were much exhausted with the labour and standing up to their middle in water, when the man was requested to serve out some brandy to them, but immediately on receiving it, he threw it overboard. The persons who witnessed his heartless conduct were greatly incensed against him. The scene on board was awful. Some were crying, some were praying, some sick, and others were lashing themselves to planks and the seats. Those who were working appeared to be the most cheerful, and most of the passengers worked very hard. One man was anxiously inquiring if his watch would sink him, because if it would he would throw it overboard. Another, who had come out in a new suit of clothes, refused to work, and was dodging about even at the most trying time to escape being wet. He, however, got several good duckings, and then he worked as hard as any one on board. Some time after the vessel struck we could see two boats coming to us along the coast from Southport. No time was lost in getting them to the wreck, and by dint of great exertion the whole of the passengers and crew, with the exception of the two men who were washed off the planks and drowned, were got off. Many had narrow escapes from sinking before they could be rescued. The boat which conveyed the females to the shore endeavoured to return again to the vessel, but the sea was so strong that, in spite of their utmost exertions, they were unable to get it from the shore. It appears that the Southport people saw the vessel drifting about some time before she struck; but not perceiving the signal of distress, they imagined we were drifting about to avoid the heavy sea. The first signal of distress that was put up was blown away, and the second one was hoisted at the stern of the vessel. Most of the passengers greatly blamed the captain for not hailing the fishing-smack that passed us, because at that time it was actually known that the ship was making water very fast. The engineer told me at the time we were busy lading out the water that he had been to sea for 20 years, and that the moment he saw the vessel he did not wish to start with her, as she was never fit to go out to sea. One of the passengers fell against a piece of wreck at the time the second boat came up, and was stunned. He was taken into the boat, and when landed on shore friction had to be resorted to to restore animation. When we reached Southport the inhabitants there were very kind to us.
Another passenger who was saved in the vessel's boat, with the females says, that great praise is due to the pilot for his persevering efforts to save the lives of the passengers. He understands that the captain was not much of a seaman. The morning after the wreck he had a conversation with the engineer at Southport, when he said that the vessel was not built for the sea, and was never fit to have gone out. She had been working on the Clyde for about fourteen or fifteen years, and was fit for that work, but not at all calculated for going to sea. Our informant states that when the vessel went to pieces he held on, till the boat was put off, by the iron work of the boiler and engine. Immediately on being landed, he proceeded as quickly as possible to Southport to give the alarm and send assistance. When he had gone about half a mile, he met a boat upon a lorry, with some fishermen in it. He told them that there were fifty or sixty passengers on board the vessel, and they expected her going to pieces every moment, and urged them on. They drove gallantly along the sand, and appeared to exert themselves to the utmost in their power. A little distance further on he met another boat, and he also urged the fishermen with that to proceed to the vessel as quick as possible. Directly afterwards he met a gentleman on horseback, and requested him to return to Southport for an omnibus to convey the passengers into the town, which he did at once, and an omnibus and some other conveyances were quickly on the spot. Before they struck, he could see Formby lighthouse in the distance, and they gradually approached nearer to it. The morning after the wreck be went down to look at the vessel. The engine and paddles stood erect, but the wood-work was entirely gone, scarcely a vestige remaining.
Mr. Crook, screw and bolt maker, in Saul-street, in this town, was considerably bruised before he could be rescued from the wreck. The wreck broke up about a quarter of an hour after the vessel struck, and he held on by an iron chain. The boiler kept knocking against him and his hand was considerably lacerated, and his legs much bruised. When the Southport boats came to the vessel he was inside, and could not get over; and the boats durst not approach too near, for fear of being staved in. At length a large breaker washed him over the side of the vessel, and the fishermen seized hold of him and dragged him into the boat. He was insensible at the time, and was laid at the bottom of the boat, spirits being used to revive him when he was landed on shore. Previous to the smack passing them he saw the cabin boy come on deck with tears in his eyes, but he was told by the captain to go below and get a glass of brandy. A dog belonging to the Rev. J. Clay, which Mr. Handby had with him, was drowned. Mr. Crook saw water in the engine-room long before the alarm was given, but he only thought it was for the ashes to drop in. The crew had no command over the boat for hours, but the pilot did his best to turn her from the sea.
Mr. C. Utley, of the Shelley's Arms, had a narrow escape. When the boats were at the wreck a rope was thrown to him, which he missed catching, and he was precipitated into the sea. He sunk several times before he could be got into the boat, and was much exhausted. Mr. Utley and Mr. Handby were the first persons to bring the melancholy tidings to Preston, those gentlemen having hired a conveyance at Southport, in which they came on Sunday night, reaching here about eleven o'clock. Mr. Utley exerted himself greatly when the leakage was first discovered, and for some time he was up to the waist in water in the cabin, baling it out.
THE INQUEST upon the bodies was held at the Original Hotel, Southport, before John Heyes, Esq., of Prescot, coroner. The following gentlemen were sworn upon the Jury:- Mr. Jas. Hunt, innkeeper; Mr. Wm. Ball, agent; Mr. Richd. Wright, land agent; Captn. E. Barrow, gentleman; Mr. E. S. Horridge, do.; Mr. Thos. Gilbert, do.; Mr. Wm. Edge, do.; Mr. Wm. Mallilieu, agent; Mr. Richd. Rimmer, porter dealer; Mr. Jas. Wood, shoemaker; Captn. Ralph Barton, gentleman; Mr. Francis Robinson, printer.
Richard Rigby, fishmonger, examined, said: On Sunday night, I, in company with William Rigby, went along the shore to look at the wreck of the Prince Arthur, a steam excursion boat which had been wrecked that evening between Southport and Formby. We walked about for several hours, and at about two o'clock on Monday morning we saw a man lying on the sand at near low water. The place where we found him was near Birkdale Point, in Birkdale. We carried him towards the sand hills, and we then got a cart and brought him to Southport. He was a young man, with a blemish in his eye; and I believe was on the Prince Arthur steamer when she was lost the evening before.
Michael Formby, labourer, deposed to finding the body of the other deceased at about eleven o'clock on Sunday evening, about half way between high and low water mark. The body was brought to Southport in a cart.
The inquest was then adjourned till yesterday. Several gentlemen from Preston were present at the inquest, to be examined, and that fact was intimated to the coroner. They had voluntarily attended, at their own expense, to give all the information in their power respecting this melancholy occurrence, but the inquest was abruptly adjourned without their being called on to make any statement. We may as well state that during the whole of the inquest, not one person on board of the vessel, with the exception of the captain and the engineer, were examined.
THE ADJOURNED INQUEST was held yesterday morning, before
Mr. Heyes, the coroner.
George Pratt was the first witness examined. He said: I have been at sea in the capacity of engineer to different steam boats for the last 25 years, and for the last five weeks I have been engineer of the Prince Arthur steam-boat. She used to tow vessels in the river Mersey, and occasionally she went with passengers round the floating-light ship, at Liverpool. The vessel was said to have engines of 100-horse power, but I cannot speak to that as a fact. On Saturday morning last, the 4th inst., we left Liverpool to go round to Preston, and on the following morning, Sunday, the 5th inst., we took in about forty passengers, and set sail on a pleasure excursion to Menai Bridge. Soon after we had got out into the sea from Lytham, I found the injection pipe had broken, and the ship was making water very fast. I told the captain we were making water, and took him below to show him the quantity. Some time after that the fires were put out.
A Juryman: At what time do you suppose the fires were put out by the water?
Witness: I think in about half an hour after the crack in the injection pipe. I did not go much on deck; but after the fires were put out I stood by the pump and the buckets in getting the water out.
A Juryman: Had you a pump? - Witness: Yes, and a good one.
By the Coroner: I remained below for something like four hours. I worked the pump, the barrel of which would be five inches diameter.
By a Juryman: When we left Preston there would be about six inch of water in the vessel, and five or ten minutes pumped it all out.
A Juryman: Did you ever pump ship again until the accident occurred? We had two pumps on board, and one we had never used since I joined the vessel till the accident occurred. The vessels bottom was tight enough. She had struck before I left her.
A Juryman: What was the cause of your leaving the vessel? To save my life.
Capt. Barrow: If the boats had been about twenty minutes sooner, would there not have been a possibility of saving all the lives? - There might. I do not know how long I was upon the plank, but I was a long time drifting to the shore. The deceased, Alexander Shandone, one of the firemen, was upon the plank with me. I never attempted to get away previous to the boat belonging to the vessel attempting to turn back again. I came ashore on the gangway plank. The vessel was not many minutes going to pieces. I was taken up insensible, and did not know that any of the men were drowned till seven o'clock the next morning. The plank was sufficient to carry four men if they could have got on it properly. I was knocked off by the fireman jumping on. I was underneath it when I got up again, and the fireman was swimming.
A Juryman: Was he swimming towards the shore? - Yes, it was pretty close to the shore when we were washed off.
By the Coroner: When we left Preston the passengers and crew altogether would be about 52, and we were intending to go to Bangor and Menai Bridge. There were 10 of the crew altogether.
A Juryman: Do you think all the passengers on board had tickets? I understood there were several on board without. -- That is not my department, and I cannot say.
A Juryman: Were the females on board the wives of the crew? - One of them was the Captain's wife, and the others were passengers. We stopped a few minute at Lytham on our passage, and there put ashore certain passengers and took in others. The pilot joined us at Liverpool, on Saturday, and brought the vessel into Preston. He went on board on the Friday afternoon.
Mr. Chapman, agent for Lloyd's: Was he a licensed pilot ? - No.
Mr. Chapman: Formerly the collector of the port gave certificates. Had you one? - I don't know anything of the management of the vessel.
By the Jury: Do not know what sails the vessel had on her when the engines stopped. I saw the fishing smack; she passed at no great distance from us, - not more than 100 yards. The captain did not speak to the crew of the smack. She passed within hail of us, but we had no speaking trumpet on board to hail her with.
Captain Barrow said he thought it best that they should endeavour to get corroborative evidence of this fact, because they could not trust to the master's evidence to condemn himself.
A Juryman: Did the captain know that the fires were out at the time the fishing smack passed? - He did know; the engine was stopped before that time.
Mr. Horridge: Then if the engine was stopped he must have known the fires were out.
By the Coroner: The fishing smack passed to the westward of us. She could very easily have borne down upon us. She was to westward a good way when we saw her first.
Captain Barrow: Was the jib bent at the time, or was it not got out of the forecastle? - cannot say.
By the Coroner: It was the starboard injection pipe that broke, and the vessel began to make water very fast. Previous to that the vessel did not appear to make water at all.
A Juryman said that some of the passengers had stated that they wanted the captain to put back immediately after the injection pipe broke, but it appeared that he kept on his course.
Captain Barrow, to witness: I should like you to give an opinion as to the time the captain continued his course after the injection pipe burst? - I cannot do that.
Captain Barton: How soon do you think he was before he was made aware of the bursting of the pipe? - I sent the fireman to him immediately, and when he came to me I told him.
Mr. Chapman: Do you know whether any of the passengers asked him then to return? - I do not know; I never went on deck to see what they were doing. The engine would go on for a short time after the pipe broke. The boiler is of a peculiar construction, different to most boilers, and therefore has to have the fires very low.
Captain Barrow: Did you recommend the captain to put back after the injection pipe broke? - I did.
Captain Barrow: Did he then proceed on to any length? - He did.
Captain Barrow: For how long? - I cannot say.
Mr. Chapman: But did he go on? - Yes, he kept her head to wind. She was not ungovernable at that time. As long as the engine went she was right enough.
Mr. Chapman: in your opinion, were not the fires of the boiler so low, that the vessel was not fit for a sea going boat. For smooth water, such as the Clyde, she would do very well -- But do you think she was fit to weather a strong sea? - She was not constructed for sea service.
Capt. Barton: The Prince Arthur once went under the name of Dumbarton Castle. I think there was another name, but I forget it.
Capt. Barton: Was it Sam Slick? - I think it was. She wasn't built twelve years ago, when I left the Clyde. I have sailed in her on the Clyde. Capt. Webster joined her the day after she came round to Liverpool.
Capt. Barrow: Wasn't she one of a lot of vessels sold off when the railway opened from Dumbarton to Glasgow? - I cannot say that. She was only ten years old according to the plate on her injection pipe. The maker's name is Thomas Windgate. The two firemen did all they could to assist us. They worked like slaves, and were not on deck till after the vessel struck.
A Juryman: Have you any idea of what depth of water there was in the vessel at the time she struck? - It was above the top of the cylinder.
By the Coroner:- We had two buckets to bale with, and I believe a quarter cask. was cut in two and used in baling. The vessel had no airtight compartments in her.
By the Jury: There was no possibility of plugging the injection pipe up. The pipe was a good way before the paddle, and so low that there was no means of getting to it. It was very near the keel of the vessel. There are two condensers and an injection pipe to each. When the leakage first commenced, the pipe was so covered with cinders that we could not get at it. Shand was 25 years of age, and Hatton 18. I was aware that the captain would run the vessel ashore as soon as he could. I saw the Formby Lighthouse when we were in the distance. I was below when the vessel took the ground. She did not raise her funnel but she rolled heavily long before. When she struck I came upon deck, for I thought it was no use staying any longer. Had I seen a boat coming I should have stuck to the vessel; but I could see nothing, and I thought my only chance was to stick to the plank, Alexr. Shand was the man who got hold of the plank with me. When I left the vessel the captain was standing close beside the paddle. I left Hatton on board, and I never saw him alive afterwards. There was only one boat and a lifebuoy on board. A passenger got the buoy, but could not manage it, and was nearly drowned. It is my opinion, to the best of my knowledge, that the whole of the water came through the injection-pipe.
A Juryman: I'm not much of a mechanic myself, but I think if I had been there I could have stopped the water from coming through a 2 1/2 inch pipe.
Mr. Horridge: If the men had wrapped their shirts round the pipe they could have stopped it.
Samuel Webster, sworn, said: I was master of the steam-boat Prince Arthur. She came to Liverpool on the 17th May, and I joined it on the 17th. She has been used chiefly for towing, and for excursion trips round the light ships. She never leaked at all, and her boilers were cleaned regularly. We left Liverpool on Saturday morning, on the way for Preston and took a Preston pilot with us, as I was not acquainted with the channel, never having been in Preston before. I left on Sunday morning with between forty and fifty passengers, beside the crew. We stopped at Lytham, and let a few out and took a few more in. We then went on our course to Bangor, down the New Channel, which is buoyed, and called the New Gut. When the engineers sent for me, I was about eight miles outside the inside buoy of the New Channel. I think I should be about two miles and a half from the Bell buoy when I saw Formby lightship. When the engineer told me that the injection-pipe had gone, I said, " Well, what' must we do? [??unreadable??] back" He said, - "No; the only thing we can do is to get the canvass on her and try to weather the Bell buoy." We got the jib up and set the awning for a square sail. Many of the passengers behaved very well, as also did the crew, in baling out the water.
Mr. Chapman: Did you consider that the vessel was in your charge, or the charge of the pilot?
Witness: She was in the pilot's charge, and he was steering about S.W. by W. to get into smooth water. As soon as ever the engineer spoke to me I hoisted a signal of distress. That remained up I should think an hour and three-quarters, when the foremast being carried away, I hoisted a signal of distress at the flag staff at the stern. Before she made any water at all the fishing smack passed us at a distance of about 260 yards. I could see a man smoking out of the cabin. Directly after she passed we rung the bell, waved our hats, and also shouted, but we could not make her hear. Could see Formby light ship from the vessel, and the land markers. Saw fourteen or fifteen schooners lying off the Rock Light. Should say that a signal of distress was flying for four and a half or five hours. As soon as the pipe burst I sent down to the cabin for the flag, and put it half mast high, colour down. After the fires went out the vessel was not manageable, but under canvass she still steered. I said to the pilot, "I am a stranger to this beach, and if you can find a good place to beach her, I will leave her to your charge."
A Juryman: You could not have had a fitter place to beach the vessel for the salvation of life than you chose.
Mr. Chapman: Did you ever hear of an act of parliament passed in 1846, rendering it compulsory on any vessel carrying more than ten passengers to provide two boats, a life-boat and two life buoys, in addition to a punt? - I never knew anything of that.
Mr. Chapman: Was you ever overhauled for a certificate as to her hull by a government surveyor, or approved of by the Board of Trade, to examine and give certificates to engineers? - No. When she was in dock a boiler maker overhauled her, and there were two or three plates taken out and new ones put in.
Mr. Chapman: If you put a new plate of iron alongside an old one, won't it be like putting new canvas into old - the new will tear the old? - Cannot say.
Mr. Chapman: Have you got your register? - Mr. Pine has.
By Mr. Horridge: Do not think there are any plates in the ship 1/8th of an inch thick. Think the plates taken out in Liverpool were 1/4th of an inch thick. Remember the engineer leaving the vessel. The boat was down ten minutes afterwards. I saw the horses galloping upon the beach, and tried to persuade the engineer and firemen to stop where they were.
Mr. Chapman: Supposing a life boat, two boats, a punt, and two life buoys, had been provided according to act of parliament, would you not have been able to have safely landed the whole of your passengers and crew? - The chances are that I should.
By the Jury: Do not know the cause of the breaking of the injection pipe. The vessel went by the nick-name of Sam Slick for a few days on the Mersey. Have been a master of a steam-boat for sixteen or seventeen years.
Captain Barrow: In your opinion, is not this vessel unfit for a sea-going boat, from having its boiler so low? - Cannot say, but should think she was. The injection-pipe was about 6 inches in Diameter.
Mr. T. Presto Pino was the next person called, He said: I have not brought a register. She is not registered as the Prince Arthur, but as the Dumbarton Castle. Her burden is 83 tons, and, including engine room, about 120 tons. Have got no certificate.
Mr. Chapman: Are you aware that an Act of Parliament passed in 1846, obliges all steamers carrying 10 passengers to have a life-boat, two other boats, a punt, and two life buoys? - I was not aware as to the limit of the number of passengers.
The Coroner then read the following sections of the act :- 9 and 10 Vic., cap. 100. The 3rd section requires "That no vessel carrying more than ten passengers shall proceed to sea on any voyage, unless, in addition to two boats and a punt, she is provided with a boat fitted up as a life-boat, with all requisite for its use, together with two life-buoys". The 14th clause enacts "That on or before the 30th of April and the 21st of October in every year, the owners of every steam-vessel shall transmit to the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade the two following declarations in writing, that is to say - First, a declaration of the sufficiency and good condition of the hull of such steamer, under the hand of a shipwright surveyor to be approved by the Lords of the said Committee; second, a declaration of the sufficiency and good condition of the machinery of such steamer, under the hand of an engineer to be approved by the Lords of the said Committee."
Mr. Horridge: Has she been surveyed? - Not since we had her. - Mr.H: Have you had a certificate with you since? - No. Mr. H: Did you send her out without a register? - I never thought of sending a register with her for sailing only in this neighbourhood. Mr. H.: But people are liable to drowned even in this neighbourhood you see.
Mr. Pino then handed in the following particulars of the vessel: - built in 1840, one deck, one mast 114 7-10th feet long, 16 7-10th feet broad; depth of hold 18 2-10th feet; about 3 feet depth of water; cylinder 42 1/2 inches diameter; stroke of engine 3ft. 6in.; engine of the upright kind, recently furnished with a new boiler, cross head and funnel in good working order, and lowest price £1100. The reason why the name had been changed was that, at about the time they got it the young prince was born. It was called Sam Slick for a day or two.
Captain Barrow: If you advertise her, and take in passengers, as the Prince Arthur, are you not liable to seizure for reporting under a false name, and also for going into port without a register? - I was not aware.
By Mr. Horridge: Should think the plates were 3/8ths of an inch thick. Had seen none so thin as 1/8th. By the Jury: Engaged Mr. Evans as pilot, He is not a licensed pilot. - Mr. P. then handed in the following document: "I hereby engage to pilot your steamer from Liverpool to Preston for the sum of 25s. This includes my railway expenses; and I further agree to remain on board the said steamer at the rate of 20s. per week, as long as she may remain running from Preston to Wales, Isle of Man, Blackpool, Fleetwood, Lancaster, and all the adjacent parts, and I hold myself responsible for all damages," - Signed, Moore Eaves; witness, W. Fraser.
Captain Barrow said there was a penalty for attempting to pilot a vessel out of channel, if the pilot was not a branch pilot and had a license.
Mr. Pino: He told me when I engaged him that he was a pilot. I am not insured one halfpenny.
Captain Barrow: And if you had been, you would not have been paid one halfpenny.
Mr. Jones, iron boat builder and boiler maker, deposed to having repaired the vessel in June, and should say she was seaworthy.
John Livesley, son to the person who keeps the Formby Boat-house, deposed to having seen the vessel when in distress from Formby; but it could not be made out to be in distress, and therefore much attention was not paid to it.
Richard Ball deposed to having gone down to the wreck with the bay boats from Southport, and to having assisted in rescuing the passengers and crew.
Several of the jury complained of the difficulty in procuring horses in cases of emergency, such as the wreck on Sunday. The boats could have been to the vessel twenty minutes earlier had they been able to procure horses at once.
After some desultory conversation between the jurymen respecting the life boat and the payment of the men,
The Coroner summed up, stating that it appeared to him quite clear that the accident had arisen altogether from the breaking of the injection pipe, and the vessel was, in consequence, wrecked. He therefore apprehended that their verdict would be accidental death, and what they might have to say hereafter was another thing.
Mr. Horridge: The vessel ought to have had boats, and an enquiry ought to be instituted into that point, There also ought to have been a certificate of the ship having been examined.
The coroner said, it seemed that the owner had acted a good deal in ignorance of the provisions of the act, but it would be for the jury to consider whether they would request the Board of Trade to make any enquiry into the matter. A man would not go and risk £1100 on a boat if he thought something was wanting. It was certainly his duty to get these things, but he pleaded ignorance.
Captain Barton: But the lives of 60 or 70 people are not to be placed at the mercy of the waves because he is ignorant of what he ought to know. No one knew how many boats there were up and down the country plying in the same way.
Mr. Hunt: Is it the wish of the jury that a request go to the Board of Trade for them to institute an inquiry into the matter? - Captain Barton: Yes, and in as strong terms as we can.
The jury were unanimously of opinion that there should be some enquiry. - A verdict of "Accidental death" was then returned.
Capt. Barton would wish the Board of Trade to take into consideration the state of the channel to Southport. If it had been buoyed, in all probability the vessel would not have been lost and these lives sacrificed. The proceedings then terminated.
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WRECK OF THE "DUMBARTON CASTLE."
WRECK, with Loss of Life, of the Steamer "Prince Arthur," or "Dumbarton Castle," off Southport, Coast of Lancashire, 4th August 1850.
Report of Captain Denham, R. N.
To the Right Honourable the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, etc,.
In pursuance of your Lordships' warrant and instructions, I forthwith proceeded to the locality of the wreck, and having investigated the circumstances attending the occurrence, and obtained depositions and other documents bearing on the case, I have the honour to state for their Lordships' information, that I find it presents the following facts:-
Firstly. That the said steamer was at the time of her wreck, and had been for the preceding three months, plying under the name of "Prince Arthur," although registered 10 years ago at Port Glasgow as the "Dumbarton Castle."
Secondly. That although the said steamer measured 133 tons, and proceeded to sea with passengers, she had not on board the number of boats required by the 3d section of 9 & 10 Vict. c. 100.
Thirdly. That during the current half year in which the said steamer was the property of Mr. Adam Rigby, of Liverpool (and wrecked on the 4th of August 1850), she had not been surveyed as required by the 14th section of 9 & 10 Vict. c. 100, and the 1st section of 11 & 12 Vict, c. 81.
Fourthly. That after the said steamer was wrecked, and loss of life attended it, no report of the event was transmitted to the Board of Trade, as required by the 19th section of 9 & 10 Vict. c. 100.
The said steamer was totally disabled whilst attempting an open sea trip with between 50 and 60 passengers on board; first, by the working of her hull tearing the starboard injection pipe from her side, and causing a leak which the engineer could not staunch, nor the pumping and baling means keep under, so that the boiler fires were drowned; secondly, that when bearing up for the nearest land, and steerage way was of vital consequence, the vessel was found to be deficient in every sea-going requisite. She had but one small unfitted jib; scarcely a bucket to bale with; no sounding head-line; and so slender a topmast that it could not sustain a flag of distress; in which condition it took her five hours to drift nine miles, all which time the leak was so gaining on the baling exertions of the passengers with every utensil they could avail of, even to the compass-boxes, that when the vessel struck the strand, her upper deck was under water.
In this critical situation, with a flowing tide, it was found that the only boat on board would carry but eight people; and that had it not been for the zealous aid afforded by the fishermen of Southport, who, with two of their boats (which were drawn along the beach for two miles), launched off to the steamer in the breakers, few if any of the 50 persons on board could have been saved, so quickly did she break up. Fortunately the passengers attended to the exhortation of the master, who urged them to stick to the upper works of the wreck, in the hopes of the boats in view reaching them before they were washed off.
But the engineer, George Pratt, disregarded the master's orders, and deserted his vessel on a plank raft he had contrived to possess himself of. The two firemen instantly followed the engineer, and were as instantly drowned. This act of the engineer was the cause too of the steamer's boat being rendered useless to the saving of more than the first eight of the passengers, through having to save him as he drifted along shore in a drowning state.
From the rapid way in which it is alleged this vessel broke up, and from the nature of the scattered debris, it is evident she was only constructed originally for river work. It is true that her owner went to the expense of certain repairs a very short time before announcing her as a sea-going passenger vessel to the Isle of Man, Coast of Wales, etc.; but it is very unlikely that any of the Board of Trade surveyors at Liverpool would have declared her to be seaworthy had the owner caused her to be surveyed according to law. The avowed pursuits of this steamer being that of a tug, the non-exhibition of a Board of Trade certificate was not noticed by the Customs, and the surveyors, under the present enactments, not taking cognizance of any steamer's condition (never steam tugs) unless invited by the owner, this vessel's irregularities were left, in the absence of accident, unknown.
Presuming that the accident in question would under surveillance have been averted, and adverting to the fact of there being several hundred steamers employed at our ports similarly situated, I submit with all deference, that the case is suggestive of a more extended and systematic supervision of our mercantile steam fleet of 1,100 vessels, than the present Acts provide for; and that in any future arrangements to that effect, no steamer of the mercantile navy should be exempted; and that the powers and duties of the official local surveyors should, under a general superintendent, extend to the inspection of a vessel and her regulation equipment, at any time it may appear desirable, as well as at certain fixed periods; and that in licensing vessels as to their number of passengers, it should be determined according to capabilities of vessels, and efficiency of equipment, master and crew, whether she might go beyond the harbour or river mouth or not.
In the meantime, unmitigated infliction of the penalties incurred by the owner of the late steamer "Dumbarton Castle" will deter others from such practices, and do much towards averting the like accidents in future.
The master (Samuel Webster) pleads in extenuation of his neglect of duty towards the Board, that he was quite ignorant of the Steam Navigation Acts; and, moreover, that he does not know how to write, not even to sign his own name; and that neither his owner or agent advised him on the point of reporting the accident. It is not possible, however, to relieve his conduct as a seaman from animadversion, when we find that he proceeded to sea on a coasting voyage of 60 miles, 45 of which lay along a most exposed and shelterless seaboard, without a sail ready to set, a head-line to sound with, a gun to enforce a signal, nor a compass^1 that could be steered by. His want of judgment, too, when in peril, was distressingly manifested, first, by not bearing up for the nearest land when he found the leak was gaining on him, and that engine power was to be made the most of before the fires (situated only 14 inches above the keelson,) were drowned; secondly, by resisting the entreaties of the passengers to avail of the services of a vessel which passed within hail, at the time their exigency was evident to themselves, and which in a few minutes after he admitted too: then, however, their united hailing and waving failed to attract attention; indeed, so unable were they in this steamer to exhibit a signal of distress, that she was drifting in a swamping state for three hours at from three to five miles off the Formby life-boat station without such a signal as according to the Liverpool Dock Trust regulations would warrant the life-boat captain in launching being distinguishable from the shore. Hence were they on board most grievously jeopardized from first to last of their embarking in this unseaworthy and ill-provided vessel.
The representation of the coroner of Lancashire, which craved of my Lords an official inquiry into this culpable case of shipwreck, embodied the recommendation of the jury, that "the Board of Trade should be further requested to extend their inquiry into the propriety of having the Southport channel buoyed." This request was transmitted to me with their Lordships' commands that it should form a part of my local investigation; I have obtained the requisite data for drawing up a distinct report thereon, and which shall be duly submitted by their Lordships' most obedient servant,
H. M. Denham.
^1 The pilot had to borrow one on the eve of starting.
The City of Dublin Steam Packet Co. pioneered steamers across the Irish
Sea. They specified that vessels ordered should be capable of crossing
in winter - so they could offer a year-round service.
They ordered an additional 5 paddle steamers in 1826: Manchester,
Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, Nottingham to complement their existing
fleet of City of Dublin, Town of Liverpool and Hibernia which
were providing a daily service from Dublin to Liverpool.
These 5 steamers were of similar design (see details and model of
Nottingham below) and were built at Liverpool.
They used a dedicated alongside berth at Dublin - unlike some competitors
who used tenders from a mooring at Kingstown (now Dun Loaghaire). At
Liverpool, from 1831, they berthed at Clarence Dock.
By taking over the rival Dublin and Liverpool Steam Navigation Company in 1826; their fleet comprised 14 steamers: City of Dublin, Town of Liverpool, Hibernia, Britannia, Liffey, Mersey, Commerce, Mona, Leeds, Gipsey, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Nottingham. In 1827 they added the Ballinasloe and they bought the City of Londonderry (built 1827) in 1829. In 1836 they ordered the larger steamers Queen Victoria, Duchess of Kent, Royal Adelaide, and Royal William. The Royal William was chartered and sailed from the George's Pierhead at Liverpool on July 5th, 1838, for New York, being the first steam passenger liner from Liverpool to New York. The larger steamer Liverpool took over, first sailing on Sept 20 1838.
Some of these vessels had a long service: the Leeds achieved 26 years. Here are details of some of the troubles that afflicted them. What is remarkable is that in all these incidents, no crew or passenger lives were lost; until 1853 with the loss of the Queen Victoria.
The Town of Liverpool ran onto rocks near Hook Head Tower at the entrance to Waterford on 14 March 1828 in dense fog and was wrecked - all passengers and crew were saved as well as much of the cargo.
City of Dublin vessels were also chartered to other routes and
their PSS Sheffield ran aground 30 Dec 1828 on Skullmartin rock at Ballywalter near
Donaghadee in Northern Ireland while serving the Liverpool to Belfast
This happened because the vessel overran the commander's reckoning,
going before the wind in a gale and heavy snow-storm.
She was wrecked but her machinery was recovered.
Full account of wreck of PS Sheffield.
Just after embarking on a voyage from Dublin to Cork, the engines
of the Manchester had stopped from some cause in the Bay of Dublin,
close to the light-house wall and she was driven on the bank on the
night of Tuesday 24 Nov 1829.
She was afterwards beached to examine and repair her bottom (some planks having been injured), there being no dock or slip in Dublin. On being inspected and reported seaworthy, she left for Liverpool under Capt. Penn for further repair, under her own steam and engines on Thursday 3 December 1829; but when half across the Channel (11 miles from Holyhead), she went down suddenly, some plank being supposed to have given way. Another steamer (Ballinasloe) having been sent in company, the crew (almost 40 persons) were taken off safely.
Model of PSS Nottingham
The Nottingham was first reported in trouble - on 10 September 1830 - at 9pm when on a passage Londonderry to Liverpool. She struck rocks off Island Magee (near the small Island of Muck, between Belfast Lough and Larne) and was able to get off the rocks under her own sail and power but was leaking and had to be beached nearby in Larne Bay where she sank. No lives were lost and she was refloated and repaired.
Another dramatic incident (more details) occured at 2am on 20 Feb 1841 when the American emigrant sailing ship Governor Fenner with 106 passengers collided with the PSS Nottingham which was making for Liverpool from Dublin. The Governor Fenner broke up and only her master and mate were saved. The Nottingham was significantly damaged but stayed afloat. Some of her deck cargo of cattle was abandoned but no crew or passengers were lost. She was disabled and was towed by the Drogheda steamer Grana Uile to Liverpool.
The Liverpool Mercury of 1833 advertised the well known first class steam packet PSS Leeds (Jas Penn commander) of the City of Dublin SP Co. sailing to Bordeaux via Plymouth. She had also been chartered in 1831-2 to support Portuguese military actions.
Caernarvon Herald report:   On the morning of Friday, the 31st of October 1834, at about nine o'clock, the steamer Leeds, from Liverpool to Dublin, in hugging the shore too close, to take advantage of the first of the ebb, struck on the [uncharted] rock called Harry's Furlong, the most northerly point of Cemlyn Point. As the water flowed for a quarter of an hour longer, she forged off, with the loss of her rudder, and was soon found to be making water fast. Most fortunately another steamer, the Commerce, going in the same direction, was close at hand, upwards of forty passengers were immediately taken on board her from the Leeds, but as it came on to blow, they were unable to transship the remainder, about twenty more, and the Leeds's boat was from the same cause prevented from rejoining either its own vessel or the Commerce. During this time the two steamers were carried out to sea, the water gaining so fast on the Leeds as to put out her fires. The Commerce succeeded in getting a warp on board to tow her, and thus get her into Holyhead Bay. The warp, however, broke more than once, and she was at one time in the very breakers of the Clopera[Cliperau] Rocks, when, most providentially, the steamer St. Patrick came to their assistance and furnished them with a fresh warp, which enabled them to get into Holyhead Harbour a little after six o'clock, the water having been for the last two hours, as stated by a man on board, "lip and lip" with their deck.
She was barely alongside the pier, and the last of the passengers leaving her, when she sunk. A valuable race horse, and a Spanish mule on board, were obliged to swim for life and got safe ashore. Had it not been for the assistance afforded by the St. Patrick, she must have gone down with every soul on board. It is a circumstance which requires some explanation, why in a case of such extreme danger for nine hours, in sight of the shore, no signal of distress was made by either of the two vessels, and that during the last hour, the Captain of the Commerce declined assistance offered by a Holyhead boat.
There being a heavy cross sea and a strong tide, the boat belonging to the Leeds was also unable to near the shore. Their perilous situation being observed from the shore, the Cemlyn Life Boat was manned and sent out to their assistance, and succeeded in reaching them about two miles to the northward of the West Mouse. Having taken out the three men, they endeavoured to tow the boat, but a heavy sea snapped the painter and was nearly the destruction of both. The poor fellows were completely exhausted with rowing and baling the boat with their hats, and one of them had been washed out, but fortunately pulled in again by his comrades. They were safely landed at Cemlyn.
The coxswain of the Cemlyn Lifeboat, Owen Williams, son of Anglesey lifeboat pioneer James Williams, was awarded a silver medal by the RNLI for this rescue.
PSS Leeds (Capt Stokes) with 55 steerage and 4 cabin passengers with 26 crew (85 total) left Dublin for Liverpool 10.10pm Friday 23 Jan. 1852. There were 120 head of cattle plus sheep and pigs aboard. A gale developed - they took in sail but the ship rolled and by 0430 am the water level rose in the engine room despite pumping. The SSW gale was too strong to head into the wind to reach Holyhead and the pumps could not cope with the water coming aboard as she rolled. The deck cargo (of cattle) was thrown overboard to lighten the ship. By 610am, 3 out of 5 fires were out and at 700am the engines stopped. They bore off the wind and continued under sail, bailing with buckets and flying a distress signal and firing a distress cannon. The water level remained quite high and she must have developed a leak.
They saw a ship at 200pm but it did not come to their assistance. At 310 pm they lowered their boat and approached another ship to ask for assistance which was accepted. The American ship Empire State (Capt Russell) inbound from New York for Liverpool took all the passengers and crew aboard by 650pm. They were transferred in three boats of the Leeds, one of which suffered damage and could not be used further. In all eight trips were made. The Leeds was abandoned at a position estimated as 18 to 20 miles NE of Point Lynas.
The survivors were landed at Liverpool on Sunday 25 January. The Liverpool Mercury published a letter of thanks by the passengers to the crew of the Leeds.
The PS Leeds was expected to sink soon after being abandoned. Since she was still flying a distress signal, at 9am on Sunday 25 January, SS Rose (Capt Turnbull) (from Glasgow to Liverpool) sent a boat to board her but found nobody and noted that the cattle in the hold had died. They were not in a position to tow the Leeds. At that time her position was estimated as 25 miles NW of the Bell Buoy (entrance to channel into Liverpool) and she was awash and in imminent danger of sinking.
The tidal current would take her to the ENE from this position until
HW around 14.00 (unless she sank sooner) and the wind would have pushed
her the same way.
(HW Sat 24 January 0100, 1317; 17 ft. above mean level - so spring tide)
The City of Dublin SP Co. sent their PSS Duchess of Kent to look for the Leeds but without success.
The wreck site is given in Wrecks of Liverpool Bay Vol II (p94 Unknown SS).
Sonar plot of seabed near wreck (scale in metres)
This wreck has an early steam engine (of the type used in early paddle steamers) and wooden hull.
The engine components of the wreck suggest that these were side lever steam engines (which were in use before the 1850's). The two cylinders have a diameter of about 4 ft. There is no sign of the paddle wheels on the wreck. For an illustration of a marine side lever engine see here and here .
A bell marked PS Sheffield 1826 has been recovered by divers from
Since the Sheffield was a sister ship to the Leeds and had been lost earlier (with machinery noted as recovered), it is plausible that this bell could have been used on the Leeds.
This site is approximately 20 miles 330 degrees from the position of the Bell Buoy in 1852. So this position is quite a good fit to the last noted position of the Leeds (in a sinking state) and, if she did stay afloat for a few more hours, she would drift a further few miles to the NE and the position would fit even better.