Iron paddle steamer Eva, built 1853 A Denny, Dumbarton
141 x 14.5 x 7 ft; engines 45hp.
Owned Morton, Little, Kelly, Greenock
Voyage Greenock to Australia, under sail with paddles removed
Cargo coal and parts of engines
Captain Robert Fisher, family and crew (17 total)
Off Kish bank, 28th December 1853, broke in half and foundered.
7 rescued by trawler Emerald Isle (one died soon afterwards); 11 lost
After a short while running on the Clyde, iron paddle steamer Eva was on a voyage to Australia - to serve as a coastal steamer there. Her paddles were removed and she was under sail, when she broke up and sank in heavy weather in the Irish Sea off Dublin. The City of Dublin Paddle Steamer Prince saw her signals of distress but was unable to provide any effective assistance. Dublin-based trawler Emerald Isle succeeded in rescuing 7 men who were clinging to wooden wreckage after she sank.
From Freeman's Journal - Friday 30 December 1853
THE LOSS OF THE EVA, OF GREENOCK, AND ELEVEN LIVES IN THE CHANNEL,
We yesterday morning we published the facts, as far as they could be collected on the previous evening, connected with the loss of the steamer Eva, of Greenock, and eleven of the persons on board in the channel on Wednesday morning[28 December 1853]. We have since ascertained that the ill-fated vessel, since her construction about nine months ago, had been plying on the river Clyde, until very recently, when her owners determined upon sending her to Australia with the view of employing her there in the coasting trade. She was to some extent converted into a sailing vessel for the purpose of the voyage to Melbourne, her paddles were unshipped and stowed away in the hold, while her boilers and machinery were left untouched, so that when she arrived at her destination she might be restored to her former character, as a paddle steamer. She left Greenock on Tuesday morning with a crew numbering fourteen men, together with the captain, Mr. Fisher, his wife, his sister-in-law, Miss Herd, and the steward, John M'Kenzie, making a total of seventeen souls. She proceeded on her course satisfactorily until Tuesday night, when she encountered the dreadful gale that raged in the Channel all that night and the following morning, during which time she strained, and laboured to an extent that caused considerable alarm amongst the crew. This straining was attributable in some measure to her great length - a circumstance that excited the surprise of the captain and crew of the Prince steamer when they first observed her - and also to the weight of a cargo of coals which she carried, and all her steam machinery which was lying midships. Between seven and eight o'clock on the morning of Wednesday, she was struck by a heavy sea, whereupon all on board were alarmed by a loud report which, on investigation, was found to have been caused by the breaking of the keel right in the centre; the vessel, in fact - to use the language of one of the rescued sailors in narrating the occurrence - "having broken her back." The entire framework and body of the ship immediately began to give way, and the water poured in so quickly that in a short time the hold and the cabin were filled.
The captain, upon discovering the irreparable nature of the injury done, directed signals of distress to be made, and the lifeboat to be lowered. - His orders were promptly obeyed. The signal flag, which attracted the attention of those on board the Prince steamer and the trawler, was run up to the mizen peak, and the lifeboat was safely lowered; but in the hurry and excitement of the moment, three of the men jumped into her incautiously, and she was, unfortunately, upset, and before any effort could be made to recover her, she drifted away. The mate and the steward then dropped a second boat, into which they succeeded in getting safely, but had scarcely done so when a third seaman leaped into her, and she was also upset. The unfortunate man, whose want of presence of mind led to the overturning of this second boat, sunk, and was not seen again, while the mate and steward, after great exertion, were enabled to get upon the upturned keel, to which they clung with desperate tenacity. Those who remained on the deck, including the captain and the two ladies before mentioned, seeing that there was no hope from the boats, and finding that the ship was rapidly breaking up and sinking, lashed themselves to spars and loose planks, and, shortly before she went down, committed themselves to the waves, in the hope of being soon picked up by the Prince steamer, which they had prevously discovered bearing down upon them.
The Prince, belonging to the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, Captain Dearl, left Liverpool at 12 o'clock on Monday night for Dublin. While proceeding on her course on Wednesday morning, after nine o'clock; same of the passengers and crew on deck discerned at a distance of about 18 miles west by north from the Bailey Lighthouse, and about three miles south of themselves, what appeared to be an unusually long, strange looking ship. Although the glasses were put in requisition, it was found impossible to arrive at a positive conclusion as to whether the stranger was a screw steamer, which her length and the distance between two of her masts suggested, or a sailing vessel of large size. The topmasts and all the yards, except the foretop gallant yard, which hung loose, were gone. The mate, while examining her through his telescope, discovered that she had a signal of distress flying, a circumstance which he instantly communicated to the captain, who quickly came on deck and at once gave orders to put the steamer about and bear down to her relief at full speed. At this time no one on board the Prince entertained the slightest suspicion that the object of their anxiety was in so shattered and helpless a condition, and when, after steaming towards her for five minutes, she was seen to go down, a feeling of horror, considerably increased by the calamity being altogether unanticipated, pervaded the minds of all who withessed the catastrophe. In the course of ten minutes, the Prince arrived at the scene of the wreck, and there was presented the sad and miserable sight of fifteen or sixteen human beings, including two women, clinging to spars and, shrieking for aid, while they were being tossed about at the mercy of the waves, which were rolling fearfully. Captain Dearl, in his statement published in the FREEMAN of yesterday, and his evidence at the inquest, alleges that he made every possible exertion to render effective assistance to the wretched people perishing before his eyes; but that owing to the heavy sea which was running at the time, and the great difficulties invariably experienced under such circumstances in lowering boats from a steamer constructed as the Prince is, the boats could not be successfully launched; and that he was thus, to his great mortification and sorrow, compelled to witness the destruction of so meny lives without being able to afford any relief. One of his boats was broken up and carried off, and another was so severely dashed against the ship's side, that the plank ends started from the stern post.
To the noble and gallant conduct of the crew of the fishing trawler, "Emerald Isle," is due the honour of rescuing, from almost certain death, six fellow creatures, under difficulties and circumstances that would have appalled less intrepid hearts, and which did defeat the efforts of an experienced captain with a numerous and efficient crew, five boats, and all the resources of a powerful steamer at his command. The names of there four poor, humble but devoted men are: John Dunne, master; his son, Edward Dunne; William Carroll; and Peter Collins. The trawler, which is the property of Mr. Good of this city, left Ringsend on Tuesday morning for the purpose of fishing in the Channel. About half past seven o'clock on Wednesday morming, the men on board saw the distress signal made by the Eva. They pulled in their nets, and proceeded as quickly as possible towards the vessel. They arrived close by her at about quarter past nine o'clock, and just in time to see her break right across, and go down in the centre, the stem and stern being the last to disappear. They ran their smack in among the floating spars, to which the people were clinging, and in a few minutes got out their frail little boat, scarcely 14 feet in length. Carroll and Collins got into this miserable shallop, the escape of which, in so furious a sea, has been declared by some who were present to be almost miraculous; and while Carroll sculled about from spar to spar, Collins was engaged in dragging in the men that could be reached. This was a most difficult work in consequence of the men being lashed to large pieces of timber and from their being unable to assist themselves, having been rendered quite numb by the long immersion in the water, which was bitterly cold. In one instance, Collins was holding a man for more than half an hour quite bewildered as to how he would get him into the boat, the man being lashed to two large forms and quite insensible. Several attempts were made to loosen the lashings but in vain; the poor fellow was at last got in by Carroll, who had been busily engaged in steering in order to avoid shipping any of the seas that were rolling, seizing a favourable opportunity to give his brave comrade a hand, when by their united strength, they succeeded in getting on board forms, man and all. They were engaged searching about upwards of two hours, until they were satisfied that no others were near to whom they could render any aid. Then, and not till then, they returned to the smack, which, under Dunn's charge, kept close to them although having, at great personal risk and extraordinary perseverence and exertions, saved six men.
They conveyed the survivors to their little cabin, and having set all to rights, they were making for Kingstown when they descried a dark speck upon the crest of a wave at a distance of a mile and a half or two miles. Nothing wearied by their humane labours, and only anxious to ascetain if there was one more whom they could preserve, they tacked and proceeded towards the dark object, which gradually became more and more distinct, till at length they saw a young man holding firmly on by the keel of an upturned boat. On seeing his deliverers approach, he gave a faint cheer, or rather cry, of welcome, and in a few minutes more he was safe on the deck of the trawler. He proved to be the steward, who, it will be recollected, got with the mate and a third man who was drowned, into the second boat that upset. He states that the mate held on by the keel for more than an hour, but having been repeatedly swept off by the waves, and becoming exhausted by his efforts to regain his hold, he at length let go, struggled violently for a few moments, and then, dropping his arms by his sides, he gave a long, anguishing look at the steward, and disappeared. He also states, that he saw the steamer and the trawler hovering about the place of the wreck; he watched them, with a beating heart and an anxious eye, and when he saw them leaving without seeing him, he endeavopred to resign and prepare himself to the fate that he now deemed inevitable. He was several times washed off the drifting boat, but always successfully endeavoured to regain his place on the keel, to which he had climbed for the eighth or ninth time, when he was taken off, having been in the water for three hours and a half.
The labours of the crew of the trawler were not yet at ended, for during their passage home, they were engaged, as frequently as the management of the smack would permit, in attending to the poor sufferers in the cabin, and supplying such warmth and refreshment as they could command, in order to restore all to animation. All their efforts in this respect were unavailing in reference to John Carmichael, the engineer of the Eva, who was so worn out by exhaustion and long exposure to the cold that he died in the course of a couple of hours. The smack arrived in Ringsend at five in the evening, and when the news of the calamity spread through the villege, nothing could exceed the zeal with which the poor people pressed forward with blankets and restoratives for the half perished survivors. Their wants were ministered to by the fishermen's wives, who tended them carefully and well. They were subsequently removed to the Sailors' Home, where every possible attention that humanity could suggest was paid them. Mr. Marshall of that institution supplied them yesterday with warm clothing at the instance of Mr. Good, the owner of the Emerald Isle, who undertook to be accountable for the cost, in the event of its not being otherwise paid. The poor fellows are profuse in their expressions of gratitude towards their gallant deliverers and the good people of Ringsend who, they say, consoled them by their sympathy and relieved them, out of their limited means, with a generosity that would have reflected honour upon the wealthiest in the land.
We regret to state that the captain, with his wife and her sister, are amongst those who were lost. When leaving the vessel, they attached themselves to a small raft, and when last seen from the trawler, the captain was holding his wife's head above the water, although she, together with her sister, appeared to be dead. Before the boat could reach them, they were swept away by a sea, which broke over them.
We give the names of the drowned, with the exception of one man, whose name none of the survivors can recollect:- Captain Robert Fisher; his wife, and sister-in -law; -Fritson, chief mate; Robert Douglas, second mate; James Kanapi, seaman; William Easton, do.; John Bohey do.; Neil Douglas, do.; [John Carmichael, engineer died after being rescued]
The names of those saved are:- Alexader Grimmond, seaman; John M'Kinsey, steward; William A. Gordon, seamen; Walter Scott (a negro), cook; Elisha Solveli, seaman (Portuguese); and a sixth, whose name we could not ascertain.
We publish the following extract from the statement which appeared in a morning contemporary, from David Leslie, who was one of the passengers on board the Prince steamer- "On arriving at the spot, the most agonising, heartrending scene presented itself. About twenty indviduals were floating on the ice-cold water, clinging to spars and pieces of wood. They were drenched or submerged by every wave, as the sea ran high. Captain Dearl ordered the engines to be stopped, and the boats lowered. It was fully half an hour before this could be done, and, when the first boat was launched, one of the two men in her got afraid, and jumped back on board the steamboat, letting the boat go adrift, with only one man in her, helpless, and at the mercy of the waves. In the meantime a fishing smack came, lowered her small boat, which swam like a duck in perfect safety, the men aboard calling out to us - 'D..n you, why don't you lower your boats!' We then lowered another boat; one of the davits broke, and she half-filled with water, so no one would venture aboard of her. The writer saw one man attempting to lower another boat, without anyone to assist. - Captain Dearl was running everywhere, with tears in his eyes, giving many orders; but nothing was done. What a fearful scene then presented itself! About twenty human beings, perishing with cold, being slowly drowned by frequent submersion, in vain stretching forth their arms in supplication for aid, and a steamboat in the midst - within talking distance - yet could not, nor did not, save a single soul. We saw the wretched men perish slowly before our eyes - one by one washed from their last plank of safety, and in the deep bosom of the ocean buried. Our steamboat, that could go back or forward at will and turn like a fish, could do nothing; all was confusion; nothing seemed to be in order to meet any emergency, and if right orders were given, they were not obeyed. Not so the fishing smack; she lowered her small tiny boat, and saved six of the sufferers. A more heroic action never was recorded. Two dauntless and brave men with immense difficulty and infinite risk, were seen hanging over the side of their boat, hauling the drowning men out of the water, as every wave threatening them with instant death. They seized their man and never let him go till they hauled him out of the water, and placed him, safe in their frail skiff, and one by one, slowly, and with desperate perseverance, they saved the lives of six human beings. In a little time more and all the sufferers disappeared. One wretched being was washed off his spar - regained it again and waved his arm as a fresh sign for aid which alas, could not be given; he soon disappeared to rise no more. This heartrending scene lasted above an hour, when Captain Dearl put about and made for Kingstown, towing one of our boats which had been launched, but into which none of our men would venture. I proposed to one of the mates or sailors to lasso the drowning men - that is throw them a rope's end with a running knot, by which they could have been hauled on board, but no effectual effort was made. The first mate said that each boat on board was in charge of its allotted man; that the wrong men were ordered to the boats, hence the confusion and delay; but it is evident that great blame is to be attached somewhere, as mistakes always proceed from incompetency and unfitness.