PSS Water Witch

Paddle steamer, 500 tons, 160 hp engine
Launched 1832 by Seddon & Leadley, Birkenhead; cost £12000; first advertised voyage March 1833.
Two engines of 180hp by Fawcett & Preston.
Owned Waterford and Bristol Steam Navigation Co.
Captain Stacey
Bristol to Waterford with passengers and cargo.
18th Dec 1833: Hit Rock near Kilmore Quay.
Water Witch rock: 52° 10.25'N, 6° 33.32'W.
3 crew (first mate Samuel Bailey and 2 sailors) and 4 passengers lost.

From Liverpool Mercury - Friday 09 November 1832
Launch. - We understand that a very large new steam packet will be launched tomorrow, (Saturday,) at half-past eleven o'clock, from the building-yard of Messrs. Seddon and Laidley[sic], North Birkenhead. The vessel is to be called the Water-witch, and she is intended to be fitted up with two engines of 180 horse power, which are now being manufactured by Messrs Fawcett and Preston, of this town.

Loss of the "WATER WITCH" Steam Packet.- (From the Wexford Freeman.)- We have to communicate the sad intelligence that this fine vessel (the Water Witch) has gone to pieces on the Kilmore coast, about ten miles from this town [Wexford]. She left Bristol on the 17th [December 1833] and encountered a dreadful gale immediatly after leaving the Bristol Channel. The vessel was new; of 500 tons and 160 horse power, and she was therefore enabled to weather the gale and keep her course, but when she was more than half way across, a tremendous sea broke her windward paddle to atoms, and thus completely disabled her. The Captain (Stacey) kept his course as well as he could (the lights not being visible in consequence of the fog and storm), and the vessel held on pretty well, but at seven o clock at night she struck on a rock, called Mageens [now charted as Water Witch Rock], on the Kilmore coast, and not far to leeward of her true course.

The scene here became terrific, as there were several passengers on board, the sea running almost over the vessel, and every wave driving her with increased violence on the shore. At this period, the mate and two seamen took the large boat, but in consequence of the painter snapping, the boat was swamped or overset, and the three were lost. - There is reason to think that had this boat been left, all might have been saved. Some ladies and male passengers were put into the small boat, and succeeded in gaining the shore during the night; the others remained in the ship, expecting she would hold together for a long time. At day break, to the eternal credit of the people on that part of the coast, two boats put off in one of the most dreadful hurricanes ever witnessed, they succeded in reaching the vessel, which was a quarter of a mile from the shore, and by their exertions, the principal part of the crew were saved.

The ship, however, broke up while yet four remained on board, and those unfortunate persons were lost. They consisted of Mr. Smith of Headborough, in the county of Waterford, two daughters and a servant, and melancholy to relate, another daughter of Mr. Smith (the lady saved during the night) saw from the beach her father, two sisters, and a servant drowned. The conduct of the peasantry is beyond all praise. The danger they braved is inconceivable to those not acquainted with the coast, and in addition to this, when the valuable cargo was drifting on shore, they shewed not the slightest disposition to plunder, and preferred attending on and taking care of the exhausted crew and passengers, to seeking for any of the property driven on the beach. We trust those who were most active, particularly the crews of the two boats, will be handsomely rewarded.

Another newspaper quotes the Captain:
She ran on a ledge of rocks off Ballyhale [Ballyhealy?], on the coast of Wexford, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, in a haze. One boat was launched with the first mate and three sailors, dropped astern of the vessel, and we saw no more of them. The second boat was lowered, which immediately filled with water, and after getting her up again we put four men and two ladies into her, all of whom got safe on shore. We then all night prepared rafts, and next morning all got safe to land but Mr. Smith and his sister, who were drowned by the upsetting of the raft. Another Miss Smith and her servant-maid died after reaching the shore.

From True Sun - Saturday 28 December 1833
WRECK OF THE WATER WITCH STEAMER, As the accounts which have hitherto been published of this melancholy event are more or less imperfect, we subjoin the following particulars, with which we have been favoured by Lieutenant Burdett, of the Madras army, who was on board when the vessel struck, and during the whole of the succeeding night, and was an eye-witness of all that we are about to detail:- The Water Witch, which plied between Bristol and Waterford, left the former place at nine o'clock on Monday morning, the 16th inst. After they had got outside, it began to blew very hard, and the gale increasing they ran for Milford, which, however, in consequence of the severity of the weather, they were unable to make. Having lost the wheel of the helm by the working of the vessel, they were obliged to rig a tiller. This rendered it necessary to remove the binnacle, which having been unfortunately placed near the flue of the cuddy-fire the heat is supposed to have affected the action of the compass, and the captain was, in consequence, unable to make his calculations with correctness. The gale still continuing without any prospect of abatement, they were obliged to put into Tenby, which place they reached about two o'clock on Monday at midnight. Here they remained until nine o'clock on Wednesday morning, when they again put off for their destination. The sea was still running very high, the breeze strong, and the weather hazy; but, notwithstanding these difficulties, the vessel continued to work her way gallantly until about seven o'clock in the evening, when, in running along the rugged line of coast which skirts that part of the county of Wexford to the eastward of the Saltees, she struck on a ledge of breakers called the Ballygrangan rocks. Her progress was immediately arrested; the rock on which she struck had penetrated her bottom; the vessel was fixed as in a vice, and, as no prospect, but that of death presented itself if they remained there for the night, though it was then dark and the risk imminent, the two boats were launched. The attention of the captain and passengers was of course first turned to the ladies, and, with a view of providing for their safety, the first boat lowered was manned by the first mate and two sailors, but no sooner had these three men got into it than, in opposition to the entreaties of the gentlemen in the vessel, they rowed for the shore, regardless of the safety of those they left behind. The shore, however, they never reached alive; a heavy sea upset the boat, and the unfortunate men were drowned. The second boat, which had been swamped immediately after being lowered, was again righted, and having been manned by three sailors, two of the ladies (Miss Smith and Mrs. Hewson, wife of an officer of the 89th Regiment) were handed into it, and they put off from the vessel. The most intense anxiety was felt for their safety, but providentially, notwithstanding the extreme hazard of the attempt, they were landed without accident. The other ladies might have gone in this boat had they been ready, but through some delay in their preparations, it was deemed advisable to let the boat put off without them. Several guns having been fired as signals of distress, a boat now pushed off from the shore and struggled hard to reach the vessel; but after repeated efforts, in all of which she was baffled by the violence of the weather, she was obliged to return, conjuring, however, those who were on board to "stick by the vessel." This they did, and night having now settled down, they employed themselves until morning in the construction of rafts. At daylight two boats appeared, but they were unable to get alongside. The men, however, moored them at a short distance to the stern of the Water Witch, and two rafts having been let down, four persons betook themselves to each, and in this way the rafts completely submerged, but secured to the vessel by ropes, they succeeded in reaching the boats, by which they were safely conveyed to shore. The boats again put off with the intention of making a final effort for the rescue of the remaining passengers and crew. All that men could do to accomplish this object, the boatmen did, but all their exertions were frustrated by the tremendous sea, which for miles around was breaking upon the shore and whitening the beach with surf, With desponding hearts they were at length obliged to relinquish the task at which they had toiled so manfully and so long. The captain and passengers seeing that nothing else remained for them, resolved to betake themselves to the rafts, which still continued secured to the stern of the vessel. Six men having got on one, they pushed off, and were picked up by the boats which immediately put out to meet them. The second was less fortunate: it contained Mr. Smith, two Miss Smiths (his sisters), their maid-servant, and two young gentlemen, sons of Colonel Curry, of Lismore, and had not proceeded far from the vessel when it upset, and Mr. Smith, his sisters and their maid, were immediately engulphed by the sea that raged around them. The Messrs. Curry were fortunately rescued by the boats, which pulled vigorously to their assistance. While struggling in the water these young gentlemen exerted themselves to the utmost for the safety of their less fortunate companions; one of them caught the servant-maid, and made several attempts to keep her head above the water, but in vain; in fact, before she left the vessel she was almost dead through fear. A third raft had been prepared; it was the last that put off, and on it were the captain, the steward, the stewardess, and a few others. They had a perilous passage of it, but with the assistance of the boatmen they reached the shore, amid the cheers of those on the beach, who expressed their joy at every successive rescue by seizing the boats as they landed, and carrying them and their ransomed passengers into the adjoining fields, beyond the reach of the angry element. In the accounts of this calamity which have appeared in the local Papers we observe it stated that one of the Miss Smiths who perished was the daughter of Mr. Smith. This is not the fact. Mr. Smith was unmarried, and had no family. The individuals who were saved speak in the highest terms of the conduct of the boatmen, the peasantry, and the gentry. Still as each raft arrived, those whom it brought were taken to the houses of Captain Richards and the other gentlemen in the neighbourhood, where the utmost attention was shown to them, and nothing was left undone that hospitality and kindness could suggest, in order to soften the severity of their sufferings, and induce a forgetfulness of the peril from which they had been so providentially delivered. - Cork Constitution.

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Waterford shipowners, later consolidated under the Malcomson Brothers, had interests extending beyond the Irish Sea. They were owners (for a period only in some cases) of several of the steamships listed here: Water Witch lost 1833; St. Patrick lost 1838; Mermaid lost 1845; Victory lost 1853; Mail lost 1859; Adonis lost 1862 and Kangaroo lost 1862.