Losses of Liverpool-Dublin Sailing Packets

Chris Michael

Here I collect some information on wrecks that have come to my attention. The term "packet" seems to have been used quite loosely - so some vessels primarily taking cargo were advertised as "packets". Liverpool was a base for sailing packets to Ireland [mainly Dublin but also Newry and Drogheda] for a relatively short period of time.

Because Chester had good road links, Parkgate (in the Dee Estuary below Chester) was the favoured base for sailing packets to Ireland up to the 1800s. The road (and suspension bridge over the Menai Straits) to Holyhead was opened in 1826 which provided access to a shorter crossing to Ireland from Holyhead. Liverpool was a pioneer of steamers providing a reliable packet service, especially from the mid 1820s on. The arrival of the railway at Liverpool in 1830 reinforced its position as a convenient gateway to Ireland.

In 1810, the New Dublin Packet Company advertised a packet service to Dublin on vessels: Constitution, Hero, Earl Moira, Duke of Richmond.

By 1820, sailing packet services from Liverpool to Dublin were advertised by the Old Company vessels: Earl of Annesley, Duke of Leinster, Alert, Duke of Richmond; and the New Company vessels: Shamrock, Duke of Wellington, Earl Moira, Hero. Between them they aimed to provide a daily service.
There was also a service every other day to Newry in vessels: St Patrick, Mary, Marquis Drogheda.

See also my information on Parkgate Packets and Early steam packets.


Dublin 1759 aground, Hilbre, 50-60 lost
Fly 1775 aground, Mersey, 4 lost
Fame 1785 aground, Red Wharf Bay, 49 lost.
St Patrick 1794 aground, Amlwch, 28 lost.
Viceroy 1797 foundered, Irish Sea, 55 lost.
Lochnell 1808 aground, New Brighton, 0 lost.
Sutton 1816 aground, Southport, 9 lost.
Fly 1812 aground, near Liverpool, 78 lost.
Earl Moira 1821 aground, near Liverpool, 52 lost.
Hero 1822 false report, 0 lost.
Alert 1823 aground, Anglesey, 100 lost.
Robert 1823 aground, Isle of Man, 40 lost

Dublin 1759
Wooden sailing vessel: Dublin to Liverpool
Captain Blundell, crew, and 50-60 passengers (all crew and passengers lost)
Cargo of beef, butter, linen
Wrecked near Hilbre Island 28 December 1759

The Dublin, Captain Blundell sailed from Dublin for Liverpool on 27 December 1759. She was wrecked on Hilbre Island (in the mouth of the Dee Estuary) with all crew and passengers lost. The wreck was identified from timber wreckage and a pocket-book belonging to the Captain. Some wreckage was cast ashore near Mostyn.

Fly 1775
Liverpool - Dublin Packet (wooden, sail)
Aground near Formby 17 October 1775
4-6 passengers (from around 100) lost; refloated

There was a great storm in late October 1775.
 At Liverpool houses were unroofed, chimneys thrown down, small craft sunk in the river, and no less than 15 ships were driven on shore, or bilged against the rocks; and most of their crews perished.
  The Fly Packet, which had sailed from Liverpool for Dublin, the day before, was forced back, and driven on shore near Formby on 17 October 1775. She had on board upwards of 100 passengers, 4 or 5 of whom [6 in one report] perished. The vessel was subsequently refloated.

Fame 1785
Liverpool-Dublin cargo vessel (wooden, sail)
Captain Norman Shaw and crew with 33 passengers(all lost)
Lost 25 September 1785, Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey.

A report from Beaumaris: From a pocket-book washed up: it appears that the Fame had unloaded a cargo of linen cloth and yarn from Dublin at Liverpool and was returning to Dublin. There were no survivors from the passengers and crew. She was wrecked on the East coast of Anglesey - at Red Wharf Bay (Traeth Coch). Wreckage was strewn along the coast: hogsheads[large casks] of sugar, rum puncheons, deer skins. Only a few items were worth saving. Most wooden items were very much in pieces. One report states that there were silver bullion (bars) and coins on board - of considerable value.
  She was described in Dublin newspapers as "Fame, merchant" - so would not primarily take passengers.
  A report from Liverpool: Fame was carrying 33 passengers of whom 13 were buried in one grave. Three ladies were among those lost; one of whom was a widow with two children who was returning to Ireland after two years in England. All the crew were lost also.

St Patrick 1794
75 ton brigantine, built Liverpool 1787.
1 deck, 2 masts, figurehead, 57 x 17 x 10
registered Liverpool, owned William Orange, merchant, and others
Liverpool - Dublin Packet
Lost near Amlwch 25 January 1794 in a storm making for Liverpool from Dublin.
Crew and cabin passengers saved; 28 passengers in hold lost.

The St Patrick struck a rock on the north Anglesey coast in stormy weather: a NE gale. She was driven on shore in a creek and the crew and cabin passengers reached safety. The 28 passengers in the hold did not survive.

Viceroy
Wooden sailing ship; Liverpool-Dublin packet.
Crew and 45 passengers; all lost.
Foundered in gale in Irish Sea around 31st Dec 1797.

The VICEROY was a wooden sailing packet used on the Liverpool to Dublin run. In December 1797, the packet loaded an unusual mix of passengers and cargo in the form of a troop of equestrian performers and their horses managed by the well-known circus manager Benjamin Handy. Benjamin Handy had taken over the Lyceum theatre in the Strand and established his New Circus in the late winter and spring of 1795. This comprised riders offering 'horsemanship unrivalled', and clown performers. In all, a company of around 25 men, women and children with horses, embarked on the packet. A further 20 or so passengers and 16 horses were also loaded, including 2 sons of Sir John Pownall, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland. The vessel was heavily loaded nearly to gunwhale height when it left Liverpool sailing into a gale and it is presumed that the packet foundered as it was not heard from again.

Among the persons who are supposed to have perished on board the Liverpool packet (the Viceroy) are, besides twenty-five other disastrous passengers, the following performers belonging to Handy's equestrian troop: Mrs. Davis and child; Mr. and Mrs. Taylor; Mr. Robinson and wife and four children; Mr. and Mrs. Port; Miss Mary Ann; Master H. Cantelo; Masters Stent and Ackerill; Mr. Carr; Mrs. Sutton and two ostlers. - Mr. Handy's seventeen horses, trained for exhibition, were on board the packet. Mr. Handy, himself, travelled to Dublin on a packet from Holyhead.

The Lady Fitzgibbon, Liverpool packet, which was drove into the Isle of Man by the same tempest in which it is feared the above packet [Viceroy] foundered, has arrived in Dublin. The passengers in the Lady Fitzgibbon, during the heavy gale, saw the Viceroy in great distress, running northward before the wind, gunwale deep, and conclude that she must inevitably have upset.
It was presumed that the weight and mobility of the horses aboard caused her to become unstable in the waves and ship water, thus foundering.

Lochnell 1808
Liverpool-Dublin Packet
Wooden Sloop, b Oban 1801, 70 tons, Captain Roberts.
Ashore near New Brighton: refloated [still listed 2 years later].
Captain Roberts; all crew and (approx 200) passengers saved.

Newspaper report: The Lochnell (Packet) Roberts, from this port [Liverpool] to Dublin, ran on shore near the Red Noses [sandstone cliffs where promenade is now at New Brighton], during the storm on Thursday evening [4 February 1808]. The passengers, amounting to upwards of 200, upon the ebb of the tide, got on shore, as they had to, but as they had to pass a considerable distance through the snow, before they could reach the nearest houses, it is feared that several, who were not able to keep up with their companions, are lost. We have not, however, been able exactly to ascertain the particulars.

Sutton 1816
Liverpool-Dublin wooden sailing vessel, registered Liverpool, 122 tons
Brig, b Chester 1785, owned Simons & Co.
Captain Charles Bunker
Wrecked off Southport; 10 Sept 1816
with the loss of 4 passengers and 5 crew (including Capt.); 2 saved.

The Sutton, Captain Bunker, from Liverpool to Dublin, was lost on the 10th September 1816, near Southport, and only two of the hands were saved. The captain, four passengers, and two men, were drowned and two of the crew were washed overboard the preceding night, off Beaumaris. The two survivors were rescued by the Southport Lifeboat.
Those lost included Mr John Goulden, merchant, of Mount Pleasant; Mr Richard Rankin, of the firm Rankin and O'Kill; and Captain Charles Bunker, all of Liverpool

Fly 1812
Newry [Warrenpoint] - Liverpool Packet (sailing ship)
Captain Benjamin
78 crew and passengers: all lost.
Wrecked 5 March 1812 on sandbanks off Formby

The Fly left Warrenpoint bound for Liverpool on Tuesday 3 March with 78 persons on board, including a contingent of army recruits in uniform. There was a severe gale and wreckage washed ashore on the sandbanks north of Liverpool was identified as from the Fly. There were no survivors and bodies were later reported as washed ashore also.

Earl Moira 1821
Wooden sailing vessel, sloop, registered Dublin; owned S Renshaw.
Liverpool to Dublin Packet, b Liverpool 1808, 89 tons.
Captain W. Roberts and 6 crew, with 110 passengers.
Captain, mate and 50-60 passengers lost.

Contemporary report from Liverpool Mercury:
  The Earl Moira left the Pier Head [Liverpool] soon after six o'clock on this evening of Wednesday last[7 August 1821]. The greater number of our informants (all survivors) agree in the estimation of the number of 100 to 110 persons being on board, including about six of the crew. When off the Magazines they set all sail, wind blowing fresh from the W.N.W. After passing the Gut Buoy, No. 1, in attempting to tack, the vessel missed stays, and struck on Burbo bank.

The passengers, alarmed at the shock, flocked up from below in multitudes: and some of those from the cabin remonstrated with the captain, who was observed to be intoxicated, and consequently bewildered and undetermined. The boat was ordered out, and a kedge anchor was carried to leeward, and after considerable toil, the vessel was again got into deep water, and bore away from the Cheshire shore. A great number of the passengers here requested the captain to bear away for Liverpool, as the weather looked very black and threatening ahead. He refused to comply, and after a few tacks, about ten o clock, the vessel missed stays a second time, and grounded on the Wharf Bank off Mockbeggar: finding it impossible to get her off, orders were given to strike the top-mast, and make every thing snug. The captain and crew assured the passengers that the vessel was not in a dangerous situation and they determined to remain contented until the return of the tide. Some now remained on deck and others retired to their hammocks.

When the flood-tide set in, the vessel being occasionally lifted, struck the bank, and it is probable, from the manner in which she afterwards leaked, that her bows were injured by striking against the anchor, which was injudiciously dropped when she grounded, as she did not take cable. The mainsail, kept on her for the purpose of running her on the bank as the tide rose, had only the effect of sinking her deeper in the sand, and rendered her situation more fatal.

At half past two, the vessel filled with water fore and aft; the pump having previously been plied, but with no effect. Two fine horses that were in the hold, were now hoisted up; the groom wished to ride one of them on shore, but was persuaded to desist. The horses were washed, or thrown overboard. Previous to this the passengers wished a signal be made, to which the Captain would not agree, declaring there was no danger; but after some time, a flag was carried aloft by a passenger (a printer, who wore a bluejacket), and made, fast. Between four and five o'clock the water forced away the cabin deck windows, and the luggage, provisions, etc. were floated up, the sea breaking over them. The waves increased with the rising tide, and at last brought the vessel on her broadside. Soon after the boat and deck lumber were washed overboard, and two passengers who were snatched away were with difficulty saved. All who were able now got upon the shrouds, and some held on by the ropes fastened to the bulwarks, or to whatever they could find, to keep them above water, it being then breast high on deck, and nothing but the weather gunwhale and the mast to be seen. In this manner men, women, and children clung, until, exhausted by the continuance of the waves that burst over them, they began to drop from their hold, and were overwhelmed. One tremendous wave which struck the weather bow, carried off from ten to fifteen poor souls at once. Men, women, and children, who seemed in the greatest agony, were now washed away; and every succeeding wave appeared to mark its victims; the survivors had scarcely time to breathe between each. One man jumped overboard, and was for sometime seen struggling towards the shore, supported by a trunk or box.

A boat lay-to a short distance to windward of them all night (apparently one of the Kings Dock gigs). Several signals were contrived to hire her to their assistance. One of the passengers, a soldier, fired his musket three times, but the boat took no notice. When the water was making over the deck, a white handkerchief was waved from the rigging, when the boat came down, and went a short distance to leeward of them. On being requested to approach, they said the sea was running too high for them. The passengers in the Earl Moira then took a cork fender, and fastening a rope to it, let it drop towards the boat. But the boatmen refused to take hold of the rope, by means of which they might have got safely alongside. About ten minutes after, several packages were washed away, when the wretches in the boat having picked up three or four portmanteaus, and a trunk, immediately set sail with their plunder to Liverpool, although at the time the dead bodies were floating round the vessel!

The Captain, who was still in a state of intoxication, was amongst the first who perished. After the most incoherent conduct, he was exclaiming, "We shall all be lost," when he was struck on the breast by a wave, and falling backwards, sunk alongside. We shall not pain our readers by a minute detail of the heart-rending scene of death that continued from this period until all were either saved or drowned. A few instances will suffice. A female, about 30 years of age, was observed with her two children, one about eight months old, the other two years. For a considerable time she buffetted the waves with her infants in her arms. A tremendous sea at length struck her, beneath which her exhausted children were buried for a minute or a minute and a half. The wind then lulled for a moment, and the swell abated; the agonised mother gazed at the children in her arms and found them both dead. She uttered a piercing shriek, lost her hold, was overwhelmed by another wave, and perished with her babes locked in her arms. Three soldiers were on board, having a deserter in charge. They remained by him as long as they could; a sea struck them as they stood together, and carried off the deserter, who sunk immediately. One of the soldiers was carried under the boom and clung to one of the stays. As the sea lifted the vessel, he rose above water several times, but at length, with an exclamation of mercy, he yielded to his fate.

"A vast number of women and children," says a survivor who was in the rigging, "the occupants of the fore part of the vessel were more exposed to the waves, and there was no possibility of affording the sufferers the least relief. We beheld them struggling with the most appalling difficulties. One female importuned our assistance; but, on our extending a rope, she was too much exhausted to keep hold, and sunk. There were about ten clinging to one rope, the wife of one having her husband in her arms. An irresistible wave swept all away but three. The survivors seeing their exhausted comrades dropping one by one from their hold, remained in continual apprehension of a similar fate."

The Hoylake Lifeboat arrived to their assistance between seven and eight. So great was their eagerness for self-preservation, that about thirty soon dropped into the boat, and the commander, whose exertions cannot be too much praised, was at length obliged to put off to prevent the boat being swamped. They were all much exhausted, and many of them in a dying state. Another boat, the first from Liverpool, belonging to Matthew Naill, arrived about eight o'clock, and brought eight persons on shore. Before the third boat arrived (belonging, we are told, to W. Corrie,) the deck was torn up by the sea, and the mast fell. Many of the women were swept away. There were twelve got into this boat, including a lady, and fifteen sufferers remained clinging to the wreck; the greater number of whom were afterwards picked up by other boats. There were but two females saved.

There were five ladies cabin passengers, of whom only one was saved. There were, we learn, 33 cabin passengers in all, 16 only of whom were saved. It is impossible for us to obtain the precise number of those who perished. The number on hoard was not exactly known, nor the number saved although the latter may be stated at about 50, leaving about the same supposed number who have perished. The bodies of two females, one a child, and a man, have been brought here and others, we understand, have been landed near the rock. The boat belonging to the Moira, in a shattered condition, was brought here last night: when picked up, a fine shawl was found tied round one of the benches, to which probably some unfortunate lady had clung until overwhelmed.

Such are the distressing particulars which we have been able to collect, and they will be perused with painful interest. Many of those on board were, we believe, of most respectable families, on their way to meet his Majesty in Ireland, and carried with them considerable property. If we are to credit report, some of the inhabitants of Wallasey have been engaged in stripping and plundering the bodies.

Many of the survivors are in humble life, and have lost every thing they possessed. All the survivors ascribe the disaster to the intoxication of the Captain, the Mate, and the greater part of the crew, the steward and one or two others only having done their duty. It is truly lamentable to reflect that the lives of so many individuals should be vested in such hands, and we trust effective measures will be taken to prevent, in future, so awful a catastrophe.

The Newry Packet, which sailed in company with the Moira, put back all well. Our data are too vague to afford us a list of names, nor have we been able to ascertain the actual number of those who perished.

Hero 1822
Liverpool - Dublin Packet (sailing ship).
Driven ashore 5 December 1822 on Salisbury Bank in Dee Estuary
Voyage Liverpool to Dublin; Crew and passengers saved.

Reports in Lloyds List, copied by many newspapers, are as above - but a letter to a Dublin Newspaper on 14 December 1822, states that the report is totally unfounded; the Hero is safe at Liverpool.
  Indeed, it seems unlikely that the Hero, on her passage Dublin - Liverpool, would end up on the Salisbury Bank which is quite far into the Dee Estuary. A vessel on that Bank is more likely to be one heading for/from Parkgate and the
Britannia is a candidiate.

Alert 1823
Wooden sailing vessel, registered Liverpool.
Captain Morgan with 7 crew.
2 crew lost; 70-140 passengers lost (13 saved)

Report from North Wales Gazette: On Wednesday morning the 26th ult.[26 March 1823], the ALERT, Morgan, (Liverpool Packet) from Dublin to Liverpool [Howth to Parkgate in some reports], had proceeded on her passage some distance to the eastward of the Skerries Lighthouse, when, at 10 AM. it fell quite calm, a strong ebb tide making to the westward, the vessel was driven back in that direction: perceiving her getting into the wake of the West Mouse rock, the boat was got out, and sent a-head to endeavour to tow her clear, but in passing that rock, she just struck on the skirts of it, and drifted on, and was immediately found to make a considerable quantity of water, the pumps were set to work, with buckets bailing from the hold and cabin but in a short time it was found that all exertions to keep the vessel up were ineffectual. Numbers leaped into the water to endeavour to get into the boat, (which was small) and were taken in until the boat was full, and in danger of sinking. The Captain went forward to the bowsprit end, and dropped into the water, when a rope was given him, but they could not take him into the boat, he was towed on shore. In this manner the Captain, five of the crew, one cabin passenger, and nine deck passengers reached the land; by this time; the vessel had disappeared, but the Mate with three of the men instantly returned with the boat towards the spot where the sad catastrophe had happened, with a hope of being the means of saving more of their unfortunate companions who might be found floating on some pieces of the wreck - and arrived just at the latest moment when they could take up three more, who they found clinging to two crates filled with eggs, they were in a senseless state; they then rowed for the harbour as fast as they could, and upon making known the melancholy intelligence, every boat went out, and after several hours search in every direction, they returned with 23 dead bodies of the unfortunate passengers consisting of men, women and children, who they found floating with some packages of luggage etc, a shocking and most appalling sight.

Carts were immediately ordered down to the boats, to convey the bodies of the unfortunate sufferers to the Church yard, but before they were removed every due attention was payed by the proper officers in taking the description of each body, and what was found about them, and all effects lodged at the Custom home. A special meeting of the inhabitants immediately took place, and a Committee formed for the purpose of giving every necessary direction on so dreadful a catastrophe - Captain Stevens, Chairman, which was adjourned from time to time until after the Coroner's inquest. In this horrible event it is supposed that above 100 perished - The Captain and crew, (except the Steward and a boy) with 13 passengers saved, two cabin passengers, and 11 deck passengers, in all 19.

Postscript
  The Rev. James (and his wife Francis) Williams of Llanfairynghornwy (the parish of NW Anglesey in which the bodies were found and buried) were so moved by this tragedy that they set about developing rescue services. They contacted the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck (forerunner of RNLI) and were able to collect funds for a lifeboat to be located at Cemlyn Bay. The Rev. Williams was the first coxswain of this lifeboat at Cemlyn when it was established in 1828, and it was not unkown for Francis Williams to be one of the volunteer rowers. The Rev. Williams also oversaw the construction of the first lifeboat built at Holyhead.

His most striking rescue was to the sailing vessel Active. Initially anchored in Ramsey Bay, Isle of Man, during a northwesterly gale, Active started to drag her anchors, then drifted out to sea, as soon as they had been hauled up.
Many hours later, on 7th March 1835, the smack drifted into Cemaes Bay, Anglesey, and tried to anchor but grounded a long way from the shore, with every successive wave breaking over her. The Reverend Williams arrived after several unsuccessful attempts had been made to launch a boat and, ignoring the mountainous seas, rode a horse into the surf and drew near enough to throw a grappling hook over the smack's bowsprit.

They were then able to launch a boat and pull out to the wreck whose crew of five were found in the cabin, too exhausted to move. All were landed safely.

Robert 1823
Wooden sailing vessel, 186 tons, registered Whitehaven.
Captain Nathaniel Netham.
From crew and 50-60 passengers, only 19 saved.

From the Dublin Evening Mail:
SHIPWRECK OFF THE ISLE OF MAN.
  The brig Robert of Whitebaven, of 186 tons burthen, Capt. Nathaniel Netham, sailed from Dublin for Liverpool, early on Friday morning (16th May 1823) having on board between 50 and 60 passengers (including about 20 women and children), 13 horses, 36 bullocks, and 60 pigs, etc. Towards evening the sea became extremely boisterous; as the vessel inclined to either side, there the cattle rushed in a body. In this predicament considerable fears were entertained by the passengers for their safety, and they entreated the Captain either to return to Dublin or put into the nearest port. It was impossible to comply with the former request, but the Captain said he would run into Whitehaven. At this time (about half past-eight) the vessel was under a heavy press of sail, and bearing on the Manx coast. Our informant says the captain was not aware of being near the land, for in reply to a question, he said there was no danger, as the vessel was about 20 and 30 miles from any coast. A few minutes afterwards, the captain and a Mr. Nixon, being in the cabin (the latter having lain down in the captain's bed), the vessel struck on the rock at Langle's [Langness] Point with a dreadful crash. The captain and Mr. Nixon instantly rushed on deck, where a scene of the most horrifying description presented itself. The terrific shrieks of the women and children, and the distraction of the men, may be imagined but cannot be described. At this awful and perilous moment - the sea running mountains high, and the waves dashing over the vessel, and on an unknown coast - there was not a moment for deliberation. Those who could swim immediately jumped into the sea, and gained the rocks, while a few others also succeeded in passing over the bowsprit, and descending on a jutting point of the rock. Several who had gained the rock were unfortunately washed off by the overwhelming waves, and it was only by the utmost human exertions that any portion of them escaped destruction. Those who succeeded in retaining their hold, clambered from rock to rock, during the short interval that succeeded each wave, until they attained the land. Of the entire number not more than nineteen persons (including the captain and crew) were saved - the remainder found a watery grave. One woman was among the number saved, but she was much injured, and not expected to survive. The captain had a narrow escape, and was much bruised. From the darkness of the night, these unfortunate people had considerable difficulty in finding a habitation. On the following morning they went to Castletown, where a collection was raised for their relief, and a vessel prepared to convey them to their destination. The passengers were entirely of the poorer class.

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