Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ships collide off the Irish Coast 1835

Mary Ann Gadsen, described as 'wife of John Gadsen' [sic] appears as part-owner of a schooner, the Susan, in 1835. Records in the Admiralty Court show that during a voyage on 24 August of that year from Newport in South Wales to Waterford, the 150-ton Susan was involved in a collision with a much larger vessel, the Chester, near the Hook Tower on the Irish mainland.*

Damage to the schooner was considerable and petition was made regarding this in court in October 1835. The Susan, Joseph Read, Master, was carrying coals and had her full complement of crew on board, seven persons in all.

The Chester, of St Johns, New Brunswick, was on her way to Liverpool with a cargo of timber.

Hook Lighthouse and coast off County Wexford

According to the report the schooner 'was staunch and well found' and on her proper course, 'shewing a light' (it was midnight) and all hands 'except one of the Boys' on deck, when she was struck on her Starboard Lee quarter by the other ship which was sailing at eight and a half to nine knots with a strong wind behind her, carrying away both the schooner's masts and entangling the rigging.

There can be little doubt as to the identity of Mary Ann, at this date, with husband John and linked with Waterford, though it is rather surprising to find her mentioned as one of the owners of this vessel.  All are named in the lengthy document. 

The Susan may have made a regular round trip from Waterford to English ports, carrying one sort of cargo out (butter, cheese, bacon, for example?) and another back. John Gadsden is recorded as a bacon merchant in Bridge Street Waterford at the time. Let's not forget that his father, John Gadsden b 1759, was a cheesemonger of London.

Extract from the Admiralty Instance Court proceedings:

'...although the Master and Crew of the said Schooner called out to the people on board (the Chester) to cut her adrift and shorten their canvas ... the said Ship continued her course dragging the said Schooner in consequence whereof the Master and Crew were obliged to beg for Ropes from the said Ship to save their lives and it was only after considerable delay that their request was complied with and the said Master and Crew got on board the said Ship and thereby saved their lives that after getting on board ... Joseph Read the Master of the said Schooner remonstrated with the Master and Crew thereof for not attempting to rescue them from their perilous situation and earnestly requested the Master to remain by the said Schooner until the next morning in hopes of saving her which then appeared practicable but which he refused to do and shortly afterwards he caused her to be cut adrift when she sank and together with her Cargo was entirely lost. ...the schooner Susan was quite a new vessel having been only launched fourteen days and was tight staunch and substantial her Hatches well secured and was in every respect seaworthy and he expressly alleged that the said Schooner being run down ... was occasioned solely by the negligence or want of skill of the Master and Crew of the ship Chester in not keeping a proper look out ...'

*Admiralty Instance Court record: PCAP/1/26 pg 15a-16 b; 34a - 36

Hook Tower: the lighthouse on Hook Head, Co. Wexford, originally tended by monks and one of the oldest beacons in Europe, established ca 1172. 

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