The following letter was addressed to a
gentleman in Worcestershire. If you think it all calculated to interest the
readers of the Gentleman's Magazine, it is much at your service.
Mr Dear Sir, Carnarvon, Saturday, April 24. 1830
When I wrote to you a few days ago, I told you that a distressing case of shipwreck had just occurred in our neighbourhood. I had then no conception of the real magnitude of the calamity, nor was I acquainted with any of the circumstances attending it. My means of gaining information on the subject have since been most ample; and some of the facts which have come to my knowledge, are of so peculiarly touching a nature, that I find it impossible to satisfy myself without endeavouring to record them. They cannot fail to awaken the tenderest sympathies of a heart like yours.
(The Newry was built at Quebec in 1825, and was the property of Messrs. Lyle of Newry. It is scarcely possible to do justice to the liberality and kindness which the surviving passengers have experienced from these gentlemen.)
The Newry, a vessel of five hundred tons burthen, Captain Crosby, set sail from Newry in Ireland, at half past two o'clock, in the afternoon of Wednesday in the last week, being bound for Quebec, and having on board between three and four hundred emigrants. These were not of the class that is commonly designated as the lower Irish : for, although there were doubtless a good many labourers among them, they appear to have consisted principally of small farmers, with their wives and children, and domestic servants. About the middle of the day on Thursday, the wind became unfavourable; and at noon on Friday, " it blew right a head," when a tack was made, and the ship changed her course to the south-east. She continued to pursue " her ocean way " in that direction till between nine and ten o'clock at night. There was then a thick haze, and the Captain entertained not the least suspicion that he was near the land; but as he was preparing to put the vessel about, she struck suddenly and with great violence upon a rock close to the shore at Maen Mellt, about three miles from Aberdaron in this county. The passengers had retired to their berths, and the lights below deck had for some time been extinguished. No sooner was the Captain aware of the danger, than he ordered the hatches to be fastened down. Appalling as the measure must have been to those who were below, it was in reality an act of prudence and of mercy; the tumult on the deck would otherwise have been such as to prevent the crew from working the ship, and from adopting any expedients to avert the catastrophe that was at hand. Within less than twenty minutes it was evident that all attempts to save the vessel must be ineffectual. The hatches were taken off; the Captain raised his voice and said, " Let us all have an equal chance for our lives;" while one of the crew exclaimed, " A watery tomb! a watery tomb !''
At these thrilling words, the passengers rushed upon deck, not more than three or four among them having on any other clothes than those in which they had sprung from their beds. The boat was lowered down from the quarter deck. Before it had well touched the surface of the water, eleven men jumped into it, as it were, at once. The boat was instantly upset, and they all perished. The ocean was their grave. Their entreaties for help, and their screams of despair, as they struggled with the raging billows, are said to have been terrific.
In hopes that he might be able to form a communication, or a gang-way, as it is technically called, between the vessel and the shore, the Captain ordered first the mizen mast, and then the main mast to be cut away, and to be employed for that purpose; but owing to the violence of the gale, each of them " fell short." The important object was afterwards accomplished by means of a spare boom. One end having with much difficulty been lodged upon a rock on the main land, while the other rested upon the vessel, a rope was carried out by the carpenter from the vessel to the shore; and by this contrivance, in the depth of midnight, more than two hundred of the passengers were enabled to reach the rocks.
At four o'clock on Saturday morning, David GRIFFITH, a seaman residing in the neighbourhood, came to the shore, and was instrumental in rescuing from their perilous situation between thirty and forty of his fellow creatures, men, women, and children, who on various accounts had been obliged to remain on the wreck. The fearless and untiring intrepidity of this young man is above all praise.
The vessel went to pieces on Sunday. The whole of the crew was saved. Of the passengers, it is supposed that at least between sixty and seventy have lost their lives in the remorseless deep. The survivors, on leaving the rocks at daybreak, sought refuge in the nearest farm-houses and cottages, where they were received and treated with almost unheard-of kindness.
On Sunday, about the middle of the day, a large body of them appeared at Carnarvon. They were then returning to Ireland. As soon as they told their melancholy tale to the Deputy Mayor and the Bailiffs, those gentlemen called together some of the principal inhabitants. A committee was formed : subscriptions were solicited without an hours delay, from door to door; collections were made in the evening at St. Mary's church, and in all the other places of worship; it was resolved to appropriate the Guildhall to the use of the poor sufferers, and I can assure you, without entering into a minute and tedious statement, that through the whole of this week every expedient which humanity and benevolence could devise for effectually relieving them, has been employed.
From their own lips I have heard a recital of their sorrows: and the following cases will give you a tolerably distinct as well as accurate idea of what has occurred.
Mary Ann WATT an intelligent little girl, thirteen years old, lost both her parents in the wreck, and knew none of the surviving passengers, except a young woman, who, like herself, came from the county of Tyrone. She never saw her father after the vessel struck, nor can she give any tidings of him. She was dragged through the water to the shore. Her mother, who was a woman of an extremely delicate frame, appears lo have been either too feeble or too timid lo trust herself to the boom. About eight o'clock on Saturday morning, as she was standing upon the deck, a large piece of timber struck her on her left side. She held up one of her hands, uttered a faint shriek, and fell. A sailor ran to her assistance, but life was extinct. The case of the daughter, as is natural, has excited an extraordinary interest. Among the tokens of sympathy which she has received, is a New Testament, bearing this inscription on the inside of the cover:
"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." Psalm xxvii. 10. Mary Ann Watt, given to her with the kindest wishes. Carnarvon, April 21, 1830. "I will sing of mercy and judgment : unto thee. O Lord! I will sing" Psalm ci
The poor orphan, you will be glad to hear, has since found a home in a respectable Irish family in this town.