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Wreck of the John, Plymouth to Quebec 1855 see also John 1855

Quebec Mercury, Tuesday, May 29th, 1855. Page 3, Col. 1C.

Wreck of an Emigrant Ship - Two Hundred Lives Lost.
On Saturday, shortly before closing of Lloyd's, a painful sensation prevailed by the receipt of a telegraphic message from Falmouth, announcing a dreadful shipwreck on the westward of that port, by an emigrant ship going ashore on the rocks off St. Keoche, with 350 emigrants on board, and that nearly all the passengers were drowned. Subsequent telegraph messages received on Saturday evening from Falmouth, gave the following details respecting the loss.

The John, it appears, sailed from Plymouth on Thursday afternoon, with 210 emigrants for Quebec, and encountered a heavy gale of wind from the northeast to the westward of the Eddystone, and got closer in towards the land than the captain was aware of, for in making for the Blackhead-headland, he ran the ship upon a dangerous reef of rocks called the Manacles, situated a short distance from the coast, and between Deanna and Chunkall's Point (the extreme eastern part of Cornwall). It occurred between ten and eleven o'clock on Friday night, the wind blowing heavily at the time, and a tremendous sea lashing the coast. In a few minutes she was got off, but the captain found she was fast filling, evidently having stove in her bottom, and as the only chance of saving life, he ran her ashore, where she went down within 200 feet from the coast. The water was shallow, and the deck was above water, but the tide, which was about two-thirds flood, was fast running in, and would soon cover her up to nearly her main-top. A great number with the crew took to the rigging, but the bulk of the unfortunate passengers were swept off the wreck by the fearful seas that rolled over her, and in this way, it is understood that nearly 200 met with a watery grave.

Early on Saturday morning, the coast guard men discovered the wreck from their look-out, and about 60 or 70 people clinging to the rigging. Procuring assistance, they proceeded to the spot off where the wreck was lying, and, by dint of great efforts, succeeded in taking out of the rigging the whole of the people. Among them were several females, and Captain Rawle and his crew. The ship is supposed to be an entire loss. She was a very old vessel, and we find by Lloyd's Register book that she was 465 tons register, and was built at Chester in 1810, and has long ceased to be classed. She appears to have undergone repairs in 1847 and 1853, and was the property of Messrs. Rawle & Co, merchants, at Plymouth.

A statement, dated Falmouth, Monday, says: "The wreck of the John at the Manacles turns out to be much more fatal than was imagined or even represented by the survivors. It now appears that there were embarked no less than 300 emigrants, men, women and children (a very large proportion of the latter) besides five cabin passengers, and as it cannot be ascertained, that above 56 or 58 of these have been saved, it follows that the loss of life reaches the frightful amount of 250. Up to the last evening, 30 corpses had been brought to St. Keverne, and the coroner of the district, Mr. J. Carlyon, of Trure, had reached there and commenced the inquest yesterday. In the meantime, Lieutenant Carew, R.N., emigration agent at Plymouth (who had mustered the bark on sailing), accompanied by one of the owners and another person from that port, have arrived and gone down to the wreck to provide for the necessary wants of the survivors, and to take other measures required. The vessel holds together in her position, one mast and the bow-sprit standing; but the first gale must break her up. When she struck, one passenger only was on deck, named Solomon, all the others being below, and chiefly in bed. Solomon got, with two or three others, into a boat, and left the vessel before she grounded in the cove, and succeeded in reach Port Hallow." Plymouth, May 8.

The steamer Avon, Lieutenant Rundle, returned here from St. Keverne this evening with 51 of the John's passengers, in charge of Lieutenant Carew. Total passengers saved, 93; drowned 194. The coroner's inquest has returned a verdict of manslaughter against Captain Rawle, who is in custody at Bodmain. After pronouncing Captain Rowle guilty of manslaughter, the jury at the inquest expressed their entire disapprobation of the conduct of the crew, with the exception of Andrew Eider, in not exerting themselves to save the passengers. They also strongly disapprove of the vessel having been sent to sea without being supplied with a signal gun, muskets, rockets, or blue lights as night signals. And they would recommend that a light-house should be built on the Manacle rocks, on account of so many wrecks taking place there, and the sacrifice of so many lives.

We learn from the passengers that the ship's carpenter, Elliot, made a raft, on which seven people were saved, and that the cuddy steward, John Hewett, saved two young women, Mary Ann Penman and Elizabeth Pearse, by conveying them to the fore-top, where they remained until rescued by the coast guard boat. Among the steerage passengers was James Eastcott of North Talland, Cornwall, labourer, with his wife and 11 children; of these two boys, 14 and 16, are the only survivors. Another passenger, William Walters, of Beeralston, miner, through great exertion, saved himself, wife and six children; he made two daring, but unsuccessful efforts to recover his infant child, which had fallen into the sea. The fore-mast of the John remained standing when the Avon left at noon on Tuesday. A commissioner from the Board of Trade is gone to Falmouth to hold an official inquiry into the circumstances concerning the loss of the ship.

Extracted from version 2.0 of "Navigating the Lower Saint Lawrence in the 19th Century"


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