[From Manx Quarterly #8 April 1910]
In the terrific hurricane that prevailed on Friday morning, Dec. 3rd, 1909, the s.s. Ellen Vannin of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's fleet, went down with all hands, in some thirty feet of water (at low water), about a mile or more on the Liverpool side of the Mersey Bar.
At about twelve minutes past one o'clock on Friday morning, the steamer left Ramsey Harbour bound for Liverpool, carrying passengers, mails, and cargo. At the time of departure there was blowing a strong breeze, from north-west, but there was nothing in the weather to delay the sailing of the steamer. But about an hour and a half after the Ellan Vannin had proceeded on Lee voyage, the wind very suddenly increased to almost tornado force, the gusts being the most severe that have been experienced for several years past. With the rising of the wind the sea ran in fearful fashion, but as it was aft of the Ellan Vannin no anxiety was felt at the headquarters of the company, the vessel having on many occasions come safely through ordeals quite as bad, if not worse. When, however, telegrams arrived late on in the day announcing that the Ellen Vannin had not reached her port of destination, considerable anxiety was expressed, though the officials at Douglas hoped that nothing worse had happened the steamer than a compulsory run for shelter. There was a constant inter-change of wires between Douglas and Liverpool, and by five o'clock in the after-noon it was recognised that a serious situation had arisen. Mr W. M. Corkill, the manager of the company, summoned the directors to a meeting, and further efforts were made to elucidate the mystery attendant upon the non-arrival of the vessel in Liverpool. At about seven o'clock a telegram was received at the office which caused a feeling of consternation. It was to the effect that during the day the crew of the Formby Lightship had seen floating in the Mersey channel lifebuoys inscribed " Ellan Vannin," several dead sheep, and a quantity of turnips. A portion of the cargo of the steamer consisted of live sheep and turnips, and the flotsam in question gave rise to the fear that the steamer had foundered. More disquieting still was the picking up by the lightship crew of a mail basket, which was sent to the Birkenhead Post Office, and, on being opened; was found to contain letters despatched from Ramsey. The news quickly leaked out, and was spread by word of mouth and telephone all over the Island, the result being general consternation and mourning. Among those whose friends and relatives were on board the fated vessel, hope, died hard. Wreckage of all kinds was being washed ashore during Friday evening and Saturday morning, but they still clung to the possibility of the vessel being afloat somewhere in a derelict condition. The steamer carried no deck cargo, so that the wreckage that was seen floating in the Mersey was dislodged from the holds and saloon of the vessel; but there were those who still refused to believe that the worst had happened, and it was not until Saturday afternoon that all hope was abandoned. Then the Mersey Docks Board's boats brought tidings of having located the wrecked vessel in the position above-mentioned.
The Ellan Vannin, it would seem, rode into the Mersey Channel before an 80-mile gale, She probably passed the Bar Lightship in safety at about 7 o'clock, and entered the "gut," as this part of the channel is called. Here an outgoing tide of five-mile-an-hour was met with. It would come harder through the narrow gut than anywhere; it would here meet the seas that the gale was driving along a five-mile-an-hour tide fighting against an eighty-mile-an-hour wind. The waters would seethe and bubble, and the poor Ellan Vannin would drive right into the thick of it. It is quite useless to speculate as to the cause of the foundering of the vessel ; but the fact remains that it is one of the worst disasters our annals bear record of.
THIRTY-FIVE PERSONS DROWNED.
The death-roll is appalling. And what makes the catastrophe the more heart-rending is the fact that in nearly every case families are dependent on those who have been drowned. The passengers who lost their lives in the disaster numbered fourteen. They were as follow:
Mr MARK H. JOUGHIN, Ballawhannell, Bride; who is unmarried.
Mr W. E. HIGGINBOTHAM, Trafalgar Hotel, Ramsey ; leaving a widow and several children.
Mr and Mrs HEATON JOHNSON, Beaconsfield Tower, Ramsey ; leaving three children.
Mr. R. NEWELL, stonemason, of 67 Hampton-road, Croydon, Surrey; leaving one son.
Mr W. WILLIAMS, 12 Walgrave-terrace, Earl's Court Road, London; who is thought to be unmarried.
Mrs W. CRIX and child, College-street, Ramsey; leaving a husband and father.
Miss NELLIE FISHER, servant, Queen's Hotel, Ramsey.
Mr E. J. BLEVIN, accountant, Douglas and Liverpool; leaving a widow and two children.
Mr THOMAS HENRY QUAYLE, Pear-tree Cottage, Andrews; leaving a widow and two children.
Mrs JOHN ALLEN and son, of 14 Slater-street, Liverpool, and Hawthorn Cottage, Maughold ; leaving husband and children.
Miss LOUIE FINDLAY, 83 Gray Hill Road, Well Hill, Eltham, Kent.
The following is a complete list of the crew:
JAMES TEARE, master, Palatine-road, Douglas; leaving a widow and four children
JOHN CRAINE, mate, Leigh - terrace, Douglas; leaving a widow and five children.
JOHN KINLEY, second mate, Surby, Port Erin; unmarried.
J CUNNINGHAM, carpenter, Mona-terrace, Douglas; leaving a widow and five children.
J. COOK, seaman, Peel; leaving a widow and three children.
J. BENSON, seaman, 13 King-street, Ramsey; leaving a widow and four children.
T. CORKISH, seaman, 15 Church-street, Ramsey ; leaving a widow and four children.
W. KELLY, seaman, Mill-street; Castletown; leaving a widow and six children.
J CRAWLEY,[sic James Lambert Crowley] seaman, Buck's - road, Douglas; leaving a widow and eight children.
A. CLAGUE, seaman, 1 Barrack street, Douglas; leaving a widow and five children.
E. BELLISS, chief engineer, 43 Dyson-street, Walton, Liverpool; leaving a widow and one child.
F. CRAINE, second engineer, Wynton Villa, Laureston - road, Douglas; leaving a widow and one child.
S. RYDINGS, donkeyman, Big House, South Quay, Douglas; leaving a widow and four children.
W. SHIMMIN, donkeyman, Waterloo-road, Ramsey; leaving a widow and four children.
WALTER CANNELL, fireman, 4 Duke's-road, Douglas; leaving a widow.
J. C. TAUBMAN, fireman, Bigwell-street, Douglas; leaving a widow and two children.
J CRELLIN, fireman, Glenvine, Crosby; leaving a widow and three children. Cabin Department.
T. STUBBS, chief steward, Liverpool; leaving a widow and six children.
BERT HOLLAND, second steward, Head-road; Douglas; leaving a widow and one child.
E. BURKE, cook, Derby-road, Douglas; leaving a son and a daughter.
Mrs CALLISTER, stewardess, Glenvine, Crosby; leaving one son.
Mr Mark Henry Joughin
Mr Mark Henry Joughin was on his way to America. He had purposed sailing on Saturday by the Cunard liner Campania, in company with Mr Harry Kaighin. Mr Kaighin intended, up to Thursday night, to take advantage of the Ellan Vannin's midnight sailing, but decided then that he would go to Liverpool by way of Douglas, and bid good-bye to his sister and others in Douglas. Mr Joughin was a prominent and successful Northside farmer. He lived with his mother and two sisters at Thurot Cottage, Bride. He was bound for America a second time in connection with the administration of a large estate to which his mother, who is nearly eighty years old, has succeeded by the death of her brother, William Cain, formerly of Kirk Michael, and owner of Ballacorlett in that parish. The American estate is worth about £30,000, and is daily growing more valuable. It is near Minneapolis, Minnesota, and includes 100 acres of timber, for which alone £4,000 has been offered. Two railways through it also enhance its value. Mr Joughin was a local preacher, and his services as such were in great demand.
Mr Higginbotham was well-known in the neigbbourhood of Douglas, where for some years he was a draper. For many years be lived at Primrose Cottage, Richmond Hill, with his wife (formerly Miss Bell, of Ballakelly, near St. Mark's), and he carried on a fent business very successfully. On his health failing, he took over the tenancy of the Trafalgar Hotel in Ramsey some years ago. He was on Thursday night bound for his home at Withington, Manchester, with the object of consulting a medical man on his ill-health. He leaves a widow and a daughter and a son, the latter under 16 years of age.
Mrs Heaton Johnson
Mr Heaton Johnson was a Government Civil Servant, holding an important post in the Madras Presidency. He was home on furlough, and with his wife and three children he settled at Beaconsfield Tower, Ramsey. On Thursday night Mr Johnson set out from Ramsey with the object of joining a Bibby liner at Liverpool for India, and Mrs Johnson was accompanying her husband to Liverpool to see him off. Mrs Johnson was a niece to the late Miss Marsh, of Coburg-road, Ramsey, and Mrs Johnson's sister, Mrs Lambert, was taking charge of Mrs Johnson's children (who are attended by an Indian nurse) during her absence Mr Johnson was about 35 years of age, and his kindly bearing and courteous disposition won for him and his family many friends in Ramsey
Mr Newell was about 60 years of age, and was returning to his home in Croydon after having completed an engagement extending over several months, as a stone-mason at the Roman Catholic Church now in course of erection. It is understood he was a widower, leaving a son.
Mr Williams was probably a little over 40 years of age. He, too, was a stone-mason, and was engaged on the same building. He was unmarried. Both men were well-liked among their fellows.
Mr Allen is in business as a plumber and paint manufacture; in Liverpool, but he and his family spend the greater part of the summer and odd week-ends during the rest of the year at Hawthorn Cottage, a picturesque little cottage near Maughold Church. Mr Allen expected his wife to return to Liverpool with her sixteen-year-old son, Ernest, on Thursday night, and he wired to Mr Bell, Ramsey agent of the Packet Company, inquiring if she had left. Everything pointed to the fact that she was one of the passengers, and Mr Allen received the melancholy intelligence late on Saturday afternoon. Mrs Allen had several sons and daughters. The family were well-known and much-respected in Maughold, and were devoted church workers.
Mrs Crix (Passenger)
Mrs Crix, the wife of William Crix, a Ramsey fisherman, was a. young woman of 23 years of age. She was leaving Ramsey with her infant to live with her father in England. Prior to her marriage she was a servant in the Saddle Hotel, Ramsey.
An old steward of the Venerable Archdeacon of Man was among the passengers. This was Thomas Henry Quayle, of Pear Tree Cottage, Andreas. He was bound for Liverpool for treatment for trouble with one of his ears. He has left a widow and two young children.
Miss Louie Findlay was about 21 years of age, and had been engaged as domestic servant with Mrs McClelland, an English lady living at Brookfield in furnished apartments. She was going to her home in Eltham, Kent, to see her sick brother.
Miss Fisher was aged about 40, and was a well-trusted domestic servant. She was seen off by many friends, and was going to take up a position in England. For several years she had been a servant in the Queen's Hotel. Her late father was a jobbing gardener practising in Ramsey and neighbourhood. Her mother, formerly of Gladstone-terrace, is now an inmate of the Braust Charity Cottages, in Ramsey.
Mr E. J. Blevin was 32 years of age. He had been with Messrs Kerruish and Son since 1906. For the past few months he had been a partner, and the firm was known as Messrs Kerruish, Son, and Blevin. For some months past a branch has been open in Liverpool at Cook-street, and thin was under the direct control of Mr Blevin. He was accustomed to cross to the Island on a Tuesday, and had returned by this route for the last three weeks. Mr Blevin was also recently appointed the book-keeping master for the evening schools run by the Higher Education Board for the Eastern District, and he has been extremely popular with the pupils who attended his classes on Tuesday evenings, the number of pupils being the maximum allowed by the regulations. His was the most successful class under the board's control He was a capable business wan, and was ever courteous and obliging in manner. He was an incorporated accountant, and a prizewinner of the Accountants' Society. Mr Blevin's father-in-law, Mr Dean, lost his life only a. few weeks ago by falling off the gangway of the Queen of the North, of which boat he was the engineer. Mr Blevin leaves a. widow and two children, both very young. He lived in Little Switzerland, and was much devoted to his family. His knowledge of the Companies Laws was probably unequalled on the Island. and he rendered valuable assistance to Mr Kerruish in compiling the Companies Act passed by the Legislature.
James Tcare was a Peel man, and he was first given his mastership in the company's fleet in 1904. In that year he took command of the Ellan Vannin. He had sailed foreign for some years, and had risen to the position he held at his death from that of an ordinary seaman before the mast. In the summer he had command of the King Orry. He was married to Miss Cowley, daughter of the late Mr Wm. Cowley, late chief officer of the King Orry, and niece to Capt. Cowley, of the Queen Victoria. He leaves a family of four children. He was a lifelong tee-totaller.
A man of about 44 years of age, John Craine, the first mate of the ill-fated vessel, was a Douglas man. He was brother to Mr W. C. Craine, of the South Quay, a prominent townsman. His connection with the Steam Packet Company dated from 1881, when he joined as a. galley-boy. He rose quickly to cook and afterwards he went into the forecastle. On his return to the Island he again entered the employ of the company as a sailor, and a few years later he took his master's ticket. In the summer months he sailed as first mate on the Mona. In his younger days Mr Craine was an enthusiastic Rugby footballer, and played for both the Mona and Douglas Clubs. His widow was formerly a Miss Teare, daughter of Mr Teare, the Douglas to Peel carrier.
The second mate on the Ellan Vannin was Mr John Kinley. He hailed from Surby, Port Erin. He, too, held a master seaman's certificate, and during the summer he sailed as first mate on the Fenella. He was about 27 years of age; and was unmarried. He was very well-known in Douglas, and was a member of the Rocket Corps Ambulance Class, in connection with which he secured his first aid certificate in May last. He had a. wide experience as a sailor, particularly schooner sailing.
The only Castletown man on board the Ellan Vannin was Mr William Kelly, who lived at Mill-street. He held a first mate's certificate, and in the summer he sailed as second mate on the Tynwald. His father is in the employ of the Castletown Gas Works, and a brother of the deceased man had just left the Ellan Vannin a day or so before the accident, having been on board the whole of the summer. When the news of the disaster reached Mrs Kelly, she was reading a letter from her husband. His family number six, the eldest being 11 years old.
Another member of the crew of the Ellan Vannin who held a mate's certificate was Mr J. Crowley. He sailed on the Ellan Vannin last summer as second mate His connection with that ship had been most intimate; he having sailed on her before the mast, as second mate, and mate. He married a daughter of Mrs Parfitt and his widow and large family of eight children are living with Mrs Parfitt at Buck's-road. [note name published was Crawley - corrected following info from family]
Mr A. Clague also held a first officer's certificate. He was a Southside mean, but for something like twenty years he had lived in Douglas. He has for some years past suffered greatly from rheumatism, and prior to joining his ship a week before the disaster. he was laid up on account of his rheumatics. But despite his suffering, he was ever a genial, good-hearted man, and in him the company had a faithful servant of long-standing. He leaves a widow and five children.
Mr J. Cunningham (Carpenter)
Mr J. Cunningham was a Scotsman, and came to the Island very many years ago, when the Chicken Rook Lighthouse was in course of erection. He worked upon it as a carpenter, which trade he followed. When the work was completed he continued to reside in Port St. Mary, and pursued his calling successfully. He married a Miss Hudson, of Port St. Mary, and after living in the town for something like 22 years, he moved, with his family of five daughters and one son, to Douglas. His only son was an engineer, and he met his death in sad fashion a couple of years ago; having been shot by accident on his boat, then lying in the Manchester Ship Canal. Mr Cunningham at one time owned a schooner and sailing craft at Port St. Mary.
A Peel man by birth and upbringing, the late Mr J. Cook lived at Patrick-street, and leaves a grown-up family to mourn his loss He was a member of the Peel lifeboat crew and took part in the famous rescue of twenty-three lives from the St. George, which went ashore near Peel Castle about twenty years ago. In recognition of the services rendered on that historic occasion, the late Mr Cook was presented with a medal by the Norwegian Government On the Ellan Vannin he was an able seaman, but he was formerly used to follow the fishing in the off season He was never a deep sea sailor.
Mr J. Benson was a Ramsey man, and he was aged about 54 years. He had been in the employ of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company for something like 20 years and had a big experience in there waters on almost all of the company's steamers. In the winter he usually engaged in the coasting and foreign trade. He was married to a daughter of Mr Samuel Cooper, of Ramsey, where he was well-known. His family of five children range from 24 years down to 10 years.
Mr T. Corkish also hailed from Ramsey, and for many years he had been a member of the lifeboat crew at that port. He was married to a daughter of Mr William Taylor, who for many years had the supervision of the Queen's Pier, Ramsey. In early years he engaged in fishing in the winter months His family numbers five, the eldest of them being 17 years of age. One is at present an inmate of the Ramsey Cottage Hospital,
Mr Walter Cannell was son of Mrs Cannell, who lives near Church-road in Onchan Village. He was a married man, his widow being a daughter of the late Mr Curphey, joiner. His brother is also in the employ of the company as a fireman on the Douglas. Mr Cannell leaves no family.
The late Mr J. C. Taubman was son of Mr Robert Taubman, who is in the employ of the Douglas Gas Light Co. Some years ago he was a prominent Rugby football player and was a member of the Douglas Club. As a young mean be joined the Army, but after a few years he left and returned to the Island and took up a position under the Steam Packet Co.
Mr J. Crellin had lived for many years in Marown, having occupied a cottage with his wife and three sons (all under 10) at Glenvine. He was connected closely with the Wesleyan Methodist body at Crosby, and was a teacher at the Sunday school. He had for some years been a fireman on the company's boats. He was married to Miss Collister, who came from Ballamodda. Mr Crellin was a staunch teetotaller, and a member of the Good Samaritan Rechabite Tent.
The late Samuel Rydings was donkey-man on board the Ellan Vannin, and he lived in the Big House, South Quay. He was a Heywood man by birth, and a widow and four children survive him.
The second engineer on board the Ellan Vannin. was Fred Craine. He was married and leaves a widow and one child He was about 27 years of age. and lived rn Laureston-road, Douglas. His widow is a daughter of Mr W. H. Cubbon, grocer, Victoria-road. Douglas. The late Mr Craine was a member of the Buck's-road Primitive Methodist Church.
Edward Bellis, chief engineer, was a Liverpool man, and was little known on the Island save by his shipmates, among whom he was popular. He leaves a widow and one child.
One of the three Ramsey [corrected by original owner to of Ballasalla - son of W Shimmin] men of the crew was W. Shimmin, a donkeyman on the Ellan Vannin. A widow and four children survive him.
The chief steward of the Ellan Vannin was Mr Stubbs. He was a Liverpool man, but having served -on the Isle of Man steamers for something like twenty years; he. was well known on this side of the channel.
Mr Albert Holland was son of Mrs Holland, late of Alpine-terrace, Onchan, and was a most courteous and obliging steward. He was married to a daughter of Mr Alex. Lewthwaite, stationer and bookbinder, of Market Hill, Douglas, and leaves one child.
Mr E. Burke was cook on the Ellan Vannin. He has been twice married, and by his first wife he leaves a son and a daughter, the former of whom is cook on the steamer Tynwald. His widow was formerly Mrs Burton, and at present, we regret to say, she is lying seriously ill and about to undergo an operation. Mrs Burke is a nurse and midwife by profession.
Mrs Callister was the widow of the late Mr Louis Callister, of East Foxdale, and she leaves a daughter of nine years. She spent some time with her husband in South Africa and America, but owing to failing health he was forced to return. She was formerly a Miss Thomson, of Glen vine, Crosby, and was well-known and highly-respected in the neighbourhood, while as a stewardess her kindly manner made her popular with passengers.
The vessel had a carrying capacity of 250 tons, and was laden with about 60 tons of live and dead stock.
With the object of recovering the bodies of those who went down in the Ellan Vannin, diving operations were at once commenced under the direction of the Liverpool Dock Board, but the movements of these engaged in the perilous task were much hampered by reason of the fact that the hull of the vessel soon became embedded in the sand, and the water was so muddy of character that it was only possible for the divers to feel their way about the ship. They succeded, however, in finding three bodies, viz., these of Fdward Burke, the cook; the boy Allen, a passenger; and J. C. Taubman, fireman. Subsequently the bodies of thirteen others were washed up on the shores, of the estuary of the Mersey. These were :-Mr Newell, E. J. Blevin., T. H. Quayle, and Louie Findlay, passengers; James Teare, John Craine, John Cunningham, John Cook, Thomas Corkish, Ed. Belliss. Alfred Clague, Samuel Rydings, and J. Benson members of the crew.
A fund for the relief of the dependants of those who had lost their lives on the Ellan. Vannin was immediately organised, and a. strong committee, headed by his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, was formed The sympathy stirred up by the sad affair was reflected in the subscription list, which grew with remarkable rapidity. Within a month of the lamentable catastrophe the subscription list was closed, Manx People all over the world having responded to the appeal in splendid fashion, whilst, throughout England--the North of England particularly-funds were received it once started.
Altogether some £12,000 has been raised, and on Saturday. March 12th, the first distribution was made-
The Board of Trade inquiry into the cause of the foundering of the Ellan Vannin lasted three days It was bold before the Liverpool Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr Shepherd Little, and a considerable amount of evidence was heard. On Saturday, March 12th, judgment was given as follows--
The original cost of the Ellan Vannin to her owners in 1860, when she was built, was £10,673. Including repairs and renewals, the cost of the ship to the owners was about £28,387.
Her declared value when she sailed from Ramsey on her last voyage was £5,000. She was insured for £5,000, the owners taking one-seventh (£714), leaving as a risk to the underwriters £4,286.
Answer to No. 2 question.-She was in good and seaworthy condition as regards full and equipments when she left Ramsey on or about the 3rd of December last. Her cargo was properly stowed and secured from shifting, and the weight so distributed as to make the vessel easy in a sea-way. She had the required freeboard and was in good trim for a voyage to Liverpool.
In the absence of any direct evidence as to the circumstances under which the vessel foundered, it is impossible for the court to express a decided opinion as to the cause of the loss of the Ellan Vannin, but after carefully considering all the theories which have been suggested by various witnesses, and weighing them in the light of the evidence produced, the court is of opinion that the following appears the most probable explanation of what occurred:-
The vessel passed the Bar lightship at about 6-45 am. on December 3rd, the weather at the time being very bad, and the wind was of hurricane force. The sea was of a height of about 24 feet, and generally, the weather was the worst ever experienced in that vicinity. The wind and the sea were slightly on the starboard quarter Before reaching Q1 buoy she boached to and was probably swept by heavy seas, which washed away the after companion, filling the after part of the vessel, and causing her to sink by the stern, leaving the bows out of the water. While in this position, the heavy seas, striking the fore part of the ship would account for the bows being broken off as described by the divers.
The court does not consider there is any evidence of the ship having been previously in collision, either with another vessel or with hitting wreckage, nor do they consider that the fact of the bows breaking off under such exceptional circumstances implies structural weakness. The catastrophe by which the vessel was overtaken must have been so sudden that there was probably no time for those on board even to put on lifebelts or to take any other steps to save life, which accounts for the unfortunate loss of all on board.