Wreck of the DALHOUSIE

Southport Visiter, October 28th, 1853

Wreck of a passenger ship and the loss of fifty lives

Intelligence has been received of the foundering of the ship DALHOUSIE, Capt BUTTERWORTH, Commander, in the Channel of Beachey Head, and the loss of every soul on board except one.

The DALHOUSIE was an Indian teak built ship of nearly 800 tons the property of Mr ALLEN Shipowner of Leadenhall St, and, chartered to Messers FRY and DAVIDSON, of Fenchurch St, as one of the “White Horse” line of Australian passenger ships. Her cargo of every description of merchandise, is estimated to upwards of £100,000. Captain BUTTERWORTH said to have been a most experienced navigator and had passed many years in the owner’s service.

She cleared from Blackwall on the 12th inst and proceeded down the river to Gravesend. Her passengers confined to Chief cabin class.

Mrs BUTTERWORTH was anxious to accompany her husband Capt BUTTERWORTH to Plymouth, where she would leave. She went on board with three of her sons for the trip down channel. The eldest however, on the ship reaching the downs, went ashore with the pilot at Deal to return to school, which is in the neighbourhood.

On the 18th the ship departed from the downs, the next heard of her was at 5pm the following day, when a boat reached Dover from the brig MICHAEL GROVE, which was lying off the roadstead, reporting the appalling loss of the ship, and landing the only survivor, Joseph REED, a seaman, every soul on board having perished with the vessel.

Statement of Joseph REED, Seaman on the DALHOUSIE

From the morning of the 19th the ship began to lurch deeply into the sea, going a long way over on her broadside, she seemed unable to recover herself when she rolled. I began to suspect there must be a considerable amount of water in her and mentioned it to one of the shipmates, that the vessel seemed water-logged.

Shortly after the starboard quarter boat was carried away by the sea, at 5am the crew on the commanders orders, commenced throwing over water-casts, sheep-pens, and other lumber from the decks. While they were occupied the ship gave a violent lurch to starboard, a heavy sea broke over her to leeward and washed over the longboat which was full of live-stock.

She continued to lurch violently, and at 5-30am she rolled right over on her starboard beam ends and remained in that position with her mast head in the water, the sea then made a clean breach over her and washed away the larboard quarter boat.

A great many of the crew took refuge in the maintop, and I got outside the ship on the weather quarter gallery, it being impossible to stand on deck. A sea broke into the main topsail and carried away the main topmast, with all its gear, also carrying away 4 men out of the maintop.

Capt BUTTERWORTH, the chief and 2nd mates, the carpenter, cook, and some of the crew, joined me in the weather quarter, and they dragged through the gallery window, 4 passengers, a gentleman and his wife and their two children who took refuge with them.

The declarent and another man also succeeded in rescuing a young lady who had come out of the poop cabins, and afterwards hauled into the sea.

I lashed her to a large spar and placed her with the rest of her party on the gallery. Immediately afterwards a large sea broke over the ship and washed away the above gentleman, his wife, and 4 children in all, and they perished together.

At the same time a schooner was seen about half a mile eastward, bearing down upon the wreck. The vessel was sinking fast and would not remain afloat much longer. I cut the young lady on the spar free in order to give her a chance for her life.

Capt BUTTERWORTH left the vessel, she lay there for 10mins then sank, going down head first.

The schooner was then in shouting distance about 100yds leeward of me, I hailed her, begging her crew to go about windward and drift down among the DALHOUSIE’S people, whom several were still alive and might be saved.

The only response I got was given by someone on board to, “swim to her”. But she was drifting to leeward faster than any man could swim. She afterwards stood away, S.W, and left me and my companions struggling in the water. I watched her for nearly 2hrs, she disappeared without making the least effort to save us. She was close when the DALHOUSIE foundered and must have seen her go down.

Several vessels passed up the channel without seeing us. My companions gradually perished one after another, and I was repeatedly washed off my trail support.

At 1pm the wind veered to the S.W, and towards 4 o’ clock a brig hove in sight to windward, I made signals with my handkerchief the best I could, which were fortunately seen on board the brig.

The brig came alongside me and lowered a rope with a blow line in it. I made it fast around my body, and sprang from the chock into the sea. I was unavoidably dragged under the water for a minute or two before I could get on board, when I eventually reached the deck I was senseless.

She proved to be the MICHAEL GROVE, Mr RAWSON, Master, bound for Littlehampton to Sunderland with timber.


Boarded at Gravesend.

Mr and Mrs UNDERWOOD and 3 children

Mrs SIMPSON and 3 children


Joining the ship at Plymouth




Miss MACKINTOSH and her maid.



The DALHOUSIE was appointed to call at Plymouth for passengers, several who were waiting there.

A special interposition of providence seems to have saved the life of Miss HILLS. On Friday the 14th inst, she was off Gravesend in a boat, when the DALHOUSIE was behind a steam tug going down the river, the Captain would not stop the ship and she was compelled to come on by land to Plymouth.

She reports a Mr UNDERWOOD was with his wife and two children in another boat, which followed the DALHOUSIE. Mr UNDERWOOD expressed his determination to employ a tug to overtake the ship, as nothing has been heard of them since, it is probable he overtook the ship and perished on her with his family.

The fate of Mr John UNDERWOOD and his family has caused considerable regret throughout the Manchester houses in the city, where he was well known. For many years he was in the house of Messers BRITTLE and Co of, Wood St, and intended to settle a business in Sydney, taking out with him a large assortment of goods. Messers BRITTLE also shipped 180 cases of goods on board, which, with those of Mr UNDERWOOD’S, were, insured for £10,000.

The unfortunate gentleman was 45 yrs of age, his children were, Catherine, aged 16, Frederick, aged 14 and Alfred, aged 12. He and his family were the ones dragged through the gallery window, as described by REED, and perished immediately when a sea swept them off the wreck.

Miss RADFORD was an acquaintance of Mr and Mrs UNDERWOOD, it was this unfortunate lady who was lashed to the spar by REED and afterwards sent adrift in order to have a chance for her life.

Capt BUTTERWORTH only took out two of his children with his wife, one son left with the pilot at Deal. Three children are left to mourn their parents, they resided at, Manor Terrace, East India Rd.

REED the only survivor is 22 yrs old, he has been but a short time in Mr ALLEN’S service. He bears an excellent character and the poor fellow is suffering the effects of the exposure he endured. He was over 10 hrs on the piece of wreck [the chock, a piece of timber which supported the long boat on the deck] and was washed off it at least a dozen times.

The Trinity House authorities have sent out a steamer to lay down a wreck buoy over the spot where the DALHOUSIE went down, she having sunk in the track of vessels proceeding up and down the channel.


Copyright 2002 / To date