Fire on the ISAAC WRIGHT

Southport Visiter, Dec 30th, 1858


A distressing incident occurred on the Mersey on Thursday last.

The fine New York emigrant ship, ISAAC WRIGHT, one of Messers BARING Brothers, “Old Black Ball” line of packets, had been towed down to the rock, at the entrance of the river, to be in readiness to sail with the first favourable wind to New York.

She had on board 150 passengers and a large cargo, comprising chiefly of fine good and 800 tons of iron.

About 1am on Thursday the emigrants principally Irish, were awakened by the terrible cry of, “fire!” the carpenter, on doing his rounds, having seen smoke coming from the cargo stored away in the ‘tween decks.

Flames speedily made their appearance, and the smoke from the burning mass almost suffocated several passengers in their berths.

The ship was speedily a scene of confusion. The crew are said to have manifested an almost entire want of discipline, and to have behaved in a most reckless and disgraceful manner, while the unfortunate passengers rushed upon the deck, some in their night dresses, some half-clothed.

Signals of distress were made and the Woodside Steamer PRINCE went alongside, followed by several tug-boats that had been alarmed by the boatmen belonging to the Landing-Stage

Mr Thomas James SHEPARD, Pilot, was at that time in charge of the vessel, the Captain not being on board.

The passengers were got on board the tug-boats, and conveyed to the North-Landing Stage, were they found shelter underneath the shed.

The corporation fire-engines, under the Management of Mr HEWITT, were soon afterwards conveyed to the burning ship by tugs belonging to the various tug companies, and a large number of labourers and others were also taken on board to work the pumps, the crew, [says a contemporary] “being all drunk and of very little service.”

As morning advanced the fire gained in strength and the ship was removed to the Sloyne, and brought to anchor off New Ferry. Capt MENDS of H.M.S, HASTINGS, now rendered valuable service, both by sending a fire-engine to assist the Liverpool Brigade, and by adopting the novel but effectual process, of firing into the vessel below the water-line for the purpose of scuttling her.

A small swivel gun was placed on board a boat, and 40, 12lb shots were fired at intervals of 2 to 4 minutes, into the hull of the ISAAC WRIGHT, a large hole was made in the stern, which admitted the water very freely, the vessel sank at 3, o’clock, her lower decks covered with water.

The fire brigade did not leave the vessel till 6, o’ clock, Mr HEWITT satisfied that the fire was completely extinguished.

The ISAAC WRIGHT remains on the beach at New Ferry, nearly covered at high tide. Her masts and rigging still standing.

It is not possible to estimate the damage, both to the vessel and its cargo it must be great.

The origin of the fire has not yet been ascertained.

As soon as possible the cargo will be discharged, and the vessel floated into dock for repairs.

The passengers were forwarded on the GREAT WESTERN on Saturday.


Copyright 2002 / To date