The MAXWELL in Dundee Harbour, courtesy "Dundee Central Library"

Wreck of the MAXWELL 1892, disaster to the Liverpool lifeboat


Wreck of the MAXWELL 1892, disaster to the Liverpool lifeboat

Liverpool Echo, July 20th 1892







This morning at 10am rumours reached Liverpool from Hoylake, to the effect that the Liverpool lifeboat, which put off shortly after midnight, to the aid of the ship MAXWELL, which had run aground on the Mersey Bar, but which did not succeed in reaching the vessel, had gone ashore at Leasowe, two crew were lost and several injured.

Latest intelligence - lifeboat capsized at 2am, 2 men drowned, the remainder had succeeded in getting on the bottom of the capsized boat, and were cast ashore on her on Leasowe embankment. One man was so badly injured he has since died, two others are severely injured, all the injured were moved by cart to a nearby farmhouse, whence they were taken to Liverpool.

Further details.

The Liverpool and New Brighton lifeboats were being towed out to the MAXWELL at the same time, when off the Crosby Lightship the Liverpool boat passed the New Brighton one, the latter having 10mins before let go from the tug. The Liverpool boat was driven rapidly to leeward and was in a few minutes lost sight of by the New Brighton boat, which in the meantime had succeeded through a terrible sea to get alongside the MAXWELL of which the crew were all rescued and put on board the tug GREAT WESTERN.

The Liverpool boat drifted ashore this morning, the unfortunate crew being exposed to the merciless fury of the waves during the whole night. The two crew who drowned were Emmanuel RODERICK and William RUFFLER, married, Albert MARTIN another lifeboat man sustained serious injuries and is in the Liverpool Hospital. John GAVIN and Daniel MORGAN were detained in Hoylake, seriously injured, this afternoon one of the injured died.

The crew of the MAXWELL had just enough time to get into the New Brighton lifeboat when their vessel broke to pieces. 10 of the crew were taken to the Sailor’s Home and kindly treated by Mr HANMER.



The MAXWELL a full-rigged ship, 1,800 tons, belonging to Messers JOHNSTON, SPROULE and Co, Liverpool. Left this port at 5.30am yesterday to San Francisco with a cargo of coal, in tow of the GREAT WESTERN, with a crew of 29 including 4 apprentices.

On reaching the North West Lightship, between 8 and 9pm, the tug Captain deemed it advisable to turn back in consequence of the storm, the sea was running high and on reaching the bar the MAXWELL grounded, immediately after which she was run into by a small schooner, the impact inflicting serious damage, a considerable portion of the gearings being carried away. The tug made several attempts to pull her off but the hawsers snapped, thereupon the GREAT WESTERN went to Liverpool for assistance.

The crew of the MAXWELL were huddled together in the poop of the vessel, the sea washing over them, every minute expecting the vessel would break up. The waves were so big and violent it was impossible to launch the boats, one or two were broken the davits carried away.

At midnight the New Brighton life boat HENRY RICHARDSON, in charge of Mr W. MARTIN, Coxswain, with a crew of 16, proceeded to the wreck in tow of the GREAT WESTERN. They arrived at the bar at 2am, dropping anchor under the wreck’s stern.

They had great difficulty persuading Capt FRASER to leave the MAXWELL. Great danger was incurred transferring the crew to the lifeboat as the sea was unusually high.

The crew of the MAXWELL landed at New Brighton at 3am and then were taken to Liverpool, they had lost all their effects, and through the kindness of Mr HANMER of the Sailor’s Home were provided with outfits and help through the Mariner’s Aid Society.

Crew List.

S. G. FRASER, Captain, Caithness Dr, Liscard

R. G. MOWATT, Mate, 89 Arundel St, Liverpool

A. G. MASON, 2nd mate, Kingston-on-Thames

J. C. MCGREERY, Boatswain, Cumberland

W. H. DALLEY, Boatswain’s mate, County Rd, Walton

James MACRAE, Carpenter, Banffshire

James HUMPHREY, Sailmaker, Whitehaven

A. De SILVA, Steward, Cornwallis St, Liverpool

Daniel SMITH, Cook, Cornwallis St, Liverpool

A. KITCHEN, AB, Whitehaven

F. F. CARSTEN, AB, 23 Duke St, Liverpool

P. VONTHIN, AB, 23 Duke St, Liverpool

C. E. BOLAT, AB, 61 Paradise St, Liverpool

W. HOFFSTRORN, AB, 23 Duke St, Liverpool

W. BONNER, AB, Steble Grove, Liverpool

R. CARDWELL, AB, 23 Duke St, Liverpool

A. EKTRIN, AB, 62 Pitt St, Liverpool

August YANSEN, AB, 62 Pitt St, Liverpool

J. NILSSEN, AB, 62 Pitt St, Liverpool

J. F. KIRKHAM, AB, Madryn St, Liverpool

R. GRAYDON, AB, Dickenson St, Liverpool

Otto DERING, AB, 61 Paradise St, Liverpool

O. ARMSTRONG, AB, 19 Kent St, Liverpool

Joseph WILSON, AB, 8 Toxteth St, Liverpool

L. A. GLOVER, AB, Green Hythe, Kent

R. B. RANKIN, Apprentice, Cardiff

G. H. PIERSON, Apprentice, London

J. REDWOOD, Apprentice, Liverpool

J. H. TRIPP, Apprentice, London


Daniel MORGAN and John GANNON were attended to by Dr PIERCE then conveyed to the Cottage Hospital in Carlton Terrace. MORGAN died soon after admission.

W. M. BRAMHILL one of the crew whose hands were much swollen and badly injured gave a narrative of the disastrous voyage.

One of the noblest performances was that of John GAVIN, known as “Leggy” owing to him only having one leg. In spite of this GAVIN a stout, old, seadog, who loves the dangers of the deep and has more than once gone out to rescue human life, clung to the side of the boat and his wooden leg, for dear life, as the boat drifted for many miles before it reached Leasowe. He is reported as vigorous this morning and wanting to go home, but, he is to be detained at Hoylake until the doctor arrives.

At the landing stage the officials spoke in the highest praise of the lifeboat crew and all were loud in their congratulations to “Leggy” who had saved himself and his wooden leg in the bargain.

The schooner RAMBLER of Preston, inward bound, ran into the stranded steamer MAXWELL during the night and suffered considerable damage. She was towed up the river this morning in a disabled condition.

The passengers of the MONA’S ISLE, little knew of the dangers they ran when crossing the bar last night, for it appears their escape from collision with the wreck was very narrow, due to the sharp lookout of the crew and the admirable seamanship of Capt RUTHIN.

The tender VIGILANT left the landing stage at 1pm with Capt SWENY. R.M, Marine Surveyor and other officials and steamed ahead at full speed


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