Accident in the river

Daily Post

Jan 2nd 1860

The recent boat calamity

We believe the unfortunate men who perished on the river on Friday last, have all left large families totally unprovided for, their children total no fewer than 150. Up to last evening only one body had been found.

Jan 3rd 1860

Coroners Inquest

On the body of Edward BUTLER, one , of the men who lost his life on the river on Friday afternoon.

Witness statements.

William WILLIAMS, Rigger of Worfield St, states the deceased was also a rigger, aged 55, they had worked together for some time. Last Friday am, deceased, himself and a lad had gone over to the Birkenhead Dock to the ship GRAND TRANION, and left the dock a little after 1pm at high water, they took the ship abreast at Rock Ferry and came to an anchor. Between 2 and 3 pm they left in Thomas MACKAY’S boat, he had been in attendance to the ship all day. The wind was S.W, blowing fresh, the tide about an hour and a half’s ebb. The boat came portside about 30 men got into her, some complained there were too many in her, and he heard Thomas MACKAY the owner, say she would take 30, they were making for the Cocklehole between the Brunswick and Coburg Dock.

She got along nicely till they reached Pluckington Bank, where there is always a ripple of the sea. The boat shipped three seas right over her bows and filled with water and sunk under them. They all jumped in the water. Williams was picked up by a boat sent to assist, as was the Captain of the GRAND TRANION who was also in the sunken boat.

He did not see the deceased again until Saturday morning seeing him dead at the deceased’s home, 10 Court Grafton St.

Coroner, “How many would you say it was prudent to carry in the boat?”

Williams, “30 in smooth water.”

Coroner, “There was no danger till you reached Pluckington Bank?”

Williams, “No, not till we got there where there is always a ripple of the sea.”

Coroner, “I have heard that if you had all remained still, all would have been safe.”

Williams, “Not one single man moved.”

Coroner, “Do you consider the Captain of the GRAND TRANION in anyway to blame, where you under his control?”

Williams, " No we could do what we pleased.”

Richard MILLER a shipwright of 67 Hill St, who witnessed the accident, standing at the Coburg Dock pier, deposed, the rebound of the water from the wall, drove over the boat and she went floating down the river. The boat appeared skilfully handled. He assisted a man with a life buoy.

Edward VARLEY, PC. 431, found the deceased body at 8.30am on the sands of the Pluckington Bank - verdict accidental death.

Jan 7th 1860

Yesterday afternoon five of the unfortunate men drowned in the boat accident were found in the mud near the Queen’s Dock Basin at ebb tide.

The name of one unknown, in his pockets were found, 2s-9d, a rule, a knife, two keys, a sprig-bit, a lancet, tobacco box and bone ornaments.

The bodies of the others where G. MILLER Asst master at the Sailor’s Home, in his pockets were £5, a watch, 3 pocket books, a knife and gloves.

Daniel WARING, had a watch and other property on him.

Cellestine SURMAN, had a silver watch and gold chain.

The other man was named BROWN, Inquests to be held.

Jan 9th 1860

Coroners court yesterday

Inquests on the bodies of George Naylor MILLER, a young man on the staff of the Local Marine Board, who had been on board the GRAND TRANION to inspect the crew. He leaves a wife and mother who were totally dependant on him for support.

Daniel WHELAN, Andrew MOORE, Celestine SUMMER [different name than above], William BROWN, Philip SHIPLEY, all believed to be riggers.

William WILLIAMS gave evidence, and Thomas MACKEY, Master of the boat of 113 Park Rd, who gave evidence for the first time - verdict accidentally drowned.

Jan 10th 1860

On Saturday evening seven other bodies were found off the Queen’s pier head.

Jas NEEDHAM, 13 Court, Albert St, Park, Labourer

Jas CONNOLLY, Shipwright, 5 Whitley St

Robert JONES, 2 Whitley St, Labourer

George WOODHAM, Rigger, 16 Court, Watkinson St

John THWAITE, Rigger, Dolling St, Park

Thomas BRENNAN, Labourer, aged 48, Pool St, Birkenhead

James WALSH, aged 34, Labourer, 105 Anne St, Birkenhead

Alexander JOHNSON, Rigger, Pleasant View, Kirkdale, whose body was picked up on Sunday morning.


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