Daily Post

Jan 23rd 1860


Capt HARRISON, the Purserís son and Coxswain drowned.

In Brief:-

Misfortunes crowd heavily upon the noble but unfortunate GREAT EASTERN. The last, but not least calamity is the death of its able and esteemed commander.

Capt William HARRISON, experienced seaman, able engineer, thorough man of business and honest and independent servant, the originator and designer of the GREAT EASTERN.

The announcement of his death has thrown a gloom over everyone connected with the company in Southampton.

The circumstances in which his death took place are distressing.

Yesterday morning Capt HARRISON had occasion to leave the ship moored in Southampton Waters and to proceed to Southampton on business concerning the GREAT EASTERN. A boat was lowered shortly after breakfast and in the company of Dr WATSON the shipís surgeon, Capt LEY the purser, his son aged 14yrs and 6 crew, the Captain proceeded to Hythe, where his wife and daughter were residing. After leaving them Capt HARRISON and the other officers of the ship proceeded to Southampton.

The wind which had been blowing fresh increased to a violent gale from the S.E, before the boat reached the dock. As the boat entered and while lowering the sail a heavy gust caught the boat and capsized it. The whole occupants were thrown out, some managed to hold on to the rigging, or boat, Capt HARRISON clung to an oar, by which he was supported for some time.

The INDUS lying in the dock put out two boats and after considerable exertions the men managed to pick up Capt HARRISON, who was then in a state of unconsciousness. Capt LEY was picked up and was bruised about the head and was bleeding. Dr WATSON was rescued in a state of extreme exhaustion, as well as six men who were also in the boat. The son of Capt LEY was not found till some time later, drowned.

The rescued men were attended to with great kindness from the INDUS crew and others connected to the Peninsular and Oriental Company. No fewer than six medical men attended to Capt HARRISON and everything possible was done to restore him to consciousness.

Mr TROTMAN one of the oldest and most attached friends of Capt HARRISON on the news of his death proceeded immediately to Southampton to render assistance to Mrs HARRISON.

The Coxswain died on Saturday night from the affects of the accident.

Capt HARRISON possessed the confidence of the late Mr BRUNEL and when it became necessary to appoint a commander of the great ship, he reported to the directors his opinion of the qualifications necessary for the Captain.

He stated such an officer ought not to be merely an experienced naval man but should have practical knowledge of naval engineering and should be able to comprehend and deal with many important practical questions arising in the development, to carry out the great experiment. Such a man in every respect was Capt HARRISON.

Capt HARRISONís service at the commencement of his career was principally in the West Indies and South America. The wars at that time existing between the minor states, frequently his vessels were put in the juxta position with a formidable enemy, on more than one occasion he had been in action.

After serving 8 yrs in those latitudes he accepted an appointment with the Cunard Company and commanded the ACADIA, BRITANNIA, HIBERNIA, AMERICA, AFRICA and ARABIA. In these vessels he gained the experience, which gained him the title, ďAtlantic NavigatorĒ.

While in this command his knowledge attracted the principal promoters of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, who were also interested in the GREAT EASTERN Steamship, and they influenced Capt HARRISON into giving up his position in Cunard, which he had held for 15yrs, and accept command of the GREAT EASTERN, which he did on the 1st January 1856.

Southampton Saturday

An inquest was held on the bodies of Capt HARRISON and the son of Capt LEY. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd officers of the INDUS were examined, also Dr WATSON of the GREAT EASTERN [who was in the boat that capsized] and Dr WIBLIN.

The jury found a verdict of accidental death, from suffocation or apoplexy, not from drowning. The Captainís wife has viewed the body.

Daily Post

Jan 24th 1860


We understand that the remains of the lamented gentleman will arrive at Liverpool on Thursday next. Some time ago Capt HARRISON stated that, should he die within reach of the interment of his two children, he should like to be laid side by side with those he loved best. Liverpool will no doubt do justice to the remains of such an energetic seaman and accomplished gentleman. The ships in port yesterday carried their flags at half-mast - a melancholy tribute to respect to the lamented deceased.

The funeral of Capt HARRISON of the GREAT EASTERN, Jan 27th 1860


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