Wreck of the Colombian 1865

Liverpool Mercury, November 21, 1864


On Friday Messers M'NAB and Co, launched at their yard at Albert Quay, Greenock, a handsome screw steamer of 1200 tons. She was named the COLOMBIAN by Mrs PEEL, wife of Captain PEEL, of the screw steamer NEWTON, and is the property of Alfred HOLT Esq of Liverpool, and is intended for the West India trade.


Liverpool Mercury, Jan 21st 1865

The loss of the COLOMBIAN

It appears that the unfortunate vessel had become disabled by the severe weather that she encountered and was making for Brest, when she struck on one of the reefs in the channel off Conquet, and went down stern first shortly afterwards, only three men being saved, namely :- William QUARTY, 2nd steward, of Bristol, James DEEGAN, fireman, of Liverpool and Edward BENNETT, fireman of Liverpool. By what means these were rescued the telegrams do not state. Instructions have however, been forwarded to Brest that the men shall return to Liverpool immediately, and they may be expected here to tell their tale in a day or two.

The following list of those who perished is supplied by Messers LEECH, HARRISON and FORWOOD, the agents of the company :-

Passenger Mr John HAMILTON of Liverpool, agent to the Panama Railway.


Captain Jonathan Dent BENNETT, master, aged 36, a native of Lincoln

Albert James CROSSKERRY, aged 23, chief steward, Downpatrick

James SHAW, 2nd officer, aged 32, Surrey

James PATTERSON, 3rd officer, aged 21, Liverpool

William SIMPSON, 1st engineer, aged 31, Staffordshire

Robert Isaac HUGHES, assistant engineer, aged 27, Liverpool

William Thornhill STOUT, assistant engineer, aged 20, Calcutta

Daniel M'INTYRE, ship's carpenter, aged 31, Argyleshire

James HALL, boatswain, aged 30, Sweden

Christopher Wright FLETCHER, purser, aged 18, Liverpool

Robert KIRKWOOD, 3rd steward, aged 33, Belfast

Robert THOMPSON, 3rd steward, aged 18, Glasgow

William POWELL, 4th steward, aged 20, Liverpool

Alexander MURPHY, cook, aged 31, Wigtown

William CAMPBELL, cook, aged 24, Wigtown

Theodore VOYCE, seaman, aged 32, Halifax

William TYNAN, seaman, aged 23

Donald M'KAY, seaman, aged 39 Argyle

William SODEN, seaman, aged 34, Cornwall

Daniel HARRIS, seaman, aged 20, Cardigan

William PORTCALL, seaman, aged 25, Kirkcudbright

John CRAWLEY, seaman, aged 30, Carrickfergus

Robert HENDERSON, seaman, aged 42, Lancaster

Robert LEWIS, seaman, aged 33, Liverpool

William LEWIS, seaman, aged 24, Liverpool

James RUSSELL, fireman, aged 28, Bolton

David OGDEN, fireman, aged 28, Liverpool

Patrick ENNIS, fireman, aged 26, Kildare

George JONES, fireman, aged 34, Liverpool

Charles THOMPSON, fireman, aged 25, Cardiff

Gilbert HAYNES, fireman, aged 21, Peterborough

Christopher Wright FLETCHER, the purser was previously a clerk in the office of the company here, but went out in the COLOMBIAN to assist Captain BENNETT. John HAMILTON, who was the only passenger on board, was the agent of the Panama Railway, and was well known in commercial circles. He was proceeding on a voyage to the West Indies, for the benefit of his health. Most of the crew though natives of the places mentioned above, were residents in Liverpool.

The COLOMBIAN was built at Greenock by Messers M'NAB and Co, and was a fine, strong, vessel. She was launched in November last and this was her first voyage. Her tonnage was 1100 by measurement and 750 by register, with engines of 180 hp. She had on board a little over 800 tons of cargo, principally Manchester and French goods. The steamer was insured altogether in Liverpool, and her cargo principally in London.

We understand the directors of the West India and Pacific Steamship Company have voted a handsome sum to be applied to the relief of the widows and others dependent upon the men lost in the steamer. This timely aid will relieve much of the distress that always ensues upon a shipwreck attended with loss of life.


Liverpool Mercury, January 26, 1865

The wreck of the Colombian

A telegram from Brest reports the wreck of the Liverpool steamer Colombian has been discovered sunk in 22 fathoms of water, and attempts will be made by divers to recover her cargo.


Liverpool Mercury, Jan 28th 1865

The loss of the steamship Colombian

From the survivors of the crew of the steamer Colombian we have the following particulars relating to the melancholy disaster :-

Left Liverpool on the evening of 11th January, proceeded down channel meeting with very heavy weather. On Thursday she encountered the full force of the hurricane, the seas very heavy but steamer kept steadily on her way. During the day the two lifeboats and the captain's gig were washed away, and the cook fell overboard and was lost. The hurricane continued to increase in fury during Friday, the sea continually breaking over the vessel and filling the engine-room with water, all hands were set to pump and bale the water out, but to no purpose. By midnight the fires were extinguished, the jolly boat washed away, and a quartermaster named TINAE was swept overboard. The captain now determined to put back to port, and at daylight the ship was put about and sail set, in order, if possible to reach Falmouth. The storm continued with unabated fury during Saturday, the sails constantly being blown away and replaced by others

On Monday at 2pm the schooner ROCKET was spoken and in answer to a signal of distress came with bailing distance, and vain endeavours were made to get a rope on board. Captain BENNETT refused to allow them to do so, being confident of being able to get the ship safely in port, and arranged that the schooner be with them all night. While the moon was up they kept her in sight, but it afterwards came on thick and they lost her. The wind veering round, the ship fell off to the south-east, and at midnight efforts were made to wear the ship to the westward, to keep her off the French coast, the sea was so heavy they could not get her round. Just before daylight on Tuesday the lookout on the foretopsailyard descried the light on the island of Ushant.

When daylight dawned the land was plainly seen and the ship's course shaped for the harbour. At 2am she struck a sunken rock off the north-east point of the island, and remained bumping heavily for three-quarters of an hour, when she fell off and immediately began to fill. The crew now saw that she must inevitably founder, and set about to make rafts. In about an hour she went down stern foremost, off a reef of rocks called La Helle. All the crew were drawn down with the ship, and the survivors rose to the surface and succeeded in getting hold of the pigstye, which kept them afloat until the pilot boat, which had witnessed the disaster, came to their rescue and picked them up carrying them to Conquet.

The French admiral at Brest has caused every search to be made of the bodies of those that perished with the vessel, without success.


Liverpool Mercury, Feb 21st 1865

The loss of the steamship Colombian

Board of Trade inquiry

A Board of Trade inquiry into the loss of the steamship Colombian was opened yesterday at the police court, before Mr RAFFLES, stipendiary magistrate, and Captains HARRIS and BAKER, nautical assessors. Mr HAMEL appeared on behalf of the Board of Trade, Mr HIGGIN, barrister, instructed by Messers HAIGH and DEANE, for the owners, and Mr BARDWELL attended to watch the proceedings for the relatives of Mr HAMILTON, a passenger lost with the Colombian.

Mr HAMEL in opening the proceedings said that the inquiry had been ordered by the Board of Trade, in consequence of an application made by Messers LEECH, HARRISON and FORWOOD, the managers of the West India and Pacific Steamship Company, that an investigation should be held in reference to the loss of the steamer Colombian. Wrecked on the coast of France 17th January, whilst on a voyage to St Thomas, Santa Martha and Colon. Only survivors, 2nd steward and two firemen. She was an iron screw-steamer, registered at Liverpool, built at Greenock in 1864. She had one deck, a poop, was brig rigged, "clinker" built, registered tonnage 731 4-100ths, engines 80hp, owned by West India and Pacific Steamship Company, Liverpool. She left Liverpool on Tuesday 10th January in charge of Captain BENNETT, who held a certificate of competency. A crew of 32 hands, one passenger named HAMILTON. 800 tons of cargo mainly Manchester goods. The wreck is then gone into [as above]

William QUARTLY, stated he was 2nd steward on board the Colombian, on Wednesday the 11th, January the weather was very rough, he heard the captain on Wednesday morning ask the 2nd officer if he saw a light, and when told that he had, said that he thought it was Bardsey. On Thursday, weather continued bad, in the evening the boatswain said the ship was making water, the same night the deck pumps were rigged. The two lifeboats and the captain's gig were carried away that day. He was informed the vessel continued to make water and the fires had been put out. On Friday the water in the cabin was past bailing, the after scuttle was taken off and the water allowed to run down the lazarette. On Wednesday morning the engines were stopped, he saw men bailing water from the engine-room, three pumps were at work and the weather continued to get worse. On Thursday and Friday he did not remember seeing the captain on deck, but saw him in the lobby, he might see from his room all that was going on forward. The mates were forward on Friday, smoking and drinking with the men, the 2nd mate was the only man who tried to work the ship. Several times when the witness was sent forward with the grog and beer to the men at the pumps, the chief officer would stop him and take part of it. The steward gave witness orders to take the grog to the men.

Mr RAFFLES, "During these two days did you notice any of the people drunk, officers or men?"

Witness, "Yes sir, I saw the captain

Mr RAFFLES, On Thursday or Friday?"

Witness, "Nearly all the time"

Mr HAMEL, "When did you see him drunk, on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?"

Witness, "I did not see him on deck, I saw him lying about his room floor, I gave him drink on Wednesday"

Mr RAFFLES, "Was he drunk before you got to the Ball Buoy?"

Witness, "No sir, it was after leaving the Ball Buoy"

Witness went on to say that he heard the captain calling for men he did not know, but who he thought the captain had sailed with on previous voyages. The captain was also grinding his teeth and calling for whiskey and brandy.

Captain HARRIS, "He had no preference for rum?"

Witness, "I don't know, he took beer several times".

This sort of thing occurred almost every time witness went into the cabin, which was at intervals of a quarter of an hour. Sometimes the captain was standing and sensible enough, he did not mean that he was sober.

Mr RAFFLES, "Did he give any orders."

Witness did not hear him. The 2nd officer remained on deck until he was exhausted from exposure. The chief officer was anything but sensible. He was "drinking and smoking, and all that sort of thing" and the men did not take any notice of him. The 1st officer was frequently in his room.

Captain HARRIS, "He might have been down consulting his chart, for anything you know"

Witness, "He might, but he did not seem to be a man attending to his duty."

Captain HARRIS, said they should draw their own inferences as to that, unfortunately the poor fellow was drowned.

Mr HIGGIN, "Oh yes, the witness is quite safe unless he believes in spiritualism."

Witness went on to say that the first night the water was so bad that the captain could scarcely take it, on the Thursday it was so much worse that it could not be taken at all. The engineers appeared to be sober, and he did not see the crew drunk, but observed many of them working away. The engines after being stopped were never got to work again. On Saturday the ship was got round, and by this time they all appeared to be sober, and he heard the captain passing orders to "wear the ship" and blaming the chief officer for not setting sail quicker. The sail was set, but was afterwards blown away. When the ship was wearing the starboard saloon scuttles were smashed in. The ship was kept running before the wind on Saturday and Sunday. The chief officer and the 2nd mate were on deck on Sunday but the captain was not, he was so bad with drink that the steward and witness had to change his clothes for him, he appeared insensible all that night. On Monday the weather altered and they got another foretopsail up, the sail was got on deck, but the men could not bend it until they got some rum. Some time in the afternoon a sail was reported, and they signalled the vessel, which proved to be the schooner ROCKET, which came alongside, they told them on the schooner that the Colombian was sinking and the chief officer asked the schooner's crew to take them off the wreck. They endeavoured to get a rope to the schooner, but did not succeed, and those on the schooner said it would be dangerous to come alongside, and agreed to lie by the vessel all night. He remembered the chief officer taking an observation at night, and heard him "blowing up" the 2nd mate for wearing the ship, the 2nd mate said he had done so to keep her off the French coast. That night he saw the chief and 2nd officers lying in the lobby, the 2nd officer appeared very exhausted, and the other very drunk, he had been drinking whiskey , while the 2nd mate only drank beer. He did not seem to be so strong a man as the chief officer. The captain was lying on the floor in his room, the 3rd mate was in the captain's berth and the purser and passenger were on the sofa.

Captain BAKER, "Was there anybody looking out ?"

Witness, "At the time there was not, there was no one at the wheel for about two hours. It was lashed. The officers were in the room."

Captain BAKER, "And the ship was doing what it liked?"

Witness said he supposed that was so. He afterwards burnt turpentine to attract the notice of those on board any ships passing. Some time on Tuesday morning he awoke the steward, and told him no one was looking after the ship. The captain asked whose watch it was, and the witness said it was the 2nd mate's. The captain said "It must be CROSBIE'S" went out into the lobby, cursed and swore at the 1st mate, roused him by kicking him, and told him to go and look after the ship. There was a quarter cask of rum in the pantry, and the witness gave the men some grog when at the pumps. Subsequently a revolving light was reported, and at daybreak they saw the land. The ship was then heading for the land, there was a man at the wheel and all the officers were on deck, and the captain appeared quite sober. The captain took an observation and said the ship was near Ushant, the vessel was then driving in shore, and in a short time struck on the rocks, she drifted off again and half an hour afterwards went down. When the ship was going down the captain came to the lobby, and witness assisted him off with his boots, the captain went to his room as the ship was sinking, he was not sober then. After the captain's boots were taken off he slipped on the deck, and did not appear to make any effort to save himself, he could not, the man was completely gone. The ship went down sucking all hands with her except the witness and two men, they got on to a pigstye and were afterwards picked up by the pilot boat.

This being the finish of the examination Mr RAFFLES said that at that stage the court would adjourn until the 1st of March

Liverpool Mercury, March 2nd 1865

The loss of the steamship Colombian

Board of Trade inquiry resumed

William QUARTLY, 2nd steward was recalled, and cross-examined by Mr HIGGIN.

Witness said, "There was a house on deck over the cabin and in it was the captain's room, from his room he could see the whole of the ship forward. The next compartment behind and on the starboard side, was the purser's and then the stewards, the lobby in which the captain walked about being before the purser's and the captain's room."

Witness arrived in Liverpool from Havre about three weeks since. He had seen captain Bennett's widow once since he landed in Liverpool, there was a person in her company. He could not say whether she had seen the statement he made before the consul in France. She asked him whether there was any blame attached to the captain and he said that he did not like to tell her all that had taken place on board the ship, it was not fit for female ears. She asked him if he thought her husband was ill, saying he had been so previous to leaving, but he could not remember his answer to her. He told her he never sailed with a more gentlemanly captain than Captain BENNETT. He would not swear that he did not tell her the only time he saw her husband lie down was the night before the vessel sank. He thought he told her that the captain never had his clothes off from the time the ship left Liverpool until she sank. He knew when he told her so that what he was telling her was not true. He believed he told her that the captain was not properly seconded by his officers. If the captain had been properly seconded by his officers he did not think the ship would have been lost. Witness was never drunk during the voyage and did not think the inability of the 2nd officer arose altogether from drink. The 3rd officer took beer, but was not drunk, the purser was sober, and so was the passenger, who saw the captain drunk in his cabin, and complained once about his conduct.

Captain BAKER, "When he told Mrs BENNETT he never sailed with a more gentlemanly man, witness meant he was a nice man to talk to when he was, "a little bit sober."

Mr RAFFLES, First made a statement to Sir Andrew PERRIER, consul at Brest, with regard to the drunkenness on board.

Captain BAKER, "He thought it was on the Sunday he said to the steward, "There is too much drink going on here for our welfare."

Edward BENNETT, one of the firemen was called and examined by Mr HAMEL. He said they left Liverpool on the 10th January. The engines were first stopped for a little while owing to the steam having gone down, but the steam was got up again. At midnight on Friday they were informed all the fires were out, witness went down to the forward fires and found them "drowned out". On Thursday evening all hands commenced bailing and pumping night and day until she sank. The ship was put back early on Saturday. He saw the captain in the morning and again in the afternoon, when he noticed him standing by the hatch talking to the mate, apparently giving orders. The 1st mate was chiefly upon the poop, and seemed to be attending to his duties, the 3rd mate worked night and day with the others and witness saw nothing wrong with him. They had ale and rum, but witness "never troubled the water much." On Monday morning the new topsail was brought out, and the sail set. After detailing the schooner coming alongside as stated by the 2nd steward, witness said the chief steward told him that the captain said he would give 10 a man to those who stopped by the ship 48 hrs, for he was sure he would make the port in that time. Some men consented others would not, and the rest were unable to do so. At daybreak on Tuesday land was reported in sight, a revolving light on the starboard bow had previously been seen, shortly afterwards witness noticed the lighthouse. The water was rolling over the poop, witness had heard the men say they could not stand for two hours at the wheel during the night, owing to the severity of the weather. The crew was sober at this time, "they had nothing to make them otherwise" each man had two bottles of ale served to him during the night. He never saw any of the officers or men drunk during the voyage. He would call a man drunk when he was unable to do his duty. Early on Tuesday morning orders were given by the chief officer to keep to the pumps as the ship would soon be in, and the crew were directed to get the anchor ready. Witness saw the captain giving orders and soon afterwards they felt the ship strike, orders were then given to get her off, at that time the captain was standing by the after hatchway, urging them to be as quick as they could, and he seemed quite sober. The vessel remained for about three-quarters of an hour, after which time she was got off. When the vessel was sinking they were all on the bridge, and witness saw the captain going overboard with the others.

In cross-examination by Mr HIGGIN, witness said, so far as he observed the officers did their duty. He never heard of the captain having his clothes changed through excessive drinking until he recently saw it in the newspapers, or of the chief mate being kicked up whilst he was drunk.

The next witness was James DEEGAN, fireman and storekeeper, whose evidence in the main was a corroboration of that given by BENNETT. He said he never noticed the officers or men the worse for liquor.

Inquiry adjourned until 2nd March

Liverpool Mercury, March 3rd 1865

The loss of the steamship Colombian

Board of Trade inquiry resumed yesterday

James DEEGAN, fireman, was re-called and cross-examined by Mr HIGGIN.

He said during the whole time they were at sea the weather was extremely violent, becoming very bad on the Thursday. He had known Captain BENNETT since 1861, when he sailed with him, Captain BENNETT then being the chief officer of the SALADIN, belonging to Mr HOLT, and sailed to the West Indies. He sailed several times with him latterly in the PLANTAGENET to New York. The voyage to New York was a very rough one, the sea breaking a plank under the bridge, to which the captain subsequently was obliged to lash himself. Mr SPENCER, chief engineer of the COLOMBIAN, held the same situation on the PLANTAGENET. At Captain BENNETT'S request witness accompanied him on the COLOMBIAN. Witness had been at sea since 1851 as fireman. As far as he had seen Captain BENNETT was an attentive man and good commander, he had never been drunk, nor had he heard it reported on the COLOMBIAN that the captain was drinking. The carpenter appeared to do his work as if he knew what he was doing.

Captain HARRIS, "Mr SIMPSON the engineer was a very attentive man. Did not hear him say where the ship was leaking. The fires went out on the Friday night. The crew baled the after stoke-hole only"

Mr Alfred HOLT was called an cross-examined by Mr HIGGIN.

He said, he was engineer, and until the beginning of last year, when the line of steamers was transferred to the present company, he had the management. He contracted with Messers M'NAB and Co, of Greenock for the building of the COLOMBIAN, he prepared the specification and personally superintended her construction, she was constructed to his entire satisfaction, he was a member of the Liverpool Lloyd's. The COLOMBIAN was much stronger than what was formerly called a twelve year ship, now called an "A. A." ship. She was built in 6 compartments and 5 bulkheads. The particular which made her stronger than required by Lloyd's rules was the fact of the longitudinal fastenings being much heavier than they required. The sides were doubled three streaks downwards from the "waterway." Her screw worked outside her rudder, the stock of which went through an iron pipe fitted at the top with a stuffing box a little below the saloon floor. The engines were 80 hp nominal, the cylinder 36 inches diameter, and the stroke 3ft 6inches, which, witness said, was an unusually long stroke for the diameter of the cylinder. There was one boiler and 4 furnaces, the engines would develop 420 hp loaded at 25lbs. The pipes led to each compartment, and upon them were places 4 cocks, if the latter were closed the pumps would not then throw water. The "bilge injection " was perfectly accessible to the engineer, and the cook was not in the bottom of the ship. There were pumps into the four compartments in addition to the bilge pumps. There were upon the main deck 4 ordinary pumps, and upon deck was a fixed fire-engine, all worked by hand. The tank on the poop deck would contain about 200 gals and a hand pump drew water from the tanks in the bottom of the ship into it.

Witness knew Captain BENNETT for 4yrs, the captain having been in witness's service from that time until the steamers were transferred to the company. Captain BENNETT was previously in Messers RATHBONE'S employ, and witness when he employed him received the highest character, during the time he was in witness's service he gave entire satisfaction, he found him energetic and had never seen him the worse for drink or heard any suggestion of the kind made against him except by QUARTLEY. He knew the 1st engineer SIMPSON for about 7yrs, and he was a perfectly competent man to fulfil that situation.

The next witness was William DIAPER, the pilot who took out the COLOMBIAN. He said he remained on board until she arrived about 6miles to the west of Point Lynae, about 3am on the 11th. The weather was then fine, the wind being west-north-west. Did not have a complaint of water making its way into the ship, nor did he see any. None of the pumps were going during the time he was on board. The officers and crew seemed to be properly performing their duty.

Captain HARRIS, "The COLOMBIAN'S draught of water was 21st 6 inches.

Captain Walter PATON was also examined by Mr HIGGIN as to the equipment of the COLOMBIAN prior to her departure. Witness was at one time the commander of the Great Eastern, being now the superintendent of the West India and Pacific Steamship Company's steamers. He said, he examined the COLOMBIAN when she arrived from Greenock, and was on board at the time she went into the river. He considered her a very good ship, and peculiarly adapted to the trade, being thoroughly equipped. Considered Captain BENNETT a strictly sober and steady man, and spoke in high terms of several of the officers

Captain HARRIS, "He considered the chief mate a competent man, there was always a favourable return made of his character."

Mr William CAMPBELL, surveyor at this port for the Board of Trade, who surveyed the COLOMBIAN in January last, gave evidence as to the riveting of the steamer, and had made the usual shipwright declaration, she was a very strongly built ship.

Court adjourned until 12 o' clock March 3rd.

Liverpool Mercury, March 3rd 1865

The loss of the steamship Colombian

Board of Trade inquiry concluded yesterday

The examination of witnesses on behalf of the owners was resumed

Mr Arthur Bower FORWOOD, a partner in the firm of Messers LEECH, HARRISON and FORWOOD, the managers of the West India and Pacific Steamship Company was called

He said, he appointed Captain BENNETT to the command of the COLOMBIAN having a high opinion of his conduct in the service, and the most perfect reliance upon his sobriety and assiduity. He went on board her in the river with the despatches on the afternoon she sailed. The ship was then in exceedingly good order about the decks and the crew seemed to have settled to their duties. Asked the engineer if everything was right about the engines, and he replied "Perfectly so." Mr CROSKERRY joined in October or November 1863, as 2nd officer. Witness had subsequently watched his course closely, and recommended him to pass as 1st master, and having done so he was put on board the COLOMBIAN. Not only from what the witness had seen, but, from the reports, he had every reason to believe that CROSKERRY was a perfectly efficient officer. He had a master's certificate. The other officers had good recommendations.

John SAUNDERS in the employment of the West India and Pacific Steamship Company, said he was on board the COLOMBIAN on the 7th January when she was in dock, and he then found the stores in order.

Samuel Whalley DAVIES, manager of the shipping department for Messers RATHBONE Brothers and Co, was also called. He said Captain BENNETT entered Messers RATHBONE Brothers and Co's employment in the summer of 1858 as chief mate, and remained until January 1861, when he left for Mr HOLT'S employ. The captain was a steady and sober man and an energetic officer.

Lawrence ARCHDEACON, superintendent purser in the employment of the company, said he breakfasted on the COLOMBIAN on the 10th of January and there was nothing bad in the water. He knew Captain BENNETT and the chief steward, they were both steady and sober men, the testimonials of the 2nd steward were very good.

Mr HIGGIN then stated that besides the witnesses already called, many persons knowing Captain BENNETT'S character and having read the statements of QUARTLY in the newspapers, had voluntarily come there to speak to his character

He then called, Joseph DUTTON, captain of the HIBERNIAN, who said he knew CROSKERRY, the chief officer of the COLOMBIAN. CROSKERRY sailed with him two voyages as 4th officer, and witness always found him sober, and a steady man and very attentive officer.

Thomas William GLOVER, captain of the GRANADIAN, one of the company's vessels, stated that CROSKERRY joined the MEXICAN as 2nd officer in 1863, and witness found him to conduct himself in a steady manner. CROSKERRY afterwards sailed with him in the GRANADIAN.

John Edward COLE, being called said he was captain of the BOLIVAR. CROSKERRY sailed with him in the ship MEXICAN between 1863 and 1864, as 2nd officer, and was an energetic man and a good seaman.

This concluded the evidence, Mr RAFFLES addressing QUARTLY, the 2nd steward, asked him whether he desired to say anything after hearing the evidence.

QUARTLY said his character and future prospects depended upon the result of the inquiry. He wished to ask the witness BENNETT several questions if the court would allow him.

Mr RAFFLES, could not allow him to examine the witnesses. If he wished to make any statement or correct the evidence he could do so.

QUARTLY then stated that BENNETT one of the witnesses, called upon him, and upon BENNETT'S saying there was some friends who wished to speak to him he went out. It was then proposed to QUARTLY that they should try if they could get anything from the owners, and they should all tell one story. QUARTLY declined as he was determined to tell only what he had seen. He said he had no benefit or motive in making his statement, being alone desirous of telling the whole truth with respect to what he had seen on board the ship.

Mr RAFFLES having informed QUARTLY he could make any addition to his previous statements, QUARTLY repeated that he had spoken nothing but the truth.

Mr RAFFLES said the court would make its report to the Board of Trade in the usual way, but it had no judgement to pronounce in the case.

Mr HIGGIN remarked that when asked by the court, he had nothing to say upon the evidence. He might remark, however, that the inquiry had been asked for by the owners on account of the statements made by QUARTLY, and in order to do something like justice to the memory of those who had been lost.

The inquiry then terminated.


Liverpool Mercury, March 5th 1865

The loss of the steamship Colombian

The following is the official report of Mr RAFFLES, stipendiary magistrate, respecting the loss of the above vessel :-

To the Right Honourable the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade

My Lords, "I have, in pursuance of instructions from your lordships, held an inquiry in conjunction with Captains HARRIS and BAKER as nautical assessors, into the circumstances attending the loss of the steamship COLOMBIAN off the coast of France, on the 17th of January last."

The COLOMBIAN was an iron screw steamer built at Greenock in 1864, having one deck and a poop, brig rigged and clincher built, of 1057 tons gross and 731 tons register. She had two engines of 80hp nominal. She was the property of the West India and Pacific Steamship Company [Limited].

The COLOMBIAN left Liverpool on Tuesday the 10th of January last, under the command of Captain J. D. BENNETT, who held a certificate of competency, and with a crew of 32 hands all told. She carried one passenger only, Mr HAMILTON, and had on board a general cargo of about 800 tons, and was bound for St Thomas and Colon. On leaving Liverpool about 6pm on the 10th, she drew 21ft 6inches aft and 17ft 6inches forwards. She proceeded to sea in charge of a pilot, who left her according to his own evidence, at 3am on the 11th, when 6 miles to the westward of Point Lynas, the weather at that time being fine and the wind moderate at W.N.W. From this point the court has had to gather the narrative of the voyage from the statements of the three survivors from the wreck, viz., the 2nd steward William QUARTLY, and two firemen, Edward BENNETT and James DEEGAN, and it will be obvious that the nautical incidents of the voyage must necessarily be very imperfectly ascertained from men in their position. The history of the voyage was told by QUARTLY and his comrades at some length.

From this evidence it would appear that on Wednesday the 11th, the weather was very rough, on Thursday the 12th, it had increased to a gale, during which the two lifeboats and the captain's gig were washed away, while the pumps were rigged and kept constantly going. On Thursday night the two after fires were put out, but were lighted again on Friday morning, and the engines set going. During the whole of this day all hands were employed baling from the engine-room and working the pumps, and they got some canvas in the starboard main rigging and hauled out the head of the main trysail to steady the ship until the engines could be set to work again, which they were about noon, but the water continued to gain upon them, and at midnight all the fires were drowned out. Early on Saturday, the 14th, they bore up for some port, and the foretopsail and foresail were set, but during the day they were blown away, and the ship continued to scud before the wind under bare poles until Monday morning, when the weather moderated, and they were enabled to bend a new foretopsail. During Monday afternoon the schooner ROCKET hove in sight, and signals of distress were made, on which the schooner bore down to them and came within hailing distance, and a fruitless effort was made to heave a rope on board. As it was then getting dark the schooner agreed to stay by them during the night, and dropped astern, but thick weather coming on, she was lost sight of and at daylight on the following morning, the 17th, was nowhere visible. Before daylight a revolving light was seen from the masthead, and soon after daybreak land was reported off the starboard bow. At noon the captain took an observation and pronounced it to be Ushant. People were seen upon the shore and a beacon was observed, between which and the shore the vessel passed, and very shortly afterwards struck heavily on the rocks between the beacon on Men-corn and Stiff Point, on the island of Ushant. In about half an hour she drifted off, and was seen going towards a rock called "La Helle" but in about three-quarters of an hour she suddenly went down stern foremost in deep water.

It was about 4.30 pm when the vessel foundered. Only three lives were saved, and those in consequence of the laudable exertions of some French sailors belonging to Molene, whose names have already been reported to your lordships. The three survivors subsequently appeared before the British Consul at Brest, and made statements, strongly inculpating the master and some of the officer of the ill-fated ship, and asserting that the vessel was lost through their neglect and drunkenness. Before the court the steward QUARTLY adhered in the main to his previous statement, but the two firemen positively negatived the truth of his most serious assertions, and though repeatedly reminded by the court of their own depositions before the consul, altogether denied the truth of the grave charge. BENNETT swearing that he never saw the captain or 1st and 3rd officers the worse for liquor, and that though he had on one occasion thought that the 2nd officer was under the influence of drink, he would not now say that the appearance which had caused him to think so might not be attributed to exhaustion and fatigue, and DEEGAN asserting broadly that every one was sober on board, and that he never even heard anyone on board say that the captain or officers were drunk. In reference to BENNETT'S statement as to the 2nd officer, it should be mentioned that QUARTLY, in his evidence, stated that the 2nd mate was the only officer of the ship who seemed to be doing his duty, and that he was generally on deck till he became exhausted by fatigue. The grave charge of neglect and drunkenness thus rested upon the evidence of QUARTLY alone. I would not venture to brand the memory of those unfortunate men, who are no longer here to defend themselves, by pronouncing an adverse verdict upon a charge so serious on the unsupported testimony of a single witness, unless that testimony was given in the clearest possible manner, and there were no other circumstances in the case tending to throw doubt upon its accuracy.

I cannot say that such is the case in regard to the evidence of QUARTLY. On the contrary, I find on other points of grave importance to the reputation of the company to which the vessel belonged, statement were sworn to by him before the British Consul at Brest, in which he asserted that the COLOMBIAN was hurried to sea in several respects improperly equipped, and in reference to these statements, ample evidence was laid before the court which fully satisfied me that such statements were unfounded. Discrepancies also were clearly shown to exist on other points of minor importance, and, altogether, the result of the inquiry into the serious allegations contained in his statements satisfied the court that his evidence was wholly unreliable. It is however, most satisfactory to the court to be enabled in confirmation of this conclusion to report that a host of witnesses, in the most part volunteers came forward to bear the most ample testimony to the memory of Captain BENNETT, while many of those who thus came forward were also able to speak in equally high terms of the chief officer Mr CROSBERRY and, so far as they had had the opportunity of knowing them, of the other officers of the ship. In reference to all of them their testimony was concurrent as to their habits of sobriety, good conduct, and seamanship, and many of the witnesses were masters of vessels under whom Captain BENNETT and his officers had previously sailed.

I have but to add that, in the course of this inquiry, I have made a searching investigation into the build and equipments of this ship. The original contract and specification was before the court, which document, together with the evidence of one of the surveyors of the Board of Trade at this port, and other witnesses, has satisfied it that the COLOMBIAN was a very strongly-built and thoroughly equipped ship, and she would appear to have left the port in good order and in a sea-going trim, though probably somewhat deeply laden to encounter the severe weather which she experienced. Of the cause of the leak the court can form no certain opinion, nor can I venture to account for the position of the ship off the French coast on the morning of the 17th in the absence of all record of the voyage or evidence of the captain or officers, from whom alone satisfactory evidence on these points could be obtained.-- I have the honour to remain, my lords, your lordships, most obedient servant,


Police Magistrate

Liverpool March 4th, 1865

We concur in this report,

Hy HARRIS, R. B. BAKER, Nautical assessors.



Liverpool Mercury, January 23, 1865


HAMILTON, Jan 17th, by the wreck of the steamer Colombian, off the coast of France, John HAMILTON Esq, aged 63 of this town.

Liverpool Mercury, January 25, 1865


HENDERSON, Jan 17th, lost by the wreck of the steamer Colombian, whilst on her voyage to St Thomas, Robert HENDERSON, aged 40, late of Lancaster

Liverpool Mercury, January 26, 1865


SIMPSON, Jan 17th, drowned by the wreck of the steamer Colombian off the coast of France in his 33rd year, William SIMPSON, chief engineer, late of 10 Sterling St, Kirkdale, deeply regretted by his widow and friends.

Liverpool Mercury, January 28, 1865


POWELL, Jan 17th, lost by the wreck of the steamer Colombian , aged 20, William POWELL


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