Foundering of the steamer Alexandra 1877


13th, Jan 1877

The ALEXANDRA, at this port from Santos, experienced terrific weather towards the end of her voyage, especially off the Irish coast.

Official report:-

Left Santos, Nov 16th, 1876, 27th, Dec, wind, W. N. W, Strong gale, very high seas, Sea broke onboard, taking away washboards, tearing tarpaulins, unbattening hatch. Experiencing heavy gales from, S. W to N. W. 7th Jan 1877, 6pm, in a heavy gale. W. S. W, in rounding ship to, mainstream carried away. Obliged to cut away the sail and gear to secure the mainmast. A complete gale and heavy sea broke, smashing the bulwarks and stanchions and filling the mainsail. It carried away the mainboom, obliged to cut away the mainsail and gear attached to the boom. It also started the companion skylight and fore castle scuttle, partly filling the cabin and forecastle with water, we tried the pumps and found the ship making water.. The sea made a clean breach over her after the bulwarks were washed away. 12 midnight, tremendous high sea running, ship washed fore and aft and being completely buried with water.

8 am Sunday, Jan 8th, made land, Mizanhead, bearing east about 12miles, gales and high seas still running.

12 noon, wind, W. S. W, being in danger of being driven ashore, made all possible sail in order to clear the land, Sprung the foreyard and spars, with which, the lower topsailyard was fished and burst the foresail, high seas still running, ship buried with water.

2.30pm, weathered the Fastnet Rock about 1 mile.

3pm, Cape clear, bore north, sea getting smoother, fished the foreyard with studding sail booms. Tuesday 11am, took the assistance of the Steam Tug, COLUMBUS, off the Skerries, for the benefit of ship and cargo, agreement £25.

Liverpool Journal, Feb 3rd 1877

Foundering of the steamer Alexandra

Supposed loss of eight lives

During a violent storm on Monday night the steamer ALEXANDRA foundered off the Copeland Islands at the entrance to Belfast Lough while in tow of the steam-tug KINGFISHER, it is believed 8 persons have perished.

The ALEXANDRA was a screw steamer of 335 tons reg, owned by Messers PALGRAVE, MURPHY and Co, Dublin and was engaged in the Rotterdam trade, while on a voyage from that port with a cargo of wine, she went ashore at Clogher Bay on the 3rd inst. The cargo was discharged and temporary repairs made, it was resolved to tow her into Belfast for a overhaul. The powerful steam-tugs KINGFISHER and CHALLENGER arrived from Liverpool on Monday morning and the steamer left Clogher in tow of the KINGFISHER, the CHALLENGER accompanied them. The screw-steamer SEAMEW was attached by a tow rope to the stem of the ALEXANDRA to steady her on the voyage round the coast, one of the ALEXANDRA’S lifeboats was kept towing astern in case the vessel showed any signs of sinking, and three steam pumps were kept constantly working.

When the ALEXANDRA left there was on board 30 souls, Capt TENLON and Capt MORRISON, agents for the Underwriters of Lloyds, Peter ANDERSON, Foreman and 12 shipwrights from Ardrossan, John ROBERTSON Diver and his attendant from Greenock, 5 engineers from Messers YOUNG’S engineering works at Ardrossan and 8 labourers natives of Clogher.

All went well on the passage till the steamer reached the entrance to Carlingford Lough, where she encountered severe weather which continued till she arrived at Donaghadee at 11pm on Monday. Here she lay for a short time in the hope the weather would moderate. She again got under weigh and on reaching a point off the Copeland Islands about 1-15pm encountered a tremendous gale and fearful sea, which threw her on her beam-ends and threatened instant destruction. The cry was immediately raised, the steamer was sinking, the Captain of the CHALLENGER steered his vessel alongside to render assistance. At the first attempt the CHALLENGER was unable to approach the vessel. One of the ALEXANDRA’S men, Peter ANDERSON tried to leap on board and gained the paddle-box but fell back into the sea and was carried into the wake of the SEAMEW.

The Captain of the CHALLENGER made two further attempts to bring his steamer alongside the ALEXANDRA, on each occasion a number of those on board the ALEXANDRA succeeded in gaining the deck of the steam-tug, ere the fourth attempt to reach could be made the ALEXANDRA made a lurch and sank carrying with her it is believed, the diver, one of the engineers and at least 4 of her compliment of hands. Only 3 minutes elapsed from the time the CHALLENGER was hailed until the ALEXANDRA disappeared from view.

After the steamer went down it was ascertained that Captains TENLON and MORRISON and 3 shipwrights had got into the lifeboat which had been adrift from the sinking vessel. The shipwrights succeeded in getting on board the SEAMEW but owing to the roughness of the sea Capt TENLON and MORRISON were left in the lifeboat and might have been drowned but for the assistance of the CHALLENGER which by aid of the bright moonlight succeeded in rescuing them. The CHALLENGER and KINGFISHER cruised for some time after the ALEXANDRA went down but no signs of human life were visible.

They left for Belfast were they arrived with 17 of the survivors at about 2am on Tuesday.

Survivors ;-


James CLARKE, James SHEARER, John STEWART, James STIRRAT, John MC CORMICK, William WOOD, Carpenters all of Ardrossan

Angus COOKE Divers attendant of Greenock

Charles LINDSAY, Duncan CALWELL, Joseph MILLS, William CRAIG, Engineers all of Ardrossan.

And 4 labourers from Clogher names unknown

Missing believed drowned :-

Peter ANDERSON Foreman carpenter of Ardrossan

John ROBERTSON Diver of Greenock

John DUNN Engineer of Ardrossan.

4 Clogher labourers names unknown.

It is believed 4 or 5 shipwrights succeeded in getting on the SEAMEW before the ALEXANDRA foundered, the former vessel steered for Scotland.

The survivors speak in the highest praise of the captain of the CHALLENGER who spared no exertions to rescue those on board the ALEXANDRA.

A screw steamer which was alongside the vessel when it foundered on Monday night has arrived at Belfast, after the ALEXANDRA went down she made for the Clyde but owing to the gale took shelter in Carrickfergus. One board were 5 survivors it is believed the total now lost is 7, ANDERSON foreman shipwright, ROBERTSON diver, another ship’s carpenter and 4 labourers from Clogher Bay. The five saved are natives of Ardrossan.


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