Tasmanian Seafarers' Memorial

Barque Mary (1845)

Barque Mary 1845The plaque reads ...

Barque "Mary" 1845
From Sydney to London 19.05.1845, with
40 passengers, cargo of 302 bales wool,
292 tuns sperm oil, 180 casks tallow,
262 hides. Capt Newby, wrecked on
rocks off Flinders Island 24.05.1845
17 perished - 4 women, 13 children
when whale-boat foundered

 

The Courier, Hobart on 26 th June 1845 carried this account of the wreck of the Mary.

NARRATIVE OF THE WRECK OF THE BARQUE "MARY," ON SATURDAY, TUE 24TH OF MAY, 1845

The Mary sailed from the heads of Port Jackson on Monday morning, the 19th May, and the wind being unfavourable for New Zealand Captain Newby coasted to the south, and attempted the passage through Bass's Straits.

After doubling Wilson's Promontory the wind veered to the west; and the Captain, fearing that at the advanced season of the year the wind would continue for a length of time to the westward, resigned all hope of going home by the Cape of Good Hope, and putting about - ship made for New Zealand. He expressed regret at the disappointment he had met with, as, from the leaky state of the ship, which made six inches of water per hour, he wished to keep near the land as long as he possibly could the rigging also being very defective, and not having a second set of sails on board.

At about a quarter past eleven o'clock on Saturday night, the 24th instant, the alarm of the ship being in danger was given by Captain Newby to the cabin passengers, who were all in bed, and be desired them to dress and hasten upon deck.

The cabin passengers were - Mrs. Newby, her three daughters, and servant; Mrs. Turnbull; Mrs. Collins, four daughters, and one son at the breast, two maid-servants and myself. We had scarcely left our berths when the ship struck upon the reef, and the crushing noise of the timbers was distinctly heard above the roar of the breakers, and in less than three minutes the water rushed violently into the cabin as high as our knees, when she struck a second time. The mainmast then sank through the bottom of the ship, its maintop and topmasts being supported by the main deck. The same shock that caused such devastation forced the cabin door, which opened and shut in a slide, to close nearly on us, the ship at the time being so much on her starboard side, that it was doubtful whether she would not capsize. Fortunately, I perceived the door closing in sufficient time to introduce my hand into the open space so as to push back the door, and with the utmost difficulty I succeeded in getting upon deck all the passengers.

This was scarcely effected when the bottom of the ship separated from the sides, carrying away the lower cabin deck, which we had just left - the tuns of oil and cargo dashing against the reef, and the breakers washing over us with fearful violence. The only boats that were available were the whaleboat on the larboard quarter, and the long- boat on the main deck. Some of the passengers were put into each of these boats, and I had just placed Mrs. Collins in the long-boat, when I heard Sarah calling for me to take the boy from her, as she was unable to bold him any longer. I, with great difficulty, reached her, and put a rope into her hand, which I desired her to hold by until I had put the child into the boat, when I would return for her and my two girls. Augusta and Kate, I had scarcely left her when a breaker broke over the deck, carrying me with great force against a waterbutt. I effected my way to the long-boat; and while I was giving the child to its mother, the main-topmast fell overboard, crushing the whale- boat, which was lying upon the skids alongside of it, and immediately after the fore and mizenmasts, with all their sails set, also fell overboard on the starboard side, on which the deck righted; but the rigging of these masts all lying across the deck, intercepted the communication fore and aft.

I was searching for my two daughters. Augusta and Kate, and the maid Sarah, when I met the captain, who informed me that he had just put them with his family, a moment before, in the whale-boat on the larboard quarter, where they were all safe; that the deck was about breaking up, and if I valued my life I would follow him. He wished to have returned to the whale-boat, but the deck beginning to separate, he made immediately for the long-boat, which we contrived to reach. The breakers continued to wash over us, and the masts being gone, we had no power to launch the boat, and no visible means then presented themselves to save us from the fearful dangers that thus accumulated round us. At this critical moment, when all hope of preserving life had nearly abandoned us, the deck suddenly parted between the main and foremasts, and the long, boat pitched stern foremost into the sea, and not- withstanding the quantity of water and people in her, she quickly righted. We found the water gaining on us, and then discovered that both the plugs were out, on which one of the men tore the sleeve off his shirt, and by its aid partly succeeded in stopping the water. With the aid of boots, shoes, and hats we continued to keep the boat afloat, but having only one oar we had the greatest difficulty in avoiding the numerous casks and broken wreck which threatened us on every side. From the time the ship struck until the deck broke up only seven minutes had elapsed. While we were surrounded by the floating pieces of the wreck, a huge wave dashed a cask of tallow over my head against the inside of the starboard side, near the stern, and carried away eighteen Inches of the gunwale and upper streaks ; a tun of oil followed the course of the cask of tallow, striking off my hat in its passage, but the cask of tallow having already made a breach in the side of the boat it met with no resistance, and passed into the sea, deluging the boat with oil. One of the sailors, named Todd, swam to the boat from the wreck with an oar, and we then got into smooth water. The sea outside the reef, as well as the wind, being nearly calm, we heard the voices of some sailors, which we supposed to be the men in the whale-boat, and we steered in the direction the sound came from. On nearing these men they stated the whale-boat had foundered, and that Mrs. Newby was the only person saved. Her escape was effected by her catching a rope along, side the broken deck in the water, when one of the men hauled her on deck. The piece of the ship that was afloat was the quarter-deck, on which we found twelve men and Mrs. Newby. We obtained six oars more, and two tubs, the men also found a cask of brandy, and asked whether they should drop it into the boat, but the sailors, noble fellows, were unanimous in rejecting the brandy, from a sense of the evils it might cause. Nothing could surpass the undaunted self-possession which characterised the conduct of the captain and crew throughout this most fearful night ; and the men we rescued from the wreck waited there in the most collected and steady manner until each was called by name, when he dropped quietly into the part of the boat assigned to him. The little wind there was, about a two knot breeze, being favour- able for the land, which we saw indistinctly some twenty miles distant, we tied some calico together, which served us as a sail, and steered for the land, which was (the captain thought) Flinder's Island. The ladies and children were sitting up to their waists in water and oil, and the boat was stove in three places. The large breach made by the tallow cask the carpenter had contrived partially to repair with his coat and some tallow he found in the boat, and the broken pieces which he picked up. In this wretched state, the water gaining on us whenever the least interruption took place in baling the boat, we continued for nine hours and a half, and at half-past eight o'clock on Sunday morning we landed on the island, about eighteen miles distant from the reef struck by the ship. Mrs. Collins was without shoes or stockings, had merely her night-gown and petticoat on and my great coat, which I gave her when we were free from the wreck. Mrs. Newby and the other females and children were similarly situated, and I landed in my shirt, trousers, and shoes; the only articles we were able to put into the long-boat were five pumpkins. On reaching the shore those who were piously disposed returned their grateful and unfeigned thanks to the Almighty for the miraculous interposition He had been pleased to manifest, in so signally preserving us from the numerous dangers that had threatened us. The wonderful deliverance He had vouchsafed unto us will appear the more evident by a short retrospection of some of the events that took place.

In the breach made in the side of the long-boat by the cask of tallow, we expected at the moment that it would lead to the loss of the boat, but the protecting hand of Providence was here signally conspicuous; for had the cask not made the breach, so as to allow an uninterrupted passage for the tun cask of oil, the latter must have torn away the whole side of the boat, and every soul on board would have inevitably perished. The very rottenness of the ship, in the end, insured our safety ; for had not the bottom separated from the sides, and the deck broken up, we could not have freed the long-boat, and we should have probably died of hunger, or been crushed by the casks, &c, with the breakers dashed about in all directions. The day was mild and warm, and we commenced arrangements for our future conduct. We found a small spring of water on the beach, and deter, mined to build a small bower to shelter us. The only tool we possessed was the carpenter's axe, the edge of which had been broken in endeavouring to cut away the masts, &c. of the ship. Some of the party went for shell-fish along the beach, but only succeeded in picking up a few limpets, which were divided into equal portions, with a small piece of pumpkin to each person. On reckon- ing the number landed, we found that forty-two persons had been saved, and seventeen drowned. On the evening of that day we were more successful in collecting limpets and a lobster, which was divided among the females. During the night it rained heavily, and we were tho- roughly wet, as well as the ground on which we sat. On the afternoon of Sunday Captain Newby, with five of the crew, left us in search of the settlement, as we knew government had a station on Flinder's Island, but we were uncertain that the island we were on was the same. The only food the party took with them was one slice of pumpkin each. All Monday passed over, the ladies and children began to sink, despair was expressed by many, and fervent were our prayers to God for aid. Never did the words of our Lord's Prayer appear to me so impressive as they then did, "Give us this day our daily bread." Bereaved of two of my children, and those saved hourly sink- ing before me, calling repeatedly for bread and nourishment, which I was unable to give them, my wife endeavouring to nurse her infant boy, herself famished and tortured with excessive thirst, almost naked, and exposed to incessant rain, which fell all Tuesday and continued during the night. On the morning of Tuesday, the third day, my eldest surviving daughter, near seven years old, showed great symptoms of debility, and death seemed stamped in her countenance; I had succeeded in collecting some limpets and was entering the bower when I heard a cheer, and in a few minutes a strange man and boy, with a haversack, made their appearance ; the man said he brought supplies of food and clothing, and that Dr. Milligan would send more in the course of the day. Two of the men who had accompanied the captain now made their appearance, and an abundant supply of bread and roast mutton was spread out before our famished eyes.

In the reduced state that we were then, and at a time when all were sinking through want and misery, such an unexpected supply overcame the most stern natures, and truly grateful were the prayers addressed to the Great Author of all good for the merciful aid he had been pleased to afford us, and in having preserved us from the appalling death that until then was impending over us. I received a very kind letter from Dr. Milligan, who assured me that every aid in his power should be quickly afforded us. The distance from the settlement was twenty-five miles, and the road impracticable to delicate females and children. The wind was unfortunately adverse, and we determined to await the return of the captain, who arrived in the middle of the night. The next morning, the wind being still against us, the captain sent off all the crew and passengers capable of travelling by land to the settlement. The rain continued to descend in torrents, and the wind remaining unfavourable and strong, the communication with the settlement, both by land and water, became impassable for two days, only the females and children receiving any allowance of food.

On Saturday the weather became more moderate, the rain ceased, and we received a fresh supply of provisions. On the fol- lowing morning, the wind being favourable, we, on the eighth day from our landing, got into the long- boat, and proceeded by water towards the settlement; we had some difficulty, owing to the current, on doubling the first headland, when the captain proposed to beach the boat, and walk about seven miles to the West Beach, where Dr. Milligan had sent a boat to receive us. This part of the journey was comparatively easy, the country being generally clear of scrub. The children were carried by the men, and having dined on the Second Bench, we embarked in Dr. Milligan's boat, and arrived at the settlement at about half-past ten o'clock that night. Our kind host has been incessant in his attentions to us, anticipating all our wants, and affording us every aid in his power to grant. I cannot conclude this record of our sufferings, and of the Almighty's most gracious mercies to us, without again bearing testimony to the noble und chivalrous conduct of the captain and crew, (with only one or two exceptions;) and to their kind and humane attention throughout to the females and children. Not one of them had time to save any thing beyond the clothes on their backs, which were almost torn to pieces by the time they landed. Shirts, shoes, and trousers, &c. have been liberally supplied by Dr. Milligan to the crew and passengers, so as to obviate all immediate inconvenience; and he was also so good as to furnish the ladies and children, from his private stores, with all necessary apparel; and I trust that a humane and high-minded community will cheerfully testify their admiration of the noble and gallant conduct of their countrymen by a beneficent subscription, which may enable them to fit out for another voyage. Captain Newby has not only lost all his children, but the whole of his property; and he is thrown, with an amiable wife, penniless on the world. £700 will not cover the loss of property that I have sustained by the wreck. The steerage passengers consisted generally of families who had hoarded up their wages, and had hoped to have returned to their native land with tolerable competencies. They are most utterly destitute. Dr. Milligan has kindly promised, as soon as the weather will permit, to send for a vessel to convey us from hence to Launceston. List of cabin passengers drowned: - Three daughters of Mrs. Newby, the eldest 9 years old; one servant named Mrs. Turnbull ; two daughters of Captain Collins, the eldest 11 years old; one servant maid named Sarah Fowkes. Steerage passengers drowned :-Six children of Mrs. Evans; Mrs. Heather and two children; Mrs. Gray.

Total 17.

It is evident, from the manner in which the old rotten bottom separated from the sides, which were comparatively new, that the Mary would have foundered in the first gale of wind, at all events she could not be reasonably expected to double Cape Horn. The very circumstance of the main, mast sinking at the second strike through her bottom, proves the reasonableness of this assertion. No bell to strike the hours, nor log-line, were provided for this doomed ship, although the Captain had requested to be furnished with them. It was impossible to carry on the duty of the ship with any regularity under these circumstances, and the incessant pumping was sufficient to wear out any crew. In one instance three and a half feet of water were in the well. Independent of my communicating at Sydney with the owners of the barque Mary, I also called upon Mr. Ashmore, Surveyor to Lloyd's, who assured me that he had carefully examined the Mary, that she was perfectly seaworthy, and that he had given the owners a certificate. An old master of a ship, now resident in Sydney, who had assisted in the survey of the Mary, also declared to me, and to others who I can call upon, that she was perfectly sound. How these gentlemen could arrive at such a conclusion, in contradiction to the proofs of the thorough rottenness of the Mary, it is for them to explain. The current being stronger than the wind, the ship refused stays when the order was given to put about, and laid with her starboard side against the reef, when her sides crushed in like an egg-shell. A sound ship might have forged a-head, and got into clear water. I am satisfied that from the facts which have been lately elicited an inquiry is inevitable; and trusting that due measures may he taken, al least in the port of Sydney, to prevent the lives and property of British subjects being jeopardied in rotten or broken backed ships,-I have the honour to be, &c,

J. G. COLLINS,
Late Captain 13th Light Dragoons.