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THE BARQUE MONASCO DISASTER

AN HISTORIC DOCUMENTATION

 

 

 

    On or about June 21, 1857, and American Barque “MONASCO” owned in Warren, Maine, U.S.A. set sail from Goteborg, Sweden enroute to New York, mastered by Andrew F. Dailey with a cargo of iron and a number of Swedish passengers.

    The Monasco was shipwrecked near Silver’s Cove near Corbin at a location since named Monasco Head and Monasco Shoal, at a depth of five fathoms of water (at low tide) and a number of souls perished as a result.

    Rumours of foul play have always overshadowed this tragedy.

    The following details are from “The Public Ledger” July and August 1857, “The Nfld Quarterly” December 1912, an interview with the late Raymond Mitchell of Lewin’s Cove, 1995 as per Joseph Mitchell of Epworth, and from the Holy Trinity Anglican Church records of Burin.

    Once the survivors of the Monasco had gone on their way, residents of Corbin and Burin area had become a little suspicious. The following is a letter written by the citizens of Burin to The Public Ledger and published on July 30, 1857.

    I am sorry to inform you that there was a most melancholy affair of shipwreck happened close to this harbour on the night of Wednesday last in the Barque Monasco. She belonged to the State of Maine, Andrew F. Dailey, master, from Sweden to New York with a cargo of iron and 60 passengers. The weather was as fine as possible, but somewhat foggy when she ran slap against the cliff about three miles to the westward of Burin and the forward part sunk; the after part of the ship remained above water, and all her spars and rigging, with the exception of about six feet of the foremast.

    There were fifty bodies taken up the two following days and buried without an inquest or and investigation whatever.

    In connection with the above, some rumours are afloat, which, for the Captain’s sake, we think should be published, as if they not be true, he will have an opportunity of refuting them. It has been said that if the passengers had had their liberty, there could have been no loss of life as the night was as fine and calm as possible---that five of the passengers got out of the cabin before the Captain got on deck, when he gave the orders to close the doors and get out of the boat, which being obeyed, himself, his wife, and crew, and crew got into her and left the remainder of the passengers, 55 in all to their fate. Now this is a startling statement, and we give it simply as we have heard it; at the same time we think it scarcely possible that the Captain could have been guilty of the fiendish conduct ascribed to him, and that he will come forward manfully and contradict it, if untrue.

    However, a reply to the letter of July 30, 1857 was published in August 14, 1857 Public Ledger which was taken from the Morning Post.

    “We are informed by a Mr. Fuller who lodged in the same house with Captain Daley and his wife at Sidney, the following is in substance the statement they made relative to the loss of the American Barque Monasco of Warren, State of Maine which together with the cargo and 55 of the passengers was lost near Burin on the night of 21st July last. They state that when the vessel struck against the cliff they all thought it was an iceberg, and seeing no prospect of saving anything, the first thing thought of was to preserve the lives of all on board. The passengers were in the poop deck cabin, which they could not be induced to leave, although they were earnestly urged to do so, they having closed the cabin doors in hope of keeping the water out; then betook themselves to prayer, with the exception of six who left the cabin and were saved with the crew. The small boat which the Captain then got out in the hope of escaping with his wife immediately swamped, but they were taken off by the boat which the crew had got out and left the vessel in. Captain Daley was the last to leave the ship of those who were saved, but he and Mrs. Daley lost everything they had on board, including their clothing, the Captains chronometer, and other articles, his whole loss amounted between four and five thousand dollars. Mr. Fuller adds that from what he had an opportunity of seeing of Captain Daley and his wife, he has no doubt whatever of the correctness of the statement which they made.

    Captain Daley having duly noted protest with the authorities of Burin, got passage to St. Pierre and from there on went to Sydney, where he telegraphed the sad disaster to the U.S. whither he was to proceed by the first opportunity that offered.

    The following is a comment by the Public Ledger August 14, 1857 regarding the statement from the Morning Post.

    “It has been said the Captain lost all he had, and that he was obliged to sell some of the wrecked materials wherewith to purchase his wife’s clothing. But it is reported on the other hand, that the vessel was insured and was partly owned by the Captain, and further, that a package was picked up by some people of Burin, which was recognized by the Master as his, and upon his naming the contents, the package was opened, and the sum of 1100 pounds was handed over to him as his property, the contents exactly tallying with his statement. How will this agree with the reported great loss of the Captain, and the straits to which he was reduced to purchase his wife’s clothing? Indeed there appears something very contradictory in the two characters given of the Burinists, for it is not likely that men who would so readily return so large a sum of money would retain a trifle of female apparel.

    It is not for us, knowing nothing positively of the whole circumstances, to condemn the conduct of the Captain in any ne respect; nor do we lime to hear the character of the Burinists charged in such a manner without endeavouring to clear them by reference to the circumstances.”

    The Captain did not come forward to contradict the rumours.

    The following is taken from the Tragedy of Silver’s Cove by his Grace Archbishop Howley published in Nfld. Quarterly December 1912 Vol 12 #13

    “There is a good deal of doubt and uncertainty about the case. The general tradition is as I state:”  “There were sixty-four souls aboard the ship, over forty passengers. Among them was the Captain’s wife; but there was another woman of whom the Captain was enamoured; and he determined to lose the ship and all the passengers except this woman with whom he intended to escape. He battened down the hatches and ran the ship ashore in Silver’s Cove. The passengers were all drowned. The Captain and crew saved themselves.” “I will now let William Ryan tell the story in his own words, only condensing some parts.”

    “The Barque Monasco was 600 tons. She carried about 400 tons Swedish iron bound from Sweden to New York. She had on board forty-three passengers. She lay off Cape St. Mary’s twenty-four hours. The wind was East and there was no reason why she should be so far out of her coarse. She struck near Corbin Head at 3 A.M. July 21, 1857. The passengers were fastened down otherwise, they could have been easily saved in the rigging, as the ship lay steady. The Captain went to St. Pierre, tho’ there was consul at Burin.

    He seemed anxious to avoid the authorities. My father Thomas Ryan picked up the Captain’s trunk which contained his wife’s clothing and some private papers ………. About twenty-two in all including Captain and wife (or supposed wife) and crew went to St. Pierre in George Inkpin’s boat. The steward of the ship was a Frenchman and as my father could speak French, he tried to get some information from him. Just as they began speaking, the Captain came along and ordered the steward to make preparations for the passage to St. Pierre. Many of the passengers wore fine jewelry. They had light hair and were very pretty. My father found the first body, that of a woman, in the Captain’s room. The Captain appeared surprised and wondered how she came there. Maurice Power picked up the body of a woman with a child of about one year old clasped in her arms. She had a crucifix and prayer beads in her pocket. These three bodies were buried together. The remaining bodies were buried about a quarter of a mile from the Eastern Point. The work of burying was hurriedly done, and from six to ten were placed together in a pit with only a few inches of earth over them. A few days after, my father and Walter Butler sent two men each to cover the bodies. I was with them. I was then eleven years old. The Captain was Andrew Daley of Maine, U. S. A. and was about-thirty five years old. His wife (or supposed wife) gave her name as Emily Hannah Dailey, thirty years old. It was rumoured that on reaching Halifax, the lady and the cabin boy had the Captain arrested, and reports say he was hanged in 1857.

    The following paragraph was told by Raymond Mitchell, who was ninety-six years old in October, 1996, as was told to him by his grandfather, Joseph Mitchell, born in 1840, died in 1926 at the age of eighty-six years.

    Mr. Joseph Mitchell was seventeen years of age in 1857. He was on the scene of the Monasco disaster when bodies were being taken out. He helped pull in over the side of his boat a middle aged man wearing a black vest with a gold chain across his bossom. A small child of about one year old and a woman in night attire, possibly the child’s mother. These three were then transported for burial in Swedes Cove.

    The following is from The Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Burin.

    Entry 107: “The body of a female (unknown) taken from the wreck of Monasco, Kingdom of Sweden in Europe, aged supposed about seventeen years. Burial date August 01, 1857.

    -------Clergey, J. C. Gathercole, Missionary

    At swede’s Cove or Swede’s Point in Corbin, there is according to documentation and legend, a mass unmarked gravesite containing the bodies of the passengers on the ill-fated Barque Monasco.

    The Story of the Monasco disaster has been passed down from generation to generation in our area; and remains a mystery as back in 1857. A part of our heritage that we hope will never be lost in time.

    There is another version of the story that reports Diver David Dobbin was on the scene and removed bodies from the ship, but in all documentation of the event dated 1857 and 1912, he was not mentioned.

    In an E-Mail transmission from David N. Barron of Northern Maritime Research (Organization), the following message appears:

    23-August-1995

    CBC has asked about the Monasco wreck in 1857 – you may remember ……. The story changes. She was an American Barque on her way from Goteborg to New York with sixty or seventy passengers. She was wrecked at Corbin Head down off Burin and some versions of the story are saying Captain murdered all the passengers and ran off with all their valuables. There’s also a report about Diver Dobbin actually diving on the wreck site, but again, this has not been verified. There was a series of articles in the Nfld Colonist on Dobbin the diver as he recollects on some 40 years of diving around eastern Canada, including the Monasco (which he mistakenly names as the Comeruskie). (I’m guessing on his spelling).

 

 

Page transcribed by: Frank Brinston (April, 2001)
Page revised: Oct. 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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