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Sinking of Schooner Mary
September 1886


Evening Telegram September 24, 1886 (Friday)


Two Schooners in Collision Off Sugar Loaf.
Three Men and a Woman Drowned.

A heart-rending scene was that which transpired on board the schooner "Somerset", of Twillingate, Captain Rideout, this morning. On her deck stood a throng of hardy, bronzed fishermen, wringing their hands with grief, uttering piteous exclamations and bemoaning the hard fate of which they were suddenly made the victims. Inured to scenes which ordinarily blunt the feelings, with natures cast in a rough mould, yet now bowed by a common grief, they exhibited the simplicity and tenderness of children; and as they stood there telling the story of the dark disaster of death and deprivation from which they had just emerged, their strong frames shook with emotion, they lamented wildly, and with tears trickling down their features, the sudden deaths of cousins and brothers, and the calamity by which in a few minutes their little craft with all its contents of their summer's earnings - the sole support of wives and children at home - was engulfed in the sea.

The following are the particulars of another of those direful tales which the ruthless sea, or man's want of foresight, is at too frequent intervals the means of horrifying communities. The schooner "Mary Ann", Samuel Stockwood, master, left Burnt Point at 10 P.M. last night for this port. Burnt Point is one of the numerous little settlements in Bay-de-Verde district, and is situated near Northern Bay, Conception Bay. It is a pleasant village, embowered in a lofty woods, and inhabited by an industrious, thrifty people, much of whose comfort is extracted from the soil in no less degree than from the ocean.

The "Mary Ann" had on board sixteen men and one woman, including the master, belonging to Burnt Point, and seven men belonging to Gull Island. All, with the exception of the skipper (Stockwood), were bringing their season's catch of fish, which amounted to over two hundred and twenty quintals, to market, as was customary with them every Fall, Samuel Stockwood having performed this service of freighting their fish to St. John's for four years past, and afforded them every satisfaction. All went well with the little craft across the mouth of Conception Bay; a moderate breeze rippled the deep and the waning moon cast a pathway of light upon its heaving bosom. At four o'clock this morning the little vessel was passing under the shadow of Sugar Loaf, near Logy Bay. It was then nearly dawning; the moon had set; but though objects could not be sighted with the same distinctness that they were a few hours previously, yet everything was clearly visible within short distances of the craft's deck. At this point it was that the fatal collision occurred. The "Mary Ann" had seven or eight men on deck, and the rest were below sleep, or resting, and a few were for'ad keeping a look-out. She exhibited no lights, neither did the colliding vessel, the "Somerset". It would appear that the latter approached closely to the "Mary Ann" before being observed; but when at last, those for'ad on the "Mary Ann" shouted to their helmsman, Charles Tucker, to luff. He did so, and the fore-and-after came up in the wind, which blew from the north-west. It appears from the statements of the "Mary Ann's" crew that there could have been no look-out on board the "Somerset", for had the "Mary Ann's" change of tack been perceived by the "Somerset's" men, it was the duty of her helmsman to have put his helm up and allowed his craft to fall off before the wind, thus avoiding collision. Some of the Conception Bay men say they shouted to the "Somerset" to have her put her helm hard up, and that this was done at first but immediately afterwards her helm was put hard down, resulting in her luffing up in the wind also, and in her bows striking the "Mary Ann" on the port quarter. So heavy and sharp was the impact, both vessels being deeply laden, that the quarter of the fore-and-after was almost cut off. The bow of the "Mary Ann" swung against the side of the "Somerset" and for the remaining five minutes that she held afloat was kept in that position by her anchor catching in the "Somerset's" rigging or rail. The crew of the doomed craft shouted to those asleep in the cabin and forecastle, telling them to run for their lives. All below scrambled on deck and boarded the "Somerset", except three men and a woman who were in the cabin of the "Mary Ann", and these were prevented from hastily making their exit, by the mainmast, which broke off at the moment of collision and fell across the companionway, and which, with its sail, blocked up the entrance. One of those on deck did stretch down his hand and grasp that of Mrs. Fahey in an effort to bring her up, but, before he could effect her safety, he found the schooner settling n the water and had to run to save his own life. A few of those who escaped from the cabin had almost to swim out of it, so rapidly and deeply did the water pour into it. Within five minutes of the first moment of the accident, the ill-fated "Mary Ann" sank before the eyes of the terror-stricken people on board the "Somerset". The master of the latter at once reversed the course of his craft, and conveyed the survivors to this port. The "Mary Ann" was sailing under mainsail and jib at the time, and the "Somerset" under foresail and jib.

The following are the names of the lost, all of whom belonged to Burnt Point: - Sarah J. Fahey, 45, whose husband was also on board; Charles Wicks, married; N. Milley, aged 30, married; Leander Milly [sic], 17, single. The following are the names of the saved who belong to Burnt Point: - Charles Milley, 64 years of age, married; Samuel Stockwood, married; Jasper Wicks, married; Thomas Tucker, married; Charles, Tucker, married; Andrew Milley, widower, with one child living; John Davis, married. The following belong to Gull Island: - John Oliver, married; Bartlett Oliver, single; Patrick Hogan, married; Mark Delaney, married; John Doyle, married; James Doyle, married; Peter Doyle, married; Michael Percy, married; William Oliver, married; Thomas Fahey, married; Gregory Lemon, married; James Lemon, married, and Leander Stockwood, single. At ten o'clock this morning the poor fellows landed here to see the representatives of their district and obtain relief. It is hardly necessary to say that this should be afforded without delay, and that, being suddenly deprived of the means of support, the Government should see that these stricken fishermen are forthwith given employment, which will be not only the means of taking them safely over the present misfortune, but also afford them and their families sustainment during the trying and inclement season near at hand.

Evening Telegram September 27, 1886 (Monday)

An investigation was held this morning before one of the Magistrates of the Central District Court into the circumstances of the collision off Sugar Loaf of the fore-and-after "Mary Ann", of Gull Island, C.B., and the schooner "Somerset" of Twillingate, with the view of determining what culpability, if any, attaches to the parties in consequence of the deaths by drowning of four persons on board the "Mary Ann". The fact that neither vessel showed lights should not be lost sight of, and the bounden obligation of all coastwise craft to display such signals at night, should be imperatively insisted upon as one of the rulings of the Court.



Page contributed by Tom Hynes

Page Revised by Ivy F. Benoit (Wednesday March 06, 2013)

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