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(The Fisherman's Advocate, March 12, 1926, page 1)

THE LOSS OF THE "HILLCREST"

As Told by the Captain

 

 

The Following Statement of the Loss of the Hillcrest was made in our office by Capt. Rideout.

Left Lunenburg, Feb 26th, with a fresh west south west wind until 4 p.m. on the 27th, then the wind changed to W.N.W. with snowflurries. The vessel behaved splendidly, averaging from 8 to 10 knots per hour. A splendid run of 74 hours brought us in sight of Newfoundland about 4 p.m., March 1st, but too thick to find exact position. Decided then to put the vessel at sea, run 50 miles, course S. by E. till midnight, when wind moderated changing to S.E. and thick with snow till 4 a.m., snow lifted, changed course N.E. After running 14 miles sighted land and found ourselves to be in Placentia Bay, south side. Immediately it came thick the wind changing to S.S.W. fresh breeze. We decided to try to make harbour on North Side of the Bay for either Marystown or Burin. When getting near land on the North Side it was too thick to see 200 yards, so we decided to wear ship, and hold center of Bay till weather would lift; but no change.

Wednesday, March 3rd, weather conditions still worse, vessel keeping off land, until 4 p.m., we sighted land somewhere around Long Island, but too thick to see and then just escaped after wearing vessel from breakers. Wind still increasing to hurricane force, with rain and fog, we did not see or hear anything before 6:30 when ship smashed into breakers on Red Isld. First sea taking boats, and everything movable on deck, three of the seamen were swept forward, myself and the cook clinging to windward rigging, another sea taking the cook and sweeping him forehead. Trying to get forehead myself another sea took me forehead, landing me on the poop deck where I found all the crew safe. I then decided to go ut on the jibboom to see if it were possible to land on beach where I could see the beach run dry at certain times;ordered crew to cut ropes into 10 fathoms from halliards; the crew assisted me to get it cut and make fast to top of jibboom.One of the seaman John King first went down on rope and landed safely; I last to land got down safely. By this time the vessel was practically in splinters as the sea was sweeping over her continually. Here was a very small beach, and viewing positions of the vessel's spars we had to move from there 20 or so feet west, in case spars should founder and crush us to death. Through Divine Providence the spars fell in the opposite direction with a terrible crash, and an hour later all the wreckage was piled in just below where we were standing. After the danger from the wreckage was over, we tried to get a fire. All had some matches, but they being wet, chances of a fire proved fatal, after which we walked from cliff to cliff as far as possible to see if the mountain could be climbed, but could not advance until 5 o'clock. Just at the break of dawn I saw a landing about 12 feet above me and proceeded to climb there. Every rock seemed moveable until I reached a height of two hundred feet , where I found it was safe to reach the top. I then shouted to the crew who were at the foot of the mountain to proceed singly and take time and not to get excited; and after a short period of time which seemed an age they all reached the top safely.

We now started to walk to find inhabitants. After walking for an hour the cook, Fred Russell, complained of being tired. Cecil Quinton, seaman with a sprained foot found it hard to get along as his foot and leg were swollen tight to his boot. Mate and two seamen stayed with these two till they took a little rest; I walked about a mile to the west side of the Island, and there finding no inhabitants, and then walking in to opposite direction for an hour or more and still finding no one. I proceeded toward the crew. Sheltered on a Banks poor Russell, the cook, had given up to die. Then it was decided that Mate Wm Edgecomb and Alex Russell should walk in another direction too look for inhabitants, or not come back. About 12 a.m. poor Russell died from a period of 18 hours exposure, having no oil clothes, no food and no fire. 2 p.m. it was thick with snow. John King, Cecil Quinton and myself sheltered ourselves in the woods to try and get through the night. Just as we had boughs and wood to shelter us we heard the sound of a gun, this was about 3 p.m. Inhabitants of Red Island now came to our rescue giving us stimulants and food. We now preceded to Red Island Hr. The rescue party took the corpse along with them and at 4:30 p.m. we arrived at the houses at Red Island where the people had all that was necessary provided for our cold feet.

The hospitality of the people of Red Island will never be forgotten by me and the crew of the illfated Hillcrest. After getting refreshed from the kind people of Red Island the local Constable Mr. Ryan interviewed me about the preparations of the casket for the corpse at which Mr. Ryan, Mr. McGrath and Mr. Ridley did all that was possible, and prepared the corpse for conveyance home. Through the orders of Mr. Brownrigg to the local constable at Red Island all clothing was given and we a deeply thankful for their kind care.

Messages were sent to Mr. Halfyard who informed the Minister of Marine & Fisheries asking him to dispatch the Argyle to take the corpse and the crew to Placentia. This was done by the quickest way , after which arrangements were made with the N.G.R. to send a special train on Sunday on order to catch the express. Thus all this was done to the utmost satisfaction. 3 p.m. we arrived at Placentia Junction; 4:30 we joined the express and arrived at Clarenville at 8:30 and joining the branch train arrived at Trinity Junction. After reaching Trinity we found that the Trading Co., had dispatched the Senef and everything was done without any delay.

At Trinity Mr. Percie Barbour did all in his power to get nourishment for the crew, also Capt. Edward Blackwood gave his horse to assist me in getting the corpse from the Junction to the Senef; for all this kind care we feel more than thankful.

After boarding the Senef I met Mr. H. A. Russell, Assist. Manager of the Trading Co. On arrival at Port Union, my hardest suffering was caused by the necessity of calling at the home of Mr.Thomas C. Russell, whose son was a victim of this sad affair.

 

 

Page transcribed by: James Butler, 2000
Page revised: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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