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The Evening Telegram, St. John's, NF, June 10, 1887 (Letters to the Editor)

Letter From "Fair Play"

Editor Evening Telegram

 

 

Dear Sir, - I see a letter in to-day's issue of the Telegram signed "Ita Lex Scripta Est", denouncing the judgment of the Marine Court of Enquiry in the matter of the collision between the "Plover" and the "Trixie H.". Does that writer know that at the instance of Captain Manuel the Governor appointed the said court?

If Judge Conroy, Captain G. Robinson, R.N., and Captain Green, are not a competent court, I want to know where you can find one!

The judgment acquitted Captain Manuel of all blame, and rightly; for, in the first place, it was not his watch on deck; in the second place, he had no need to be on deck when clear of land on a fine night; in the third place, the steamer did right in steering as she did, and in porting her helm and reversing her engines the moment the schooner was seen. The three intelligent men on watch on the Plover swear they saw no light till a moment before the collision; three equally intelligent men on the schooner swear her lights were up. The law required the schooner to keep her course (ita lex scripta est) - she did not do so, by so doing she either caused the collision or made it worse; the court was, therefore, right in condemning her. Let us, all the same, sympathize with her master in his grievous bereavement. The evidence for the "Plover" was clear and consistent; that for the schooner was not so; for example - her captain stated that he saw the steamer's red light about ten minutes before the collision on the schooner's starboard bow, the schooner being on the starboard tack and sailing with the wind abeam, that almost immediately after seeing the red light the schooner's helm was put hard up, and not hard down, as it should have been.

The evidence of Mr. Costigan, a passenger by the steamer, was very inconsistent, for he swore that he saw the schooner's light on the steamer's beam (which everyone contradicted), and then he swore that he could not say whether that light was eastward or westward of the steamer when he saw it first. The evidence of the wheelsman of the schooner was not obtained, though he was not lost in the schooner. One passenger of the Trixie H. swore that he saw the schooner's green light when he first came on her deck just before the accident, but on cross-examination, having put himself amidships when he saw the said light, he first swore that the schooner's lights were in her main rigging, then found that from amidships of the schooner he could not see the said light, and then explained that he did not see it at all till he got on board the steamer.

If the classic writer, "ita lex scripta est", knew a little more of the facts, and if he knew that Captain Manuel, at great personal risk, went over the steamer's side and saved a drowning man from the schooner, he would not so readily tax the Plover's captain with manslaughter and the Marine Court with an unjust judgment. Yours, FAIR PLAY.

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

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