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(Following is the text of the story from the Weekly Record, of Trinity as printed on Saturday, March 5, 1892. The article was repeated in the March 12, 1892 issue of that paper, as well.)


Trrible Loss of Life
Desperate Struggles
Hair-Breath Escapes

Heartrending Scenes - Heroic Acts of Rescue - Thirteen Men Dead - Eleven Still Missing

The air is full of farewells to the dying,
And mournings for the dead;
The heart of Rachel for her children crying,
Will not be comforted!

The week that has passed since we last place our little journal into the hands of its many readers has brought to this town and the neighbouring settlements a terrible calamity; and it is our painful duty to-day to record what has proved the direst catastrophe ever known in the history of Trinity, - surpassing as it does in point of individual and general suffering, hair-breath escapes, heartrending tales and scenes, anything of the kind ever heard by the oldest inhabitant. Many terrible accidents have occurred, fraught with great loss of life; but none have been attended with such terrible circumstances as that of Saturday last. As we begin this short sketch of the terrible affair, we realize to the fullest our utter inability to give anything like a satisfactory report. Many of our readers are already aware of the bare facts of the disaster; but few besides the residents of the immediate neighbourhood, and the eye-witnesses of some of the scenes, can realize it in all its awful details.

For two or thee days previous to Saturday the 27th ult. there had been quite a number of seals shot in the Bay. Saturday morning dawning fair and everything looking favorable for a successful day's seal-hunting, the majority of the seal-hunters from Green Bay on the one side to Ireland's Eye on the other side were up betimes and away in their boats in search of seals. So anxious were some of them to be away early that they took very little food before leaving and many were but thinly clad. The sea was smooth, air warm, little or no wind, and several seals were shot by some of the further off boats. All went well until about 11 o'clock, when the wind accompanied by intense cold, suddenly changed, blowing with terrific force from the N. N. E. With the rising gale the sea was soon lashed into foam. The majority of the boats were some miles off the land when the squall struck them, and they saw that to reach where they had left in the morning was an impossibility, entailing as it would a desperate row in the teeth of the gale. Some of the crews, however, belonging to Robin Hood, Salmon Cove and English Harbor, who were not far off the Horse Chops (which lay nearly dead to windward) determined to make an attempt to land on that part of the shore. Six crews began the desperate task; and after five hours desperate rowing, the spray continually drenching them, freezing as it fell and covering them with ice, they reached the shore. The majority of them were so exhausted and benumbed they had no strength to get out of they (sic) boats. In two cases the poor human frame was unable to bear up under the terrible strain on nerve and muscle, and before land was reached they succumbed. One crew broke their oars and were drifting helplessly to leeward, when, with utter disregard for their own safety, and at the risk of sinking their boats with the extra burden, another crew took them on board. It was on board this boat that the first poor fellow died. So heavily laden was the boat with the eight men and the ice that was constantly forming on her sides, that to prevent her from swamping and drowning all, the body of the dead man was committed to the sea. Shortly after, the second poor fellow, (a brother of the first victim) succumbed from cold and exhaustion. The scene after land was reached baffles description. Four other men succumbed here from exhaustion and the intense cold shortly after landing. From John Butler, of Robin Hood, who was an eye-witness of the proceedings, A Record representative obtained the following account of the tragic events at Horse Chops; the narrator, with that modesty which is a characteristic of the true hero, passing lightly over the grand and noble acts of self-sacrifice and valor he himself performed. Had it not been for his incessant attention many of the poor fellows who landed at the Horse Chops, and who were in the last stages of exhaustion and paralysed with the intense cold, would undoubtedly never have recovered. Here is what he said: -

This is an outline of this man's story. Want of space prevents us from publishing it in full. Some of the details are heartrending in the extreme.

While these scenes were being enacted at Horse Chops, others of a like nature were taking place further up the shore. The crews who decided not to attempt to keep too far to windward landed at Trouty, Bonaventure, Ireland's Eye, Thoroughfare, and some at Deer Harbor. All of them were terribly exhausted and coated with ice. Many had to be assisted from their boats at each place. Those who landed at Trouty and Bonaventure recovered without any loss of life. Many were frostbitten and much exhausted, and but for the incessant attention of the residents of the places would undoubtedly have died. Among those who landed at Ireland's Eye one man, Wm. Barnes of English Harbor, had died in his boat before landing. Another of the same crew was unconscious and had to be taken from the boat. All the others were well cared for at the house of Mr. Thomas Cooper and ultimately recovered. The Ireland's Eye men (to their credit be it said) who had only escaped a few minutes before with their own lives, hearing that many boats were out from Salmon Cove and English Harbor, organized a volunteer search party and in spite of the heavy gale of wind and the intense cold went out to the adjacent islands in search of supposed missing men. One of the rescuing party gives us the following account of what they did and saw:

The story of suffering and death told by the survivors who reached there, was the saddest of all the sad tales, and the poor fellows who told it wept like children. On Monday the bodies of the men who were landed at Thoroughfare and Ireland's Eye were brought to Trouty and from thence conveyed to their homes.

Although the events recorded above happened on Saturday, no one in town were aware that such a terrible loss of life had occurred until Sunday afternoon. Great anxiety had been felt all Saturday night for some of the men who were out, but, as so many had landed in safety, it was hoped the others had escaped with a "drubbing", and had reached harbor further up the shore. Early on Sunday, however, intelligence was received of some of the events noted above, and throughout the day other stories were brought from different places near, each, as it became known, increasing the magnitude and horror of the disaster. By Sunday evening it was known that out of the two hundred (about) who were caught in the storm, eleven deaths had occurred, and nearly forty were still missing. a private telegraphic message received for English Harbor late on Saturday night became known on Sunday afternoon. It told of the safe arrival at Old Perlican of one of the missing crews. that little missive was hailed as a message of hope for others of the missing.

When the Telegraph Office opened on Monday morning, numerous anxious enquirers thronged the doors, countless messages were despatched to, and received from, all parts of the country. The news of the disaster spread like wildfire. Early in the day a message fro Heart's Content stated that about twenty men and boys had landed at Heart's Delight and vicinity. Words fail to describe the cheering effect of that message. Despairing faces again looked cheerful, and other heartbroken sufferers whose dear ones were still missing were filled with hope for their safety.

The number missing on Monday night was thirteen men and boys, and nothing more was heard until Tuesday morning, when the schooner Rosscleer, Captain Richard Fowlow, which had been searching the Bay since Sunday, returned to port. Her report was soon known. Sixteen of the men who landed on the South Shore of the Bay were on board, also the bodies of John Nurse and Solomon Penny which were picked up on Sunday in their boat off Scilly Cove. Both bodies were under the thwarts of the boat, and it is thought the poor fellows rowed until exhausted and then laid down to die. The number of missing was now reduced to eleven, - the death roll contained thirteen names.

From Patrick Hanlan, one of the men who landed at Heart's Delight, we learnt the following account of their hair-breadth escape:

I was out on Saturday with my three sons. When the squall struck we were about half way between Horse Chops and Hart Point on the South Shore. We put up our sail and made her lie as close to the wind as we could, so as to get a distance in the Bay in case the wind should come further off-shore. The spray was continually going over us and freezing, and we soon saw it was impossible to reach land on the North Side of the Bay without running the risk of freezing to death. After a time we gave her a little sheet and ran her for a pan of ice. Got out on the pan, and made a fire to get something to eat and drink. Just as we were doing this a sea broke over the pan and washed every thing iff except ourselves, and filling one of the smallest boy's boots. We had to jump in our boat and run her before the gale until about 4 in the afternoon when we sighted some more boats in the ice. Just before dusk we reached the other boats. There were four boats, and twelve men when we got there. We all hauled up our boats on a large pan, turned up the larger boats to make a shelter from the wind, and made in a fire. I had two seals in my boat and we pelted them to burn the fat, breaking up one of the smaller boats also to use as fuel. We were on the ice drifting up the Bay all night. It was bitterly cold in spite of the big fire and we were dancing and jumping all night to keep up our spirits and to keep from freezing. At dawning we were about 5 miles from land off Heart's Delight. We hauled our boats over some ice and then rowed for land which we reached about 9 o'clock. The people treated us with wonderful kindness, doing all in their power to relieve us. None of us were badly frozen. William Ivany of English Harbor and his three sons landed a little further up the Bay about 4 in the evening. They had been on the ice all night without fire and had to be hauled ashore in a dory. They were rescued by men from heart's Delight at risk of their lives. One of them was badly frozen but all were doing well when we left. They could not get down to where Captain Fowlow took us in and it was impossible for the schooner to get to land or remain longer where she was, as the ice was moving fast. We all wish to thank the good people of Heart's Delight for the kindly attention they gave us. Under Providence they saved our lives, and we shall never forget their kindness to us - strangers in a strange place.

Captain Fowlow's gallant deed was feelingly mentioned too, by this man and he desired the thanks of the rescued to be publicly conveyed to Captain Fowlow. Indeed, the thanks of the whole community, nay, the thanks of the whole country, are due to this noble man and his crew. At the risk of losing his schooner this brave man and his hardy crew scoured the Bay in search of missing men and we trust they will not be forgotten.

The Ireland's Eye and Heart's Delight men, too, deserve commendation. Their promptness it was, in going to the assistance of their suffering fellow creatures, that saved a number of lives. Less heroic acts have been rewarded with the V. C. But to particularize the many acts of valor performed during this dread disaster would be an impossibility. Brave acts of self-denial, gallant deeds of rescue at risk of live are heard of from every quarter. They will have their reward!

Promptly after hearing of the disaster the Government despatched the steamer Ingraham to search the Bay for missing men. Owing to the heavy ice in the Bay she was obliged to retreat. A more powerful steamer, the Labrador, with Dr. Pike on board, was then despatched, but after thirty hours were spent in an unsuccessful attempt to force a passage, she too was obliged to return to St. John's. Search parties from the shore at the head of the Bay have been sent out, but up to the time of writing no news of the eleven missing ones had been received. Their sorrowing friends have been hoping against hope that some of them will return. Alas! It seems a forlorn hope, and the general opinion now is they have gone to "that bourne from which no traveller returns".

The names of the dead are:

Those still missing are:

Upon such a small community as ours, where all of the dead and missing men were well known, this catastrophe has had a terribly crushing effect. Woe and lamentations were heard on every side. Heartbroken widows and orphans, fathers and mothers who have lost their promising sons, have suddenly appeared in our midst. In several cases every male member of the family has been taken. a depressing funereal stillness had come over us. The funerals of the deceased have been largely attended; the solemn burial services of the different churches being listened to with more than ordinary interest and awe. Strong men of iron nerve, unable to bear up, wept like children. But all is not awe and sorrow. Many are able to realize that those taken from them by the cruel relentless sea, are "not lost but gone before" to that Haven.

--"where tempesis cease
And surges swell no more"

Now that the first bitter pangs of the loss are over the burden of life must be taken up again. And this is a harder matter that (sic) many realize. Some of the deceased have left behind then helpless widows and children, aged fathers and mothers for whom some provision will need to be made. And in this we are glad to say the many kindly sympathisers at home and abroad have given substantial evidence of the sincerity of their sympathy. A subscription list has been opened in St. John's, headed by His Excellency the Governor, and it is hoped that a sufficient fund will be realized to provide the needy with the means of beginning life anew, --for that is what it means to many.

Throughout the whole of the country a wonderful feeling of sympathy has been manifested for the sufferers. The House of Assembly adjourned from Monday to Thursday. His Excellency the Governor who was giving a dinner at Government House, postponed the event as a mark of sympathy. Messages of condolence and sympathy have been flashed from all over the world. On Wednesday, Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, who is ever in sympathy with all of her suffering subjects throughout her vast Empire, telegraphed, through Lord Knutsford, a message of condolence and asked for full particulars of the disaster. These tokens of sympathy coming at a time when the heart is crushed and broken, when even life seems hardly worth keeping, have been wonderfully cheering and gratefully received.

We, took, in concluding this hastily prepared sketch, beg to tender the heartfelt sympathy of the Record to the bereaved; commanding them, with all sincerity, to the care and guidance of the all-pitying Father. In no more suitable words can we conclude than by quoting the following beautiful stanzas from the poet Longfellow's "Resignation":

Let us be patient! These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise,
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.

There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portals we call Death.

And though at times impetuous with emotion
And anguish long suppressed,
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean,
That cannot be at rest, --

We will be patient, and assuage the feeling
We may not wholly stay;
By silence sanctifying, not concealing,
The grief that must have way.

Transcribed by James Butler, 1997
Revised by Jim Butler, September 2002



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