(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.)
HAVOC ON THE SEA
Trrible Loss of Life
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
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: -
I went to English Harbor on Saturday last to attend the funeral of my wife's brother, Joseph
Penny, who had died a few days before. When the storm came on I did not go to the
funeral, but went out on the Horse Chops to see if any of the boats were coming. Halfway
out to where the boats landed I met Robert Penny and Robert Ivany, of English Harbor,
who had also been out looking for returning boats, but seeing none they were going home.
I got them to go back with me. We waited for half an hour, saw no sign, and then made a
fire a little distance back where some brushwood was growing. Stayed by the fire about half
an hour, and they I went out to the edge of the cliff over Hay Cove again. I saw Henry G.
Batson's boat coming slowly towards the land, the men in her hardly able to make a stroke.
Looking down over the cliff I saw several other boats had landed in the cove, and I saw my
brother, Alexander, trying to get William Stockly up the hill. I ran down and took my
nephew James Butler on my back and after a time got him to the fire up on the hill. The
two men belonging to English Harbor were working also to get some of the men up the
steep gulch. All of the men who landed here were covered with ice, hardly able to move.
Two had died before landing, and four died after they landed two of them near the fire and
the other two down the hill. Robert Bannister managed to get partly up the hill and I saw
him, while I was trying to bring some of the others to life, on his hands and knees unable
to move. He just muttered "God bless us" and died. His son died just before. We did all we
could to help the men who landed here, but there were not enough of us to help them all,
and we saw some die quite near us while we were unable to aid them. Only three of us were
there to help all who landed. It was a terrible time. Stephen Day of Robin Hood came about
half an hour before dark, and did a great deal to help the other men, even taking off some
of his clothes to put them on some of the other men. He and I carried my nephew to Wm.
Ivany's at English Head (the nearest house) about 2 miles away. He was unconscious all the
time but after a long time we managed to get life in him and he recovered. His left foot and
right hand are frost-bitten. My brother Alexander has both hands frost-bitten. He gave his
mitts to the boy. Out of the crews who landed at Horse Chops six men died.
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:
Learning that a large number of English Harbor and Salmon Cove boats had been caught
in the storm and knowing it was impossible for them to land near their own homes, a
volunteer crew was called for and readily obtained to search the islands near for any who
might have landed there. Two boats were manned and started. One returned without any
sign of men or boats. As the second was returning about 6 p.m. a fire was seen in
Thoroughfare, about a mile from Ireland's Eye, and they immediately went to see what it
meant. the sight that met their eyes baffles description. Around the fire were five men two
nearly dead, the others trying by all means in their power to restore them. A boat was by
the shore, and in her were the bodies of two young men who had died before land was
reached. the rescuing party took the rescued and carried them to the nearest house (Old
Tilt) where they were will looked after. The bodies of the dead men were put in coffins to
be taken home. It was a task that unnerved the strongest men.
Early on Sunday morning a crew of four men went to Rider's Harbor and other near places
to see if any had landed there. No one was found. About this time a search party arrived
from Trouty and Ship Cove looking for missing men. Just as they were leaving Ireland's
Eye a boat was met with five men on board coming from Deer Harbor. Three boats had
reached there on Saturday, and two men of the number had died before landing.
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
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
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:
Solomon Penny, of Wm., John Nurse, of Wm., belonging to Green Bay; Martin Batson,
of Geo., Tobias Penny, of Robt, James Penny, of Robt., Edward Pottle, Wm. Barnes, of
late Bernard, belonging to English Harbor; John Penny, of Chas., Charles Day, of Samuel,
belonging to Salmon Cove West; William Stockley, Isaac J. Butler, of Robin Hood; Robert
Bannister, and Charles Bannister of Ship Cove.
Those still missing are:
Isaac John Batson, Wm. Batson of Richard, Arthur Batson, of Richard, Reuben Pottle of
English Harbor; Charles Nurse, William Nurse, Henry Nurse of Salmon Cove; John
Moore, George Moore, Jacob Moore, of Trinity South.
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
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