The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Nov. 8, 1873

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p.2 The Late Marine Disaster - Miss Ireland - When writing yesterday of the burning of the Bavarian we ventured to express a hope that the missing, (among whom was this young lady) might have been picked off by a schooner, which was seen in the neighbourhood of the burning vessel, but on reading the Mail's account of the disaster, which we publish in another column, we feel compelled to abandon that hope and come to the conclusion that all have been lost. Miss Ireland, who has thus perished we know only as one of a family esteemed and respected by everyone in the community, strict in the performance of every moral and religious duty, either in the church, the Sunday School, or the family. She has been described as a young lady of great piety and usefulness, who was fully prepared to respond to her Master's call at any hour. God grant that it may have been so. We tender to the bereaved parents and friends our sincerest condolence and sympathy under the sad affliction with which they have been visited, and in which we know they have also the sympathy of the entire community.

Marine News

The grain trade is gradually growing smaller day by day, and we will very soon have to chronicle the close of the season. During the past week the arrivals have been very small; so much so indeed that the elevators have been nearly at a stand-still.

Montreal Transportation Company's wharf - prop. Enterprise, Port Dalhousie, 19,612 bush. wheat. The tug Glide arrived with five barges, and left with barge Chicago, 19,138 bush. wheat.

James Swift & Co.'s wharf - The steamer Spartan was towed down the lake on Thursday, and will lay up here for the winter. She lost one of her wheels on her last trip up. The steamers Corsican and Magnet passed down, and the Corinthian made several attempts to go up, and now lies in harbour. Steam barge Kitty (Friel ?) arrived from Rideau Canal with a general cargo. Steam-barge Norman, from Oswego, with 240 tons coal; schooner Richardson, Oswego, gen. cargo; Agnes, Oswego, 220 tons coal. The prop. Shickluna passed down.

Holcomb & Stewart's wharf - schr. Persia, Port Dover, 14,300 bush. wheat; Iona, Consecon, 4,000 bush. blackeye peas. The barge Fine ? left with 12,300 bush. peas and wheat, and the Star with 14,300 bush. wheat.

Port Colborne, Nov. 7th - Down: schr. Antelope, Cleveland, Toronto, coal; steam-barge Swallow, Detroit, Oswego, wheat; schr. Eureka, Erie, Toronto, coal; Queen of the North, Erie, Toronto, coal; prop. Garden City, Toledo, Ogdensburg, gen. cargo; schr. H.P. Murray, Erie, Toronto, coal; bark Thurston, Port Stanley, Oswego, wheat; schr. E.G. Benedict, New Glasgow, Kingston, wheat.

Up: schrs. Sea Bird, Pride of America, bark Mary Merritt, props. Bruno, St. Albans, schrs. D.G. Fort, Perry, Hannah.


(Mail Report)

Our reporter who chanced to be on the train from the East which arrived in Toronto yesterday morning, travelled to this city with two survivors from one of the most frightful disasters that has yet marked the history of our Inland Marine. It appears that the steamer Bavarian, an iron boat of the Canadian Navigation Company's line, left this port at the usual hour on Wednesday afternoon bound down the Lake for Montreal. There were six passengers only on board, a fact attributable to the lateness of the season and the recent inclemency of the weather. Had the accident which befel her occurred at a time when hundreds of passengers travelling between the Falls and Quebec adopt this popular route via the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence Rapids, the story we have to sketch would have been the tale of a yet more teeming hecatomb ablaze within sight of the shore. The crew consisted of Captain Carmichael, John Henderson, first mate, Charles Bradley, second mate, L.A. Macpherson, purser, and twenty-six men. Up till eight o'clock when the steamer was about opposite Oshawa, all went well. There was no high wind, and what there was came from the north from the land side. The water was a little lumpy, but nothing that a person accustomed to aquatic pursuits or amusements would term rough. The mate was in charge, pacing the hurricane deck. The ladies were in the hurricane deck (sic). The ladies were in the forward saloon and the crew occupied between the decks in various ways. On a sudden the cry of fire was heard, and instantaniously, as though the lightning had struck her, the Bavarian was wreathed in flames. There were three boats in the davits, one of which was immediately lowered by the pilot who with eight of the crew jumped aboard of her and pulled off. The second boat was pushed overboard, filled and swamped. The fire-fiend was behind and a third was pitched over in the same reckless fashion, and though dipping considerably she righted, and into her got the first mate, and a dozen others. But the plug was out, and some precious moments passed with the water gaining on those in the boat, when Henderson found the plug and eventually the place in which it fitted. Two hats were brought into play and vigorous efforts made to lessen the water. Meanwhile floating on a plank, and with a life-preserver round him the captain was seen paddling towards the boat, and was requested to wait a moment, till the water was got under; but a boy who had scrambled on to the same plank clambered into the mate's boat; and the captain shoved off, apparently with the intention of making for the pilot's boat, which was the last seen of him. That there was any stampede, or rush, such as might destroy the chance of discipline being enforced, or of the ordinary characteristics of manhood being brought into play does not appear. The number of persons was so limited, the night so comparatively fine, with the moon shining in a clear frosty sky, and the water little more than ruffled by the breeze, that the tragic end which has befallen fourteen persons, including three lady passengers, appears incredible. The circumstances were all in favour of every life being saved, and once more we pause to think what would have been the result had the cruel fire broken out on an August evening. The ladies who were passengers on the ill-fated vessel were Mrs. Sibbald and daughter, of Brockville, and Miss Ireland, of Kingston, all lost. The only other woman on board was the stewardess, and she escaped in the mate's boat. The three male passengers were Mr. Hillyar Weir, of Chatham, Mr. J.J. Parmenter, of Toronto, and a young boy named James Clare, who was on his way to Montreal. His parents reside in Manitoba, and the boy, who was going to join friends of theirs at Montreal, is a pupil at Trinity School, Port Hope. The poor little fellow had a very narrow escape, for which he is chiefly indebted to the purser. Mr. Wier is not among the passengers saved. The ladies, being in the forward cabin, would be sure to run to the bows, for the fire broke out amidships, and probably arose from the bursting of the steam chest. The boats were at the stern, and they were therefore separated from the means of escape. When last seen they were huddled together on the forecastle. Our informant declares that he heard neither shriek nor scream from first to last. There was no panic. Those in the mate's boat had all they could do to save themselves and keep the boat afloat. Why the pilot, a Frenchman named Napolean and his eight messmates, in a boat capable of holding thrice the number, were unable to render assistance, to paddle round the burning wreck and save those who jumped into the water, we cannot say. We presume that the question will have to be answered before a tribunal of competent jurisdiction, and pending an official enquiry into the facts we have no wish to pronounce upon the conduct of these men. We are loath to believe that they are such inhuman brutes as to turn their backs on the scene of disaster while yet a chance remained of their picking up a human creature. The captain, the engineer, Wm. Finucan, the steward W. Spence, Mr. Weir, and seven other men are believed to have perished. About two hours after the boats pulled away from the blazing wreck, assistance was seen to be coming from Bowmanville. One of the boats reached Oshawa about an hour after midnight, and the other landed a couple of miles lower down, the pilot's boat having two oars and the mate's three to propel her. Our informant declared that he thought that less than five minutes elapsed between the first discovery of the fire, and two boats being on the water laden with those who reached the shore. The mate's cheek was burned and the boat he was in was scorched; so fierce was the progress of the flames.

The Bavarian was a new paddle steamer, well found in all respects, and only launched on 1st of July last. Her hull was the hull of the Kingston, which it will be remembered was burned, and Capt. Carmichael, who was then in command of Mr. Hamilton's boat, earned great credit for his daring behaviour on that occasion. Her cargo consisted mainly of 1,300 bushels of apples, and about fifty tons of bacon. Captain Carmichael was well-known on the Lakes, having sailed on the Champion and Kingston for many years, and more recently on the Corinthian and Passport. In conclusion, we have only to hope that the present awful occurrence may act as a warning to this and other Companies; that they will practice their crews in the art of lowering and manning boats, and will enforce on their officers the necessity of preserving discipline when recourse to the boats is the only means of safety at hand. The melancholy accident chronicled today will carry grief and misery into many a home; but judging from the circumstance narrated, there seems a certainty that had the accident occurred to a crowded steamer, such as any summer afternoon may be seen leaving the wharf at the foot of Yonge street, the number saved would have been no more than it was on Wednesday night. The upper works of a lake steamer present a prey for the flames, only equalled by a Mansard roof such as now-a-days tops nearly every building in Toronto. Once kindled, the flames would doubtless spread with great rapidity, the light varnished mouldings and slender partitions acting as so many conductors of the devouring element. Of all imaginable horrors a fire at sea has long done the poet duty ? for the most terrible. It is a crisis when humanity is on its trial; and whence a man may emerge, branded a chicken-hearted caitin ?, or stamped a hero, unselfish and undaunted. The mate Henderson, in the case before us, we believe, did everything that lay in his power, and endeavoured to keep the other boat about the wreck. Sauve qui peut! was not his cry. His hands were full, and his heart in the right place. Self-preservation is undoubtedly an instinct; but was there nobody in the moment of danger to spare a thought for those three helpless shivering women, whom we picture to our eyes leaping into the icy lake as the fire-fiend laved the last plank of their refuge? Poor things! A lily livered wretch was he who could who could pull away from that fiery furnace till all was still, and only the black iron ribs stood up to mark the charred sepulchre of the burnt and drowned.

The smoking hull was towed into Whitby by a tug from Newcastle, and when we last heard of her the steam fire engine of the town was playing on the wreck with the view of extinguishing the last remnants of the fire.

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Nov. 8, 1873
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Daily News (Kingston, ON), Nov. 8, 1873