The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Montreal Gazette (Montreal, QC), July 11, 1842

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It is with feelings of deep pain and regret, that we have to record the heart-rending details of by far the most calamitous accident, that has ever occurred on the St. Lawrence, since the application of the power of steam on its waters; and which has been attended with a loss of life as great, as it is lamentable to reflect on. We allude to the total loss, by the explosion of her boiler, of the steamboat Shamrock, on Saturday afternoon, shortly after she left Lachine for Kingston, with passengers and luggage, having a loaded barge and two empty ones in tow. This unfortunate boat belonged to Messrs. Ross, Matthie & Company, whose explicit account of the disastrous occurrence we subjoin, and which, while it relieves us from the painful necessity of dwelling upon so fatal an accident, cannot fail to be perused with melancholy interest. It will be seen from this statement, that the Shamrock was a new boat, with a high-pressure engine; that the accident took place about twelve miles above Lachine, soon after which the wreck drifted and sunk near Nuns' Island; and that the loss of life is estimated at fifty-four, the ground of which estimate will be found clearly given in the letter below. We have been further informed, that, in exploding, the main body of the steam was apparently directed to the bow of the Shamrock, and that, consequently, she went down stem foremost, leaving the stern out of water. How the accident occurred, no one can tell - not even the engineer, though he survives. But great and calamitous as the loss, particularly of human life, has been, we sincerely trust that the sad event will not destroy that confidence which has hiterto existed in the management and navigation of steam vessels on the St. Lawrence, and which, it is scarcely necessary to add, have always been conducted in a manner highly creditable to all concerned, and with fewer accidents than on other waters in the world.

We have heard of various escapes made by persons on board the Shamrock, some of which are almost miraculous. Though, as we have mentioned, the explosion was principally directed to the bow of the vessel, a sailor, asleep in the forecastle, escaped unhurt, excepting a slight scalding of one of his hands. Another man was thrown, it is said, like a projectile, by the force of the concussion, from on board the steamboat to one of the barges, where only he became conscious of the accident. A family of the name of Macarthur, from Inverary, Scotland, consisting of eleven persons, were sitting at the stern of the vessel, at the time of the explosion, all of whom had the good fortune to escape unhurt. An Englishman, whose name we forget, was shortly before the accident, playing with one of his children, and desired it to go across the deck to its mother; but, poor man, this was the last sight he got of those so dear to him, and now lost to him for ever.

We cannot conclude this hurried notice of the deplorable fate of the Shamrock, without alluding to the praiseworthy preparations made at the Montreal General Hospital for the maimed and wounded passengers, brought in from Lachine on Saturday for medical aid. Six of the Physicians were in attendance during the night, and paid every care to the unfortunate patients that skill could prescribe, or humanity could dictate. The following statement will shew the number of the sufferers, the nature of their injuries, and the results, as yet, of their treatment. It will be noticed, that in one of the most severe cases, that of Coverdale, whose legs were dreadfully crushed, as if by some weighty substance, amputation was resorted to, but that he died shortly after the operation.

(long list of sufferers with details of injuries)

To the Editor of the Montreal Gazette.

Sir, - We take the earliest opportunity in our power to furnish you with such information as we have been able to obtain respecting the loss of the steamer Shamrock, which boat left Lachine yesterday morning, at six o'clock, having left Montreal the evening previous, laden with passengers and baggage. She took in tow at Lachine three barges, two of which were empty, and the other partially laden. After proceeding up Lake St. Louis, about eleven miles from Lachine, and opposite Nun's Island, the boiler of the steamboat exploded, causing her to fill with water, and sink, or rather, she drifted about half a mile down the Lake, and grounded on a shoal or sand-bar, opposite Nun's Island. The loss of life caused by this accident has been very great. A list of the names of the passengers, as entered into our shipping-book, is herewith appended. We shipped and received payment for ninety-five adult passengers, a portion of which was composed of children, who were rated as follows - say from three to twelve years of age, half-price; under three years old, free; above twelve years, full price. These were equal to ninety-five adults on board of passengers. Of these there survive sixty-three adults, and three children, leaving, apparently, thirty-two adults to be accounted for, or equal to that, according to the memorandum of their shipment. It is certain, however, that many of those missing are children; and allowing two for every adult, would make the actual number of souls missing about fifty-four. We have taken every pains in our power, to collect information as to the exact number of souls on board, and the same, as gleaned from the lips of the survivors, is embodied in the subjoined statement......

Of the crew, there are missing, the second engineer, second pilot, two firemen, and two of the deck hands. The Captain of the Shamrock was the last person who left her, and, at the risk of his life, swam out and saved a passenger who was drowning. The steamer Dolphin was at hand when the accident occurred, and rendered prompt assistance in bringing down the wounded to Lachine. Captain Robins, of the Ottawa, was also very active in saving the baggage and property of the passengers, he having, at our request, gone up expressly to render assistance at the wreck; and the inhabitants of Lachine, generally, did all they could to assist in alleviating, as far as possible, the sufferings of the distressed passengers.

The Shamrock was a new boat, built with engines complete, during the past winter, by the Niagara Harbour and Dock Company, and was propelled by a thirty-two horse power, high pressure engine. She was only on her fourth trip upwards. She was engaged in running between Montreal and Kingston, ascending via the Ottawa and Rideau Canal, and returning via the River St. Lawrence.

We shall be enabled to give you further particulars tomorrow respecting this most distressing occurrence. Meantime are, Sir, yours truly,


Sunday, July 10th.

(followed by another long list of victims)

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July 11, 1842
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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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Montreal Gazette (Montreal, QC), July 11, 1842