The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 6 Jun 1857

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At one o'clock yesterday, the adjourned enquiry into the death of David W. Honeyman, Purser; Francis Bibaud, Mate; John Brennan, Fireman; John McGill, do.; Catherine Anne McCrea, Cook; and Elizabeth McGill, passenger, who perished by the late explosion of the steamer Inkermann on the Bay on Friday the 29th ult., was resumed before Dr. Scott, in the City Hall Buildings. The following jurors answered to their names. Messrs. James Leishman, (foreman) Alexander Simpson, James Kane, George Tye, George Longman, William Riche, William Laidlaw, Thomas Berkinshaw, Alexander Mason, James Trageer, William McLean, Farquhar E. McBain, H.W. Cuff, and John Roach.

Upon the name of John Ross being called, he did not answer.

Dr. Scott expressed his determination of reporting the fact to the Recorder, that Mr. Ross, who had been sworn as a juror on Saturday last, had absented himself, and he (the Coroner) had no doubt but, that under the circumstances, the full penalty of 10 pounds would be enforced. Such a disregard of his duties as a juror could not be passed over.

It was remarked that Mr. Ross had been in the room a few minutes previously.

The Coroner then addressed a few remarks to the jury, and said it would expedite the business if they would take the evidence of Captain McBroom, at Russel's Hotel, and then proceed to the Hospital and examine the Engineers there. He had given directions to have cabs in attendance to convey them there, and the reporters would also be accommodated with seats if they wished.

The jury then proceeded to Russell's Hotel, to hear Captain McBroom's deposition.

We are glad to observe that he appears much recovered, and gave his evidence in a firm, unhesitating manner.

Captain McBroom's Evidence - William McBroom being sworn, said - I am a sea captain and first took charge of the propeller Inkermann in March 1856; I have retained the command until the accident; she was owned by Messrs. Morton and McIntosh at Kingston, and registered about 275 tons; part of the original hull was built at Quebec two and a half or three years ago; she was intended, as I have been informed, to trade as a barge between Quebec and Kingston; in the summer of 1855 she was hauled up in Hatter's Bay, and was lengthened about twenty-five feet in the middle to convert her into a propeller; she was double arched at the same time; the engine and boiler that had formerly been in the propeller Ireland, were placed in the Inkermann at the same time; she got a complete overhaul, Mr. Morton having given orders that everything should be done in the best manner; she was a high-pressure one, and I am informed 140 horse power; it has answered every purpose since; the Ireland had been burned at Quebec some time previously; I was told it was through some carelessness of the engineer; I heard that the boiler was too small for the Ireland, and would not supply steam enough; during the past winter the boiler had been lengthened by 9 feet and otherwise repaired; we traded chiefly on Lake Ontario, the engineer in charge this summer is named Wm. Doheny; he was employed by the owners; I knew nothing of his previous employment; the second engineer was employed by the first, and had previously been a fireman on board the Inkermann; he was engaged on the 23rd May last; his predecessor (Birois) left at Montreal; I do not know the cause of Birois' leaving; the boiler leaked a good deal into the ashpan, which greatly interfered in getting up steam; to remedy this he put different things into it; previously to the late explosion the chief engineer told me he was going to put a quantity of oatmeal into the boiler to stop the leakage; I told him to be cautious and not put more than two handfuls; the effect of oatmeal when put into a boiler is to make the water foam, and thereby render the quantity of water in the boiler to appear greater than really existed; under these circumstances a person guaging the taps might be deceived as to the quantity of water in the boiler, indian meal, rice, horse manure, and grains, are used for the same purpose; Mr. Morton had given instructions to the engineer not to put anything whatever into the boiler; he also gave similar instructions to myself; on Friday forenoon he put a quantity of oatmeal into the boiler, prior to getting up steam; it requires generally about an hour to get up steam; we had finished discharging our cargo of oats at the wharf at the foot of Yonge street between one and two o'clock on Friday, and were waiting for the purser to get his freight; owing to the absence of the Agent we were detained beyond the time expected; during the interval of getting up steam I was either on board or at the foot of Yonge street; I saw nothing peculiar in the aspect of the steam; the engine had been used by my order that day in pumping out bilge water; on going on board finally I thought all was right, and gave orders to cast off; the engineer then came and said he was not ready; he held on; I went below to see what he was waiting for; I then saw the engineer with his hand on the leaver letting off steam; I next looked at the gauge, and to the best of my knowledge it indicated a pressure of fifty pounds; the indicator was an American patent, and always worked correctly; a pressure of eighty-five pounds was guaranteed; the common pressure used was about forty pounds, and we always had power enough; I cannot understand why the engineer should blow off steam when a pressure of only fifty pounds was indicated; I remained a few minutes when he came and told me I might start; I then gave orders to cast off, which was done; the boat answered the bell, backed and rounded off; I perceived the usual indications of too much water in the boiler by the escape of vapor from the funnel; I did not anticipate any danger; we continued under weigh to back out from the wharf, and when far enough out, stopped her to start ahead; I rung to do so, and was answered, and the helm was put hard to port; I rung for full steam; after a few revolutions the explosion took place; I had full confidence in the engineer. We used both coal and wood for the firing; wood was used on Friday according to my directions; the understanding among the men was, that any of them, if addicted to drink, would cease to be employed; I believed all hands were of sober habits; on going below, on Friday, I saw a bottle marked "spirits of wine" containing about a pint; the bottle was laying among the wood; I was told it was the engineer's and took no more notice, as it occurred to me he was going to put it into the boiler to remedy the leak; this happened before dinner; some time after, I observed the vacuum valve, when he put in the oatmeal, to be wet; I was told after by Murty McMahon that the engineer had put in the spirits of wine with the oatmeat; I cannot account for the explosion; pitch, tar, and oil have been occasionally used by my orders as fuel on board the Inkermann; this was when we required to get up steam in a hurry; the same as is done on other boats; the Inkermann was inspected last summer, in Hamilton, by Captain McArthur, and pronounced to be unusually strong; she was not insured; the owners had such confidence in me, that I believe they thought it unnecessary to incur that expense; Captain Stanley had inspected the Inkermann this spring, with a view of taking risks on the cargo; he remarked that she was very strong; he also looked at the engine, and pronounced it good; we counted all hands 21, a full crew; on the occasion of the explosion, there was a passenger on board - Miss McGill; Doheny, the engineer, had been second engineer on board the New Era mail steamer, previous to my shipping him.

Mr. Gagnon, Government Inspector of Engines and Boilers for the Port of Quebec, here put some questions to Captain McBroom, to which the Captain replied that, as he was not an engineer, his queries could be better answered by Doheny. The captain also stated that his control over the chief engineer was simply to see that discipline was carried out, and that he (the engineer) was prepared to obey all necessary orders, but it was none of his (the captain's) business to interfere with the machinery.

The coroner, jurors, and reporters, then proceeded in cabs to the hospital.

Evidence of the Chief Engineer

William Doheny examined - I was first engineer on board the Inkermann since the 2nd March last. I was employed for two years previously as second engineer on the New Era mail boat; I was on board the Prince Albert on the Rideau Canal for two years as fireman; my first employment as engineer was on board the New Era; I am not a practical mechanic, and know nothing of the construction of management of an engine, except what I learned on board the Prince Albert; I was employed by Mr. McIntosh, one of the owners of the Inkermann; I put up the engine of the Inkermann at Kingston, under the direction of Mr. Tutton, in March last; the boiler had new flues and head sheets put in, and also some small patches put on; the boiler was not tested to my knowledge; I was told by Mr. Graham and Mr. Tutton, at the Ontario Foundry, that the boiler would bear a pressure of from 80 to 90 pounds; the engine was old, and was called 110 horse power; I had a good deal of trouble with the engine and boiler, particularly the latter, as it leaked much from the commence-ment; the leakage was chiefly into the fires, and greatly interfered with getting up steam; I could not get steam enough for the boat to work when under way; on first leaving, we usually had a pressure of steam from 60 to 70 pounds, and never had more than from 40 to 45 pounds when under full weigh; to remedy the leak in the boiler, I was in the habit of putting in a mixture of sal ammonia, sulphur and oatmeal, which stopped the leak for a time; the last time I put anything into the boiler, to stop the leak, was on Friday morning last, about 8 o'clock; I then put in about 15 lbs of oatmeal, 1/2 lb. of sal ammonia and some sulphur, with about a pint and a quarter of spirits of wine, for the purpose of tightening it; I had put a similar mixture in on former occasions; I had seen other engineers resort to similar expedients for a like purpose; I cannot say whether such a mixture would have any other effect on the water in the boiler than making it foam, which would soon take place; I do not know whether such a mixture would effect the plates of the boiler; so long as the water in the boiler is foaming, a person might be misled by the gauge taps as to the quantity of water in it; we begun to fire on Friday morning, about eleven o'clock; I superintended the machinery myself; the last time I gauged the water was about fifteen minutes before we left the wharf; I then found about eight or nine inches of water from the crown plates, which I considered safe and sufficient; there was then a pressure of steam about 60 pounds; the water and steam were then blowing off through the steam pipe, owing, as I thought, either to too much water in the boiler or the foaming. I had then received orders to get under weigh; the engine had been in motion from twelve o'clock till the time we left the wharf, pumping out bilge water and consuming steam; shortly before leaving the wharf, the second engineer took control of the engine; I heard him try the water; nothing unusual took place while we were getting under weigh, the engine obeying all orders; we had just backed out from the wharf, and rounded to, and I was standing over the engine on deck looking at the steam gauge, which then indicated 70 pounds; before the explosion took place, I had full confidence in the safety of the boiler and engine; the cylinder was 28 inches, and two feet stroke; wood was the principal fuel used on board; we occasionally burned rosin; one barrel has been used; tallow and oil have also been used; these were used when in a strong current, or when near another vessel, to enable us to make steam quicker; Spence, the second engineer, was employed by me in Montreal two weeks ago; he had up to then been a fireman on board the Inkermann; my former second engineer left owing to drunken habits, and thinking he had too much to do; I have represented the defective state of the boiler to Mr. McIntosh; I pointed out the defects to him; I was told by Messrs. Tutton and Graham not to put anything into the boiler for the purpose of stopping the leak; it was after this I represented the leaky condition of the boilers to Mr. McIntosh, who had some repairs done to it; I afterwards had permission to remedy it the best way I could; the object in having a higher pressure of steam in leaving is to give us a good deal of headway or start; the ball on the lever and the gauge indicated a pressure of 70 pounds; the only way I can account for the explosion is the presence of foam in the boiler.

The foregoing evidence was read over to Thomas Spence, the second engineer, and, having been sworn, he stated that he had nothing to add to it, and as far as his knowledge went, it was true.

The other two of the crew were next asked by Dr. Scott, (they having heard Doheny's evidence,) if they had any further details to give, either of the insufficiency of the boiler, engine, etc., or the unseaworthyness of the boat. They both replied in the negative.

The Coroner and Jury then returned to the Police Court. All the jurors having answered to their names, the Coroner (Dr. Scott) left it to the Jury whether they preferred adjourning the enquiry, or proceeding further at present. The inquest could not terminate tonight, partly owing to the absence of Mr. Tutton, who repaired the boiler, and who, notwithstanding a knowledge that he would be required to give evidence, left yesterday for Kingston. Mr. Tutton's testimony was considered important to bring out all the facts attending this melancholy occurrence. The Attorney General also deemed it advisable to have Mr. Tutton examined, and had given instructions to have a Bench Warrant issued to enforce his presence at this enquiry.

After some conversations, it was agreed to examine some of the "hands," who, having been paid off, were anxious to leave Toronto to look for employment, and it would be a hardship to keep them here any longer under expense.

William Kelly - I was a deck hand on board the Inkermann for the past month. I remember the second engineer, who left recently at Montreal; his name was Francis Birois; I do not know why he left; I learned from the first engineer that he ws given to drink, which led to his leaving the Inkermann; I am not familar with the working of marine steam engines, nor do I know anything as to the capacity of the engineer; I was told by Captain McBroom that, to keep my situation, I must not drink strong liquor; I never saw the engineer intoxicated; there was nothing particular occurred on last Friday prior to the accident; cannot say anything about it.

Bryan O'Donnell - I was steward on the Inkermann; I have heard the testimony of the last witness, and have nothing to add; I corroborate what he says; all the officers of the Inkermann had full confidence in the engineers, up to the time of the explosion; I had heard that the boiler leaked.

Amable Bleugam, a French Canadian, was next called and examined through Mr. Gagnon, who volunteered to act as interpreter: - I was a fireman on the Inkermann; I was about leaving, from a feeling of danger in remaining on board; on the return down trip, I intended to leave; I thought the first engineer was not fit for his post, on account of negligence in allowing the water to get too low in the boiler, and then letting in too much cold water; I have been a "hand" on board steamboats for the last four years, and have been a fireman during last summer and part of this spring; whilst engaged as fireman, my duty was to attend to the state of the water in the boiler under the instructions of the engineer; I had observed, on other occasions, when acting as fireman on board the Inkermann, that the boiler of that vessel was not properly managed; the second engineer, who left at Montreal, kept a more equable pressure of steam than Doheny - consequently, the boat sailed better; I refused to act as fireman on account of the management of the boiler by Doheny; I was afraid of the consequences; I was prevailed on to remain by the captain; I also objected to the heat; during the time that Birois was second engineer, he kept an equal pressure of steam, of from 60 to 75 pounds; I attribute this to Birois' better management; I was ordered by the captain to throw the lines on shore, after having cast off, because, as the captain said, there was too much water in the boiler; I thought so too, as there was water blowing off as well as steam; I never saw spirits of wine put into a boiler, with other materials, to stop a leak.

Mr. Gagnon read over in French this evidence to the other French Canadians who were employed on the boat, and they agreed with its correctness.

Dr. Scott remarked that the only witnesses now to be examined were Mr. Gagnon, Mr. McIntosh, the owner, and Mr. Tutton. The latter would not be here probably until Friday, as the bench-warrant to compel his attendance was only issued last night.

After some desultory conversations among the jurors, it was finally arranged to adjourn to Monday next, at 2 o'clock p.m. [Globe]

-Imports - 5; Exports - 5.

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6 Jun 1857
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 6 Jun 1857