The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 31 Jan 1902

Full Text

p.1 From Great Lakes to Europe - new shipping line formed, St. Lawrence & Great Lakes shipping company, incorporated in West Virginia, of which A.B. Wolvin, Duluth, is president.



The Last Of The Evidence Submitted.

The afternoon session of the Marine City court of enquiry was a lengthy one.

Preston Raymond, required as a witness, was not present; neither was Capt. J. Murray, also wanted. Thereupon the chairman declared that all the evidence was in. The decision would be given in a few days, perhaps on Monday, when the court would be again called together.

G.M. Macdonnell, counsel for the plaintiffs, was the first to address the court. He stated that as he looked upon it, it was a case of seeing whether Capt. Malone was guilty of negligence or not. He showed that the law governing such case, stated that the result was inevitable. To him it did not seem that this was the case. Capt. Malone was bound to take ordinary care of his men. Counsel took the position that the Marine City was unsafe when the men were put on her. She was a dangerous vessel. It was Capt. Malone's duty, if he put men on that boat, to take all possible precautions against dangers that might arise. The captain's action was the same as if he had ordered them to furl a sail or man a boat. This action is not open to any other construction. If it was a voluntary matter, should there not be some request on the captain's part as to whether they were willing to risk their lives on the derelict or not? But there was no evidence of this. Judging by the acts of the deceased seamen they meant by their acts to keep the yawl boat on the Marine City. They assumed, without question, that they were to have a boat. Here was the first violation of duty on the part of Capt. Malone. This counsel assumed was a clear violation of duty. The captain had two excuses for this. First, that the davitts of the Marine City were defective; second, that he expected to reach Goderich before dark. Every member of the crew, except the last witness, denied the truth of the first excuse. The excuse thus totally fails.

"We deny there was any volunteering." said Mr. Macdonnell. "If they can be regarded in the light of volunteers, that does not relieve the captain of the responsibility of protecting them to the best of his power, and of giving them all possible succor. These men, from first to last, were acting as a part of the crew of the steamer India. When the tow line broke, the captain whistled them to drop their anchor. Order was obeyed, and they interpreted it as meaning that captain would not stop there but would give them all assistance. "I had no idea of taking the boat in tow at first, as I thought there was something wrong with her before I sent the men to inspect her." said the captain in his evidence. Then he said afterwards that the men went voluntarily. These statements are wide apart, and show the value of the captain's evidence."

Mr. Macdonnell then took up the point of the tow line being defective. He submitted that the tow line was insufficient, and that the captain showed a reckless disregard of duty to use it. If they had made Goderich the first night all would have been well. Counsel would not argue that he should have gone in. When the captain said he must remain out of port, surely he should have made some arrangements for the protection of his men. But he did not. He should have furnished those men with a boat; he should have taken them off that night. They had no chance, no opportunity of saying whether they were willing to continue to endanger their lives. The reason? The risk of damaging his boat to put in the scales against the lives of four men. Counsel submitted to court, that this was no reason, and should not be considered. Either they should have had a boat or else they should have been taken off on Wednesday night. Other arrangements could have been made. Capt. Malone could have whistled for a tug to take the Marine City into the harbor. The captain's only reason for leaving the men was that he was afraid his yawl would have been damaged in running against the India.

If the men had had a yawl up to 9 a.m. on Thursday, would they not have attempted to make shore? Their condition was plain; the distress flag told that. The captain was willing to leave them there till the vessel sank and the men got into the riggings. No attempt was made to rescue them on Thursday. Has Capt. Malone any right to say these men were in no danger when he saw the flag of distress? It was his duty to respond to the flag.

The counsel also held that the captain was at fault in not signalling for help. Witnesses stated that a flag on the India could have easily been seen from the shore. He did not show a flag or sound a whistle. His position should be that he had left nothing undone that mortal man could do. One was at a loss to account for his conduct. Capt. Ewart's evidence showed that the India could have worked over on Thursday, close enough to throw a line. Why was an attempt not made? Why did the India not go into the harbor on Thursday morning, and then send out assistance to her tow? She did no good by lying out there. Capt. Malone's conduct showed that he had no proper sense of his responsibility. He didn't go to Capt. Craigie to get him to search along the shore. Capt. Craigie went to the India but got no instructions from Capt. Malone. The latter says none of the crew could read the glass. Yet he made Lawrence first mate after the four men were lost. Is it reasonable to say that a mate cannot read the glass?

"The onus resting upon Capt. Malone, of doing everything to rescue his men, has failed. He let every opportunity of rescue go by. It is failure, negligence - criminal negligence - throughout, and I ask the court to so find it," were Mr. Macdonnell's closing words.

For The Defence.

R.T. Walkem, counsel for the defence, next addressed the court. He stated that the case was one of those matters which should be placed in the category of unforseen and uncontrollable circumstances. A captain has the right by law to take the course he deems best. The facts, if viewed carefully, prove that no charge of negligence can be brought against Capt. Malone. It was not a question of volunteering; a captain has supreme command. A boat was first sent to the Marine City to inspect her; when he found she was safe, he allowed the men to go aboard. It was the proper place for a yawl to remain on its vessel. If it was necessary that a boat should have been left on the Marine City, the men would have protested against its being taken away.

Plaintiffs claimed that the tow rope was too weak. But it was the only one they had on board, and brought that vessel safely safely into Goderich harbor. There was no apprehension that the men placed on board the Marine City were in danger. The chief engineer wanted his men back, not because they were in danger, but because he needed his assistant engineer and fireman. The evidence was that a tug could not have gone out of the harbor on Thursday, yet plaintiff's counsel say the India could have gone in! A small boat could not have lived in the sea that prevailed on that day. The captain did the only thing possible. He decided to drop astern of the barge, and make the manoeuvre he did at 4 p.m. on Thursday. But he had to abandon his attempt. The captain of the Rosedale stated that it would not be wise for a steam vessel to approach within 800 or 1,000 feet of the barge, yet Capt. Malone got within 300 feet! The captain did everything that reasonably could be done. Mr. Walkem stated that the captain was neither ignorantly blameworthy nor wilfully careless of his duty. It was almost absurd to think that the captain would so divest himself of his manhood and his common sense as to wilfully cause the loss of four lives. The accident was a most deplorable one, and could not be attributed to anything but one of those chances incidental to lake navigation. It was painful to argue in such a case, and counsel felt keen regret at the great loss.


J.L. Whiting addressed the court in the interests of Capt. Malone. That gentleman, counsel said, had no idea but that the Marine City would weather the storm, and he knew that a yawl boat could not live. It would have been foolish, then, to launch a boat. Capt. Malone was a perfectly competent and careful man. He had no temptation to do anything but the right. Is it not irresistible presumption to say that he did not act as any ordinary man would - trying to do his best under the circumstances? The most experienced man on board was the first engineer; he was not prepossessed in favor of Capt. Malone, yet he swore that, in his opinion, (to use his own words): "I do not think the loss of these lives could have been avoided." Counsel considered that Lawrence was not the best kind of a witness to rely upon, as he was hasty and impulsive. He denied having made a statement, when the stenographer's notes showed that he did. This statement was to the effect that Lawrence had seen the range lights and had pointed them out to the captain, who then said he could see them. When placed in the box again, witness denied this statement.

Mr. Whiting argued from the evidence, that the four seamen were tumbling over each other to get on to the Marine City for what there was in it. It never occurred to these men that they would need a yawl boat on such a fine day. Even if they had had a yawl boat, it would have been of no earthly use to them. All that any man could have done was done. The only man competent to exercise his judgement was the captain. Had a deck hand or a second mate been given the charge it would have laid the owners open to a charge of criminal neglect. If Lawrence had thought his father's life was in danger, he would have suggested to the captain that another flag should be put up on the India. It was a casualty all would lament, but it was unavoidable.

Mr. Macdonnell closed the debate in a brief address in which he refuted many of the claims advanced by the defendants' counsel.

"This court is adjourned," declared commander Spain, and the large crowd of spectators thereupon dispersed. Notice will be given in the daily press, said the chairman, of the date at which the court will convene to announce the decision.

p.5 Ice Yacht Races - to be held at Cape Vincent.

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31 Jan 1902
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 31 Jan 1902