Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Shamrock (Steamboat), sunk by explosion, 1 Jul 1842
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The high pressure steamer SHAMROCK, between Lachine and Pointe Clare, on her way to Kingston at 10 o'clock Saturday morning burst her boiler, blowing out her bows and sunk - 54 lives lost. - Montreal Courier (condensed)
      Cleveland Plain Dealer
      July 20, 1842 p.2 col.2

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Dreadful Steam Boat Explosion. - We learn with deepest regret, the SHAMROCK, one of Messrs. Atkinson, Matthie & Co.'s canal steamers, burst her boiler, on Saturday last, shortly after leaving Lachine. She had on board a great number of passengers, (said to be one hundred and seven,) seventy-seven of whom have perished, while many of the survivors are severely scalded. The particulars of this frightful disaster, we have not learned. - Mont. Mess., July 11.
      St. Catharines Jpurnal
      July 14, 1842

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      From the Albany Daily Advertiser
DREADFUL STEAMBOAT DISASTER.---The Montreal papers of Monday bring us the particulars of a calamity unprecedented in extent in British America. The steamboat SHAMROCK, a high pressure boat, on its passage from Montreal to Kingston on Saturday last, exploded its boilers about five miles from Lachine, scattering death and destruction around. So sudden were the effects that in a few moments fifty eight human beings were precipitated into eternity. The passengers, about 120 in number, were English, Irish and Scottish immigrants. The explosion carried away the decks and opened the sides so that the vessel immediately went down.
      The Montreal Herald says the steamer DOLPHIN was at the time about half a mile in the rear of the SHAMROCK, and on her board the explosion was heard, and its effects perceived. The Captain dropped two barges, which he had in tow, and made all haste to carry succor. When the DOLPHIN reached the scene of disaster, the sight was appalling; the unfortunate steamer had disappeared, and the surface of the water was covered with living and dead bodies, the living clinging to fragments of the wreck, and to the sides of two barges which remained uninpaired.
By the humane and laudable exertions of the master and crew of the DOLPHIN, about sixty persons of different ages and sexes were picked up. Of these, about thirty are more or less injured, and about thirty, principally Irish, escaped unhurt.
      It is now out of our power, to paint in all their horror, the details of this disaster. Some instances are presented of heart rending misery. One old lady, named Cousins, from Cleveland, Yorkshire, was found alive, floating on a feather bed, but her husband and seven children had perished. A man named Coverdale, from Danby, Yorkshire, sank on Saturday night under amputation, leaving behind a wife, who, besides her husband, lost six children.
All the serious wounded were brought to town in a Durham boat, on Saturday evening, and are now lying in the General Hospital. The remainder are at Lachine.
      Since the above was in type we have recieved the Montreal Herald of Tuesday, containing the result of the Coroner's inquest. The SHAMROCK, which was a high pressure boat, was purchased this spring of the Niagara Dock Company with a warranty of the boat and engine for three months, which time had not yet expired. The engine leaked a little, but none of the witnesses examined were able to account satisfactorily for the explosion. The Captain said he saw the boiler tried about 15 minutes before it burst. The first engineer, who is a careful, sober man, was on watch at the time. he says at the time of the accident he was carrying 70 pounds of steam. According to the directions of the builder of the engine, he was allowed to carry 85. The water in the boiler was above the third cock. The Herald Says:
One of the most providential escapes we have ever heard of was that of a family of eleven persons, named McArthur, from Inverary, who happened to be situated at the stern of the boat, but they were unfortunate enough to lose their property, including a thousand sovereigns.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      July 15, 1842

      . . . . .
      The Disaster On Lake St. Louis
      On Monday, an inquest was held in the house of Mr. Laflamme, in Lachine, on view of the body of one ofthe unfortunate individuals who perished by the explosion of the boiler of the steamer SHAMROCK. On a rigid examination, it appeared that the conduct and care of the captain, crew and engineers, could not be objected to, and a verdict of "accidental death" was returned. The boat herself was new, being only on her fourth trip, and was built at a cost of #2,250, forAtkinson, Matthie & Co., by the Niagara Harbor and Dock Company, which approved of the engineer, and warranted the boat and boiler for three monhts. The term of warranty has not yet expired. The number of passengers on board was greater than we mentioned in our last, being one hundred and twenty, of whom fifty-eight were killed or missing. Only a small portion of the bodies have been found. The survivors of the explosion were picked up by steamer DOLPHIN, and brought back to Lachine, when a barge was prepared will all care, to convey the wounded to Montreal. A number of them were taken to the general hospital, where preparations for their reception had been made, and where several professional gentlemen were in attendance. - One man, after having both of his legs amputated, died in hospital, where his wife was also lying, with a wound upon her back. He was an Englishman, as also were the greater portion of the sufferers, although the passengers were composed of emigrants from the three kingdoms. The English portion, however, happened to be together in the portion of the boat which suffered most, and were of course most severely injured. One Scotch family, consisting of eleven persons, escaped scatheless - their name is McArthur. Their property, however, and a large sum of money, were lost. One man was thrown, by the force of the explosion, into the air, and fell into one of the barges which the steamer had in tow. He escaped. The captain (Halliman) was in his berth at the time of the accident, and was made acquainted with the misfortune by the coming in of the water at the windows. He immediately rushed on deck, and did whatever a man in such circumstances might, to save the crew and passengers. He himself escaped, as did the engineers. Of the "missing or lost" forty-three are from among the English portion of the passengers. This is by far the most frightful and melancholy occurrence which has ever taken place upon our waters. There is nothing on record which can be compared to it; and the sensation it has created is deep and universal. It is pleasing to be enabled to state, that the proprietors of the boat, the coroner, and others, have done all that could be done to ameliorate the condition of the unfortunate survivors; but, as their all has been lost, it will be necessary that relief, on a more extended scale, should be extended to them. Many of them in losing their friends and relatives, have lost, also, their sole dependence and support, and deep as their grief may be, it will be augmented by the knowledge that they are cast houseless, penniless and unprotected upon the mercy of the world. The engine of the SHAMROCK was a high pressure one, and the dreadful lesson it has read to us, we trust, will not be thrown away. - Mont. Mess.
      St. Catharines Journal
      July 24, 1842
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The SHAMROCK. -- This deplorable accident has given rise to much discussion on the subject of steam navigation. The following letter in the Montreal Herald is interesting: - To the Editor of the Montreal Herald: Sir - I am extremely glad to see that the late melancholy event connected with the SHAMROCK is not to pass over with that calm indifference which many were led to believe from the report of the Coroner's inquest. There must have been some cause for the boiler's explosion; of that there can be no doubt, although neither captain nor engineer can account for it. The captain in his evidence, declares that his power extended to the regulation of the quanity of steam, or rather the amount of pressure upon the safety valve. I would ask, in the name of the public, in the name of those who have suffered, if he, the commander of the SHAMROCK, was a competent judge of the strength of a boiler to bear a given pressure of 70 to 80 lbs. per square inch; in fact was he a regular bred engineer and properly qualified to enter into all the details of a high pressure marine engine? If he was, then he might have the power of regulating the presure of steam but if he was not, then he was decidedly taking more responsibility upon himself than any commander in her Majesty's steam frigate service. The engineer declares, in his evidence, that he tried the guage cocks fifteen minutes before the time of the accident, and found water in all of them. I would ask him if he shut off the steam before trying the guage cocks? If he did not, then he nor no other person would swear there was sufficient water in the boiler, owing to the violent ebullition the boiler might be forming, and thus make all the cocks show water, although very different. Was there a glass guage upon the front of the boiler? If there was not, then no boiler, either high or low pressure, should leave an engineer's yard without one. But the great question which the public wants solved, is the cause of the explosion. 1st. - the boiler might have exploded from not being manufactured sufficiently strong to resist the pressure it was intended to bear. 2nd. - It might have exploded from the water getting too low, consequently the tubes or plates getting red hot, thus causing the generation of hydrogen gas, which is as explosive as gunpowder. 3rd. - It might have exploded from having a defective safety valve. Each high pressure boiler ought to have two, one that the engineer might use at pleasure, and another self acting, over which he ought to have no control, and loaded only to the extent of within 20 to 30 lbs. per square inch of what the boiler is calculated to resist. These vavles ought to be made as large as to allow the steam to get off freely as fast as it is generated - for I have known instances of boilders exploding just from the safety valves being too small, although every thing was correct every other way. Now, since I have no doubt the boiler of the SHAMROCK is properly examined by competent persons, some of the above causes will be found to have been the operating one. Some person has declared, through the medium of the public press, that the safety of a low pressure boiler, compared to that of a high pressure is as 41/2 to 1. I can assure this gentleman and the public, that there is no more likelihood of an explosion taking place in a high-pressure boiler than there is in a low one, if each is manufactured with that degree of care and scientific skill which is actually necessary to insure safety to the public. To prove the truth of this, we have only to look at the number of high pressure engines used on railways, for be it known that there are no low pressure locomotives. Amongst all the accidents that do occur upon railways, we never hear of boilers exploding, and I am certain this is principally to be attributed to the care of companies not employing any man to drive an engine but who is a through engineer. A part of the Polytechnic Institute of London is set aside for the particular purpose of educating those individuals who have a desire to take the management of an engine; he gets a diploma, after he has shown that he is competent, after that, people have confidence in giving him employument. To conclude, I conceive there can be no public confidence in steam boat companies till some person, properly qualified, is appointed to examine and report upon all engines and boilers that ply from this city, at least every three months, and also examine all persons that are put in charge of engines or boats, to see if they are properly qualified to under take the duties of that most responsible situation.
      An Old Country Engineer, Montreal, 16th July, 1842
      St. Catharines Journal
      August 4, 1842
NOTE:-- It is likely that the steamer SHAMROCK was rebuilt into the schooner of the same name, owned by McPherson & Crane in 1843 ??

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Reason: sunk by explosion
Lives: 54
Remarks: Total loss ??
Date of Original
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  • Quebec, Canada
    Latitude: 45.44868 Longitude: -73.81669
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Shamrock (Steamboat), sunk by explosion, 1 Jul 1842