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The s.s. London bound for Melbourne, Australia, foundered on 11 January 1866 in severe English Channel gale with a loss of 220 and 19 saved.
Timaru Herald Friday 23 March 1866
Wreck of the steamship London. She left Gravesend on 13th December 1865 and Plymouth on the 5th. On the 10th the Captain determined to put back to Plymouth. After the course was altered the ship rolled heavily, shipping tremendous seas, which filled the engine room. An attempt was made to launch the boats, but they were all stove except one. The Captain instructed the Chief Engineer and his assistants to go in her, as she belonged to them. The Revds. Dr. Woolley, Draper and Kerr worked at the pumps, and prayed at intervals, surrounded by all the passengers. G.V. Brooke worked at the pumps incessantly and sent a farewell to the people of Melbourne. The ship went down after the boat left. The boat crew was rescued the next day by an Italian barque. The "London" had 50 tons of coals on deck, which washed about and stopped the supper holes; she was fearfully overloaded with railway iron. The only passengers saved were B.C. Wilson, DeMain, and J. Munro, all second class.
Timaru Herald March 30th Friday 1866
It will be seen from the list of passengers' names in the ill-fated steamer "London" that a Mr and Mrs Wood and three children, are mentioned; also two step children named Clayson. These passengers were well known in this district, having resided at the Arowhenua for a number of years, and having left there about twelve months ago to proceed to England. They had engaged their passages, and actually embarked on board the ship Victory, which our shipping columns announce has arrived safely in Lyttelton; but when the Commissioners at London examined the Victory, they ordered off Mr and Mrs Wood and family, as the cabin accommodation was found to be insufficient. But some of their luggage was left on board the Victory, and has arrived at Lyttelton. In consequence of not being able to come to Canterbury by the Victory, Mr Wood agreed with the owners, Money, Wigram and Co., to proceed by their next vessel; but as that firm happened not to have one berth for New Zealand at the time, arrangements were made for the family to proceed by the "London" to Melbourne, and thence to be brought to Canterbury. The Home News says of Mrs Wood, that she, with other female passengers "read the Bible."
Taranaki Herald, 7 April 1866, Page 2
LOSS OF THE LONDON. [From the Dimes, January 19.]
We had yesterday to report one of those calamities which fill people's minds with a feeling akin to terror. Amid all the disasters of the last fortnight nothing equals the fate of the London, an Australian Packet Ship, which foundered on Thursday last in the Bay of Biscay, with the loss of 220 lives. The London was an auxiliary screw steamship, and bound for Melbourne. She left the river at the end of December, but met with such heavy weather that she was obliged to take refuge for a time at Spithead. She subsequently embarked passengers at Plymouth, and sailed again on the 6th instant. Five days after she foundered in the Bay of Biscay. The water then poured down in torrents, flooding the lower decks. The chief engineer and assistants stuck to their posts below until the water rose above their waists, when the fires were put out and the engines rendered useless. The London was then hove to, and the donkey engine was set to work to keep the ship clear, but without avail. Cross seas, which now broke over the vessel, rendered her so low in the water that she did not rise to the sea — in fact, was settling down. 10th January, the ship was struck by a stern sea, bursting in the stern ports. Captain Martin, who throughout behaved energetically and bravely, then announced to the passengers the cessation of all earthly hope. Attempts were made to launch some boats, but they were all stove in but one. Captain Martin then instructed the chief engineer and his assistants to go in this boat, as it probably belonged to them, according to the ship's waybill, giving them the course and distance to Brest, and then wishing them God speed, as he was determined to stick by the vessel. The Revs. Dr Woolley, Draper, and Kerr, although working at the pumps the same as the others, in their leisure time and before the awful event occurred, prayed constantly, surrounded by all the passengers. When the boat left the ship, containing nineteen persons. One thousand guineas was offered for a passage in her, although she was only built to carry twelve. Immediately after this, the brave and courageous Captain Martin, passengers, crew and ship went down and the boat narrowly escaped sinking, owing to the suction. G. V. Brooke worked incessantly at the pumps ; his sister was with him : his last words, spoken to the steward, were, "If you succeed in saving yourself, give my kind farewell to the people of Melbourne." The crew of the boat was fortunately rescued, next day, by an Italian barque, and landed at Falmouth. It is reported the London had fifty tons of coal on deck, which, being washed about, stopped the scupper-holes, and also that she, was fearfully overloaded with railway iron and other heavy materials, causing her perhaps to spring a leak ; and hence the fearful disaster.
The following list of passengers is from the Home News : —
1st class : Rev. Mr and Mrs Draper, Mrs Owen
and child, Mr and Mrs G. F. P. Urquhart, J. Patrick, G. V. Brooke, Miss Vaughan Brooke,
J. Alderson, P. Benson, Mr and Mrs J. Penton [Fenton] and 2 children, [Mr and
Mrs Chapman] G. M. Smith, Mr and
Mrs Clarke and Son, T. Lewis, Mr and Mrs Bevan, Dr J. Woolley, Mr and Mrs Devenham
[Debenham], Miss L. Maunder, J. Robertson, T.M. Tennant, [Mrs Trail and child
Messrs G. Palmer T. Brown Mr and Mrs Amos Messrs brooks J.R. Richardson] ] Rev. Mr and and Mrs Kerr,
Mrs and Miss King, Mr and Mrs Thomas and two children, A. Sandeland [Messrs A.
Sandilands] , E.
Youngman, H. J. Denis [Dennis] , E. A. Marks, D. F. Depass [DePass], Master W. D. Burrell, D. S.
Hunter [Dr J. Hunter] , Miss Doboy, Miss C. McLauglilan [McLachlan], Miss Cuthing
[Cutting], Mr M'Millan.
Second Cabin — Mr and Mrs White, Mrs Morland, Miss G. Graham, Messrs Kaye, Eastwood, F. Stone, [mr and Mrs White Miss H. Price] Mr J.L. William, [Mr and Mrs Graham Miss G. Graham] Messrs B. G. Rowe, [J.] B. E. Wilson (saved), J. Duthie, C. Gough, A. Bruce, J. Woodhouse, G. Cross, W. Day, D.W. Lennon, G. Chenfield Wood, Master and Miss Clayson, Thomas Wood, Godfrey Wood, Miss E. Wood, Miss S. Broocker, Mr and Mrs J. Geffet, Miss H. Price, Mr and Mrs Hickman and 4 children, Mrs and Miss Meggs, Mr Davies, T. O'Hagen, H.W. Harding, F. Treer, J. Munro (saved); D. C. Mayne (saved), C Johnson, P. Fenwick, G.H. Campbell, G Trevenan, A. M'Lean, Mr Davies, Miss E. Marks, Mr and Mrs Graham, and B. Bevan. Third cabin: W. Passimore, H. Miller, C. P. Chandler, B. Hay, Miss E. Jones, Mr and Miss Simpson, Mr and Miss Fausen, Mr and Mrs Graham and 3 children, David Graham, Mr McVittie, Mr and Mrs Seacomhe and three children, Mrs and Mr G. Flick and four children, G. Relwegan, R. Trevorrern, D. Block, J. Merkin, Messrs Senlead, Forris, Senlie, Barnett, S. Bolton, T. S. Ragg, Mrs D. Smith, A. Humphrey, Master Spring, A. Hoyem, J. Walls, W. Barron, Mrs Lamp and children, T. Lotter, John Little, M'Covey, Miss F. Batchelor, J. Kirkwood, W. Clifton, R. Reynolds. Our correspondent was informed by the officers of the Madras, that it is doubtful whether Mrs Trail and child were on board.
Evening Post, 7 December 1866, Page 2
The ship Cossipore, which recently arrived at Auckland, has on board some luggage the property of some of the unfortunate passengers lost in the s.s. London. The N. Z. Herald thus accounts for the circumstance : — " The Cossipore left London originally on the 10th of October, 1865, but meeting with a severe gale in the channel put back to Plymouth leaky, the then commander, Capt. Halbert, leaving her there. After being surveyed, her entire cargo was then discharged, and the vessel was overhauled and repaired at a cost of £6700. She re-loaded, and was placed in charge of Captain Wilson, who brings her to New Zealand, her passengers having; been transferred to the ship Liverpool, which arrived here seven or eight months ago. Some of them, however, took passage by the ill-fated steamship London, at Plymouth. It may be interesting to those who have lost relatives or friends in the steamship London, that the luggage and effects of such as belonged to the Cossipore are on board this vessel all safe.
Gustavus Vaughan Brooke (wayback), b. at Dublin 25 April 1818, an Irish Shakespearian actor, a tragedian, had toured Australia and New Zealand in 1855 and 1856 including the goldfields, playing to enthusiastic audiences. In December he had arranged to voyage to the Antipodes, from Plymouth, in the London, an iron screw ship of 1,429 tons register. Deeming it impossible to turn the ship round, Captain Martin gave orders to set the engines at full speed. It was blowing a complete gale at the time, and no sooner had the instructions been obeyed than a heavy cross sea struck the vessel, washing away the starboard lifeboat and staving in the starboard cutter. All afternoon the doomed ship laboured greatly, and kept taking in green seas over the port side. Giving no thought to himself, Brooke rushed on deck to do what he could for the others. It now became the captain’s sad duty to inform the ladies that nothing short of a miracle could snatch them from destruction. Asked if he would join crew and passengers in the last lifeboat. "No! No!" replied Brooke. "Good-bye. Should you survive, give my last farewell to the people of Melbourne."
The Shipwrecked Minister, and His Drowning Charge. Memorial Tribute to the Rev. Daniel J. Draper, Representative of the Australasian Conference, who, with more than two hundred and twenty persons, perished in the 'London' steam-ship, on Thursday, January 11th 1866: by Frederick J. Jobson. Jobson, 1821-1881, DD. Published London 1866.
Description of wreck in by William Andrew Pearce in the Pearce family papers - State Library in Queensland, AUS.
The Wreck of the Steamer "London" while on her way to Australia.
'Twas in the year of 1866, and on a very beautiful day,
That eighty-two passengers, with spirits light and gay,
Left Gravesend harbour, and sailed gaily away
On board the steamship "London,"
Bound for the city of Melbourne,
Which unfortunately was her last run,
Because she was wrecked on the stormy main,
Which has caused many a heart to throb with pain,
Because they will ne'er look upon their lost ones again.
'Twas on the 11th of January they anchored at the Nore;
The weather was charming -- the like was seldom seen before,
Especially the next morning as they came in sight
Of the charming and beautiful Isle of Wight,
But the wind it blew a terrific gale towards night,
Which caused the passengers' hearts to shake with fright,
And caused many of them to sigh and mourn,
And whisper to themselves, We will ne'er see Melbourne.
Amongst the passengers was Gustavus V. Brooke,
Who was to be seen walking on the poop,
Also clergymen, and bankers, and magistrates also,
All chatting merrily together in the cabin below;
And also wealthy families returning to their dear native land,
And accomplished young ladies, most lovely and grand,
All in the beauty and bloom of their pride,
And some with their husbands sitting close by their side.
'Twas all on a sudden the storm did arise,
Which took the captain and passengers all by surprise,
Because they had just sat down to their tea,
When the ship began to roll with the heaving of the sea,
And shipped a deal of water, which came down on their heads,
Which wet their clothes and also their beds;
And caused a fearful scene of consternation,
And amongst the ladies great tribulation,
And made them cry out, Lord, save us from being drowned,
And for a few minutes the silence was profound.
Then the passengers began to run to and fro,
With buckets to bale out the water between decks below,
And Gustavus Brooke quickly leapt from his bed
In his Garibaldi jacket and drawers, without fear or dread,
And rushed to the pump, and wrought with might and main;
But alas! all their struggling was in vain,
For the water fast did on them gain;
But he enacted a tragic part until the last,
And sank exhausted when all succour was past;
While the big billows did lash her o'er,
And the Storm-fiend did laugh and roar.
Oh, Heaven! it must have really been
A most harrowing and pitiful scene
To hear mothers and their children loudly screaming,
And to see the tears adown their pale faces streaming,
And to see a clergyman engaged in prayer,
Imploring God their lives to spare,
Whilst the cries of the women and children did rend the air.
Then the captain cried, Lower down the small boats,
And see if either of them sinks or floats;
Then the small boats were launched on the stormy wave,
And each one tried hard his life to save
From a merciless watery grave.
A beautiful young lady did madly cry and rave,
"Five hundred sovereigns, my life to save!"
But she was by the sailors plainly told
For to keep her filthy gold,
Because they were afraid to overload the boat,
Therefore she might either sink or float,
Then she cast her eyes to Heaven, and cried, Lord, save me,
Then went down with the ship to the bottom of the sea,
Along with Gustavus Brooke, who was wont to fill our hearts with glee
While performing Shakespearian tragedy.
And out of eighty-two passengers only twenty were saved,
And that twenty survivors most heroically behaved.
For three stormy days and stormy nights they were tossed to and fro
On the raging billows, with their hearts full of woe,
Alas! poor souls, not knowing where to go,
Until at last they all agreed to steer for the south,
And they chanced to meet an Italian barque bound for Falmouth,
And they were all rescued from a watery grave,
And they thanked God and Captain Cavassa, who did their lives save.
by William Topaz McGonagall
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