BIRTHS, MARRIAGES AND DEATHS
Mr Hugh Willock, Registrar for New Ardrossan, gives the number for his district as follows.
Births 149 155
Marriages 22 32
Deaths 79 85
Of the thirty-two deaths registered, sixteen or one-half were upwards of sixty years of age which is surely a large proportion and indicative of the longevity of the community. Marriages in New Ardrossan in 1873 were Church of Scotland - 16, Free - 17, United Presbyterian - 5, Independent - 4. During part of the year there was no United Presbyterian minister.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 3 January 1874
At Seafield Tower (shown below as Quarriers in 2008), Ardrossan, the residence of W G Borron, esquire, snowdrops were in bloom on 2 January. As a further proof of the mildness of the season, March violets are also in bloom at Seafield Tower.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 10 January 1874
LETTER TO THE EDITOR - DARK
Would you kindly inform me who is responsible for the lighting of the streets of Ardrossan? On Sunday night, there was not a lamp lighted in the Crescent (shown below as South Crescent in the early 1900s) or Princes Street and only a solitary one in Glasgow Street. While passing along Princes Street about ten o'clock, I found a respectable man groping about in the dark trying to find his hat which had been blown off but which, owing to the darkness, he could not find. Now, Sir, this is not the first time such a thing has happened in our town this winter and it says a great deal for the conduct of a seafaring town that it has not been attended with very serious consequences. I think the attention of the powers-that-be should be called to this matter.
I am, Sir,
Yours most respectively,
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 24 January 1874
NEW BUILDING COMPANY IN ARDROSSAN
It is proposed to establish in Ardrossan a building company with the view of increasing house accommodation and enabling parties desirous of acquiring property of doing so under favourable conditions. We hope, in the course of a week or two, to have the opportunity of explaining more fully the proposals of the proposed company.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 2 May 1874
It will be seen from the advertisement (shown below), that this old established bazaar is just now in Ardrossan at the market place where it will be for a short time. We took a run through it the other evening and were quite delighted with the beautiful display of everything rich and rare. Then there are the attractions of the lottery at which fortunes are often lost and won and which we are assured contains all prizes and no blanks. During our visit, we saw drawn a number of knick-knacks, Japanese fans, meerschaum pipes, finger rings, big dolls and ladies' workboxes. The bazaar is well worth a visit.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 6 June 1874
Since the cemetery (shown below in 2010) has been taken over by the Parochial Board, very considerable improvements have been effected. The half formerly in crop has been laid off and the and the back premises of the gatekeeper's house have been enclosed. The cemetery is in fine order, almost every grave having flowers in bloom. Other improvements might, at little cost, be effected such as the planting of a few more shrubs where they could find the protection of gravestones but, as it is, it is very creditable to the taste of the keeper and we do not wonder that so many visit it.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 6 June 1874
ARDROSSAN REGATTA AND LAND
This regatta and land sports has once again been revived after being in abeyance for some years and came off on Saturday last (30 August 1974) with great eclat. Work was very generally suspended and the town wore a holiday aspect which was more marked in the after part of the day and after the sports when large numbers patronised the varied sites and amusements spread for their gratification on The Inches (shown below left in 2003). The weather in the morning was unpromising but cleared up early in the day and the large number of interested spectators, many from a distance, that turned out to witness the several events must have been proof, if that were wanting, of the popularity of such aquatic and land sports. The varied arrangements, especially those relating to the regatta, were carried out in an efficient manner and with a promptitude worthy of remark. The Commodore's barge was anchored outside of Montgomerie Pier and the course for rowing boats was round a buoy situated near the Horse Island (shown below centre in 2011) and from thence to the Long Craigs (shown below right in 2010), the winning point being at the Commodore's barge. The sailing course was twice round the Horse Island. The spectators had a good view of the course from both piers. Owing to the freshness of the breeze, it took careful management on the part of the crews of the racing jolly-boats to tide over the broken water between the barge and the outmost buoy which was in the vicinity of the Horse Isle. Mr Barbour as Commodore and Mr Hepburn, secretary, along with the committee, did their duties in a manner that reflected much credit upon them and which went far to make this revival of the Ardrossan Regatta a most successful affair.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 5 September 1874
ARDROSSAN TO WEST KILBRIDE
The new railway works between Ardrossan and West Kilbride are proceeding. Ground has been broken on the face of the hill on Montfode and Boydston Farms near to Ann's Lodge. We hear that after harvest, a larger number of navvies will be employed and the work prosecuted with more vigour.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 19 September 1874
Wednesday first (30 September 1874) in Ardrossan and neighbourhood will be observed as a fast day preparatory to the Autumn Sacrament which will be observed in all the churches on the Sunday following (4 October 1874).
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 26 September 1874
ROBBERY ON SHIPBOARD AT ARDROSSAN
Early on Friday morning last (9 October 1874), a robbery was discovered to have been perpetrated on board the ship Jane Young lying in Ardrossan Harbour (shown below in the early 1900s). Late on Thursday night (8 October 1874), a slight noise was heard on deck but nothing to create alarm but next morning, it was discovered that a number of articles, including a quantity of seamen's clothing, had been stolen. Two men who are a-missing are suspected and the hue-and-cry being out against them, it is expected that their apprehension will be accomplished soon.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 17 October 1874
TERRIBLE SHIPWRECK AT ARDROSSAN HARBOUR
One of the most appalling shipwrecks which ever occurred on this coast took place at Ardrossan on Wednesday morning (21 October 1874) so close to the harbour that it was distinctly witnessed by hundreds of horrified spectators from both piers. The ill fated vessel was a new iron paddle steamer from Glasgow for Shanghai named the Chusan and belonging to the China Steam Navigation Company, the London agents being Baring Brothers and Company. Her engines were nominally 300 horsepower and her measurement 3500 40-94th tons; length between perpendiculars - 300 feet; breadth moulded - 50 feet; breadth over sponsons - 83 feet; depth moulded - 13 feet. She was built by Messrs Elder and Company, Govan and was launched in September last, her register tonnage being 1000 tons. Of a slender construction, she was not at all adapted for weathering a heavy gale like that of Wednesday morning and what was fitted to render her behaviour in such a storm of the less seaworthy was that, after the fashion of American riverboats, she had a beam-engine on deck. She was manned by a crew of forty-eight all told comprising engineers, firemen, etc and had the channel pilot, Mr Moir, on board and one passenger, Captain King, who was on his way to take the command of one of the same company's steamers in China. The Chusan was under the command of Captain Johnson whose wife and child of four years of age were on board with him. His wife's sister was also on board in the capacity, it was stated, of stewardess. She had no cargo with the exception of about 800 tons of coals to be used on the passage out and £1000 worth of goods belonging to the captain who intended to trade on his own account. Thus equipped, she left the Tail of the Bank, Greenock on Wednesday 10th and got as far as Waterford in Ireland. There, on account of some inspection of the vessel, she was put back to be strengthened for proceeding on her voyage and was caught in the gale of Wednesday morning. At about two o'clock in the morning, the vessel became unmanageable and would not answer her helm. She was then off Ailsa Craig and the pilot determined to run for the Cumbraes but could not get her to keep her course direct up channel. The captain at that time sounded the hold and found it to contain no water. The whole of the hands were on deck according to the statement of the boatswain, a negro named Thomas James who had, by the captain's orders, roused the crew at about half past twelve o'clock. It was found that the vessel had drifted towards the land and, seeing that they would not be able to make up the channel, it was resolved to run for Ardrossan harbour. The pilots on the lookout, seeing the steamer making for the harbour thought it was the Belfast steamer putting back and went round to the berth it usually occupies in order to get the moorings ready. When the vessel came closer, however, they discovered their mistake and were looking on when she struck on the Crinan Rock (shown in the map right before the breakwater was built in the early 1890s) which is about four hundred yards from the mouth of the harbour and whose presence is marked by a beacon. Its sides are almost perpendicular and at low tide there is a depth of eighteen feet alongside. She was making for the harbour well enough and would have taken in, they allege, but not knowing the harbour and, finding themselves close on the rock, the engines were reversed and at that time, the storm getting complete mastery of her, she swung round and struck on the rock amidships. She struck once and rose on the waves again, struck a second time and rose but before she could get clear, she was caught in an eddy and striking a third time, she parted amidships as clean as though she had been sawn right through. The fires of the engine glared out on the raging sea as the stern half sank and a scene of indescribable terror and confusion ensued. Part of the bridge and paddle boxes remained above water and to these and the rigging those on board clung, the water washing over them and knocking some of them adrift. The fore part of the vessel, with a number of the crew on board, floated safely into the old harbour, the ship having been built in watertight compartments. It was blown right up to the top of the harbour and grounded without doing any injury to the vessels moored there, settling into the best and safest spot that could possibly have been selected. Not more than five minutes elapsed between the time when the vessel struck and the instant she parted and, as soon as the disaster was witnessed, one of the pilots rushed off to the residence of the coxswain of the lifeboat where the keys of the lifeboat house are kept. The house was locked up, Phillips being absent at drill and another set of keys being in possession of the harbourmaster, Mr Archibald Steel, access was had to the lifeboat and a crew consisting of one of the pilots and a number of carpenters was hastily extemporised. The tug, meanwhile, had got her steam up and was alongside the wreck but the number of men on board were too few to cope with the task before them. A line was thrown to the wreck and was caught by Captain Johnson who made it fast to his wife. Seizing hold of it himself, he sprang into the water along with his wife. The weight was too much. Those on board the tug could not draw them up and the water kept rushing over them and dashing them against the paddle box. Captain Johnson put forth every effort to keep his wife's head above water and at last let go, sinking with his right hand raised and in the act of pushing his wife towards the tug. The second line thrown from the tug was caught by the boatswain, Thomas James, a negro, who was hauled on board the tug and who for several minutes, as far as he could judge, was about three minutes on board the tug before Captain Johnson's wife was rescued. James says he had been shipwrecked more than a dozen times and has seen women saved from wrecked vessels but never saw one who held out so well as did Mrs Johnson. She was, however, very far gone when rescued. Her state is now regarded as most favourable, she being near her confinement. The fourth engineer, George Mair, catching a line twisted it round his arm and was easily hauled up. The first engineer, Mr William Gardner of Glasgow, however, had a very narrow escape. He was fresh from the hot engine room and missed the line which was thrown to him. Though unable to swim, he jumped into the sea and caught hold of it. The rope was a rather thin one and his hands getting numb, he felt it slipping and he had almost given up hope but he stuck to it till taken hold off and was dragged on board the tug. The second engineer, William Ortwin and the third, John Wrench, were also saved. A number more were picked up and the tug brought them ashore. Other three were floated on pieces of wreck to the pier-head and were rescued at the imminent risk of the lives of those who saved them. Some of those who tried to reach land by means of pieces of wood were carried to sea and lost. The water was breaking in solid masses over the pier but the Captain of the Newry steamer Amphion, the pilots and a number of carpenters succeeded in saving the three who came within reach of the lifebuoys. The captain of the Amphion hauled one of them up with his own hands and the three were very handsomely treated on board his vessel. A number, however, who came very near the lifebuoys were carried past by the back set of the water and, drifting out to sea, were drowned. The first mate, Mr Johnstone, was saved but the second mate, Mr Miller, was drowned. On enquiring at the boatswain and engineer as to how he had failed to catch a line, the other white men on board having done so, we were informed that neither of them had seen him during the whole time of the disaster, and one of the crew who was present at this interview, said he saw the second mate drifting out to sea on a fragment of the wreck. Mr Miller's chest came ashore in the course of the afternoon and was taken into the pilot house and is now in the custody of the Collector of Customs. It contained, among other things, a bank book showing a deposit of £35 at his credit. The most heart-rending scene of all was the spectacle presented by a poor fellow who got jammed at the stern of the vessel and the brave attempts to rescue him made by four carpenters who, notwithstanding the violence of the storm, went out in a boat belonging to the pig-iron men, deserving of the greatest praise. They got near enough to speak to the poor fellow and throw him a line but it proved to be of no use. They then rowed close up and one of them seized him but only succeeded in pulling the poor fellow's clothes off his shoulders. The sea rose and fell over him continuously and for more than an hour, he kept his erect position, visible but for a moment then hid again by a heavy sea. At last, he was seen to fall on his side and after a long an weary watching for a chance of escape, he was lost from view altogether. The tug meantime, having returned to the harbour and towed the lifeboat on to the scene of action and allowed it to drop down on the weather side. After several attempts, they succeeded in fixing her grapplings on to the stern of the steamer within a distance of not more than fifteen or twenty yards of the six persons still clinging to the wreck. Strenuous efforts were made to get them off. One of the crew had taken refuge in the rigging and so was not at the mercy of the waves as were those on deck. Miss Elliott, along with the Captain's child and one of the crew, had a rough time of it on the main boom of the ship. Having got themselves firmly fixed between the wire rope and the end of the boom, they maintained their position for nearly an hour, being swung to and fro clear of the deck of the ship by the great violence of the waves. For long, the pilot on the bow of the lifeboat tried to cast a line over them but was for a time unavailing. With every failure, Miss Elliott was observed motioning with her hand as if signifying the hopelessness of the efforts that were being made to rescue the sufferers in the face of such a furious storm and blinding rain from their dreadfully perilous position. At last he succeeded and one by one the sufferers were drawn through the angry waves and safely lodged in the lifeboat. It may be mentioned here that twice the child fell into the water and twice one of the engineers got hold of him and brought him up again. It was about nine o'clock when the lifeboat came off with the last of the crew who had upwards of three hours borne their fate gallantly. All save one were helpless and unconscious on coming ashore. Mr Moir, the channel pilot was taken off by the lifeboat along with the others, all of whom were drawn through the sea to the boat by means of a line which was passed round the body of one of the crew who showed great agility and strove hard and succeeded in doing for the others what they could not do for themselves when paralysed by fatigue and cold. All the crew with the exception of the officers and engineers were coloured men. They received every attention as they came ashore, some of the young men standing by as they were brought ashore pulling off their jackets and giving them to the half-drowned men. The steward stripped and swam ashore. He was the only one of whom we could discover to have accomplished this feat. Dr Stevens sent them down a suit of clothes and along with Dr Wallace was most attentive to Mrs Johnson, her child and sister. Captain King, who as we have mentioned had made up his mind to stick by the wreck was washed against the rail by a heavy sea and was latterly washed adrift, thereafter caught hold a piece of wood on which he managed to get ashore. He was hauled on board the tug boat. The paddle boxes were above water during the whole day and portions of the wreck kept drifting to the harbour. The scene was visited by thousands during the day. Yesterday, Friday, it was ascertained that nine lives had been lost. Thursday last being Glasgow fast day, large numbers from the city visited the scene of wreck and looked with a melancholy interest on the noble ship which had so lately left their river, now such a wreck and on the spot where she lay which will long be remembered as the scene of one of the most heart-rending disasters in the wreck register of the west coast of Scotland. We may add that Mr Gross, procurator fiscal, was at Ardrossan on Wednesday and Thursday making investigation into the whole circumstances of the wreck. Mr Wilde, surveyor to the Underwriters' Association, will excuse us making any attempt to name those who rendered special assistance - deeper interest in distressed men and stronger desire to give help of any kind, whether in food or shelter, could not possibly have been shown by any community. Mr Steel, harbour master of Ardrossan, states: I was on duty when the vessel came in sight. I observed that she was in danger and seemed to stand right to the harbour. I was so convinced of this that I ordered the men to stand on the pier and they were there ready with heaving lines in case she should manage to reach the harbour. All at once, the vessel canted or swung round to the north and afterwards appeared on the other side of the Crinan Rock which is four hundred yards from the other side of the shore. She was distant from the rock about half a boat's length. She occupied this position for about a quarter of and hour after we first noticed her. She was very much stressed. The only thing we could make out was that her engines were working. We observed that she reversed her engines and she was backing towards the sea. She continued backing when the smash occurred. The engines seemed to be still going but at this point they appeared suddenly to stop. She was contending against the elements but had not struck the rock at that time. After that, she stuck upon the rock as it appeared to us. It was grey daylight at that time. She first drifted down, then her engines stopped then she struck the rock knocking away the post or beacon which stood there as a signal. There was no light on the rock at the time. Just as she struck on the rock, a heavy sea came and the fore end of the vessel rose and she seemed to us to part in two exactly at the middle. The fore end of her fell clear of the rock coming in and striking the pier. Three of the men who were on this part of the vessel made an attempt to run for the shore and two of them succeeded. Those who were on shore cried to the third not to attempt it as the vessel was then rebounding from the pier and his chances of getting on shore were correspondingly diminished. They threw lifebuoys and made every effort to save him but the current was so strong that he was swept out and lost. There might have been a dozen on the fore part (shown right in a print reproduced by kind permission of the copyright holders Illustrated London News / Mary Evans Picture Library and available from www.prints-online.com) when it came into the harbour. With the exception of that man, all the others who were on that part of the vessel were saved. This occurred at the steamboat pier which is the middle pier. The fore part of the vessel drifted into the harbour and came right up till she stuck at the top. When the accident occurred, the after part of the stern seemed to keep tight and men all ran to it. We heard them screaming. About twenty minutes or half an hour after that, part of the ship went down. Although it did so, however, it remained sufficiently above the water to have saved anyone who had gone on the paddle boxes but there was a great confusion and it did not seem to occur to the men to go there. They remained on deck and a lot of them were washed away and drowned. Before the vessel struck, I despatched one of the pilots to get together the lifeboat crew. A scratch crew were got together and the boat was launched but the sea was so strong that, pull as they may, they could not get out. The lifeboat was a first-class one and was in good order. The harbour tug was despatched with what expedition it could. This was before the lifeboat went out. It went as near the vessel as it could and picked up two or three of the wreck. Finding that the lifeboat could not get out, we signalled to the captain of the tug to come back if possible to take it out but the storm was so great that he could not get his tug in position to come back and some time was lost in that way. When he did return, however, the lifeboat was towed out to the windward of the wreck and anchored. The lifeboat was under the charge of Mr Breckenridge, pilot (for whose widow and children a benefit football match was played in 1880). The lifeboat went as near the wreck as it possibly could to save those who were still remaining, five in number. Mr Bannatyne, captain of the tug which went to the rescue of those on the after part of the vessel says: We did all in our power to rescue the people but, in trying to reach the wreck, our vessel always went to windward and we could not get at her. With considerable difficulty, we did get pretty near. We took nine persons off, including the Captain's wife. We threw out lines to them all and pulled them up in that way. The Captain and his wife were lashed on the one line but it is not true that the Captain's wife's sister was lashed on the same line. We were doing the best we could to save them and we had brought his wife on board and had almost succeeded in bringing himself in when he appeared to become very much exhausted and slipped from the rope. The Captain did all he could to hold his wife out of the water while we were bringing them across. Four men went out in a little boat at the same time as we did but they did not succeed in rescuing anybody. They went out in a little lull but the weather soon became stormy again and they could do nothing. John Murdoch Johnstone, first mate, states: We left Glasgow on Saturday 10th bound to Shanghai with a channel pilot and two passengers on board. We put into Waterford for the purpose of landing the pilot. We found that the ship was unseaworthy and that she had broken some of her frame. The fore part of the ship was all adrift. I think it was want of strength in the construction of the vessel. She was condemned as unseaworthy in Waterford by the surveyors and was coming back to Glasgow for repairs and to get strengthened. We left Waterford with a fine night, moderate weather and wind from the north-west. When the ship was abreast of the Maidens, the wind veered round to the south-west and we held away on the other shore as the weather got thick. We steered for the Cumbrae. The gale increased, the wind from the north-west till it blew a hurricane. The ship would not answer her helm and was unmanageable. There were four men at the wheel, a second officer named William Miller, two quartermasters and a seaman. Three were washed overboard, the second officer and the two quartermasters. The steamer was intended as a riverboat and could not stand a heavy sea. She was 300 feet long and 33 feet beam. We made for Ardrossan to prevent the vessel going in pieces and on entering the harbour, we struck against a rock. There were four quartermasters, three of whom were drowned. Before the vessel struck, one of the quartermasters got three of his fingers cut off by the wheel. He was taken below to the cabin and was lying there when the accident occurred. We had no time to get him out, however, and so the poor fellow was drowned. The second mate was at the wheel when the vessel struck and immediately the rudder touched the bottom and lifted him into the sea and no more was seen of him. The vessel's decks were iron and they were all contracted before we came to run into this place at all. She was measured for 3590 tons, builder's measurement but was only half-fitted up, the intention being that when she got out to China she could be fitted out completely in the same style as the river steamers in America. When she left Glasgow, we had on board 840 tons of coals and water and provisions which would bring up the weight to 950 tons. The ship is registered in Glasgow as belonging to Messrs Russell and Company, Shangai, Messrs Baring Brothers, bankers, London and Company being the agents in this country. Mr Moir, pilot whom we took out with us from Glasgow came back with us from Waterford and he had charge of the ship. She broke clean in two at the fore compartment where we had discovered a defect on the passage to Waterford. The night was as black and dirty as I have ever seen. I have been nineteen years at sea and I never before saw such a bad night so far up the channel. This is the second time I have been shipwrecked but the first time was nothing to this. Twenty-five men came into the harbour on the fore part of the ship. The clothes of all the men were in the fore part and have thus all been saved. None of the officers saved any of their clothes. We struck about six o'clock. The ship was just a perfect shell, not fit to contend with wind and water and sea. William Ortwin, second engineer says: The ship parted immediately she struck. The fore part drifted into the harbour but no white men were on that part. Those who remained were left on the poop. There were three boats and we tried to get them out but the men were washed away from them as fast as they got near them. They took refuge on the quarterdeck. The pier was crowded with people but no assistance came until about three-quarters of an hour after we struck. None of the ship's boats were got out. They were all smashed by the heavy seas which blew across the deck. The tug steamer was the first to come to our assistance. They made four efforts to get close to us before she succeeded. Several of the crew jumped into the water and ropes were immediately thrown out to them from the tug and by these they were hauled on board. Others got hold of pieces of wood and tried to save themselves by floating ashore on them. About six or eight got into the tug at that time. The reason they the tug did not take us all off at once was that the heavy sea which was running rendered the tug unmanageable. The Captain and his wife were trying to get on board the tug and were being pulled by means of a rope to the deck of the tug when the Captain became exhausted and had to let go and was drowned. His wife was got on board. The tug took out the lifeboat which let go her grappling irons and drifted astern of the steamer. It was with great difficulty that those who remained were got into the lifeboat. A rope was thrown to them and they were at last got on board. The order in which they came was as follows: Miss Elliott, the Captain's sister-in-law; the Captain's son, the first mate; Ortwin, Humphreys and the pilot. After much exertion, we cleared the pier and got into the harbour. The crew of a vessel in the harbour whose name I do not know, got out their own lifeboat and came out to the wreck and did all they could to render assistance. H Lipscome, coastguardsman, Ardrossan says: There are altogether five coastguardsmen here, the chief being George Mays. Mays and two others are present on drill at Greenock and the fourth is at Lamlash. Just now, I am the only man on duty here. Nine persons were rescued by the steam tug, six by the lifeboat, six or seven by floating pieces of wreck and several by the pilots throwing lines from the end of the pier. The rescued persons are distributed among private houses in Ardrossan. The perilous position of the vessel was not observed until about seven in the morning. It was not quite daylight till that time. The lifeboat returned from the wreck at about nine o'clock. There was a terrific sea running and it was with great difficulty the people were brought in. Lines were thrown from the lifeboat to the sinking vessel and the crew got hold of them and were dragged through the water. Thirty-six are believed to have been saved leaving sixteen drowned. The three coastguardsmen left for Greenock on Monday week and the man who went to Lamlash went on the same day. I do not know when they are coming back but I telegraphed for them today. Government sends us to drill any time it pleases. Additional and most interesting particulars in connection with the melancholy loss of the Chusan are supplied by the pilot in charge of the vessel, Mr R W Moir, Greenock, who arrived at his home from Ardrossan in a very exhausted state on Wednesday evening. The substance of his narrative is: I am a pilot in the Greenock district and have acted in that capacity for about twelve months. Previous to that, I was a shipmaster and I got my Master's Certificate in 1864. I left the Tail of the Bank on Saturday 10th in charge of the Chusan and was to take her down-channel. She was on her way out to China. We put into Waterford as it was found that the vessel was not behaving satisfactorily. We had fine weather, a calm sea and a slight breeze ahead but the vessel was making only about six knots an hour and the bow was working up and down like a hinge. The engineers were also wanting something to be done to the engines. Some of the officers and crew formed a very bad opinion of the vessel and did not believe she was seaworthy. At the request of the Captain, I remained on board till he would communicate with the agents in London to see what would be done. Mr May, the surveyor to the company that the Chusan belonged to came down from London to Waterford last Monday and inspected the vessel along with the Captain and officers. It was found that, besides the weakness in the bow, five of the frames on the starboard side and two on the port side had given way. The judgement of the surveyors was that she was not fit to go to China but she was fit enough to go back to Glasgow where she would be thoroughly overhauled. The weather at this time was beautiful, the wind from the west, the sea calm, the glass had been steadily rising and the Captain resolved to start for the Clyde at once. We accordingly left Waterford anchorage between nine and ten on Monday night. I studied to keep the vessel in calm water and brought her all along the Irish coast. From Wicklow Head, the wind began to increase and gradually it came on to blow a strong breeze. I brought the vessel up into the smooth water past Belfast Lough and, with the object of running before the sea, allowing that the wind would stop at west, I headed for the Maidens. Off the Maidens, the wind changed to the south-west and it was noticed with alarm that the glass was falling very rapidly and that a storm was brewing. We then shaped the course for Pladda which we made for three or four o'clock on Wednesday morning. The wind here slapped into the west again and the storm had come down upon us with frightful violence. As we shaped for the Clyde, we came across the north channel. There was something awful, the seas running mountains high and the spray was blowing over the vessel, perfect clouds. She was getting positively unmanageable and although four men were at the wheel, the vessel could not answer her helm. After we got inside Pladda, she would do nothing with us. The squalls were striking her broadside on and she was at times entirely beyond our control. The morning was beside pitch dark. The storm had waxed into a tempest, the vessel was drifting fast to leeward and was only steaming eight or nine knots an hour and to add to our misfortune, we had almost no idea where we were. This state of matters lasted for about two hours and the only thing that I could find to tell me where we were was the reflection in the sky from the ironworks in Ardrossan. The wind I know was blowing us bodily to leeward but it would have been madness to try and force the vessel into the storm. She was not fit for that and when we tried it, something terrible would have happened. About dawn, when the weather had cleared up a little, I made out Ardrossan lights on the lee bow. I knew then that it was hopeless to try and weather Ardrossan for even though we had been able to 'wear' the Chusan, she would afterwards have run right into land. We were being rapidly being driven to the lee shore and I warned the Captain to prepare for the worst. I was intimately acquainted with the entrance to Ardrossan harbour, knew thoroughly both the position of the Horse Island (shown right in 2011) and the Crinan Rock and as I made out the light on the pier-head, I told the Captain that our last chance would be to try to enter the harbour. He said not to mind much what might happen to the ship but to do my utmost to save the lives on board. The engineers and stokers were below getting up the steam as much as possible but I was told it was never higher than thirty pounds. We were making for Ardrossan from the south-westward and the wind was carrying us to leeward, broadside on but we used the most strenuous efforts to get the vessel's head right into the harbour. The entrance is a very dangerous one at any time even with a vessel that steers well but with the Chusan, the risk was dreadful. The squalls were coming down on her from all directions, catching her big paddle boxes and and the great covering of her boilers like big sails and I saw that the only possibility of getting her in was by working her engines ahead and astern and to allow her to drift broadside in. I verily believe we would have managed that but by some unfortunate or overlook, the engines would not work reversely by steam and the working of the valves had to be done by manual labour. When the vessel was manoeuvring in this way, she was struck by a sea and borne onwards but instead of the stern remaining fast on the rock and the stern slewing in as we had calculated, the vessel parted and the after portion sunk and the fore compartment floated into the harbour. Even then, had the people on shore been able to work the rocket apparatus, not a person on board need have been lost as we were quite close to the pier. I had kept my post all the time and was left in the after portion of the vessel along with the Captain's son, Miss Elliott, the second engineer, the mate and the purser. I was the last man that was got off the deck alive. I was in a very exhausted condition for I had been clinging to the masthead for nearly two hours and by that time had scarcely any clothes on. I had besides nearly two or three times been swept away. I cannot too warmly express my thanks for the kind way that the people of Ardrossan treated me. I was taken to the house of Mr Robertson, assistant harbourmaster, and after recovering somewhat, I was supplied by him with clothes which enabled me to set out for Greenock. My conscience is clear that I did the very utmost that lay in my power to save the vessel and those on board. From six o'clock on Monday morning to the wreck on Wednesday morning, I had never had any rest except two hours that I lay down below before the storm had come on and all the time the storm lasted I was never off the bridge except occasionally when I assisted the men at the wheel. The crew consisted of George C Johnson, master, belonging to Salem, United States of America; John Murdoch Johnstone, first mate, belonging to Glasgow; William Miller, second mate, belonging to Fort William; William Gardner, chief engineer, belonging to Leith, a married man with a family; William Ortwin, second engineer, belonging to Liverpool where he was married only four weeks ago; William G Wrench, third engineer, belonging to Abernethy; George Marr, fourth engineer, a native of Aberdeen but residing in Glasgow and Edwin Humphreys, purser, belonging to Salem. These were whites and there were also the following coloured men: three stewards, two cooks, fifteen firemen and eighteen sailors. Besides these, there were on board Mrs Johnson, the Captain's wife; his son George, about four years of age; his wife's sister, Miss E Elliott; Captain King, a passenger and Mr Moir, the pilot in charge of the vessel. Of those drowned, with the exception only of two, the Captain and the second mate, were coloured men. The latter part of the ship still lies aground close to the rock. The boilers and machinery are lying about eight or ten feet under water and are apparently quite sound. The paddle boxes rise above water and about eight or nine feet of the funnel is also observable. On Wednesday night, several of the crew slept in their usual berth as comfortably as nothing has On Wednesday night, several of the crew slept in their usual berths in the forecastle as comfortably as nothing has happened to the vessel. The Chusan was fully insured. Grappling operation were carried out on Thursday and several articles were recovered from the wreck. Lord Eglinton visited the scene of the wreck today, Friday. The chronometer of the ill-fated vessel was taken ashore on Thursday afternoon and was found to have stopped at five minutes to seven o'clock. Eighty-one pounds of tobacco was also brought ashore and was seized by the coastguard. Two bracelets were picked up and one of them was said by the Captain's sister-in-law to be from a box containing twelve rings and twelve bracelets belonging to Captain Johnson. The box has not been recovered. Today Friday, the men were mustered at the Custom House (shown below in 2007 prior to its demolition in 2010) for the purpose of being discharged. It appears they got a month's pay in advance and the proposed settlement is that the men accept of a free pass to Glasgow furnished by Mr Arthur Guthrie, the honorary secretary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute here and accept a gratuity of five shillings each given in the name of Captain King. The mate, Mr Johnstone, who exerted himself so heroically and has lost everything, they propose to treat in the same way. The suit of the clothes he is going about in have been lent him by some benevolent person. The men have refused to accept these terms and declare their intention to stick by the part of the vessel which floated into the harbour. The ship's articles were signed by the men for six months. Most of the men have their effects safe in the fore part of the ship but Mr Johnstone's case is one of particular hardship. Two lads of colour who had swam ashore were taken on board a brig in the harbour and, as they were greatly exhausted, they were kindly entertained by the master till Thursday morning when they were able to step ashore and present themselves to their comrades. Most cordial were the greetings they received from those warm-hearted fellows, one of them remarking he had passed a very sad night on account of these boys as he thought they had been lost. Another man on Tuesday morning unexpectedly made his appearance on board fore part of the Chusan where a number of crew had passed the night. They asked him where he had been when it turned out he had been taken in by some kind person and lodged for the night.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 24 October 1874
CAPTAIN JOHNSON'S BODY SHIPPED HOME
Captain Johnson's body was washed ashore and taken by ship to his home town of Salem, Massachusetts in the United States of America. He is buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery, Danvers, Essex County, Massachusetts.
A memorial stone was erected in Ardrossan Cemetery in honour of George Johnson, William Miller and the Chusan crew. Its inscription, now partly-eroded, is 'In memory of George C Johnson, Master and William Miller, Second Mate and the crew of the steamship Chusan who were drowned off the Harbour off Ardrossan on 21 October 1874. Erected by subscription'. The words Faith, Hope and Charity are engraved on the pillar.
AWARDS FOR BRAVERY
John Templeton, ship carpenter; Gavin Keen, ship carpenter; Archibald Boyd, ship carpenter and Patrick Mackay, pig-iron labourer, all of Ardrossan, were awarded £3 each from the Mercantile Marine Fund for having put out in a small boat, at considerable risk, to aid some of the crew of the Chusan who were struggling in the water when it was wrecked at Ardrossan. They afterwards pulled to the wreck and made several gallant but ineffectual attempts to rescue a man who was in a dangerous position at the taffrail and did not desist in their efforts until their boat was half-full of water and nearly swamped.
There will be no poll this year in Ardrossan in connection with the municipal elections. The three persons whose term of office has expired, Messrs Thomas Gilfillan, John Boyd and John Logan, being the only persons nominated, are re-elected.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 31 October 1874
Christmas services were celebrated in both the Episcopal Church, Ardrossan and Roman Catholic Church, Saltcoats. Both places of worship were beautifully decorated with evergreens and festoons of flowers. The various services throughout the day and evening were exceedingly well attended.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 26 December 1874
COLLECTION FOR THE POOR
We understand that the annual collection for behoof of the poor in New Ardrossan parish will be made in Mr McCall's church, tomorrow Sabbath (27 December 1874). In the face of such an inclement season, it is hoped that there will be a liberal response to this Christian call.
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 26 December 1874