« PreviousContinue »
which will apply to those residing on land, will have double force in urging the church of God, if duly considered, to induce a zealous activity and liberality in favour of our mariners.
Shortly after the Pilot for July went to press, the papers contained an account of the condition of the crew of the wreck, Francis SPAIGHT, by which the public were shocked for several days, while it served as a subject for conversation. The impression produced by its publication ought not to be lost; and as furnishing some of the most awakening arguments in favour of exertions to evangelize seamen, the insertion of the account is given in the Pilot.
This is done at the special request of a pious merchant of the city, who wrote to the Editor as follows:
June, 1836.-I inclose for you the very melancholy account of the loss of the ship Francis Spaight, and the distress of the mariners. I cannot but think that the Editor of the Pilot will find it a text for some useful and impressive considerations to lay before his readers-addressing himself to mariners—to the families of seamenand' especially the wives and mothers; and then showing the importance of such a society as that, for teaching seamen those things needful to make them wise unto salvation. The Society for the Religious Instruction of British and Foreign Seamen has done much, and more than will be known in this world, for the rescue of immortal souls from the dominion of sin, and their conversion to the love of God and his Christ; but there is yet much to be done,
“ I am, yours, &c.
6. MERCATOR.” Nothing need be added to give effect to the affecting detail : and it is only hoped that every reader will pour out his heart to God for the salvation of seamen, and for every new covenant blessing to rest upon their families; and that each may be brought to realize an interest in Christ. Harrowing Narrative, as related by one of the Crew.
The Francis Spaight, a fine vessel of 345 tons burthen, laden with timber, sailed from St. John's, Newfoundland, on the 24th of November. The crew amounted to fourteen men, with the captain and mate, many of whom were
indifferent hands. They were mostly boatmen trained on the Shannon; some from Kilrush, a few from Tarbert, and one or two from Foynes. Nothing could be finer than the weather for the first eight or ten days of the voyage; but it afterwards came on to blow so hard, that they were obliged to drive before the wind under a mizen topsail. At 3 o'clock in the morning of December the 3d, an alarm was raised by a cry and confusion on deck; the vessel, it appeared, either steering wild through the carelessness of the helmsman, or perhaps from her bad trim, suddenly broached to, and lay like a log in the trough of
The day had not dawned at the time: it was still
very dark; and the waves broke so frightfully over her, that the captain nor mate could not get the men to obey their directions, nor even when she was filling rapidly with water could he get them to work the pumps. In less than an hour she lay on her beam-ends, the greater part of her crew saving themselves by climbing on her side and clinging to the rigging. Pat. Cusack and Pat. Behane, however, were drowned in the forecastle, and William Griffith, the mate, in the after-cabin, into which he had gone accidentally only a few minutes before. The captain, and a man named Murville, now got to the fore and main masts, and cut them away; the mizen topmast went with them over the side, and the ship almost immediately righted. As soon as she righted, being already filled with water, she settled down in the sea, and there was scarcely any portion of her to be seen except the poop and bulwarks. No situation could be more hopeless or miserable than that of the unfortunate crew, standing ankle-deep on the wreck, in the depth of a winter's night, and clinging in the darkness to whatever was nearest, as sea after sea rolled successively over them. But they knew not the full horror of their condition until the dawn of the morning, for which all were looking eastward with intense anxiety. They then discovered that their provisions had been washed overboard; and as the holds were filled by the sea, they had no means of coming at any fresh water. The gale continued on unabating through the morning, and the dreadful swell every now and then swept over the decks, so that for safety as well as for shelter they gathered into the cabin under the poop. Even here, she was so deep with water a dry plank could not be found on which they might lie: their only rest was by standing close together, huddled up, and leaning against one
another. At about 10 o'clock in the forenoon a vessel was suddenly descried to the westward, and for some time it was thought possible her course might be near them ; but she stood far away beyond the reach of signal, and was soon out of sight. That day and the next passed away without the slightest change in the weather. On the third it began to moderate ; during the whole of which period they remained standing in the cabin, leaning against one another, or against the ship's sides, unable to take rest or sleep.
Their greatest suffering was hunger, or rather a sinking at the stomach, and from thirst, neither of which had they any conceivable means of allaying. There were fifteen hands alive, and of these not one had tasted a morsel of food since the wreck; and for drink they had only three bottles of wine, which were found in the cabin : this was served out in wine-glasses at long intervals. There was some occasional rain, which they were not prepared at first for saving, getting but a scanty supply by holding the cover of a tureen under the saddle of the mizen-mast. In seven days after the appearance of the first vessel, another was seen on the weather-quarter, outward bound, and only four miles north. The hopes of the crew were again revived, and their anxiety was intense for a short time. An ensign was hoisted on the mizen-mast, and part of a sail : the day was very clear, and she could not but see it, at least the wretched men thought so; but she bore away
like the former, and was soon lost to their view. Despair was now in every countenance. How they lived through the succeeding five days it would be hard to tell, but no one tasted food : some few endeavoured to eat the horn buttons of their jackets, the only substitute for nutriment that occurred to them. There were no means of taking fish; and though birds were sometimes seen flying past, they had no means of bringing them down. Horrible as this situation was, it was made yet worse by the conduct of the crew towards one another. As their sufferings increased, they lost all command of temper, and became cross and selfish in the extreme
such as were strong securing a lying-place on the cabin floor, and pushing aside those who were weak, to shift for themselves as they could in the wet and cold.
On the 19th of December, the sixteenth day since the wreck, and since they had tasted food, many of the men were gathering together in groups, and something seemed
to be in agitation amongst them. The mystery was cleared up in the course of the day. When they all happened to be collected together in the cabin, the captain came off deck, and addressed them about their desperate condition. He said they were now such a length of time without sustenance, that it was beyond human nature to endure it any longer, that they were already on the verge of the grave—and that the only question for them to consider was, whether one or all should die? That at present it seemed certain that all must die, unless food could be procured; but that if one died, the rest might live until some ship came in view. His opinion was, that one should suffer for the rest; and that lots should be drawn between the four boys, as they had no families, and could not be considered so great a loss to their friends as those who had wives and children depending on them. The lot having been cast, it fell upon a boy named O'Brien. The poor fellow heard the announcement without uttering a word. His face was very pale, but not a feature of it was changed. The men now told him he must prepare for death, and the captain said it was better it should be done by bleeding him in the arm, to which O'Brien made no objection. The captain then directed the cook, John Gorman, to do it, telling him it was his duty. But Gorman strenuously refused. He was, however, threatened with death himself by the men if he continued obstinate, and he at last consented. O'Brien then took off his jacket, without waiting to be desired; and after telling the crew, if any of them ever reached home, to tell his poor mother what happened to him, bared his right arm. The cook cụt his veins across twice with a small knife, but could bring no flow of blood; upon which there seemed to be much hesitation among the men as to what could be done. They were relieved by the boy himself, who immediately desired the cook to give him the knife, as he could not be looking at him putting him to pain. When he got the knife, and was about to cut the vein, the captain recommended him to try his left arm, which he accordingly did. He attempted to open the vein at the bend of the elbow with the point of the knife, as a surgeon would; but, like the cook, he failed in bringing blood. A dead consternation now fell upon all; but in a minute or two the captain
“ This is all of no use : 'tis better to put him out of pain, by at once bleeding him in the throat;” and some of them said it was true for him. At this O'Brien for the
first time looked terrified, and begged hard that they would not do so, but give him a little time: he said he was cold and weak; but if they would let him lie down and sleep for a little he would get warm, and then he should bleed freely. To this wish there was some expression of dissent from the men; and the captain shortly after said to them, " that it was useless leaving the boy this way in pain; 'twas best at once to lay hold of him, and let the cook cut his throat !” O'Brien, now roused and driven to extremity, seemed working himself up for resistance, and declared he would not let them. The first man, he said, who laid hands on him, 'twould be worse for him that he'd appear to him at another time that he'd haunt him after death. The poor youth was however, among so many, soon got down, and the cook was once again called upon to put him to death. The man now refused more strenuously than before, and another altercation arose ; but weak and irresolute, and seeing that his own life would absolutely be taken instead of O'Brien’s, if he persisted, he at length yielded to their menaces.
Some one at this time brought him down a large case-knife that was on the poop, instead of the clasp-knife that he had at first prepared; with which, pale and trembling, he stood over O'Brien, who was still endeavouring to free himself from those who held him. One of them now placed the cover of the tureen (which they before used to collect the rain) under the boy's neck to save the blood, and several cried out to the cook to do his duty. The horror-stricken man over and over again endeavoured to summon up hardihood for the deed; but when he caught the boy's eye, his heart always failed him, and then he looked supplicatingly to the men again. Their cries and threats were, however, loud for death - he made a desperate effort a short struggle — and O'Brien was no more.
As soon as this horrid act was perpetrated, the blood was served to the men; but a few of them, among whom was Mahony, refused to partake of it. They afterwards laid open the body, and separated the limbs: the latter were hung over the stern, while a portion of the former was allotted for immediate use. Shocked as, for the sake of human nature, it is to be hoped many were at the scene they had just witnessed, a gnawing hunger came upon them all when they saw even this disgusting meal put out for them; and almost every one, even the unwil