News from 1895: Germanic sinks Cumbrae

Mark Baber

The Times, 12 December 1895

A serious catastrophe occurred in the Crosby Channel, at the mouth of the
Mersey, last evening, when the inward-bound Glasgow steamer Cumbrae sank
after collision with the White Star liner Germanic, bound for New York,
which put back damaged. The Cumbrae, a vessel of about 900 tons gross, and
belonging to Messrs. G. and J. Burns, was entering the river in a thick fog,
when suddenly the Germanic appeared, and before effectual measures could be
adopted to prevent a collision the Germanic struck the Cumbrae abreast of
the forehold, the bow penetrating about 12ft. into the other vessel. The
Cumbrae's passengers and crew (about 60 all told) got on board the Germanic
during the 20 minutes the steamers stuck together, after which the White
Star boat backed away, the Cumbrae gradually settled down. Seventeen of the
Cumbrae's crew and four or five from the Germanic had meanwhile volunteered
to board the Cumbrae and draw her fires, so as to prevent an explosion; but
before anything could be accomplished the vessel sank in deep water. The
Germanic, whose bow was damaged, steamed up the river again with the rescued
people on board, and the men in the boat were picked up by the steam tug

A later telegram states that the Germanic cannot proceed, having a hole
about 9ft. by 7ft. in her bow, above watermark, and she will go into the
Langton Dock this morning to discharge. Last night her 110 saloon passengers
were landed and taken to the North-Western and Adelphi Hotels. They will
have the option of proceeding in the Cunard steamship Umbria on Saturday or
in the White Star steamship Teutonic next Tuesday. Lord Dunraven and Mr.
Glenny were among the passengers and were going out in connexion with the
inquiry as to the America Cup contest. Some of the Cumbrae's crew and
passengers were taken off the sinking vessel by boats from the
Germanic,while the others climbed from one steamer to the other. Mrs.
Johnson, one of the Cumbrae's saloon passengers, fell over a barrel on deck,
and had a rib broken. She was treated by the doctor on board the Germanic,
and was afterwards taken to a Liverpool hospital. A man, name unknown,, was
also injured to some extent. At the time of the collision both vessels were
going dead slow.


Mark Baber

The Times, 13 December 1895

The White Star Liner Germanic, which put back to Liverpool after collision
with the Glasgow steamer Cumbrae on Wednesday evening, is now in the Langton
Dock. The precise damage cannot be ascertained until the vessel is in dry
dock. The lower part of the hole is just under the waterline. There is
another hole about 2ft. in diameter a few feet above the larger rent.
Nothing has been done in regard to the cargo, but her mails were yesterday
forwarded to London for shipment via Southampton by the Normannia, which
sails for New York to-day. These mails (our Liverpool Correspondent
telegraphs), had actually been placed onboard the Cunard steamship Umbria,
which sails to-morrow; but apparently as a result of the letter from the New
York Correspondent of The Times, printed yesterday, the postal authorities
directed that the bags should be taken from the Umbria to the Normannia.
Meanwhile 800 sacks of mails intended for the Germanic have reached
Queenstown and will await the arrival of the Umbria on Sunday. Most of the
Germanic's passengers will sail in the Umbria, arrangements having been made
between the White Star and Cunard companies.


Mark Baber

The Sun (New York), 12 December 1895
Original article digitized by the New York Public Library
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,

All Her Passengers and Crew Taken Off by the Liner, Which Returned to
Liverpool with her Bows Badly Stove---Capt. McKinstry's Way of Saving the
Cumbrae's People---Dunraven on the Germanic

LIVERPOOL, Dec.11---The White Star steamer Germanic, Capt. McKinstry, which
sailed hence today for New York, came into collision shortly after leaving
the Mersey with the Glasgow steamer Cumbrae, inward bound for Liverpool. The
Cumbrae was sunk and the Germanic's bows were stove. The Germanic rescued
the passengers and crew of the wrecked vessel and returned to this port. A
dense fog prevailed at the time of the collision.

The Germanic left her quay under an easy head of steam. The weather was very
thick, and every precaution was taken to avoid an accident. Two seamen were
stationed at the bows in addition to the ordinary lookout in the crow's
nest. After abut eight miles of slow steaming, warning whistles being
sounded at short intervals, the vessel reached Crosby Channel. By this time
the fog had become so intense as to hide everything from view.

Off Crosby lightship a whistle sounded close by and the Germanic promptly
responded. It was too late, however, to avoid a collision, and the White
Star liner struck the Cumbrae a slanting blow between the forecastle and the
forehatch. The Germanic's bow penetrated the side of the Cumbrae to a depth
of fourteen feet. If the Germanic had been under more way she would
doubtless have cut the smaller vessel completely in two.

There were twenty-eight passengers on the Cumbrae, including a number of
women and children, who rushed to and fro shrieking their terror or fell on
their knees and prayed aloud to be saved. On the Germanic also there was
much excitement, all the passengers rushing on deck to ascertain what had
happened. The shock of the collision was not severe enough, however, to
cause great alarm and the excitement on the big liner soon subsided.

Capt. McKinstry at once ordered sufficient way to be maintained to keep the
bows of the Germanic in the hole made in the Cumbrae's side, and officers
and men calmly and actively proceeded to the work of rescue. Belts, ropes,
and ladders were thrown upon the Cumbrae's decks and within a minute all of
the passengers and crew of the doomed vessel had either scrambled or been
hauled aboard the Germanic. One passenger was slightly injured while being
hauled on board, and a woman fell overboard, but was instantly rescued by a
boat from the Germanic which bad been previously lowered.

When all were safe the Germanic's engines were reversed and the vessels
separated. The Cumbrae immediately lurched and began to settle. Seventeen of
the Cumbrae's crew and a dozen of the Germanic's men entered a boat with the
intention of boarding the Cumbrae in order to draw her fires to prevent an
explosion and to try to save property. They rowed within fifty yards of the
sinking vessel, when she suddenly plunged forward and went down.

The Cumbrae foundered in comparatively shallow water, the tide being
three-quarters full. The boat's crew fixed lights on the masts of the
sunken steamer to warn passing vessels. The sea was calm at the time, but
the fog still prevailed, and the boat could not find the Germanic. After
cruising around for a while the boat was found by the tug Gamecock, which
took the men on board. The Germanic's men were transferred to their vessel
and the Gamecock brought the Cumbrae's sailors to Liverpool. The passengers
and crew of the wrecked vessel lost everything.

Among the passengers on the Cumbrae were the members of a provincial
theatrical company, who were going to Birkenhead to play "Saved from the

Immediately after the collision occurred the Germanic's watertight
compartments were closed and every precaution to secure the safety of the
vessel was taken. After the rescue of those on board the Cumbrae an
examination of the Germanic was made. It showed that twenty feet of the
vessel's bows above the water line were damaged, and the Captain decided to
return to port. Subsequently the Germanic anchored off Egremont. The
passengers of both the Germanic and the Cumbrae were embarked on tugs and
landed at Liverpool, where they were conveyed to hotels.

The passengers of the Germanic have the option of proceeding for New York on
the Umbria on Dec. 14, or on the Adriatic to-morrow. A gang of men has been
sent to coal and prepare the Adriatic, which is in dock to enable her to
sail tomorrow if necessary. Nothing has been definitely arranged. It is
understood that the mails will be taken by the Umbria in any event. The
Germanic will dock to-morrow morning.

Among the passengers on the Germanic were Lord Dunraven and the members of
John Hare's company, including Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Hare, son and
daughter-in-law of Mr. John Hare; Charles Groves and wife, and the Hon. F.
G. Curzon and wife. Mrs. Curzon is the actress Ellice Jeffreys. Lord
Dunraven will probably sail on the Umbria.

Lord Dunraven, in describing his experience in connection with the accident,
said that he was in the cabin when it occurred and that he was extremely
hungry and was awaiting the summons to dinner.

He did not feel any pronounced sensation when the collision occurred. He
heard only a slight crash. He denied that there was any excitement among the
passengers on board. Everybody, he said, showed the utmost coolness.

All the officers of the steamer were at their posts, and it was evident that
the greatest celerity had been shown, as when he reached the deck the
passengers and crew of the Cumbrae were already being hauled aboard the

Mr. Helmsley, the manager for Mr. John Hare, said that he was standing on
the deck when the collision happened, and the shock was only just enough to
disturb his balance. He attributed the rescue of the female passenger who
fell into the water to the good work of the Germanic's crew in lowering the
boats. Nobody on the Germanic, he said, imagined that the vessel was in
peril. The members of Mr. Hare's company sail on the Umbria.

The Cumbrae was a vessel of about 900 gross tonnage. She was commanded by
Capt. Blair. She was engaged in a freight and passenger service between
Liverpool and Glasgow, and was owned by G. & J. Burns.
The Germanic was built at Belfast in 1874. She is one of a few old-time
single screws that have steadily improved since they were launched. Her
owners decided last year that she had reached her maximum speed with her
original boilers and engines, and last spring she received a new set, which
increased her speed more than a knot, thus making her a Thursday instead of
a Friday boat. She was also refitted in light, hard woods. The repairs cost

The swift humanity of Capt. McKinstry of the Germanic recalls, by contrast,
the conduct of the skipper of the British steamship Crathie, which ran down
the North German Lloyd steamship Elbe in the North Sea. The Crathie was
backed quickly out of the great rent made by her bows in the Elbe's side and
steered for the nearest port while the Elbe went down. By Capt. McKinstry's
tactics it is possible that the Crathie's skipper could have saved the
Elbe's passengers and crew.