News from 1928: The Wreck of Celtic II

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 10 December 1928

Arriving From New York, She Hits Cow-and-Calf Rock at Irish Harbor
LONDON, Monday, Dec. 10 (AP)---Lloyds dispatch from Queenstown today
said that the liner Celtic, bound from New York to Liverpool, was ashore
on Cow-and-Calf Rock, 400 yards went of Roche's Point Lighthouse.

The tide was on the ebb and a tug was dispatched to aid the liner.

The Celtic sent a wireless message to Lloyd's saying that she was ashore
at 5:40 A. M. The Queenstown correspondent of Lloyd's confirmed this and
said that the tug Gelezy was immediately sent to the distressed steamer.
Roches Point Lighthouse is at the eastern entrance of Cork Harbor, which
is the waterway leading to Cobh (Queenstown).

The Celtic sailed from New York on Dec. 1 and from Boston the following


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 11 December 1928

Passengers, With 25 Vestris Survivors, Taken Off Near Queenstown by
Ship Grounded Making Harbor in Gale That Prevented Picking Up
Pilot---Total Loss Feared
QUEENSTOWN, Ireland, Dec. 10 ---The White Star liner Celtic was lying
high and dry tonight on the rocks off Roche's Point, near the entrance
to Queenstown Harbor. It is feared the 21,179-ton vessel will be a total

She grounded just before dawn today while slipping into the harbor to
disembark mails and passengers for Ireland. A gaping hole was smashed
through the side of the engine room and soon water was flooding some of
the compartments to a depth of twelve feet. At first the big liner
seemed likely to turn turtle and sink. She swayed from side to side for
an hour after grounding, while a fierce gale blew in the harbor and the
sea beyond.

When the tide ebbed the Celtic lay upright and steady, but helpless on
the rocks.

All her 254 passengers, among them twenty-five survivors of the Vestris
disaster, transferred by tenders during the day intended to complete
their voyage to Liverpool via Fishguard or Dublin.

Two powerful tugs and a British destroyer had rushed to the Celtic's
rescue, fearing there might be a serious accident in the heavy
groundswell then running. Before they could push her off, the tide
receded and further efforts had to be postponed till evening.

Sang Old War Songs

Roche's Point is a familiar landmark to Atlantic travelers because the
lighthouse there guides the boats into Cork harbor The fixed light
shines sixty feet above high water, with the beacon visible for thirteen

The Celtic was due to arrive at 2 A. M. today, but during the night a
strong southwesterly wind sprang up, causing delay. Thus it was nearly 5
o'clock when she reached the harbor. The gale had increased in ferocity
and a huge swell prevented the pilot from boarding.

Only a small number of passengers were on deck when the crash came. Most
of those who were asleep were thrown out of their bunks, and for a few
moments after the alarm was sounded all was confusion.

The excitement subsided quickly when it was realized there was no
immediate danger and within a quarter of an hour the passengers joined
in singing such old war songs as "Tipperary" and "Pack Up Your

Later, when the first passengers began arriving ashore, they were loud
in praise of the ship's crew for their cool conduct under trying

Vestris's Survivors Asleep

All the Vestris's survivors were asleep when the Celtic grounded. When
they arrived in Queenstown they still showed some effects of their
trying experiences but seemed in the best of spirits. All said it was a
picnic compared with what had happened aboard the Vestris. One of the
Vestris's wireless officers, James MacDonald, with true nautical
superstition suggested the presence of some Jonah in the ship's company.

"I have a good idea who he is," he smilingly added, "but I don't like to
mention his name."

MacDonald described the conduct of the Celtic's crew as splendid and
said that within ten minutes of the crash the stewards were serving hot
coffee to the passengers, who by that time had assembled on deck.

All twenty-eight lifeboats were ready for lowering a few minutes after
the smash.

The glasses and ornaments in the smoking room were strewn around the
floor and the panelings in the doors were smashed, but amid all the din
and excitement one steward was heard to say calmly:

"Gentlemen, why not get on your life belts?"

"We did so," said one passenger, "and went up on deck, but realizing
there was no immediate danger we went below again and continued our
rubber of bridge."

The effort to refloat the Celtic at high tide failed but will be renewed

A Board of Trade inquiry into the accident will be opened at Queenstown

Seas Break Over Bows
QUEENSTOWN, Ireland, Dec. 10 (AP)---The White Star liner Celtic,
one-time queen of the ocean, lay tonight like a stricken monster of the
deep on a ledge of rocks at an exposed point at the entrance of Cork

There was a huge hole in her bottom and a big rent in her side while
twelve feet of water was in some of her compartments.

The liner, which left New York on Dec. 1, and later called at Boston,
went on the rocks during a gale early this morning and after fourteen
hours of frantic efforts to refloat her, she was still clutched by the
group of rocks known as the Cow and Calf off Roche's Point lighthouse.

Efforts to haul the Celtic off the rocks were abandoned tonight, but
will be renewed at high tide tomorrow afternoon in the presence of White
Star officials and the insurance authorities.

Temporary Repairs Made

While tugs stood by, the work of patching up the breaches in her hull
and of pumping out the water within her went on in hopes of effecting
temporary repairs sufficiently strong to withstand the seas until
tomorrow's salvage attempts.

The Celtic was carried on the rocks at Roche's Point at 5:40 o'clock
this morning by a seventy-mile gale. The storm was so violent that the
pilot was not able to get aboard the big ship, which was calling at her
first port since leaving Boston.

The Celtic's captain, seizing a chance during a lull in the dark hours
of this morning, was almost in safe waters when a violent gust swung the
liner upon the rocks with a crash which shook the ship fearfully. The
worst shock was in the engine-room, and some of the men there had narrow

John Keown, one of the crew of the Vestris, who was en route to his home
in Liverpool, remarked that it was exactly four weeks ago today that he
was shipwrecked on the Vestris and was saved after having been fifteen
hours in the water.

He was in his berth when the Celtic struck, and he heard some women
screaming, but there was really no panic. Everything soon went on in
quiet fashion and breakfast was served to the passengers aboard before
they were transferred in the tender Failte, which is the Irish word
meaning, "welcome."

As the passengers were landing, the destroyer Sesame left her moorings
opposite the landing quay and went out to render any assistance that
might be needed.

When the vessel was forced by wind and sea on to a rocky ground known as
the Cow and Calf, most of the passengers were abed, except about
seventy, who had planned to land at Cobh. But almost all aboard knew
that something had happened. At times the liner rocked from side to
side, and it was apparent to all that she had stopped her forward
motion. Soon it was learned that she was stuck hard and fast and was
rapidly taking in water in some of the holds. Nevertheless, excellent
order prevailed.

Lifeboats in Readiness

The passengers saved their hand baggage for the most part, but their
heavy baggage is yet to be brought ashore. The Celtic had huge
quantities of Christmas mail aboard, with more than 700 sacks for
Ireland alone.

One of the passengers, John McManus, going home to Arigna, Roscommon,
said that the men behaved splendidly as a whole and insisted on the
women and children being cared for first.

The lifeboats were swung out in readiness, the crew was lined up to man
the boats and the passengers were marshaled to their proper posts. Then
word was passed that the vessel was in no immediate danger and the
breakfast gong rang out its signal.

A few minutes later the passengers sat down and soon after were taken
off on the tenders.

C. W. Wilson of Toronto was almost thrown out of his berth by the force
of the impact. Like many more, Wilson was only partly dressed when he
came ashore.

Arthur Packson of Trenton, N. J., en route to Liverpool, was on deck to
get his first glimpse of a pilot boarding a big liner at sea. Instead,
he was almost thrown off his feet in the blinding rain and wind as the
Celtic crashed.

F. Hamilton of New York said that there was little or no excitement
aboard the Celtic and that the work of disembarking progressed quietly
and efficiently.

B. Sheehan, a saloon passenger who was on deck, said that rocks loomed
suddenly out of the mist. They appeared so close that it seemed to him
as though he could have stretched out his hand and touched them.

"Three yards more to the westward and there would have been no chance of
saving the Celtic," he declared. "The waves were dashing wildly at
times, and a furious wind was accompanied by a heavy rain."
Passengers Continue Trip
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
DUBLIN, Dec. 10---Most of the passengers from the liner Celtic arrived
here tonight. About 200 of them crossed to Holyhead by mail boat, while
the Vestris survivors and a few others went by British and Irish lines
to Liverpool.

The captain of the liner and a skeleton crew are still aboard. Attempts
to float the ship tonight failed. The captain of the Celtic is said to
have broken down when the ship struck.
$1,150,000 Is Insurance Value
LONDON, Dec. 10---Marine underwriters here took a serious view today of
the accident to the White Star liner Celtic, which occurred off
Queenstown. They were afraid the perishable cargo would be ruined by
water and that the salvage costs would run into thousands of dollars. At
Lloyd's the reinsurance rate against the total loss of the Celtic has
been placed at 26, which means the odds are about three to one that she
can be refloated. The whole ship, including the machinery, is valued at
$1,150,000 for insurance purposes.

"If the late reports are correct there must be a lot of water in the
ship's hold," said one marine underwriter. "The salvage bill is
evidently going to be heavy."

The White Star Line had no information as to the extent of the damage.
Vessel, Built in 1901, Was Saved by Submarine's Mistake
The Celtic was built in 1901 and was the first of the White Star "big
four," as the liners were named by the company. She was followed by the
Cedric, the Baltic and the Adriatic. She is 21,179 gross tonnage, 680
feet 9 inches long, 78 feet 3 inches beam, with twin screw engines,
which give the vessel an average speed of seventeen knots.

The Celtic was intended to be an intermediate steamer and to carry first
class passengers at a lower rate than the Oceanic, Majestic and Teutonic
of that period. She was the largest ship afloat then and immediately
became popular with passengers. Andrew Carnegie, Colonel William C.
Whitney, the late J. Pierpont Morgan and many other prominent Americans
traveled by her as well as the late Joseph Pulitzer, who had the doors
of one of the suites on the "B" deck packed with cork so that he could
rest undisturbed by any noise.

In February, 1902, the Celtic went on a cruise to the Mediterranean
under charter to Frank C. Clark with 835 American tourists on board and
she was on view at every port from Madeira to Alexandria.

She had many adventures during the World War, the most serious being
when she was torpedoed off the Isle of Man during the war. If the German
submarine commander had not made a mistake the liner would not have been
In the White Star service at the present time. He put one torpedo into
the liner on the starboard side by the engine room and the vessel began
to list rapidly and fill with water. Not being content with one torpedo
the submarine commander went round to the port side and fired another,
which straightened the Celtic up and she drifted into shallow water and
sank on an even keel.

In addition to carrying troops, ammunition and supplies during the war
the Celtic also carried $25,000,000 in American securities from the Bank
of England to New York.

At an earlier period in the war the vessel hit a mine in the North
Atlantic, off the coast of Ireland, but it did very little damage to her
hull, which was easily repaired.

Two years ago she was in a slight collision with the American freighter
Anaconda off the Nantucket Lightship in a thick fog. The Celtic had some
of her plates damaged above the water line, but made the harbor of
Boston, where she was bound, without any difficulty.

Captain Gilbert Berry, the master of the ship, is one of the most
careful navigators in the North Atlantic trade and is due to retire at
the end of 1929, when he will have reached the age limit of 60.
Americans Among Passengers
The list of cabin passengers who sailed from New York and Boston aboard
the Celtic included the following: Albert E. Dixon of New York, Mrs. F.
H. Emerson of Forest Hills, Joseph Ferguson of Rye, N. Y.; Mrs. Ferguson
of Rye, N. Y.; Mrs. Frederick Kerr of New York, Mrs. M. T. Kirstein of
Woodside N. Y.; Hon. J. J. McGowan of New York and William Smellie of
New York.

Among the third class passengers were the following: Edward Chelford,
Patrick Callaghan, Anton Larsen, Nora Malone, Mr. and Mrs. Muldoon,
Cavin Malone, Patrick J. Killeen, John Grant, Katherine Sullivan, Daniel
Sullivan, Cornelius Kielty, Michael Hefferman, William Bushton, Mary
Lowey, Margaret Roran, John P. Gilligan, Austin Thomas, John McNeill, B.
Sullivan, J. Grainger, A. Knill, P. Hudson and N. Jones, all of New
York; also Silas Hampson and Arthur Adamson of Brooklyn. Also listed
were: John Threlfall of Ridgewood, N. J.; Kiernan Carroll, 152 Sheppard
Avenue, Newark; Margaret McGuire of Newark, Arthur E. and Mrs. Sarah
Jackson, 1,010 Hamilton Avenue, Trenton, N. J.; Mrs. Mary Killicorn, 92
Covert Street, Brooklyn; Mrs. Florence Warner. 478 Avon Avenue, Newark;
A. Muldoon, 633 Columbus Avenue, New York; Nathaniel Farquhar,
364 Maple Street, Arlington, N. J., and Peter Nolan of Paterson, N. J.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Hello, Mike---

What's contained at the end of the article immediately above is all I know of Celtic's last complement of passengers.

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 12 December 1928

White Star Officials Report Liner's Position May Necessitate Lightering
Even If Vessel Is Taken Off Before She Breaks Up, Repairing at Cobh is
LONDON, Dec. 11---Attempts to take off the Celtic this afternoon were
unsuccessful and the vessel remained fast on the rocks. Captain Berry
and several of the ship's officers, together with a number of deckhands,
are staying on board to assist in the towage efforts.

Commodore Bartlett, marine superintendent of the White Star Line, and
Mr. Clay, superintendent engineer, boarded the Celtic today to
investigate the liner's position, and upon their report will be based
further attempts at salvage. It is believed the structural work
amidships has been strained and it is considered extremely probable that
the vessel will have to be lightered.

The chances of floating the liner are regarded an being extremely
remote. Commodore Bartlett said the vessel could not be in a worse
position, but he was hoping for the best. The weather, fortunately,
remains very favorable but a change in the wind would render her
condition more perilous and increase the danger of breaking up before
the cargo could be removed.

The slant of the vessel was increased to ten degrees which makes walking
along the docks difficult. In the morning, a diver will descend to the
engine-room where there is estimated to be about twenty-five feet of
water. The third hold is similarly flooded.

The Celtic's cargo comprises a large quantity of maize, apples and other
American produce. Should the Celtic be floated, there would be
difficulty in getting her to the dock yard for repairs. No dock in Cork
harbor is large enough to accommodate her and in view of the extent of
the damage it is suggested that all that could be done would be to beach
her at Whitebay, some three miles distant. Temporary repairs might be
effected there to enable her to reach Belfast or Glasgow.
Baggage Moved from Ship
COBH, Irish Free State, Dec. 11 (AP)---The sea was moderating tonight
where the White Star liner Celtic still lay helpless on the rocks just
outside the harbor. It was believed that no further effort to refloat
the ship would be made before the arrival of the salvage steamer Ranger,
coming to the aid of the salvage steamer Restorer.

A quantity of the heavy baggage left behind by the passengers when they
abandoned the liner soon after she struck early yesterday morning was
sent to Dublin this afternoon on the same train which carried 297
members of the crew.


Mike Poirier

Dec 12, 1999
Thats excellent news Mark. It is something I have been interested in, but I am ashamed to say have not done any research on.

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 13 December 1928

Efforts Made to Discharge Cargo as Hope of Saving Liner Dwindles
LONDON, Dec. 12---The position of the Celtic off Cobh Harbor, Ireland,
is still unchanged, and danger to the vessel is increased hourly. Hopes
that she can be salvaged are almost abandoned.

Those aboard her can hear the rending and tearing of rocks against her
sides as she sways to and fro at an angle of ten degrees. Even at low
water it is estimated there are 6,000 tons of water in the engine room
and No. 3 hold.

It is feared the Celtic is perched on the pinnacle of the rock she
struck, in which case any attempt to tow her off would only result in an
extension of the damage and a change of wind would threaten her with
immediate breaking up.

Meantime every effort is being made to discharge her cargo, but a large
quantity is ruined irreparably.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 14 December 1928

No Hope of Moving It for Days From Rocks Off Cobh--Cargo Can Not Be
COBH, Ireland. Dec. 13---The peril to the White Star liner Celtic, now
on the rocks outside the harbor, increased today with a heavy ground
swell and fresh southeasterly winds. The high waves are making salvage
operations difficult and are hampering the work of discharging what is
left of the Centic's [sic] cargo.

The ship sways from side to side even more than when it first struck the
rocks. Apparently the damage to the engine room wall is constantly
increasing, and tons of water are flooding the hold.

Tenders worked bravely today trying to unload the dry portion of the
Celtic's cargo, but without success.

All idea of moving the liner to a less dangerous position has been
postponed for several days.

"We hope it will only be a matter of days," said one White Star
official, but he regarded the prospects gloomily.

With every day's delay the chances of the Celtic's rescue become more
remote. If the wind veers to the south and blows hard, it is bound to
mean disaster for the ship.
LONDON, Dec. 13---The reinsurance rate on the White Star liner Celtic
rose from 70 to 80 per cent yesterday, indicating that shipping men
virtually have given up hope that she can be refloated and saved.

Reports from Queenstown showed that the vessel was bearing on uneven
rocks from the foremast to abreast number six hatch. For about 100 feet
fore and aft the liner is unsupported. The damaged part is stated to be
inaccessible and could not be found as the vessel was resting heavily on
the rocks from bilge to bilge.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 15 December 1928

Salvage Work Stopped and Crew Ordered to Leave Imperiled Ship
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
LONDON, Dec. 14---A strong gale, accompanied by heavy seas and rain, has
blown up off Cobh Harbor, where the White Star liner Celtic is lying
helpless on the rocks. All salvage work has been suspended. The waves
are so high that the salvage craft can no longer remain alongside.

Danger to the ship is increasing to such an extent that the crew has
been sent ashore. Here in London the reinsurance rate has jumped still
higher, touching 85 per cent as compared with 80 per cent yesterday.
Shipping men are all but despairing that the 21,000-ton liner will ever
be refloated.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 16 December 1928

Pussy Refuses to Leave the Ship Which Is Being Pounded by Heavy Seas
LONDON---Only one living thing is left on board the White Star liner
Celtic, which is pounding helplessly on the rocks off Queenstown Harbor.

The ship's cat refused to leave when the crew went ashore and it still
tries to keep warm in the firemens' [sic] and stewards' quarters, where
it was born.

The last of the crew to leave the boat said that "the cat followed us to
the ladder and watched us go down." One member of the crew remarked, "We
tried to entice her to come with us, but she refused to leave the ship.
As we disappeared, one by one, she turned and walked slowly back to her
own cozy quarters. She could not be induced to leave it."

Meanwhile a southwest gale off Ireland blew more fiercely today and the
Celtic underwent a severe battering. There is practically no hope now
that the ship can be salvaged, though the salvage workers hope to rescue
the cat.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 19 December 1928

White Star Official Reports Salvage Impracticable
LONDON, Dc. 18 (AP)---The White Star liner Celtic may be abandoned to
the rocks and sea which hold her fast near the entrance to the harbor of
Cobh, Irish Free State.

Superintendent Bartlett of the line reported to his office after a
thorough inspection today that salvage was impracticable because of the
difficulty in reaching the damage to the hull and that further expense
would be unjustified. He advised, however, the continued removal of the


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 11 December 1928


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 20 December 1928

Official, However, Has Little Hope of Saving Much of Her Cargo
LIVERPOOL, Dec. 19 (AP)---White it is now feared that further attempts
to salvage the liner Celtic, stranded off Roche's Point near Cobh,
Ireland, are likely to prove futile, salvage operations to recover what
is possible of the cargo will be continued whenever the weather permits.

"The trouble is that the Celtic lies in such an exposed position that
the possible times we can work on her are few," said an official of the
Liverpool and Glasgow Salvage Association. which is working on the
liner. "Much of her cargo, which consists of metal, wheat and 30,000
barrels of apples and pears, is likely to be rendered worthless before
we can get at it."

Most of the cargo owners were insured, he said, the loss thus failing on
the cargo underwriters.


[MAB Note: The next article in this series will not appear until 29 December.]

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
[MAB Note: The next article in this series will appear on 5 January]

The New York Times, 29 December 1928

Cargo Removed From Celtic
COBH, Ireland. Dec. 28 (AP)---More than 1,000 tons of goods have been
removed from the White Star liner Celtic, which went aground at the
entrance to Cobh Harbor recently. A collier is being used for the
transference of the cargo. The vessel has been stripped of all fittings,
and because of her perilous position no one remains aboard. No hope of
saving the liner is held.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
[MAB Note: The next (and I think last) installment in this series will
appear on 23 July.]

The New York Times, 5 January 1929

Experts Say Wind and Swell of Sea Will Ruin Stranded Ship
COBH, Irish Free State, Jan. 4---Although the White Star liner Celtic
still looks much as she did when she went ashore near here on Dec. 10,
experts say there is no doubt that the vessel is doomed. The ship is
still firmly fixed on the rocks and it is only a matter of time, they
say, until the combined action of wind and sea break her up.

In the opinion of the experts this will not happen until the keel is
affected. Once the keel is broken, it will not be long before the ship
falls to pieces. A large number of her plates are so firmly impaled on
the rocks that no serious effort can be made to get her off. The sharp
rocks will probably tear larger rents until the keel begins to suffer.
Under water the slow destruction of the hull of the vessel is continuing
unceasingly, for where the Celtic lies there is a heavy swell from the
Atlantic even in the calmest weather.

That part of the cargo which is stored on the decks below the water line
is now beginning to decay, but that which remains above water is in an
excellent state of preservation. It includes large shipments of apples
and pears and these are being removed slowly and laboriously. Valuable
machinery is also being saved in good condition.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
[MAB Note: I was having some ISP problems for a while last month, so this article did not appear as promised on 23 July. Sorry for the delay.]

The New York Times, 23 July 1929

Danish Firm Buys Stranded Liner for Scrap Metal
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES

LONDON, July 20---An attempt to refloat the 20,000 ton White Star liner
Celtic, which was stranded on the rocks of Roche Point, near Queenstown,
last Fall, is to be made by the Copenhagen firm of Petersen & Albreck,
who have purchased the wreck.

The Celtic will never be put into commission again. The firm has
purchased her for scrap metal and after the top hamper and machinery
have been removed the hull will be refloated and towed to Denmark for
breaking up.


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