The Cospatrick Disaster

Dec 29, 2006
In September 1874 around 400 emigrants sailed for New Zealand aboard the Cospatrick, a 3-masted sailing vessel. The emigrants included a part of 17 from the village of Shipton-under-Wychwood, in Oxfordshire. Unfortunately, fire broke out on the night of 17th November when the vessel was 700 miles from the Cape of Good Hope and, despite frantic efforts to save the ship, she was soon engulfed in flames. The crew managed to launch two boats, each carrying 30 survivors, although neither of the boats had any food or water. One of the boats foundered in a storm, but the remaining one was picked-up by the Sceptre ten days later — by which time it contained just three living men, who had subsisted by eating the bodies of their dead companions. In all, 470 people perished in the disaster, including the Shipton-under-Wychwood party, who are commemorated by a memorial on the village green.

My question is this; the Cospatrick was a so-called "Blackwall Frigate" - a type of merchantman that was often used on the New Zealand run. They looked very much like single deck naval frigates, with a horizontal white stripe along their sides, punctuated by 14 or 15 black-painted ports, which suggested to possible pirates that the vessels were 30-gun frigates. I wonder, however, if they were actually armed? Or were the "gun ports" simply intended to deceive?

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