[The Tayleur was an iron-hulled sailing vessel chartered by the White Star Line, it ran aground and sank on its maiden voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne on 21 January 1854 with huge loss of life. The White Star Line was later bought by Thomas Ismay]
The full extent of this awful calamity was not known here until late this afternoon, when the fact was ascertained that of about 700 persons who sailed from Liverpool in the Tayleur on Friday but 255 are living, no fewer than 455 having met a watery grave at base of the box which surround the islet of Lambay.
The catastrophe which occurred at noon on Saturday, was witnessed from the shore of the County Dublin between Rush and Malahide, and rumour of it reached the city on Saturday evening, but it came in such a doubtful shape that all here conceived it was the wreck of the Scotland, not far from the same locality, that gave rise to it.
The consequence was that no assistance reached the survivors until nearly dark yesterday (Sunday) evening, when the packet Prince, which had been liberally dispatched by the City of Dublin Steam Company, reached that fatal island. The captain (Dearl) found much difficulty in making out the spot where he could land in a boat; and when he got on shore he had a distance of a mile and a half to travel to find those who had escaped from the wreck. The bread and coffee which he brought with him in the Prince were most welcome to the poor people. He remained with his vessel all night, and gave up the full use of it to them.
The details of the awful calamity, as related by some of the survivors, to be found subjoined, would go in great measure to exonerate the captain of the Tayleur from much of the blame which is now attached to him. A very intelligent and respectable man, Mr Badcock, states that he was nine years at sea; that he believes the captain to be a fellow master of his profession, and most attentive.
The weather from the moment the ship left the Mersey until she sank was what in the parlance of the sea is termed "dirty" with a stiff gale blowing from the south east. The sea, too, was very heavy. Mr Badcock makes the most important remark, and it is this: that of the eight compasses on board the Tayleur did not appear to correspond with each other at any time he compared them, and he did so frequently. Again, he says the vessel would not "stay" with the canvas which she was carrying, and that, he thinks, was quite as much as would have been safe in such weather.
When the vessel struck, a great many of the passengers were in their berths, suffering from sea sickness; and although all had time to get upon deck, many could not leave, and were drowned in them. Amongst the cabin passengers was Mr Arthur Codd, a gentleman much respected here. He was the brother of town councillor Codd, and was going to Australia to be married to a young Irish lady, whose family lately settled there. Several other Dublin citizens were on board. Of about 120 women but three were saved, the captain of the Tayleur having in vain entreated all on deck to take their chances of the ropes and spars which the seaman who had effected a landing continued to throw out. The sea was, however, fearful, and many an able man was killed by being dashed against the rocks.
The Prince steamer arrived in the Liffey at 2 o'clock today. An anxious crowd awaited her. The scene presented as she came along side was most affecting. Almost every one enquired for was among the lost. Those landed looked wretchedly-many but half attired- having lost their hats and coats, and suffering from drenched clothing.
Five poor fellows had to be sent to hospital. One fine specimen of a sailor, Patrick Bailey, had his arm broken in two places, trying to save a woman. Another, named Higgins, suffered a severe hurt in the leg while similarly employed.
Amongst the seaman who behaved gallantly after the ship struck was a party of Frenchmen. One of them saved a beautiful child of about two years old. Two other children were likewise saved.
The place where the Tayleur struck is described as a little creek, with rocks jutting out at either side and in front. How so many managed to ascend the steep blocks that intervene between the water and the land can only be accounted for by bearing in mind what a human being will attempt to preserve life.
The emigration agent for Dublin announced to the poor shipwrecked people that the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company had liberally determined to send them all back to Liverpool by this evening's boats, or those to sail tomorrow, if they desired it better. When at Liverpool, they should apply to the agents or owners of the Tayleur for the amount of their passage money. The French seaman preferred going before the consul of France here, as they were nearly all destitute of money, or food, and clothing.
None of the dead bodies had been removed when the Prince left Lambay today, but from 30 to 40 were visible amongst the projecting crags near the spot where the ship struck. The topmast of the Tayleur is over water at high tide, but the deck is not to be seen at low tide.
Since writing the above, I have heard it stated that the number on board was 670. Sir Roger Palmer, Deputy Lt of Rush, acted with great liberality towards the survivors of this wreck. He ordered several sheep to be killed for their use, and brought up all the bread in the neighbouring villages yesterday. The agent of Lord Talbot on Lambay also rendered much aid to the poor people, who spend Saturday night in the castle on the island.
One of the first cabin passengers, Mr W Jones of London, has given the following statement of the melancholy occurrence:-
"The Tayleur sailed from Liverpool at 11:55 on Thursday forenoon, with passengers and crew are mounting in all to about 650 souls, including children.
For several hours they had a fair wind, and about 8 o'clock that evening they were off Holyhead. A short time after, however, it came to blow strong, and the wind was right against them, so that next morning they again found themselves close to Holyhead.
During the whole of Friday, and Friday night they struggled with an adverse wind, and on Saturday morning they were endeavouring to make the North Channel, not being able to steer to the south. — Heard on board, and has no doubt of the fact, that several hours before the vessel struck the helmsman informed the captain that he saw land; but the course of the ship was altered.
About a quarter before 12 on Saturday the passengers were able to discern the land, the weather being at the time thick and hazy. The land must have been then very close to them, for they ran upon the rocks just under the cliff, as near as he could say, at about 12:30.
The scene then was of the most frightful character, all the passengers being on board, and screaming and crowding together in the most heartrending manner.
It was his opinion, and the general feeling on board all along, that the ship was hardly manned for the voyage, having a crew consisting partly of Chinese and lascars, who could neither speak not understand English, and, as he thought, were inadequate to work the ship. The vessel, owing to a vain attempt to keep off the land, when it was too late, went aboard side upon the mocks, and immediately after the stern began to sink. So close were they to the rocks that a black sailor at once jumped on shore, and five or six of the men immediately after followed his example. A rope was then got from the ship to the shore, and made fast, and the third mate managed to put a plank from the ship to the rocks, so close were they; and by these means, and these means alone-the single rope and the plank-were many lives subsequently saved.
The people called out to the captain to lower the boats, but he said 'What use?" And accordingly no boats were lowered; and the crew, as well as all the rest of the people, appeared utterly paralysed, and unable to do anything to save life. The people crowded together to the head of the vessel, which was high out of water when the stern went down; but the waves continued to wash over them, and each wave carried away some of the unfortunate passengers.
The sea was so boisterous among the rocks that he does not think any of those who fell into the water was saved; and in about 40 minutes after the vessel struck the whole of the wreck went down, leaving the masts over water, and all who were then clinging to the wreck perished, with the exception of one man, who got into the rigging, and remained there until next morning (Sunday), when he was got off by the coastguards.
The reason nobody else sought refuge in the rigging was, that all were endeavouring to get near the rope and the plank, which could save very few at a time. There were about 200 women, at a rough guess, and perhaps 50 children on board, and all of those, with the exception of two women and one child, perished. In fact, all the weak and helpless were lost, and nobody who was not able to make an effort for himself was saved.
He saw the second mate perish, and also the Doctor, the latter having made gallant efforts to save his wife and child, both of whom were lost, only for which he might have saved himself. His child was at some distance from him, and in endeavouring to reach it he lost his own life.
No assistance in saving life could be rendered from the land, the only persons there being the Coast Guard men, who knew nothing of the affair until they were told of it by the black sailor, and as all was over then they could of course do nothing.
They remained by the wreck until about 3 o'clock, when it was too late to attempt to cross to the mainland by the coastguard's boat, and the first communication to the main land was not sent off until about six the next morning. During the night they suffered a great deal from the wet and cold."