Drummond Castle


DRUMMOND CASTLE was built in 1881 by John Elder & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 3537grt, a length of 365ft, a beam of 43ft 6in and a service speed of 12 knots.

Sister of the Garth Castle she was built for the mail run and, in 1892, had the distinction of carrying the first cargo of South African peaches in her 'cold chambers'.

She was transferred to the Intermediate service in 1894.

The South African papers to hand by this mail are full of telegraphic and other information respecting the loss of the Drummond Castle. It is not surprising to learn that the news of the disaster thrilled South Africa from end to end—and many were the affecting scenes and incidents occasioned by the intelligence.


On receipt of the news in Cape Town business was brought almost to a standstill. Not a few of the passengers were respected citizens of Cape Town, or near relatives of people well known among them, while many others were known and respected throughout South Africa. The news reached the Castle Company’s office about nine o’clock, whereupon Mr. MacLean, and Mr. Andrew, the joint General Managers, at once proceeded to discharge the sad duty of breaking the news to such as had husbands, wives, or children on board the vessel. The news spread, of course, with the utmost rapidity, and within a few minutes was known in every shop and office in the city. The Castle Company’s office was thereupon besieged with anxious inquirers, but there was little to tell beyond the bald fact of the vessel’s loss. Next the people turned to the newspaper offices, where information as it came to hand was exhibited. In consequence of the awful calamity, the Mayor and Mayoress postponed the whole of the arrangements in connection with the Fancy Dress Ball arranged to be held on the Thursday. Mr. Attwell gave instructions for the poultry and other refreshments prepared for the occasion to be distributed amongst the poor and the charitable institutions of the town.


The following communication from His Excellency the Administrator (General Goodenough) was addressed to the Mayor of Cape Town:

“I feel impelled to endeavour to express to you how much I sympathise with you and the public in the distress all must experience at the sad intelligence of the loss of the Drummond Castle with many promising lives. I am pained to see that some families closely connected with your own municipal body are sufferers. Mrs. Goodenough joins with me in beggin you to convey to all affected an assurance of our deepest sympathy.”  The following telegram was received from Admiral Rawson in reply to a wire from the Mayor of Cape Town apprising him of the disaster: “Please inform His Worship the Mayor deeply regret awful calamity. Have made known.”


On the Thursday afternoon, in the House of Assembly, after the petitions and notices had been disposed of,

Sir Gordon Sprigg said: Mr. Speaker, since the House met yesterday we have received intelligence of a very great calamity. (Hear, hear.) This House is the representative body of the Colony, and I think it is desirable that we should mark our sense of the great loss sustained by South Africa and our deep sympathy with the many families who have been bereaved by the going down of the Drummond Castle—(hear, hear)—by giving a short resolution that, with the concurrence of members, the House adjourn. (Hear, Hear.) I would simply move:

That this House desires to express the deepest sympathy with the numerous families in South Africa who have been suddenly bereaved by the loss at sea of the steamship Drummond Castle. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. SAUER: Mr. Speaker, I am sure there will be no objection to this motion, and I am very glad the the Treasurer has proposed it. There are a great many people belonging to Cape Town who were on board the Drummond Castle, as well as others from other parts of the Colony, and all were from South Africa—(hear, hear)—and, when such a terrible calamity has happened, it is proper that the House should show its sympathy with the relations of these unfortunate people. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. TAMPLIN: Mr. Speaker, I should like to say that I am quite sure the action of the House on this occasion, initiated gracefully as it has been by the Prime Minister, and seconded by the hon. Member for Aliwal North, will be very deeply appreciated by the people of the Eastern Province, owing to the fact that most of the passengers on the ship—the loss of the ship, officers, and crew, and nearly all 0on board, we all deeply deplore—came from the Eastern Province. It was an intermediate steamer, and I am sure the whole heart of the Colony hears in unison with the relatives of these people on this mournful occasion. (Hear, hear.)

MR. HUTTON: I deeply sympathise with the proposal which has been made by the honourable the Prime Minister. I would suggest that a copy of the resolution which has just been passed by this House should be sent by telegraph to the Government of Natal. (Hear, hear.)

SIR JAMES SIVEWRIGHT: I think, Sir, that it should be sent not only to the Government of Natal, but to the Governments of the Republics as well (Hear, hear.)

Mr. HUTTON: By all means.

Sir James SIVEWRIGHT, proceeding: I have just received a telegram from Pretoria to the effect that the greatest possible anxiety prevails there. A father who is almost broken-hearted telegraphs about his son.

The motion was agreed to and the House adjourned.

In the Legislative Council after the petitions and motions had been disposed of.

Sir Gordon Sprigg moved a vote of condolence with the relatives of the sufferers by the Drummond calamity.

It was carried unanimously, and the Council adjourned as a mark of sympathy.


The Castle Company officials in Cape Town made every effort to obtain complete identification, and urgent telegrams to the Company’s agents throughout South Africa brought a mass of detailed information.

The Cape Telegraph Department have lost three of their most capable operators in the persons of Messrs. J. Dalziel, J. Richardson, and George Almond. Mr. Dalziel went to South Africa from Scotland about seven years ago, and after serving in various offices throughout the Colony, joined the Cape Town staff in 1894. He obtained leave of absence some time ago, but owing to the extra work entailed on the department by the Johannesburg Reform Movement, voluntarily gave up his claim to leave until the work moderated. He then took his leave and sailed in company with the other two named in the ill-fated Drummond. A very sad fact in connection with his death is that he was to have been married immediately on his arrival in England. Mr. Dalziel was exceedingly popular with all his fellows, and his loss is a severe blow to the staff.

Mr. Almond went to the Cape seven years ago from London, and had been in the Kimberley office ever since. He, like Mr. Dalziel, voluntarily surrendered his leave at the commencement of the Reform crisis, and then joined forces with Mr. Richardson and Mr. Dalziel with the idea of having a pleasant trip Home.

Mr. Richardson went out for the Cape Service some years since, and after serving at Cape Town and Kimberley accepted a position under the Transvaal Government at Johannesburg. All three are most highly spoken of by their respective chiefs.


The Town Council officials are amongst the keenest of sufferers by the sad occurrence. The City Engineer (Mr. W. T. Olive) and the Time-keeper (Mr. W. B. Lucas) had relatives on board the liner. Mr. Olive was sending his two daughters, Geraldine and Beatrice, aged 15 years and 13 years respectively, to school in England, whence they came but a very short while ago. The wife and children of Mr. W. B. Lucas, timekeeper at the Town House and formerly third officer on board the S.S. Warwick Castle, were on board. One of the children was a baby, while the other was about seven or eight years old.


It is stated that a lady who intended to sail by the Drummond had a presentiment, a day or two previous to the departure of the vessel from Cape Town, that she would founder. On the day the vessel sailed the lady resolved to decide the point by chance, and tossed up a coin. The result was that chance was hostile to the lady sailing, and she booked her passage by another steamer.


Among the passengers who booked by the Drummond were three brothers. Two of them went down with the vessel; the third was saved in quite a remarkable way. Shortly before the vessel sailed, Mr. Silberbauer, of Cape Town, went on board in his capacity of High Sheriff and arrested him in connection with some civil process which was pending against him. Thus an experience which doubtless gave him the keenest annoyance at the time has proved the means of saving his life.


Messrs. Norris and Graham, assistants to Mr. Pain, the pyrotechnist, were returning to London after having been in South Africa for nearly twelve months. Both have wives and children, who it is feared are unprovided for.


Mrs. Aspinall was a Yorkshire lady from the Leeds district, who was returning Home after paying a lengthy visit to her two sons—the one a confidential clerk to the General Manager of the Cape Government Railways, residing at Claremont, and the other a telegraph clerk also in the service of the Colonial Government. She was an aged lady, and had been in the Colony about eighteen months.


Mrs. Hammond was the wife of a Manager in one of the Barberton mines. She was about thirty-five years of age, and leaves a family of children, though, fortunately, none were on board with her.

Mr. Kay

Mr. Kay, who was one of the third-class passengers, was a young man of about twenty-four years of age. He was last employed as a clerk at the Salt River Railway Works. He was formerly in the parcels office at Cape Town Station. He has a brother, a guard in the railway service, stationed at Touw’s River.


The Drummond disaster caused a profound sensation in Port Elizabeth, several of those lost being well known there. Passengers booked were Mr. McClelland, Mrs. Naismith and two children, Mrs. Taylor and two children. Captain Pierce was a familiar figure at Algoa Bay, having for many years been the master of the steamer Courland, trading between Cape Town and Natal. Much regret is felt over the loss of Mr. Skead, the Drummond purser, who was a Bay man; his father was for many years the Port Master. Young Skead was for a period at the local branch of the Bank of Africa, and recently accepted the appointment of purser owing to an affection of the eyes. Several stories were afloat respecting what are considered the escapes of intending passengers who for some reason did not go by the vessel, as instance that of Councillor Cox, who had booked passage, but at the last minute changed his plans.


Mr. John Wallis Blinkhorn, late of Adderley Street, was a passenger on the ill-fated steamer. Mrs. Blinkhorn and child left for England by the Greek about three months ago, Mr. Blinkhorn remaining behind to close his affairs. Mr. Blinkhorn’s name does not figure on the list of passengers, for the simple reason that he was undecided up to almost the last moment whether he would be able to get away by the boat. He succeeded in settling some pressing business, and booked his passage on board the steamer. The last act Mr. Blinkhorn did prior to the sailing of the vessel was to scribble a letter to the Cape Times on what seemed to him the apathy of the South African Political Association in the Amnesty movement. He wrote: “While in England I shall do what I can to put the English Colonists’ view before my political friends, and when I return shall do what I can for the Colonial League, as it seems to me it is the only organization likely to support Mr. Rhodes in his policy of South Africa for the British.”


Lieutenant Von Giese, who was also a passenger by the ill-fated liner, was an officer in the German army. He had been stationed in Damaraland for some time, but owing to ill-health he was some time ago ordered home on sick leave.


A relief fund has been opened by the Mayor of Cape Town for the sufferers by the wreck of the Drummond Castle, and another fund for the inhabitants of Molene Island, in recognition of their practical sympathy.

The following contributions to the Mayoral Fund for the relief of the relatives of the victims of the Drummond disaster had been acknowledged when the mail left: Mr. J. W. Attwell, £25; Mr. George Smart, £5; Mr. John Woodhead, £10; Mr. H. Boalch, £5; Mr. C. J. Byworth, £5; and Mr. F. Y. St. Leger, £5.

The Mayor of Kimberley also started a subscription list.


The news of the foundering of the Drummond, which was posted on the Argus Company’s window at 10 o’clock on the Thursday morning, was received with the greatest consternation. Several well-known Barbertonians were on board, including the Hugos of Moodies, the Mercer family of Barberton, Rae of Rae and Russel, Mrs. Hammond, wife of the late Battery Manager of the Sheba Mine. Mrs. Tom Andrews, widow of the late Manager of the Hatherley Distillery, was also on board.


In the Second Raad on the Friday morning, Mr. Frank Watkins moved: “That the House expresses its sincerest sympathy with the relatives of those who perished in the ill-fated Drummon.” In doing so, the member for Barberton said he considered it the duty of the House to express its condolence with those who had suffered from the terrible calamity, the intelligence of which they had just received. He thought they should express sympathy, not only with those in the Transvaal, but the neighbouring States and Colonies. He was sorry to say that amongst those who were lost were many of his Barberton friends. He felt sure that every member of the House would join to the fullest extent in this expression.

Mr. Jooste said he cordially agreed with the mover, and considered that everyone would unite in expressing their sincere sympathy.

The Chairman likewise spoke in a similar strain. They were horrified at the dreadful news. They deplored that so many valuable and promising lives were so suddenly brought to an end, and he thought that every Christian community would sympathise with the bereaved relatives.

Mr. Du Plessis (member for Rustenburg) said he was glad that Mr. Watkins had brought forward such a proposition, and although he had lost no relations he nevertheless heartily endorsed all that had been said, and felt sure that every member present would join in the expression of sympathy over the terrible catastrophe, by which over 200 souls had been sent to eternity.

The resolution was unanimously carried, all the members standing.


The news of the Drummond disaster was received with horror in Johannesburg. The Castle Company’s and newspaper offices were besieged by anguished friends and relatives of those on board the ill-fated ship beseeching for news. The scenes were terrible, men even weeping.


Mr. Alick Donaldson, one of the passengers on the liner, was on his first trip to England, in company with Mr. Haines, an engineer, for the purpose of floating a Free State gold property. He was for a long time Compound Manager at the City and Suburban. He has three brothers on the Rand—Mr. Walter Donaldson, Mr. J. S. Donaldson (builder), and Mr. Stephen Donaldson (Compound Manager at the Paarl Central).


Mr. Raxton (printed Buxton in the first list published), lately of the Cape Town office of the Standard Bank, did not leave by the ill-fated boat. At the last moment he transferred to the regular mail, the Hawarden Castle.

Mr. Astley, son of Sir John Astley, was booked by the Drummond, but on reaching Cape Town also changed over to the Hawarden Castle.

Mr. Henry Rogaly addressed the following letter to the Johannesburg Press:--As there have been several inquiries made respecting the safety of Mr. Leo Harris, late of Rietspruit, I beg to inform those friends of his who are anxious for tidings that he sailed in the Hawarden Castle, and not in the ill-fated Drummond.


The Mrs. And Miss Barnett mentioned in the list of passengers of the ill-fated steamer were the wife and daughter of Mr. Arthur Barnett (of Messrs. Barnett and White, house and estate agents, Johannesburg). Mrs. Barnett was one of those who narrowly escaped traveling by the Natal train wrecked at Glencoe. She and her daughter had originally booked their passages by the Arundel Castle, but for some reason their contemplated trip was postponed. The news of the foundering of the vessel was a terrible blow to Mr. Barnett.


On the Drummond was Harry Cohen, a lad of 17 years of age, the sonof Mr. J. L. Cohen, of the Castle Brewery. The boy was proceeding home to complete his education, when his promising career was thus sadly cut short. Our readers will remember that the poor lad’s funeral at Ushant was described by our Special Reporter.


The news of the wreck of the Drummond Castle caused a great sensation in Bloemfontein. Mr. Earles and family, of that town, were on board.

In the Raad, a telegram from the Cape Government was read, stating that Parliament had passed a vote of condolence with the bereaved relatives of the ill-fated passengers of the Drummond Castle. The Raad also unanimously passed a similar vote.

In Bloemfontein it was intended to get up a concert in aid of the Drummond Relief Fund.


In Durban, as elsewhere, the most painful sensation was caused by the news. Messrs. Donald Currie and Co.’s offices were besieged by people asking for news of the disaster and the names of the missing. Among well-known people belonging to Natal among the passengers are Mr. Peachey and family, of Tongaat, ten in all. They had decided to go by direct liner, but at the last moment changed their minds and booked by the Drummond. Mrs. Peachey, senior, was paying a visit to England after an absence of forty-six years.

Al the flags in town and on shipping at the Point were half-masted on receipt of the news.

The Prime Minister of Natal cabled to Sir Donald Currie expressing sympathy with those bereaved by the foundering of the Drummond Castle.

The Mayor of Pietermaritzburg has invited subscriptions to a relief fund.

The insurance offices will be likely to sustain serious loss, as the Drummond Castle had a full cargo, and it has become customary to insure the cargo in the local as well as the London offices.

Pulpit references were made in the churches on the Sunday after the wreck of the Drummond Castle.


The Natal Legislative Council passed a resolution recording its grief at the terrible loss of life in the Drummond disaster, and expressing its deep sympathy with the bereaved. The resolution was ordered to be forwarded to other Governments and Legislatures of South Africa, and the Council immediately adjourned as a further mark of sympathy.


It has transpired that Mr. Peachey, senior, stated to several friends in Durban before he sailed that he had a spiritual manifestation to go by the Drummon in preference to the Umbilo, by which boat the family intended to go. One of Mr. Peachey’s daughters, left in Natal, is married to Mr. Hinds, of the Nonoti Tea Estate. Mr. Peachey himself was a tea planter, and his reasons for coming to England we have already dealt with in these pages.


A Kimberley correspondent writes:--Some years ago during a heavy gale off the South African coast, a vessel, supposed to be an emigrant ship, was struggling with the storm, and getting the worst of it, when she was made out by a Castle liner which was passing at the time. The liner did all she could to assist—cruised about the spot for hours—but help could not be rendered, and no more was heard of the unfortunate vessel in distress. The liner was the Drummond.


Mr. Teelfsen and Mr. Ugland, two of the passengers, were going home to Norway, after a long and perilous journey. They were wrecked on a Norwegian ship, and eventually reached Delagoa Bay in a destitute condition. Afterwards they embarked on the Drummond Castle, and were, therefore, in two wrecks within a few weeks.



A telegram from Brest, dated July 11, says:--Mons. Labat, the Brest journalist, is the recipient of the following letter, dated from the British Consulate, Brest, July 10:--“Dear Sir,--I have just received from Messrs. Donald Currie and Co., of London, a letter in which they request me to transmit to you the accompanying souvenir, together with a photograph of the Drummond Castle, in recognition of the assistance rendered by you in furnishing exact and complete reports of the loss of that ill-fated vessel. It is with pleasure that I undertake this commission, and beg you to believe me yours very faithfully (Signed) FREDERICK BONAR, British Vice-Consul at Brest.” The souvenir referred to consists of a massive silver inkstand surmounted by a clock, and of two chased silver candelabra.


Admiral Besnard, Minister of Marine, has granted various rewards to the inhabitants of Molene and Ouessant in connection with the wreck of the Drummond Castle. M. Berthele, who saved Mr. Marquardt, has received a silver medal, and a sum of 165f. has been forwarded to M. Masson and the members of his crew who assisted in the rescue of the sailors Wood and Godbolt. Besides these, thirty-five gifts of twenty-five francs, and twenty of twenty francs each have been sent to the fishermen of Molene and Ouessant. The Minister has also conveyed his congratulations to the Mayor and Cure of Molene and to the Maritime authorities at Conquet on account of the services rendered by them in connection with the disaster. The Committee of Lloyds have also decided to bestow the bronze medal of the Society of Lloyds upon the fishermen Francois and Mathieu Masson and Berthele as an honorary acknowledgment of their extraordinary exertions in saving life on the occasion of the loss of the Drummond Castle on the 16th June.


The decomposed body of a middle-aged man, height 5 ft 6 ½ in. was picked up on the 12th inst. In the Fromveur Channel by a fisherman named Vidamant at a distance of 500 metres from the scene of the Drummond Castle disaster. Upon the body was found a gold watch bearing the initials “A.S.,” and there was a ring on one of the fingers. The remains were interred with Catholic rites at Ushant, the funeral being attended by all the inhabitants.


The Cure of Molene has forwarded papers belonging to the late Mr. J. W. Blinkhorn to Mr. F. Dewberry, of Cambridge, uncle of the deceased, including a programme of the concert given on board the Drummond Castle just before the accident. The programme is quite legible throughout. The Cure says in his letter:--“Friday, July 17, is the 30th day since the wreck. On that day I shall again sing a solemn service for all the drowned from the Drummond Castle. I shall be very grateful if you will have the service announced in the English papers.”


Some correspondence has taken place between the President of the Board of Trade and Sir Donald Currie, M.P., with reference to the best mode of expressing in tangible form the public gratitude felt in this country towards the Breton people for their humanity and kindness in connection with the loss of the Drummond Castle. The fund inaugurated by Lord Belhaven for this purpose will remain open at Messrs. Coutts and Co.’s Bank, 59, Strand, W.C., and Messrs. Donald Currie and Co. will also be happy to receive subscriptions at their offices, 3 and 4, Fenchurch Street, E.C. These donations should be marked “Breton Fund” to distinguish them from subscriptions to the “Drummond Castle Relief Fund.” The correspondence is as follows:--

“3 and 4, Fenchurch Street, London, E.C.,

July 11, 1896

“Dear Mr. Ritchie—I have forwarded to Sir Courtenay Boyle at the Board of Trade the detailed report of my son-in-law, Mr. Mirrielees, of our firm, on his return from the Brest coast, which was promised to you with regard to the generous services rendered by the inhabitants of that district, and notably at Ushant and Molene, in connection with the loss of the Drummond Castle.

“In the report which has been submitted to you Mr. Mirrielees has explained what he has learned from the inhabitants of the Brest district would be most appreciated by them, although they have been unwilling to suggest that they are entitled to this consideration. I have given the matter careful thought, and now beg leave to state what I suggest should be done.

“I propose to make an appeal to the public, in addition to the movement inaugurated by Lord Belhaven and Stenton, for subscriptions to form a fund to be devoted to the following purposes, under the direction of a Committee to consist of Admiral Sir Anthony Hoskins, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, Mr. W. Garland Soper (Chairman of the South African Merchant’s Committee), Sir Robert G. W. Herbert, Lord Clifden, Mr. Mirrielees, with the other members of our firm and myself, with power to add to our number from the subscribers:--

“1. To build a spire to the tower of the church at Ushant, which it is thought will be of great benefit as a landmark to fishermen and others at sea.

“2. To place a clock on the church of Molene, and to assist, by contribution or otherwise, in arranging, if at all possible, some better water supply for that island, where the inhabitants are not very well off, and where they have been subject to cholera from time to time owing to the absence of a proper water supply.

“3 If sufficient subscriptions are received, to establish a fund for the relatives of shipwrecked or for retired fishermen, and for the education of the children of fishermen and others in the district of Finisterre, including Ushant, Molene, and the islands.

“I am assured on all sides of a general desire to show in this or some way our national good-feeling and gratitude towards the Breton folk. Lord Belhaven’s fund has already reached the sum of £130 and I will start the proposed new subscription list with a gift of £200.

“Believe me, yours very truly,

“Donald Currie

“The Right Hon. C. T. Ritchie, M.P.”

“Board of Trade, Whitehall Gardens, S.W.,

July 14, 1896.

“Dear Sir Donald Currie,--I am much obliged for your letter, and, without expressing an opinion on the objects named by you, as to which you will no doubt think it right to communicate with the French authorities, I desire to express my great satisfaction that the gratitude felt by the British nation for the kindly and humane action of the Breton people in connection with the loss of the Drummond Castle is likely to be expressed in a manner which will be of permanent advantage to the inhabitants of the district.

“Yours very truly,

“Charles T. Ritchie

“Sir Donald Currie, K.C.M.G., M.P.”


A meeting was held on Thursday at the offices of Messrs. Donald Currie and Co., in Fenchurch Street, at which a resolution was adopted appointing a Committee to receive subscriptions and administer the fund for the purpose of recognizing the kindness and humanity of the Breton people in connection with the loss of the Drummond Castle. It was decided that the fund originated by Viscount Clifden and Lord Belhaven should remain open at Messrs. Coutts’ Bank, and that a fund should also be opened at the Union Bank of Scotland, Cornhill, for the purpose of receiving subscriptions; these two funds to be merged into one, and known as the “Drummond Castle Breton Fund.” Lord Clifden and Lord Belhaven’s fund now amounts to £517, of which Sir Donald Currie subscribed £200. Mr. Mirrielees has been appointed hon. Sec. of the fund.


The resolution adopted by the Court of Common Council, expressing the gratitude of the City of London to the authorities and inhabitants of the islands of Molene and Ushant, for their assistance in connection with the wreck of the Drummond Castle, together with copies of Queen Victoria’s telegram to MM. Labat and Pelle, two local press representatives, expressing Her Majesty’s recognition of the help rendered by the inhabitants, have been posted up on the walls of the town halls of those places by order of the mayors.


Antoher body was found in the sea, near Landunvez, on Thursday, by a fisherman named Cadalen Herve. The body, which was that of a man 5 ft. 8 ½ ins. In height, was dressed in uniform, one of the jacket sleeves bearing two chevrons, surmounted by two gold anchors and a crown, and the other a golden bee and a silver star.





 Drummond Castle Memorial  

The Wreck of Drummond Castle - 1896

On 28th May 1896 she sailed from Cape Town under the command of Capt W.W. Pierce with 143 passenger and 103 crew.

On 16th June she was lost at night and in poor visibility on Pierres Vertes Reef, Molene Island off Ushant. The sea was so calm that there were no breakers to warn the watch keepers that the ship was off course in the tide race. Earlier, the Werfa (C.H.W. Grassdorf, Cardiff) had sighted and logged the Drummond Castle as being off course.

When the ship hit the reef the captain was under the impression that she was fast aground and ordered the lifeboats to be readied for lowering. In accordance with company policy for ships at sea the lifeboats were already slung out and all that was required was for the braces and belly bands to be removed.

The captain also gave the order to let off steam in case of explosion. However, the ship was not fast and had overshot the reef. Within four minutes she had sunk before a lifeboat could be lowered and out of the 246 persons on board only three were saved, one passenger and two members of the crew.

M. Alphonse Bertillon of the French Criminal Investigation Dept. was asked to investigate the scene and identified 51 of the 53 bodies recovered, receiving a gold medal from Queen Victoria for his efforts.

In 1929, whilst searching for bullion aboard P&O's Egypt which sank in 1922, the Italian salvage vessel Artigilio of Soc. Sorima found the hull of the Drummond Castle with a long gash in the hull from the keel to the waterline.

The inquiry ordered by the Board of Trade into the loss of the Drummond Castle on June 16 last off Ushant was opened on Monday at the Sessions House, Westminster, before Mr. Marsham, Captain Dyer, R.N., Captain Bigly, and Captain Castle being the Assessors.

Dr. Raikes, Q.C., and Mr. Mansell Jones appeared for the Solicitor to the Board of Trade (Mr. Walter Murton); Mr. J. P. Aspinall, Q.C., and Mr. Butler Aspinall appeared for the owners; Mr. Joseph Walton, Q.C., and Mr. C. M. Bailhache for the relatives of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Stephens and Mr. B. T. Knights; Mr. Leslie Field watched the case on behalf of Mr. Marquardt, the surviving passenger; Mr. H. C. Richards appeared for Mrs. Milne, a relative of passengers.

Dr. Raikes said that in this case, partly from want of materials, the Board of Trade had no case to make at all. The business of the Board of Trade in a case like this was, as far as might be, to enable the Court to form an opinion with all the materials they could obtain from any source whatever. A great deal must, of course, be conjecture, and it was far better that the Court should draw its own inferences than that possible theories should be put forward. The inquiry naturally divided itself into two leading parts—one, how did this ship get into the position in which she was lost; and, secondly, having got into that lamentable and unfortunate position, how was it that there had been such a terrible loss of life? He proposed, first of all, to produce evidence as to the construction of this ship, and of course, they could produce documentary evidence of the history of the ship from the date when she was launched, but with regard to the other part of the investigation, as to how she got into the place in which she was lost, the information available was exceedingly meager. There were altogether on the ship a crew of 102 and 143 passengers, of whom only one passenger and two of the crew had been saved. The information these could give was, he was afraid, of the very slenderest description. The quartermaster was off duty at the time because he was not well. The surviving seamen could tell them very little about the courses and very little about the soundings that were taken. The passenger saved was able to say that soundings were taken at about 8 o’clock, but after that time he also knew nothing about the navigation of the ship, because he was in the concert-room until very shortly before the ship struck. Consequently, for the intervening two hours there was the very smallest amount of direct information. There was some other evidence which might assist the Court in arriving at a conclusion, which it was to be hoped would have the effect of preventing such a lamentable catastrophe from again happening. There were people from a ship which was passing inside the Passage du Fromveur and from a P. and O. vessel which came round Ushant within a few hours of the time at which this vessel was lost, and from a vessel called the Werfa, who probably were the last people who saw the Drummond Castle before she met her end. There was also evidence from another ship which left Las Palmas the day before, making practically the same voyage as the Drummond Castle and passing Ushant some little time after the accident. There were also statements from fishermen of the Island of Molene. There was also a French naval officer (and he had to thank the French Government for allowing him to attend) who could give them information as to the tide and currents and the state of the weather. The Board of Trade had been in hopes that the lighthouse keepers at Ushant would have been able to attend, but it was obviously a difficult thing to spare men from an important lighthouse like that, but their record would be read showing that there was a very dense fog indeed over the top of the island, so dense that the two lighthouses on that island, separated only by about a mile and a half and furnished with very powerful lights, were invisible to each other. The lights were also invisible to the siren station. As was usual in inquiries of this nature, a series of questions had been prepared, but the Board of Trade were open to any suggestion as to any other line of investigation which might be thought desirable on behalf of the persons represented.

MR. MARSHAM:  Do you wish us to answer those questions as we generally do?

DR. RAIKES said he did not wish to express an opinion, but he would leave the matter to the Court. There was a terrible list of cases in which investigations had been held into accidents of this kind. These rocks off Ushant, it seemed, took an annual toll; sometimes two or three large vessels went ashore there in the course of one year. In the last 20 years there must have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of money, and God alone knew how many lives lost, on this terrible part of the coast; but these, of course, were matters of public record, and the list could be inspected by the Court if it was thought necessary. It was now nearly 20 years since a large passenger ship was lost in very nearly the same place, though in that case there was no loss of life, all the passengers being saved in the quarter of an hour that elapsed after the vessel struck before she went down. As to the question of construction, the Drummond Castle was built of iron—not of steel as more recent vessels are—at Govan, in Scotland, in 1881. Consequently she was now about 15 years old, and that was for a well-built iron ship practically the prime of life. The year 1881 was some ten years prior to the time when a certain committee sat to investigate the way in which the bulkheads should be placed. Evidence would be before the Court as to the placing of these bulkheads, and, although their position might not exactly agree with the recommendations of that committee, the Court would, he thought, probably be satisfied that the bulkheads were sufficient for ….(missing one line of text)…peculiarity in the construction of the vessel, looked at beside more recent models, was that, instead of having a double bottom or water tanks running all along the bottom, she had only six small water tanks amidships, so that if perforation took place the water gained immediate access to the interior of the ship. Another circumstance which might account for the rapid way in which the vessel sank was that she had little cargo on board, the holds being, therefore, practically empty and in a condition to fill at once. After the vessel left Las palmas, so far as the three survivors were able to tell, she did not seem to have met with anything unusual. There was no reason to suppose that observations were not taken daily; but there was no means of knowing whether the officers were able to get an observation on the day before the casualty. Coming nearer to the time of the accident, they knew that at 8 p.m. on June 16 Lord Kelvin’s sounding machine was used from the evidence of Mr. Marquardt, who was present when soundings of 45 and 75 fathoms were obtained. Mr. Marquardt afterwards went into the concert-room, where he remained until half-past 10 at night. After a turn or two on deck he went into the smoking-room, and whilst there he felt a shock, or rather he felt something which gave him the impression that they must have hit some other vessel a sliding blow. According to the evidence he would give, he went forward to see what it was, but saw nothing to indicate that they had struck, and immediately afterwards he became aware that the vessel was very rapidly settling down forward. Coming aft he saw that the men were engaged at the boats, but not apparently taking much trouble and not appreciating how rapidly the vessel was going down. As giving an indication of the time that elapsed, Mr. Marquardt went to his cabin and got a great coat and a lifebelt. Having done that he went aft, thinking that the best place, and remained there until the ship went from under him and the water washed him away. The stories of the other witnesses agreed with this. The vessel having entirely disappeared, it was evident that she must have gone down in very deep water. Dr. Raikes concluded by reading the following questions, which the Board of Trade desired to submit to the consideration of the Court:--(I) Was the Drummond Castle in good and seaworthy condition and was she fit for the service upon which she was employed? How many bulkheads had the vessel, and were they sufficient to prevent her from foundering immediately after sustaining damage in any one or in any two compartments? (2) What was her value and for what amount was she insured? (3) Was she supplied with the boats and life-saving appliances required by the statute, and the necessary distress signals? (5) What compasses were on board the vessel, and is there any reason to suppose that the master was unacquainted with their errors? (6) Did the vessel carry a patent log, and was it approximately accurate in recording the distance run from time to time? (7) Was the vessel supplied with a patent sounding machine and the necessary appliances for use therewith? (8) Did the owners require boat drill to be practiced on board the vessel, and was the drill carried out on her last voyage from London to Cape Town and thence to the time of the casualty? (9) What was the experience of the late master and officers, was the master in command of any vessel which had been stranded or damaged, and if so, in what circumstances was such vessel stranded or damaged? (10) Was the Drummond Castle properly and efficiently manned? (11) Were instructions issued by the owners to the master that he was to approach Ushant closely on the homeward voyage for the purpose of being signaled? (12) What number of passengers and crew respectively were on board the vessel when she left Las Palmas? (13) What was the average speed of the vessel after leaving Las Palmas, and is there any reason to suppose that the master intended to pass Ushant too closely either for the purpose of signaling, or for the purpose of making a quick passage? (14) What was the state of the weather on June 16, and was it, in the opinion of the Court, such as to enable the master to determine his position by observation? (15) Were soundings taken at or about 7:30 p.m. and again at or about 7:40 p.m. on June 16, what were the results of those soundings, and were they accurate? (16) Was a sounding obtained at or about 7:50 p.m. on the last-mentioned date, what was the result of the sounding, and was it accurate? (17) Were any soundings taken after the last-mentioned hour, and if the Court are satisfied that they were not, to what circumstances do they attribute the neglect to take them? (18) What was the state of the weather in the vicinity of Ushant after 9 p.m. on June 16? If it was thick with fog was the signal duly sounded, and was it heard on board the Drummond Castle by any of the survivors? (19) Was a good and proper look-out kept? (20) Was the vessel navigated with proper and seamanlike care? (21) What was the cause of the casualty? (22) What were the circumstances in which so many lives were lost? (23) The Board of Trade desire the Court to report fully upon the circumstances attending the loss of this vessel, and to make any suggestions which may occur to them, with a view to prevent the sudden foundering of a vessel and consequent loss of life in the future.

MR. ASPINALL, Q.C., took exception to question nine on the ground that an inquiry whether the master had been in commany of any vessel which had been stranded or damaged would lead to practically an interminable investigation.

MR. MARSHAM said he thought the Court would not go into the question of any other vessel being stranded or damaged.

MR. ASPINALL said the suggestion clearly was that there might be something in the late master’s career of which the Company ought to give an account, and he was instructed to say that, if any evidence of the kind was called for, the Company would be pleased to supply it. But they wished to know definitely what charge, if any, they had to meet, and it was not right that in an inquiry of this kind a sort of roving commission should issue with a view to finding out  whether at some time of his life the deceased master had been guilty of some indiscretion.

MR. MARSHAM thought it might be difficult to exclude evidence of a previous stranding.

MR. MANSEL JONES then put in the register of the Drummond Castle.

MR. WILLIAM J. WOOLNOUGHT, Chief Draughtsman of the Fairfield Company, produced the plans of the Drummond Castle, and explained her construction and the position of her bulkheads. The vessel was built before the appointment of the Bulkheads Committee, and in two cases (cargo holds 1 and 2) the spacing between the bulkheads was greater than that committee had recommended, but she had additional bulkheads which the report of the committee did not require; or rather, if the ship had been built after the report of the committee, the bulkheads would have been differently (word missing). Witness declined to give an opinion as ….(line of text missing)…compartments were open to the sea, that being a matter which, in his opinion, must be decided upon the report of the Bulkheads Committee. The Drummond Castle was practically a single-bottom ship. If a vessel had a double bottom and she was only wounded in the lower bottom the upper bottom would be sufficient to keep her afloat; but it was possible for a ship to be so deeply laden that she could not carry the additional dead weight.

MR. MARSHAM observed that that observation was not applicable here.

By MR. ASPINALL: Witness built a good many ships under Lloyds survey. Lloyds disregarded the requirements of the committee to some extent. Whether the recommendations of that committee should be followed was optional with the owner. The requirements of the committee generally were based upon coal cargoes. The after-spaces, including the engine-room and the boiler-room, were well within the requirements of the Bulkheads Committee. The spacing of the ship according to Lloyds’ requirements would have given even longer cargo spaces than those of the Drummond Castle, which, built in 1881, was at that time very much in excess of :Lloyds’ requirements. At that time only five compartments would have been required, whereas the Drummond Castle had eight. The decks were of iron Sheathed with wood in all cases.

Mr. George Scott, examined by Dr. Raikes, said he had been naval architect to Messrs. Donald Currie and Co. since 1872. At the time the Drummond Castle was built very few vessels were built with double bottoms. If the outer bottom was pierced the flotation of the vessel would be affected. With a double bottom a vessel would, of course, have a double chance. About six years after she was built the Drummon Castle was fitted with triple cylinders, but the alteration did not involve material structural alterations. In the matter of bulkheads the vessel was above the average of vessels at the time she was built, but no doubt, if she had been built since the report of the Bulkheads Committee, the bulkheads would have been differently arranged. The cargo spaces forward would have been differently arranged, and a vessel was more liable, of course, to be damaged forward by collision than aft.

By Mr. J. ASPINALL, Q.C.: Under Lloyds’ requirements the spacing might be longer than was the case in the Drummond Castle. Ships generally were built to Lloyds’ requirements rather than to the recommendations of the Bulkheads Committee, and any special requirement for passenger and mail steamers was submitted to the Board of Trade, which had, at present, no power to enforce the Bulkheads Committee’s rules.

Mr. JOSEPH ROBERT CHAPMAN, Departmental Manager for Messrs. Donald Currie and Co., said the total cost of the Drummond Castle had been £107,000. For insurance purposes she was valued at £45,000, of which £1500 was insured with outside underwriters, £27,500 by the “Castle” Company, and £16,500 in the private underwriting account of Sir Donald Currie, so that £43,500 was practically uninsured. The Drummon Castle brought from the Cape 1943 bales of wool, skins, hides, and horns, about half cargo, weighing 450 tons, and she had 250 tons of coal. Her draught was 16 ft. 6 ins. Forward, and 19 ft. 6 ins. Aft. The number of passengers was 143—namely 44 first-class, 42 second-class, and 51 third, and there were six passengers from Las Palmas whose classification was probably first. The crew numbered 102. An average voyage from the Cape would be 21 or 22 days, giving an average speed of about 12 knots. The stoppage at Las Palmas would be for about eight hours. There were two classes of boats, the mail and the intermediate, the Drummond Castle being on her third voyage as a ship of the latter class. It was Captain Pierce’s first voyage in that ship. The Drummond Castle left the Cape on May 28, and the accident happened on June 16, an interval of 19 ¾ days. From the place where she was lost Las Palmas was distant 1305 miles. Each of the captains was furnished with a book of printed directions.

Mr. JAMES SHANKS, Surveyor to the Board of Trade, said he surveyed the Drummond Castle for the Board of Trade in June, 1895, and certified her for a foreign-going vessel. Her 12 months’ certificate would have expired on June 8, or on her return to this country. She had six lifeboats and two other boats, one collapsible Berthon boat, 380 lifebelts, and 16 lifebuoys. She carried three fixed and two other spare compasses. Two of the life-boats were placed on chocks under davits on the bridge deck. They could be cleared by lifting the boats. The tackle wa in good condition. If the boats had been covered it would have taken from five to six minutes to lower them with an expert crew. There were two boats on the quarter deck, and two forward. The Berthon boat was packed aft under the rail. In dock it was unfolded and got ready for use in ten minutes. The belts for the crew were kept in the boats. No rafts were carried. There were six of Holmes’s illuminating lifebuoys on board. Some of the buoys were attached to the bridge and some to the rails on the quarter deck—in convenient positions all round. Witness had not considered the question of the flotation of the ship if two of her compartments had been open to the sea. He could not say whether the lifeboats were swung inboard or outboard on a voyage. There were sufficient leads and lead-line on board, including Lord Kelvin’s patent sounding apparatus. When the survey was made the vessel was in the East India Dock.

Captain JOH HOWSON said he had formerly commanded the Crummond Castle, and for 13 years he had been Messrs. Donald Currie and Co’s Marine Superintendent. The davits were swung inboard, but could be pushed oub by the slightest pressure. On this particular voyage there were two Berthon boats. The Drummond Castle was fully equipped in the matter of boats, and if she had carried a thousand passengers she would have required no more boats. The boats’ crews and stations were posted up at the commencement of the voyage. He had never stopped the ship at sea for the purpose of lowering the boats. In coming from Las Palmas to Ushant the watch would be doubled at the entrance to the Channel, and he would expect the captain to be on deck. The passengers had lifebelts in their berths. There was no custom by which the passengers were trained to go to certain boats in case of emergency. The vessel also carried a number of patent logs, the results of which he had found to be fairly accurate. There were three chronometers on board—two in the chart-room and one in the captain’s room. Those in the chart-room were accessible to the officers at any time. He had never heard of vessels trying to make the passage inside Ushant even in the daylight and in fair weather; at night-time and in a fog it was quite out of the question. At the place where the Drummond Castle was wrecked she was unquestionably out of her course; had she been 10 or 12 miles to the westward she would have passed the island clear. As to whether or not there was time to lower the boats, he thought time was probably lost through those on board not realizing her desperate condition. He had no ….(line of text missing….when she took the longitudinal heel, which he had no doubt she did take, it was impossible in his opinion that anything could have ben done with the boats. The night was very dark, and he had no doubt there was some confusion on board. Witness was consulted as to the appointment of Captain Pierce to the Drummond Castle. He thought him a capable man, and said so. Captain Pierce was in charge of the Dunbar Castle last year. There was no regulation as to holding concerts on board, but the officers were all enjoined not to have too much to do with the passengers. Witness had not been to sea for 14 years, and at that time there were very few entertainments. He did not see why the passengers should not be allowed to enjoy themselves if their doing so did not interfere with the navigation of the ship. In clear weather he used to pass within seven or eight miles of Ushant; in bad weather and at night-time he used to keep off a clear 20 miles. He had sometimes found himself 12 or 15 miles east of his course.

Mr. JOSEPH WALTON asked permission to inspect certain logs and documents belonging to the Castle Company.

MR. ASPINALL said if Mr. Walton wanted information as to casualties that had happened when Captain Pierce was master of other vessels he did not see that such information was relevant to the present inquiry, and he did not see why the Company should be called upon to produce them. This was an inquiry held in the interests of the public, and the Board of Trade had not thought fit to call for these documents.

Mr. WALTON said these papers had been made the subject of inquiry in the House of Commons.

Mr. ASPINALL suggested that someone had made use of his Parliamentary position to throw dirt on his clients.

Mr. WALTON protested against any such statement. What he was seeking to know from the public point of view had reference to the late captain’s competence, experience, and past history when they appointed him master of the Drummond Castle.

Mr. ASPINALL said that Mr. Mirrielees would be prepared to give that information, but he protested against a search being made through documents for the purpose of finding out something.

The inquiry was then adjourned until Tuesday.

The inquiry was resumed on Tuesday morning.

Mr. J. P. ASPINALL said with regard to the logs asked for by Mr. Bailhaceh (those of the Courland and the Doune Castle), the only log in existence was the engineers’ log of the Doune Castle. The others had been destroyed in the ordinary course. If his friend would give him any particular date copies of the entries required should be handed to him.

MR. MARSHAM asked Mr. Bailhache if that would satisfy him.

Mr. BAILHACHE expressed regret that the logs should have been destroyed.

Mr. PETER MERCER, book-keeper to Messrs. Donald Currie and Co., produced the records of service of the late Captain Pierce and his four officers. Captain Pierce joined the service in 1868 as an apprentice at the age of 14. He served in the Arundel Castle, the Pembroke Castle, the Carnarvon Castle, and the Carisbrooke Castle, all sailing ships, gradually rising in the service until, in 1879, he obtained a master’s certificate. He subsequently served in the steam vessels Warwick Castle, Dunrobin Castle, the Venice, the Dunkeld, the Doune Castle, the Courland, the Dunbar Castle, and, finally, the Drummond Castle. Mr. Wayman, the first officer, joined the service in 1881, being then 27 years of age, and having a master’s certificate. Mr. Hicks joined the service in November 1886, at the age of 22, having a first mate’s certificate. He subsequently obtained a master’s certificate, and was gradually rising in the service of the Company. The third officer had a master’s certificate, and the fourth officer a first mate’s certificate.

Mr. FREDERICK JAMES MIRRIELEES, a partner in the firm of Messrs. Donald Currie and Co. (which comprises Sir Donald Currie, Mr. David Currie, Captain Wisely, Mr. Molteno, and himself), said his firm were the Managers of the Castle Line, which was owned by a limited Company, in which there was a considerable number of shareholders. Captain Pierce was transferred from the Doune Castle to the Courland and afterwards to the Drummond Castle, in consequence of the Doune Castle having struck some impediment. That was in 1891. No entry was made in the log of the occurrence, which was not discovered until the vessel was in dry dock; but the matter was made the subject of private inquiry by the Company in their own office. Printed books of instructions were issued to the officers. It was the custom for the captain to mess with the first-class passengers and the first officer with the second-class passengers. The second, third, and fourth officers had a mess of their own. The surgeon and purser sometimes messed with the passengers.

By Mr. JOSEPH WALTON: No reference was made to Ushant in the printed directions. The commanders were not told that they must keep outside Ushant. The damage to the Dound Castle was limited to the buckling of a few plates amidships. He was not aware that any minutes of the inquiry as to the damage to the Doune Castle were kept.

Mr. J. P. ASPINALL proceeded to read the reports received by Messrs. Donald Currie and Co. from Captain Pierce and his second officer with reference to the accident to the Doune Castle. Both described the shock as very slight, and attributed it to a collision with a small floating object, probably a spar. The report of the engineer with reference to the occurrence was also read, and a brief entry in the engineer’s log.

By Mr. WALTON: Witness took part in the inquiry, at which the officers who had made reports were examined. They could not decide with certainty whether the ship had struck a rock or merely floating wreckage. From the nature of the damage the conclusion come to was that the Doune Castle had struck a rock. The officer in charge at the time of the occurrence was called upon to resign. The transfer of Captain Pierce to the Courland and subsequently to the Drummond Castle did not involve any censure upon him, and there was no censure. A nautical adviser attended the inquiry. There was no reason to suppose that the ship was being navigated too near the land. She was stated to have been within two miles of the shore, and at that point it was not considered to be too near, though at other parts of the coast two miles would be considered too near. The Courland was employed in carrying the mails along the South African coast. An entry in the log of the Courland stated that she bumped heavily near Delagoa Bay on the afternoon of September 29, 1891, at a distance of three and a half miles from the shore, the Admiralty chart showing 50 fathoms. An official inquiry into the occurrence was held at Natal, and was reported in the Natal papers, but no official report of the proceedings was sent home.

Mr. ASPINALL read one of the newspaper reports, from which it appeared that the Courland had struck upon a coral reef. A ship had struck at the place about 12 months previously, and regret was expressed that a careful survey of the locality had not since been made by the Admiralty. The Court found that the Courland had been navigated with proper and seamanlike care and skill, and that Captain Pierce deserved commendation for the masterly and thoughtful manner in which had surmounted the difficulties of the situation and brought the vessel back to port without assistance or claim for salvage.

WITNESS, in further examination, said the Courland subsequently touched the mud in Delagoa Bay, where the buoys were constantly out of position—a matter which had been made the subject of frequent representation to the authorities at Lisbon. There had never been reason to complain either of the competence, care, or judgment of Captain Pierce. There had been an anonymous letter, but the firm paid no attention to anything of that kind. There had been no complaint from the Agenst in Africa—nothing of the kind. The firm had no reason to think that Captain Pierce was otherwise than a careful and competent officer from any complaint or representation that had been made concerning him.

By Mr. RICHARDS: The books of instructions were issued from the Correspondence Department. A captain retained his book, and added any fresh rules on receiving notice from the firm. As to the instructions for taking soundings, witness had no technical knowledge. Steps had been taken to have the spot at which the Courland struck surveyed by the Admiralty.

By Mr. J. ASPINALL: A letter was addressed to the hydrographer of the Admiralty by the firm in 1892 with reference to the spot where the Courland struck, and this appeared on the modern charts, Captain Pierce was kept ashore after the occurrence to the Doune Castle, but only for the purpose of attending the inquiry. It had not come to his knowledge previously to this that any charge was alleged against Captain Pierce. After the wreck of the Drummond Castle, witness visited the scene of the disaster, and was present when the grappling hooks brought up the gilt truck from the topmast, three pieces of wooden topmast, and the metal collar which prevented friction between the mast and the stays, These had been identified as belonging to the Drummond Castle. The spot was three and a half miles due south of the Stiff Lighthouse. The general belief was that the Drummond Castle struck upon the rock Mal-Bien. When she started the Drummond Castle would have on board 145 tubes for the sounding machine.

By Mr. RAIKES: The Doune Castle was not a double-bottomed ship. All new ships were being built of steel with double bottoms.

By the COURT: If the Castle steamers passed Ushant in daylight they would signal, but there were no instructions to that effect.

Mr. WILLIAM BOTTOMLEY, Manager for Lord Kelvin, said a sounding machine was supplied to the Drummond Castle in 1895. Witness explained the construction of the sounder and the method of use. In taking deep-sea soundings where bottom was reached the soundings were found to be absolutely correct.

Captain CHARLES POIDLOUE, Commandant of the defences of Brest, said that under the direction of the French Government he had investigated the surroundings of the wreck, and was well acquainted with the rocks in the neighbourhood. He had made a report of the position of the wreck (which he put in). From a watch found on the body of one of the passengers it was estimated that the accident took place at 11 o’clock. At the time of the accident the Drummond Castle was steering a north-east course to enter the Channel. On the night of June 16 the two lighthouses of Ushant were not visible to each other. The tide was ebbing at the time of the accident. With a south-west wind there was a regular set of the tide in the Passage du Fromveur, but he could not say whether the wind had been south-westerly some time before the accident. South of Ushant and through the Passage du Fromveur the set of the current would be at the rate of four or five miles an hour. The inner channel of Ushant had a bad reputation for shipwrecks, but it was passable by day. He could easily take a torpedo-boat through the passage in the daytime, and a stranger to the place might get through in daylight, but certainly not at night. The object of using the inner channel was to shorten the journey.

By Mr. BAILHACHE: At 11 p.m. on June 16, according to the weather reports, the weather was calm and foggy, and the set of the tide would be south-west at the rate of three miles an hour, but when there was a southerly wind it would cause a swell in a north-easterly direction. The course of the Drummond Castle at the time would be north-east.

By Mr. J. ASPINALL: The set of the tide on her port bow would have had the effect of setting her in towards the island.

By Mr. RAIKES: The Drummond Castle must have been in less than 100 metres of water for some considerable number of miles—perhaps six or eight. There was a siren on the island of Ushant, which he had been informed was being worked on the night of the 16th, but the distance at which it could be heard would vary according to the weather. It would be audible at a distance of three miles in calm weather.

By the COURT: The light of Ushant was visible at a distance of 45 miles. As to whether it would be more effective in thick weather if it were placed lower he could offer no opinion.

Documentary evidence as to the atmospheric conditions prevailing on the night of June 16 was then laid before the Court, and also the depositions of fishermen of the Ile de Molene.

Mr. PHILIP CHAPPELL, second officer of the screw steamship Werfa, said the Werfa left Brest for Cardiff on June 16 at 7 o’clock in the evening. At about a quarter to 10 they were abeam of the Pierres Noires, distant about two miles. The speed of the Werfa was eight knots or so. As they were getting out the weather became thicker. They saw nothing of Ushant, which, judging from the course they were steering, they passed at a distance of four miles. Shortly after passing the Pierres Noires they saw the masthead light and the green light of a large passenger steamer on their port beam, steering somewhere about north-east. The steamer ported to cross the Werfa’s stern, and crossed at a distance of perhaps a quarter of a mile. The observation of witness to the man at the wheel was that he (the passenger steamer) must not go too far in that direction. The weather was thick, and the steamer was soon lost sight of. Witness could see the electric lights from the bridge aft, but he was not near enough to hear the sounds of music. The ship was in sight about eight or ten minutes.

The inquiry was adjourned at this stage until Wednesday morning.

The inquiry was resumed on Wednesday morning.

Mr. CHAPPELL, first officer of the Werfa was recalled for the purpose of marking on the chart the position in which he first saw the large passenger steamer believed to be the Drummond Castle. As nearly as he could judge by the lights, she was steering north-north-east. The lights of a vessel were visible for a distance of half a mile. It was not absolutely necessary that night to use the steam whistly, but he blew it occasionally. Mr. John L. Beer, master of the Werfa, said he recollected passing the Pierres Noires on the evening of June 16, at a distance of about two miles. The lights were not very plain but the rocks were. After passing the Pierres Nores, he went below, returning on deck about a quarter to 11 o’clock when he saw a large passenger steamer astern, showing her red light. He came on deck because, knowing the dangerous character of the vicinity, he did not feel very comfortable below. He came to the conclusion that the steamer astern was a passenger steamer or mail boat because she had so many lights about her. When he again went below, it was five minutes to 11. It never occurred to him that the steamer was going into danger. He thought she had ported to clear the Werfa, and having passed her would bring up again on her course. He could form no idea of the speed at which she was goint. The steam whistle was blown once or twice while he was in the cabin, and no blast from the Usant siren was blown up to two o’clock in the morning. The draught of the Werfa was about 10 ft. or 11 ft. Witness estimated that the Werfa passed Ushant at a distance of four miles, and he remarked to his mate that there was no siren that night. He had sometimes heard the siren at a distance of nine miles. South of the Pierres Vertes, the set of the current at ebb tide would be to the south-west.

Captain CASTLE: Were you not surprised to see a large steamer in that position?

Witness said they saw five large steamers lighted by electricity that night. The course of the Werfa was not altered to avoid the Drummond Castle. The whistle was not blown as a warning to the Drummond Castle in particular, but because of the patches of fog and the state of the weather.

Mr. JAMES ROBINSON, chief officer of the Accra, belonging to the British and African Steam Navigation Company, said he left Las Palmas for Liverpool on June 11. On the 14th he sighted a Castle Liner, and as the Drummond Castle was due to leave Las Palmas on June 12 he took her to be that vessel The weather generally was hazy, but at noon on the 16th he got an observation, and found that the vessel had been set to the eastward 12 or 15 miles since the previous day. At noon on the 17th the vessel had again been set to the eastward from ten to twelve miles since 4 o’clock on the previous day. With regard to Lord Kelvin’s sounding apparatus, he had always found the results accurate within a fathomr or two. His own practice was to slow down a bit when taking soundings, especially when the weather was thick and it was necessary to be careful. He had found no difficulty in teaching men how to use the sounding apparatus, which was very simple in its operation.

By Mr. J. WALTON: A set to the eastward was somewhat unusual; his vessel usually made her courses pretty well.

By Mr. RICHARDS: After every voyage the tubes for the sounding machine were sent ashore to be renewed. No reliance was ever placed on a single cast.

By the COURT: One cast of the lead was no good with any kind of lead. He knew the vessel he saw on the 14th was a Castle boat from her signals, but he could only surmise that she was the Drummond Castle. The signal was a blue light followed by five blue balls.

Dr. RAIKES then read an extract from the log of the P. and O. steamer Chusan, showing that that vessel, between Finisterre and Ushant, in coming across the bay, a distance of 300 miles, was set in 12 miles, and in approaching Ushant in the last 31 miles, occupying two and a half hours, she was set in 2 ¾ miles.

Captain CHARLES JOSLIN, master of the General Steam Navigation Company’s Hirondelle, then running between Southampton and Bordeaux, gave evidence that a strong south-west wind with rain came on shortly after 12 on the morning of the 17th. About 25 miles from the Four Lighthouse he saw a lifebuoy floating. From Belle Isle to Ushant there was a dangerous inset, independent altogether of the tides, which had to be guarded against. In the narrow channels the tide ran at the rate of five knots. In the Passage du Fromveur vessels felt the set of the tides both in flood and ebb. The draught of the Hirondelle was about 16 ft.

Dr. RAIKES proceeded to read the deposition of Captain Cornelius Graves, of Southport, master of the steamship Heliades, of 1921 tons register, belonging to Liverpool. On May 28 she left Buenos Ayres for Liverpool with a general cargo and made Madeira on June 14, whence he steered a course for the Bishop’s Rock. On the 17th he found found that his ship had been set eastward ten or 12 miles, and the same thing occurred on the 18th and 19th. Being so far to the westward he did not expect so strong an indraft into the Bay of Biscay, the weather being very fine at the time, with light northerly winds and a smooth sea. He could only account for the difference in position by the supposition that the ship had encountered an extraordinary current setting into the Bay of Biscay, which he had no doubt the Drummon Castle also experienced, and which, possible owing to the weather being thick or overcast, her master and officers were unable to correct by observation.

Captain JOHN BAILEY HARRISON, formerly in command of the Drummond Castle, said he had been for 23 years in the Cape trade. He had usually steered a course which would take him 20 miles westward of Ushant. If the weather was at all clear he generally sighted the island. He never approached Ushant wheter in thick or clear weather without a cast of the lead. In thick weather he never approached nearer than 65 fathoms. He had used Lord Kelvin’s sounding apparatus for 20 years, and had never known it tell a lie yet. When approaching Ushant the officers’ watch was always doubled, and the lookout was doubled sometimes as far off as Cape Finisterre, but that would depend upon the weather. Fire and boat stations were practiced every Saturday, and sometimes the boats were swung. They were carried swung out as a rule until nearing land; sometimes as far as the Isle of Wight. In misty or hazy weather the covers of the boats were slackened. The boats were inspected nearly every voyage, as the Drummond Castle usually came under the Emigration Act. Any boats that the inspector required to be lowered were lowered with their crews in with lifebelts on. The crews were instructed that their lifebelts were in the boats in case of emergency. At practice the fire and boat stations took about five minutes; in emergency he thought the boats could be lowered in four. The boats were fitted in the same way mostly in all the ships. With regard to lights, there was a general order that any flare of light should be shut off in hazy weather, and the skylights of the concert-room were covered and fitted with Venetian blinds. The boats were painted every voyage, generally at the Cape, but he had never known them stick on that account.

By MR. ASPINALL: Lord Kelvin’s sounding apparatus sometimes “streamed,” but it was generally reliable. About two-thirds of the seamen of the Castle Line went from one ship to another and did not leave the service. The boats were not always lifted out of the chocks when they were painted; in that case of course they would not stick. In case of sticking, he would not at once lower the boats without sounding the pumps; it might be that if lowered at once they would be lowered into breakers. The chief officer and third officer of the Drummond Castle had both been to sea with him. They had served for years in the Drummond Castle, and were well acquainted with the ship’s compasses and with her peculiarities. They had strict orders not to be frightened about expressing their views on anything connected with the navigation. The chief officer was one of the smartest officers he had ever had. He had always found him the same. He had often been in some queer corners, and the chief mate had not been afraid to give him his views, and they had generally been very good. Mr. Brown, the third officer, was a good officer, and had just passed the examination for master. With regard to entertainments, officers might sometimes by present, but they seldom took part in them. They might be permitted to do so near the tropics, but certainly not in the Channel or in the Bay of Biscay. He had never attended them himself. Within the last 70 miles approaching Ushant he had sometimes found his ship set in. For instance, steering a course 20 miles westward of Ushant he had found himself within seven or eight miles. The current was irregular; sometimes a ship would be unaffected and sometimes she would be set in fully 13 miles.

By Mr. RAIKES: Some of the commanders had written instructions independent of the printed book. At the request of Captain Pierce witness handed him his own written instructions when he took over the ship. With the exception of the captain and the chief officer the officers did not mess with passengers. There was an officer in the second-class room at dinner time to insure that the passengers had proper attention, but not when the officers were keeping double watches. When Captain Pierce joined the ship witness went over her with him and pointed out everything connected with the navigation. He had never been shipmate with Captain Pierce in any of the steamers. There were no instructions as to signaling when off Ushant. The position of the ship was ascertained by three officers every day. The chief officer had full confidence as to the course to be followed.

M. MALGORM, pilot at Brest for commercial and Government vessels, said, in examination by Mr. Aspinall, that he was very well acquainted with the channels in the neighbourhood of Ushant. It was high water at Mal-Bien on June 16 at 7:20, Paris time. The tide from outside Ushant and the current from the Passage du Fromveur met at an angle about three miles south of Ushant. From that point the current ran south-west by south. A steamer coming on a north-east course at half-ebb until she got within two and a half or three miles of Ushant would have the tide nearly ahead. A vessel should pass Ushant at a distance of about four miles.

By Mr. BAILHACHE: Soundings would have given indications of danger at a distance of four miles and a half from Ushant. At that distance there was a depth of 100 metres, and there would have been ample time to change the course of the vessel. If her course had been changed to the north-west she would have been perfectly safe. When seen by the Werfa the Drummond Castle was already out of her course. If from that point she continued on a north-easterly course, she must have been lost on the rocks of the Fromveur.

On the French witnesses leaving the court., Mr. MARSHAM said he wished, on behalf of himself and colleagues, to express thanks to the French Government for the material assistance which had been rendered to the Board of Trade in the conduct of this inquiry and for sending so distinguished an officer, and their appreciation of the great pains which had been taken by Captain Poidloue and for the valuable evidence he had given.

Mr. CHARLES WOOD, quartermaster of the Drummond Castle, said, in examination by Mr. Mansel Jones, he joined in April, having served in her about six years ago. On the voyage out the ship’s crew were exercised at fire and boat quarters every Saturday. The big alarm bell of the ship was rung for the fire stations, and the whistle was sounded for boat stations. Every one then went to his station. His own station was at No. 4 boat. The alarm was given on the first Saturday out at half-past four. The cover was stripped and the boat turned out. She was lifted off the chocks and swung out by the davits with her crew in. The third officer commanded that boat, witness being the second in command. The officers had the lists of the boats’ crews. No. 4 boat had 14 oars, a mast, lug and jib sails, and there were eight row-locks. The boat was provisioned with biscuit and water, but was not lowered at all. The other boats were dealt with in the same way, and they remained swung out during the remainder of the voyage. On the voyage home the same practice was observed. The boats were swung out at Las almas. He recollected June 15 last, but could not say whether an observation was taken on that day. He did not remember whether it was said that they had passed Cape Finisterre. He had frequently as quarter-master steered the vessel, which was an easy vessel to steer. He was on deck on the 16th, the weather being hazy, with rain. It was expected that they would make Ushant at about 10 o’clock that night. There were two watches in the Channel and in the Bay too. He had made several voyages in the services of the Castle Company, and that had always been the custom. The watches were doubled off Cape Finisterre. There was usually a single look-out across the Bay, but it was sometimes doubled in thick weather. That was a matter which was in the option of the officer of the watch. Witness was asleep at the time of the accident. The first intimation he had was by hearing the ship scrape along the side. It was not a servere, but a sliding, blow. He ran on deck as soon as he could. In the steward’s forecastle he met the second officer and the carpenter, who, he believed, were closing the water-tight compartments. He could not say whose duty it was to close the water-tight doors. People were stationed to do those things. His own duty was on deck. He did not know if the compartments could be closed from the deck. The second officer saying nothing to him, he went on deck and stationed himself near the bridge. He heard the Captain tell the passengers to keep quiet, and afterwards give orders to clear away the boats. There was a great deal of confusion at first. Witness went to his own boat. He could not say what the time was, but he had heard hal-past 10 strike, so it would be between 10 and 11. The rest of the crew came to the boat. The officer was not there, being on duty on the bridge. The vessel listed at first to starboard, and then uprighted again. The boat was not swung out. In ordinary circumstances, she could be swung out in six or seven minutes. He could not say how many of the crew were there.

Mr. JONES: What prevented you from swinging the boat out; you were in command?

Witness said the boat was all ready for swinging when the sea broke over from the starboard and washed him overboard with several of the crew. He was under water for some time, but could not say whether he was drawn down by the ship.

Mr. JONES: If the boat had been swung out as it was before coming to Las Palmas how long would it have taken to lower it?

Witness said two or three minutes; but he did not think she could have been swung out before the sea broke over, as there was not time to launch the after boats, which were swung out. From the time he heard the scraping noise till he was washed overboard was, he thought, about for or five minutes. When he came up the vessel had disappeared. He got hold of some wreckage to which other people were clinging—one or two firemen and a sailor. He held on to this for two hours, as near as he could guess. Godbolt was not on the same wreckage. The night was very dark. At three o’clock he saw a revolving light on the right and a red light to the lieft. At daylight they saw land. Before that he had seen Godbolt, and joined him on a hatch. After the accident he did not see any of the officers. At about nine in the morning he and Godbolt were picked up by a fishing-boat. They received every kindness from the inhabitants of the island of Molene, where they were landed. He saw nothing of the fourth officer until they buried him. It had not been the practice to signal the ship off Ushant at night time; he had never known it done. They sometimes signaled in the daytime. He did not think the sounding machine had been used at all this voyage. Witness had been drilled in the use of the machine onf the Dunottar Castle. The new hands were practiced in the use of the machine on the Dunottar Castle during his watch. All the able seamen in his watch were, he believed, able to use the sounding machine. At the time of the accident the captain and the third officer were on the bridge. The first officer had come down, he believed, to give orders about the boats.

By Mr. BAILHACHE: He came on dec in trousers and shirt. The captain was on the lower bridge giving orders. When the water broke over the ship the boat had just been lifted clear of the chocks. He had never sailed under Captain Pierce before this voyage.

Mr. BAILHACHE: Was he a strict disciplinarian or not?

Witness: He was a very strict captain. He could not say at what point the watch had been doubled.

By Mr. RICHARDS: Witness knew there was a concert going on, which he heard was over at a quarter-past 10.

By Mr. ASPINALL: After he heard the scraping he did not think that things could have been done any quicker than they were. The scraping appeared to be at the side rather than at the bottom of the ship, as if the ship had touched somewhere above the bilge. He could not say whether it was possible to take observations on June 16.

By the COURT: All the passengers were alive to the fact that something serious had occurred, and crowded on deck, and there was a little screaming until the captain told them to keep quiet. There was a considerable shock, and the butcher’s mate was thrown out of his berth. When he went down he could give no idea of the motion of the vessel—whether she was heeling over or not. He could swim. After he came up he got hold of a plank, and he saw a lot of people round him. Two hours or two hours and a half elapsed before he joined Godbolt. Between two and three o’clock they heard a cry, but could not make out who it was. He knew that the man was thrown out because as he passed him he said he had got a knock through being thrown out of his bunk.

At this point the Court adjourned until Monday.

BOT Enquiry into the Wreck of Drummond Castle - 1896

Two paintings of RMS Drummond Castle

The first in clear water

The second she is shown down by the head after striking the reef off Ushant

Artist - W H Harkness

Drummond Castle - Art Gallery

Clansman - October 1970





Drummond Castle


1881 Deployed to The Cape Mail Service

1894 Transferred to The Intermediate Service

1896 Sank after striking a reef off Ushant


Official Number

Ship Builder

Engine Builder

Engine Type




John Elder


John Elder


Compound Steam

500 NHP





E Jones



J D Jeffries



J Winchester



B A Bryan



J B Harrison



W W Pierce



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