Clan MacDuff






Clan MacDuff


Ex City of Oxford

1881 Purchased from George Smith & Son renamed Clan MacDuff

1881 Foundered in storm off Ireland


Official Number

Ship Builder

Engine Builder

Engine Type




Barclay Curle


Barclay Curle


Compound Steam

200 NHP


IN the matter of the formal Investigation held at the Chancery Court, St. George's Hall, Liverpool, on the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st, and 22nd of November 1881, before H. C. ROTHERY, Esquire, Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Rear-Admiral MORESBY, Captain CASTLE, and J. H. HALLETT, Esquire, as Assessors, into the circumstances attending the abandonment and loss of the steamship "CLAN MACDUFF," of Glasgow, on the 21st of October last, and the loss of the lives of 19 of the crew and 12 passengers.

Report of Court.

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances of the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons annexed, that the loss of the said ship was due to the water having got into the engine room, at first through the fiddley gratings, and afterwards through the rent in the port side of the fiddley house, and to the pumps being choked, so that the water rose until the fires were put out. The Court is also of opinion that the master is to blame for not having put the fiddley covers on, for having brought the ship back again to the wind, and for having abandoned her as he did, leaving seventeen persons still on board.

Annex to the Report.

This case was heard at Liverpool on the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st, and 22nd of November 1881, when Mr. Howard Smith appeared for the Board of Trade, Mr. Kennedy for the owners of the "Clan Macduff," Mr. Segar for the representatives of the master, Mr. Sampson for three of the surviving passengers. Mr. Collins and Mr. Bray for the representatives of certain other passengers who were drowned, and Mr. Pickford for the Liverpool Salvage Association, the Underwriters. Fifteen witnesses having been produced by the Board of Trade and examined, and an affidavit of one of the surviving passengers having, by permission of the Court, been put in and read, Mr. Howard Smith handed in a statement of the questions upon which the Board of Trade desired the opinion of the Court. Mr. Kennedy having then produced his witnesses, nine in number, and Mr. Segar having produced seven witnesses, they each addressed the Court on behalf of their respective parties, and Mr. Howard Smith having replied, the Court proceeded to give judgment on the questions on which its opinion had been asked.

The circumstances of the case, so far as they have been disclosed in the evidence which has been laid before us, are as follows:  The "Clan Macduff" was an iron screw steamship, belonging to the Port of Glasgow, of 2,328 tons gross and 1,496 tons net register, and was fitted with engines of 200 horse power. She was Built at Whiteinch, Glasgow, in the year 1870, and at the time of her loss was the property of Messrs. Cayzer, Irvine, and Co., Mr. Charles William Cayzer, of No. 119, St. Vincent-street, Glasgow, being the managing owner. She left Liverpool at about 6.30 p.m. of Tuesday the 18th October last bound to Bombay, with a crew of 42 hands all told, and having on board 817 1/2 tons of bunker coal, 808 1/4 tons of cargo coal, and about 1,382 tons of general merchandize, making a total dead weight of 3,008 tons, besides 50 tons of stores. What her depth was on leaving will be a matter which we shall presently have to consider. At midnight she was off Point Lynas, when as the wind was blowing strong, she lay to until daylight to discharge her pilot, and at 6 a.m. proceeded on her voyage, the wind blowing a fresh breeze from the S.E. When off Holyhead it fell calm, but between 10 and 11 a.m. the wind freshened again from the S.E., and increased throughout the day until between 10 and 11 o'clock that night, when it blew a gale. All this time the vessel had been standing to the S.W., heading down channel, the wind being from about S.E. During all this day, and almost from the time of leaving, they had had great difficulty with the pumps, more especially with the lee or starboard pump, which we are told required to be cleared at first about every two hours, but as the weather became worse every hour, and before midnight it had been found necessary to put the donkey-pump upon the bilges for an hour each time to clear the stokehole.

At about 2 a.m. a light, which we are told was the Smalls Light, was observed about 3 points on the port bow, and distant about 12 miles, upon which the master expressed to the second officer, whose watch it was, his intention of hugging it during the night. He accordingly directed him to go down into the engine-room, and ask the engineer if he could ease the engines, as he wanted to bring the ship's head to the sea; the chief engineer, however, replied that they had water in the engine-room, and that he should prefer to keep the engines going at full speed so as to clear it more quickly; and on the second officer reporting this to the master, the latter determined to keep the vessel at full speed for some time longer. At about 3 a.m. the master sent the second officer to call the chief mate, and on his coming on deck he advised that they should put the vessel before the wind and sea, and run for Queenstown, there being at that time water in the stokehole. and a difficulty in keeping the pumps clear, and to that the master appears to have assented. Before, however, she had been put before the wind a heavy sea broke over the vessel, and we are told that a large quantity of water went down through the forward fiddley grating into the stokehole, washing out some of the fires of the forward furnaces, and the chief engineer then sent up to say that he should require all hands to bale her. It was now about 4 a.m., and the master then went down into the engine-room to see how matters stood, having, however, previously put the vessel on a W. by N. or W. 1/2 N. course for Queenstown. On returning on deck in about a quarter of an hour afterwards he directed the second officer to go and call all hands, and to take them by relays into the engine-room for the purpose of baling. At about 4.30 a.m. the chief officer, at the master's request, went into the engine-room, and he has told us that at that time the water was washing over the stokehole plates as the vessel rolled, and this is borne out by the evidence of the second engineer, who had been called up with the rest of the crew at about 4 a.m., when the sea broke over them. The chief officer remained below some time; and whilst there he was informed by the boatswain that the master had brought the vessel's head again up to the wind, and on coming on deck he found her lying in the trough of the sea, broadside to the waves, with her head about W.S.W., the wind and sea being from about S.E. The mate also found that the steam pipe which issues from the port side of the fiddley house abreast of the funnel, and by which the winches on deck are fed, had been wrenched out of its place, the flange having been torn away from the side of the fiddley house. and that a hole of from 8 to 9 inches in diameter had been made, through which the water was pouring in as the vessel rolled, and was falling down over the boilers into the stokehole. It was was now about 5 a.m., and the carpenter was immediately set to stop the hole up, which he proceeded to do with a blanket; and whilst so engaged, he observed that there was a rent along the lower edge of the fiddley house some seven or eight feet long just below the hole, as though the side of the house had been torn away from the deck, and that the water was pouring through it in sheets and falling down upon the boilers. He accordingly procured some waste and a caulking chisel for the purpose of stopping up the rent, and after having been nearly washed away two or three times from the outside he went inside the fiddley house, but found that he could do nothing with it, for as fast as he put the waste in it was washed out again, the rent opening and shutting as the seas struck her.

The chief officer then, observing that the ship was lying in the trough of the sea, with the waves beating over the port side, advised the master, if possible, to set some sail. At this time she was under her fore trysail, and the square foresail having accordingly been set the vessel paid off about two points, but almost immediately afterwards came to again, and the sail was blown away. The fore staysail was then bent and set, but that also instantly blew away, and the vessel then lay broadside to the sea, with the water pouring down through the rent at the side of the fiddley house into the stokehole. In the meantime the second engineer, who had turned out with the rest of the crew at 4 a.m., was told by the chief engineer that they had had great difficulties with the pumps whilst he was turned in between 12 and 4 a.m., and he was asked to see if he could get them to work. Accordingly, having cleared the starboard or lee bilge pump, he set it going, but it almost immediately choked; he cleared it again, and it choked again; and after working at it for about a couple of hours he gave it up as a bad job. He then turned his attention to the bilge injection, and having cleared that turned it on to the bilge, but that also became choked, and although he cleared the rose several times he was obliged, after working at it for between two and three hours, to give that up also as a bad job.

In the meantime the water had continued to pour down through the rent in the side of the fiddley house, until, at about 10.30 a m., all the fires were out; and the hands then, finding that the water was gaining upon them, and that they could do nothing with it, left off baling and went on deck, the water at that time being, as we are told, some feet above the stokehole plates, and the plates washing about. Some short time afterwards it was reported by one of the fireman that one of the sea cocks had been carried away, and the chief mate accordingly went into the engine room and saw a jet of water coming from the starboard side towards the centre, as though a pipe had burst. All then left the engine room and went on deck, and a long wooden plug having been obtained, the carpenter and engineers went again into the engine room for the purpose, if possible, of plugging the hole; but they could not find it, and were obliged to leave it.

Nothing then remained to be done but to get the boats out. It appears that this vessel had six boats, three on each side, numbered from forward aft, the odd numbers being on the starboard side, and the even numbers on the port side. They first proceeded to No. 1 boat, which was the foremost on the starboard side, and having raised it they swung it out; but one of the davit guys having got loose, the boat struck against the vessel's side and was stove. They then went to No. 3 boat, and the second officer and two A.B.'s and two fireman having got into her, they hoisted her up, and having safely lowered her into the water, secured her astern. No. 5 was then lowered with the 4th officer and an A.B. in her, as well as a gentleman and a lady and her child, and as she dropped aft the second cook and stewardess got into her, as well as two more gentlemen and two lady passengers, making in all four of the crew and seven passengers. No. 6 boat, which was the furthest aft on the port side, was then lifted out of the chocks, carried across the deck and safely put over the side to leeward, and into this boat the third officer, two A.B's and two firemen got, and as she dropped down past the mizzen chains a lady and her child, as well as two young ladies and a gentleman, got into her, and she was also dropped astern and secured. There then remained only No. 2 boat, the foremost on the port side, No. 4 boat, having been smashed some time before. The chief officer has told us that he was very unwilling to launch her, knowing that it would be impossible to carry her across the deck, and equally impossible to launch her from the windward side; the master however insisting, he proceeded to carry out his orders. Whilst so engaged the master and some of the crew were aft assisting the remainder of the passengers into No. 3 boat, and having got all the passengers in, he and the chief engineer and some of the hands jumped into the water, and were pulled into No. 3 boat. The chief steward, who was aft, has told us that he was asked by the master to go with them, but that he refused, and that he held the line for the master until the master got into the boat. There were, we are told, in this boat about 24 to 25 persons altogether. I ought to have stated that, whilst they were getting the passengers into the boat, a little child in being lowered slipped through the life buoy which was round it, and although every effort seems to have been made to save it, it was drowned. In the mean time the chief officer with the assistance of a number of the crew, had lifted No. 2 boat out of the chocks, but in attempting to launch her she had been immediately smashed. On then turning round to see what had become of the other boats, they observed that No. 5 and No. 6 boats were already some distance away, and although No. 3 boat had not then slipped, she did so very shortly afterwards and ran away before the wind and sea. The chief officer then, finding that they had been abandoned, mustered the hands and found that, besides himself there were fifteen of the crew and the stowaway, making seventeen in all still remaining on board.

And first to follow the fate of the boats. No. 3 boat in which were some 24 or 25 persons, including the captain, chief engineer, and second officer, continued to run before the wind and sea until between six or seven p.m., when she suddenly broached to and capsized, throwing them all into the water. After a time the boat righted again, and the chief engineer, second officer, two A.B.'s and a fireman got into her; soon afterwards, however, the fireman, having apparently lost his reason. jumped overboard and was drowned; the chief engineer was found in the bottom of the boat drowned, and there then remained only the second officer and two A.B.'s. Having lost everything by the capsizing of the boat, they could do nothing but allow her to drift before the wind and sea, which she continued to do until about 8 p.m. of the following day, when she was washed ashore in Ballyandreen Bay, on the coast of Ireland, upon which the second mate and the two A.B.'s landed, and found their way to a fisher. man's cottage, where they were kindly received and attended to. No. 5 boat, in which was the fourth officer one A.B., the second cook, the stewardess, and seven passengers, continued to run before the wind and sea until dark, when they hove to and lay with a couple of buckets attached to the painter until about midnight, when, the sea having abated, they again ran before the wind until 4 a.m. They then lay to again until 7 o'clock, when they again continued their course, steering as well as they could judge for the Irish coast, and at about 9 a.m. were picked up by the steamship "Palestine," and brought to Liverpool. No. 6 boat has, we are told, been since picked up on the Irish coast with the body of one young lady in her, the rest, no doubt, having been drowned.

To return now to the ship; of course those who had been left on board, having no boats, the fires out, and the pumps choked, could do nothing except signal for assistance, and this they did by burning blue lights and firing off rockets during the night, and in the morning firing guns. In the meantime the gale had abated, but the water continued to rise in the engine-room, flowing in no doubt by the rent at the bottom of the fiddley house, which it had been found impossible to stop. The holds, I should state, were even now free from water, and although the water had begun to flow over into the cabin, they did their best to bale it out. At length, at about 3 p.m., and when the water was within three feet of the upper deck, a steamship, called the "Upupa," hove in sight, and bore down to them, and a boat having been lowered from her, those on board the "Clan Macduff" threw themselves one after the other into the sea, some with and some without life belts or buoys, and were taken into the boat and conveyed safely to the "Upupa" in two trips, ten being carried in the first, and seven in the last trip, the mate, we are told, being amongst the last to leave her. The "Upupa" remained about the spot until 9 o'clock that night, when the "Clan Macduff" was seen to go down, and she then proceeded on her voyage and lauded the survivors at Plymouth. Of those on board when she left Liverpool twenty-three of the crew and seven passengers and one stowaway were rescued, whilst nineteen of the crew and twelve passengers were drowned.

These being the facts of the case, it now becomes our duty to answer the very numerous questions which have been put to us by the Board of Trade; and the first question which we are asked is, "Had the bilges of the 'Clan Macduff' been properly and efficiently cleaned before the ship left Liverpool on her voyage to Bombay on the 18th October 1881?" It seems that on her return from her last voyage Messrs. Beamish, who we are told are employed by some of the best firms in Liverpool to do that work, were employed by the owners to clean out the bilges. We are told that the bilges were found to be exceptionally dirty, and that it was extremely difficult to clean them, more especially in the engine-room, where there were a great number of pipes. The price which was originally agreed to be paid to Messrs. Beamish was 18l.; owing however to the exceptionally dirty state of the bilges, and to the additional labour thus thrown upon them, Messrs. Beamish were ultimately paid the sum of 30l. 1s. 4d. And we have the evidence of two of Messrs. Beamish's foremen, who were specially employed on the duty, as well as that of Mr. Greenshields, the assistant engineer inspector of the company, of the engineers, and of others that the bilges in the engine-room compartment were, so far as they could see, thoroughly cleaned out before she left. But although the evidence is very strong that the bilges had been thoroughly cleaned out before she left Liverpool, we have the fact before us that almost from the time of her leaving port the pumps began to choke, rendering it necessary that they should be cleared at first every two hours, and afterwards every hour, and this too before the weather had become very bad, and before the sea had come down in any very large quantities into the stokehole, a condition of things which, in the opinion of the Assessors, ought not to have existed; and the question which we have to consider is, to what this choking of the pumps was due. It was said indeed that a new floor had been laid down in the engine-room, and that the shavings from it might have fallen into the bilges, and not having been taken away might have choked the pumps; but we think that the evidence shows that the floor was finished on the Friday evening before the men employed to clean the bilges had left, and that they had cleared up after the carpenters; and as a matter of fact, we were told by the second engineer that there were very few shavings taken out of the boxes, but that it was mostly clotted oil and dirt and a little waste. But then it was said that the composition with which the boilers were covered had been washed off by the water, as it ran down through the rent and the hole in the port side of the fiddley house, and that this and the coals and ashes on the stokehole plates, and the waste in the locker in the engine-room being washed into the bilges would fully account for the choking of the pumps. No doubt it would do so after the rent and hole had been made in the fiddley house, and after the water had risen so high in the engine-room compartment as to wash over the stokehole plates; but it would not account for it before any of these things had taken place, within a short time after her departure, and before she had made any very bad weather, and before there was any great quantity of water in the stokehole. We think however that the state of the bilges are to be accounted for, if we are to believe the evidence of the witness, Thomas Ingram. He told us that he was in the ship on her last voyage from Bombay, and that on that occasion three barrels of castor oil burst in the thwartship bunker; he said that after the arrival of the vessel he had been employed to take the dunnage out of that bunker, but that the oil had been left, and that he was quite sure that it had not been removed, for that the night they knocked off coal was put into the bunkers. If this was so, it can well be understood that the small coal which would fall to the bottom would absorb to a certain extent the oil, and only give it out by degrees as the vessel rolled and the water washed up in the bilges, and it would then come down mixed with small coal and dirt, and present very much the appearance of that which the second engineer tells us he took out of the boxes, namely, chiefly clotted oil mixed with dirt and fine coal. It might then very well be that the bilges might have been thoroughly cleaned out before she left Liverpool by Messrs. Beamish's men, but that the filth and clotted oil might find its way into them after she had sailed and as soon as she got into roughish weather. This is the way in which, the Assessors think, that the choking of the pumps is to be accounted for, before the water had had time to wash the coal and ashes and waste off the stokehole plates or the composition from the boilers into the stokehole.

The second question which we are asked is, "Were her pumps sufficient and in good order when she left as aforesaid." It seems that she had two bilge pumps capable of throwing 94 gallons of water per minute; a donkey pump, capable of throwing 190 gallons; a circulating pump, capable of throwing 647 gallons per minute, beside a small hand pump, which could be connected with the engine, and which would throw 18 gallons, making a total of 949 gallons in the minute. In the opinion of the Assessors this was ample pumping power, and so far as appears, the pumps were all in good order and had been thoroughly overhauled and examined before the vessel left.

The third question which we are asked is, "Had she a sufficient number of boats, and were the same in good order?" I have said that the vessel had six boats, all apparently in excellent order, and capable of containing the whole of the crew and passengers. There is therefore nothing to be said against the boats or their sufficiency or efficiency.

The fourth question which we are asked is, "Was she provided with a sufficient number of life belts and life buoys?" From an inventory, which has been handed in to the Court, of articles on board the "Clan Macduff," which is signed by Captain Beer, the owner's overlooker, and which bears date September 24th 1881, I find it stated that she had six life buoys on board, but there is no mention of any life belts; I think, however, that there must have been some life belts on board, for those who got into the boats seemed to have had some, and apparently there was a sufficient number left for those who remained on board the vessel to enable them to reach the "Upupa's" boat, when they jumped into the sea. We have therefore no doubt that the vessel was supplied with a sufficient number of life belts and life buoys.

The fifth and sixth questions I will take together, they are, "Was she overloaded?" and "Had she sufficient freeboard, and generally was she seaworthy on leaving as aforesaid?" I have stated that the total dead weight which this vessel had on board, besides her engines and boilers and the water in them, was 3058 tons, or something more than twice her registered tonnage, which was 1496 tons. And now let us see what was her clear side or freeboard. According to Mr. Greenshields, the assistant engineer superintendent to the owners, she drew 22 feet forward, and 23 feet 2 inches aft, giving a mean of 22 feet 7 inches. He did not, however, tell us when that draught was taken, nor whether some coals were not, as would appear from the evidence of some other witnesses, put into her afterwards. Then Dodds, the stevedore, told us that she drew 21 feet 6 inches forward and 23 feet 3 inches aft when he examined her, giving a mean of 22 feet 4 1/2 inches, but that after this 120 tons of coal were put into her, which would sink her about 5 inches more, giving her a mean draught of 22 feet 9 1/2 inches. The chief officer told us that she drew, when he looked at her, as near as he could judge, 22 feet 5 or 6 inches forward, and 23 feet 3 inches aft, giving a mean of 22 feet 10 inches; and he said that after that there was a small quantity of coal, but not much, certainly not more than 50 tons, put into her forward. The pilot, who is paid upon the deepest draught, told us that she drew 23 feet 2 inches aft; and then we have the evidence of the waterman who attended upon her, and who would have specially good opportunities of noting her draught, and he told us that she drew aft 23 feet 2 inches, and that forward she was very nearly down to the 23 feet line. The result of the evidence would seem to shew that she drew from 22 feet 10 inches to 23 feet when she left, and as we were told that her total depth at side from the bottom of the keel to the top of the upper deck amidships was 30 feet 2 inches, that draught would give her a clear side of 7 feet 2 inches to 7 feet 4 inches. On the other hand, all the witnesses stated that the water seemed to be about three or four inches below the disc, and as the centre of the disc was just six feet below the upper deck, this would give, adding six inches for the half of the disc, and the three or four inches below that, a freeboard of about 6 feet 9 or 10 inches. On the whole, the conclusion to which we are disposed to come is that the vessel when she left must have had a freeboard of from 6 feet 10 inches to 7 feet 2 inches, or say 7 feet. It was said indeed that if we looked at her scale of displacement we should find that with a dead weight of 3058 tons she would draw only 22 feet 4 inches, and that as her total depth at side was 30 feet 2 inches, that would give her a freeboard of nearly 8 feet. But it must be remembered that this scale of displacement was prepared some ten years ago, when the vessel was quite new, and would be no sure guide for estimating her draught at this time, the more so as we are told that she had had new boilers put into her in 1874, and therefore since that scale of displacement was prepared. Now a clear side of about 7 feet or 84 inches would, upon a depth of hold of 27 7 feet, give her a little over three inches per foot depth of hold. We were told indeed of Mr. Ramage, the builder, that that was in his opinion an ample freeboard, and that in his opinion 2 1/2 inches to every foot depth of hold, or 5 feet 9 inches freeboard, would have been quite sufficient; but then Mr. Ramage was obliged to confess that he knew nothing at all about the matter, that he put the load line just wherever the owners told him to put it, and that he was then building a vessel something like this with a freeboard of only 1 3/4 inches to the foot, but he did not tell us whether he considered that to be a sufficient freeboard, and he stated that he accepted no responsibility whatever for the position of the load line; but then a very different witness was produced by the owner, one who is well known and highly respected, and who has commanded the "Great Eastern" and other large vessels, I mean Captain Paton. And what was his evidence? According to him three inches to every foot depth of hold would be the extreme limit which he would give her; and when his attention was called to the weak condition of the fiddley house, he admitted that with such a construction she ought to have had more. Again, taking the rule given by Mr. Martell, a gentleman who is highly respected in this port for estimating the proper amount of freeboard, we find that with a co-efficient of fineness of .71, which is what this vessel had, she ought to have had, with a depth of hold of 27.7 feet, a freeboard of at least 7 feet 10 inches, apart altogether from the question of the fiddley house. The conclusion, therefore, to which we have come is, that this vessel, having regard to the weak construction of her fiddley house, was too deeply laden, and that she should, under the circumstances, have had more freeboard. I ought perhaps to add that there was some question whether she was a three-decked vessel or a spar - decked vessel. According to Mr. Greenshields, the owners' engineer inspector, she was a spar - decked vessel, for although the scantlings were carried up to the upper deck, the beams of the upper deck were only 7-inch bulb iron, whilst those on the main and orlop decks were 9-inch bulb iron; and this in his opinion made her a spar-decked ship. Accord ?? however, to Mr. Ramage, and according to Lloyd s book, she was a three-decked ship. This fact, however, has not influenced us in the conclusion to which we have come in estimating the amount of freeboard which she ought to have had, for we have taken her to be a three-decked ship.

The seventh question which we are asked is, "Was her fiddley house of proper construction and strength, and was it properly and securely fastened to the upper deck; and, in the opinion of the Court, was such a structure sufficient to protect the fiddleys and boilers from the sea, and if not, what other or additional appliances should have been used?" The fiddley house, which was 32 feet long, 12 feet broad, and about 6 feet 6 inches high, was, it appears, divided by 4 iron bulkheads into 5 compartments. Forward of all was the forward fiddley, then the donkey boiler house, then the funnel compartment, then the after fiddley, and last of all the galley. All the bulkheads went up to the top, except that separating the donkey boiler and the funnel compartments, at the very place where this rent which we have heard of occurred, and where it only went up half way. On the starboard side of the fiddley house there were 4 doors, but on the port side there were only 3; there being no entrance to the donkey boiler house except on the starboard side. All the doors were double, having an upper and a lower flap, except the door into the donkey boiler house, which was in one piece. We are told that the fiddley house was riveted to the main tie plates by 4 1/2 inch angle irons, and that it had an iron combing at the bottom 15 inches high. The plates of which the sides were constructed we were told at first by Mr. Greenshields were 3/8ths or 6/16ths thick, but when Mr. Ramage, the builder came to be examined, and produced the original plans, he told us they were only 3/16ths thick; and upon Mr. Greenshields being recalled and closely questioned upon the subject, he admitted that he had no sufficient grounds for the statement that the plates were 3/8ths or 6/16ths thick, that he had never tested them, and that, in fact, it was a mere guess. Now Mr. Ramage has told us that if he had now to build the ship he should certainly not think of making the plates of the fiddley house only 3/16ths thick; in his opinion they ought to be 4/16ths or 3/16ths thick. The two Lloyd's surveyors and the Board of Trade surveyor, who had passed this vessel, appear also to have made only a superficial examination of these plates, for when told that they were only 3/16ths thick they all stated that that was not sufficient, and that in their opinion they should have been 5/16ths or even 6/16ths thick. Captain Paton also said that they should have baen 5/16ths thick, and that they should have been supported with strong bulkheads inside. Indeed, there is not a single witness who has ventured to say that in his opinion plates 3/16ths thick were sufficient for this fiddley house. It was stated that the vessel had had new boilers put into her in 1874, and that for this purpose it would have been necessary to remove the fiddley house; and it was suggested that probably the new fiddley house was constructed of .stronger plates. But there is no proof of this; and I am informed by the Assessors that the presumption is just the other way, and that, although the fiddley house would have to be taken down to put in the new boilers, it is more than probable that the old materials were made use of to reconstruct the new fiddley house.

It ought further to be observed that the sides of this fiddley house, weak as we have seen them to be, were entirely exposed to the full force of the waves without any protection, either in the form of side cabins or of a half-round from the side of the vessel to the top of the house. Both Mr. Francis, the Board of Trade Surveyor, and Mr. Ramage, the builder, stated that such a half. round, especially if there had been iron doors at the ends of the alley ways thus formed, would have been a great additional protection, and would in all probability have prevented this casualty, for in that case, even had there been this hole and rent in the side of the fiddley house, the water could not have got down into the engine-room. Mr. Ramage added that the half-round at the side without doors at the ends of the alley ways would in his opinion be of little use, for that the sea would fill the alley ways, as we found it did in the last case, that of the "Cyprian," and thus get down into the engine-room. Mr. Francis, whilst admitting that this was so, stated that the objection to putting iron doors at the ends of the alley ways was that the space, which would be thus included, although it could not be made available for the carriage of cargo, would, as the law now stood, have to be computed for tonnage dues. Mr. Ramage said that was no doubt so, but that in his opinion the vessel would not be safe without it, and that in this respect the law militated against safety of life and property at sea. Whether this be so or not is a question with which we have not now anything to do. All that we need say here is that in our opinion this fiddley house was not of proper construction or of sufficient strength, and that it could not be regarded as sufficient to protect the fiddleys and the boilers from the seas. In order to have made it so it should have been protected at the side either by cabins or by a half round from the side of the ship to the top of the fiddley house, and with iron doors at the ends of the alley ways thus formed.

The eighth question which we are asked is, "Was she provided with proper and sufficient coverings for the top of the fiddley gratings and the engine-room skylight?" In the inventory, to which I have already referred, of articles on board the "Clan Macduff," and which is signed by Captain Beer, the marine superintendent of the line, and is dated the 24th of September last, I find one covering to the engine-hatch and two coverings for the stokeholes. As regards the covering of the engine-room hatch it is clear that it was there, for we are told that it was on the hatch itself, and rolled up. As regards the coverings to the fiddley gratings, it is true they were not seen by any one on this voyage, but we find them mentioned in the inventory to which I have referred, and Mr. Greenshields and Captain Beer told us that they had not been removed. They seem to have been generally kept in the sail-room, and we have no doubt that they were there on the voyage in question.

The ninth question which we are asked is, "Did the state of the weather render it necessary that the said coverings should be used, and if so were they, or was any, and which of them, efficiently, or in fact used?" As regards the covering of the engine-room hatch it seems at first not to have been securely fastened, so that the se?? lifted it and broke two or three of the panes of the skylight, but it was then properly secured, and we hear no more of any water getting down through it. As regards the coverings of the fiddley gratings it is admitted that they never were taken out of the sail-room and never were put on; and looking to the fact that the sea was breaking over the vessel, and that in all probability when that heavy sea broke over her about 4 o'clock a large quantity of water did go down the forward fiddley grating into the stokehole and wash out some of the forward furnace fires, we think that it would have been proper to have put them on, and that this was a matter which it behoved the master to look to. No doubt the men in the stokehole have an objection to these coverings being put on, because it makes the place so hot; but I am told by the assessors that even with the coverings on the stokehole would not be so hot as the engine-room. both the stokeholes having ventilators. We think, therefore, that it was the duty of the captain to have seen that these coverings were put on, and this he neglected to do.

The tenth question which we are asked is, "What was the cause of the accumulation of water in the stokehole early in the morning of the 20th October, and what was the cause of the increase of the same?" The first great body of water which got into the stokehole was no doubt by the sea breaking over the ship at about 4 a.m. of the 20th of October and going down the forward fiddley gratings. It was, however, the sea pouring in through the rent on the port side of the fiddley house and the pumps being choked which caused the water to increase.

The eleventh question which we were asked is, "What was the cause of the pumps becoming choked, and were proper and efficient measures taken to free them." I have already stated what in our opinion was the cause of the choking of the pumps. The choking of the pumps was no doubt at first due to the oil which had been left in the thwartship bunker oozing out into the bilges. Afterwards, however, when the water had risen and washed over the stoke hole plates, the waste and coal and ashes would naturally find their way into the bilges, as well as the composition with which the boilers were covered, and although in our opinion all proper and efficient measures were taken to free them, it would then be quite impossible to keep the pumps clear.

The twelfth question which we are asked is, "Did any of the sea cocks burst, and if so what was the cause of their so bursting?" From the evidence of the chief mate it would seem that one of the sea cocks, I will not say burst, but was broken either by the stoke hole plates or by a piece of coal striking against it.

The thirteenth question which we are asked is, "Were proper and efficient means taken to stop the leak on the port side of the fiddley house?" The carpenter, who gave his evidence in a very clear and proper manner, told us that he did all in his power to stop the leak on the port side of the fiddley house. He seems to have succeeded in stopping the hole made by the pipe by stuffing a blanket into it, and that we are told was still in it when they finally left the vessel. But the rent along the bottom of the fiddley house could not be stopped; as a wave struck the side of the house the rent would open, and the waste or oakum which he had stuffed into it would be washed out, and no effort on his part could, in our opinion, have stopped it.

The fourteenth question which we are asked is, "Was the master justified in altering the ship's course for Queenstown, and running before the wind; and was he justified in afterwards bringing her up to the wind again; and generally, was she navigated with proper and seamanlike care?" That the master, when he found the water gaining upon them, and the pumps being choked, was justified in keeping her away before the wind and sea for the purpose of making Queenstown admits, in our opinion, of no doubt; and it is much to be regretted, that he did not continue that course instead of attempting to bring her up into the wind again. We have not the master here to explain why he brought her to the wind again, but it seems to have been an injudicious act on his part; and it is perhaps not at all unlikely, that it was this which wrenched the pipe out of its place, and perhaps broke in the side of the fiddley house, and to which probably the loss of this vessel was due. I am told by the assessors that nothing is more dangerous than to bring a vessel to in this way against wind and sea with the engines going, as we are told they were at full speed.

The fifteenth question which we are asked is, "Was the master justified in giving the orders to put out the boats when he did, especially No. 2 port lifeboat?" We think that the master was perfectly justified in giving orders to put the boats out when he did, not indeed with the view of sending them away from the ship, but of having them lowered and in readiness to take the crew and passengers on board when the emergency arose. They should have been lowered and secured astern, and under the lee of the ship. As regards No. 2 port lifeboat, we think that the master was not justified in ordering it to be launched; the assessors are of opinion that it would have been quite impossible to carry it across the deck so as to launch it to leeward, and there was almost a certainty that in attempting to launch her to windward the boat would be stove. The proper thing they think under the circumstances was to do what the chief officer says that he wished to do, namely, to keep it in its position, in hopes that the gale might abate, and that they would be able to launch it; and so at any rate as to have one boat by them in case the vessel should sink under them.

The sixteenth question which we are asked is, "Was the master justified in getting into No. 3 starboard lifeboat when he did, or at all, and in leaving his ship and 17 persons on board." It was said by Mr. Segar that the master's object in getting into the boat No. 3 was probably to take charge of her, there being a number of passengers in her, and fearing to trust them to the charge of a junior officer. That however is mere conjecture. It was also said that he knew that No. 2 boat was quite large enough to hold all the hands that remained on board, and that entertaining no doubt but that the mate would succeed in launching it, he felt that the best plan was for him to take charge of No. 3 boat. But he had no right to suppose that the mate would be able to get out No. 2 boat; he should have assured himself of the fact before he left the ship, and not have abandoned her with 17 hands still on board. It should never be forgotten that it is the master's duty to stick to his ship to the last, and not to leave her until he sees that all those whose lives are entrusted to his keeping are provided for. In our opinion he was not justified in leaving her as he did, or at all, with 17 hands still remaining on board.

The seventeenth question which we are asked is, "Was every possible effort made to save the lives of the passengers and the crew?" Apart from the conduct of the master in leaving the vessel, as and when he did, we think that every possible effort was made to save the lives of the passengers and crew. All the passengers appear to have been put into the boats before the master left the ship.

Question No. 18 is, "What was the cause of the loss of the vessel?" The cause of the loss of the vessel was, no doubt, the breaking in of the side of the fiddley house, the foulness of the bilges, and probably also the want of judgment on the part of the master in bringing the vessel back again up to the wind instead of keeping her on a course for Queenstown.

The nineteenth question which we are asked is, "Having regard to the above questions, was the loss of the vessel, and of the lives of 12 of her passengers, and 20 of her crew, caused by any wrongful act or default of her master, William Webster?" In speaking of the master's conduct, it behoves us to speak of him with some reserve, for he is not here to answer for his conduct, and if he has been guilty of any misconduct or neglect of duty, he has paid for it with his life. We have had the very strongest evidence from those who have known him that he was generally a good and efficient officer; that he was sober; and that on one occasion, when he was in a position of great danger and difficulty he shewed remarkable courage and ability. He had been for about 18 years at sea, and during all that time had conducted himself in a manner to merit the approval of his employers. He had commanded for two years ships belonging to Messrs. Leech, Harrison, and Forwood, running between New York and the West Indies, and one of the partners in that firm has told us that he always conducted himself to their entire satifaction. He was obliged to leave their service on account of fever contracted in the West Indies, and in the early part of the present year he entered the service of the "Clan" Company, and having served as chief officer on board one of their vessels, had shown such marked efficiency, that the owners had sent for him to Suez to take command of this vessel, so high an opinion had they of his ability. He joined the vessel shortly before she left. For the state of the bilges and for the weakness of the fiddley house he is not responsible, and if the condition of that house had escaped the observation of the two Lloyd's surveyors and the Board of Trade surveyors whose special duty it was to look to its efficiency, the master may well be pardoned for not having detected any defects in it. At the same time his conduct appears to us, in default of any satisfactory explanation, to be in many respects open to very grave censure. He is to blame for not having put the coverings on the fiddley gratings, more especially after the sea had broken over her and nearly filled the stokehole. He is to blame for not having kept the vessel away before the wind, with the view of getting her into Queenstown, when he knew that there was a large quantity of water in the stokehole, and that the pumps could not be kept clear; and it is highly probable that it was the bringing her up into the wind again that brought about this casualty. Above all, he is to blame for having abandoned his vessel as he did, leaving 17 hands still on board. There can be no doubt that it was to his defaults that the loss of this vessel is mainly due, and that in abandoning his ship as he did he shewed a lamentable want of those qualities which ought to distinguish the master of a British vessel.

The last question which we are asked is, "Are the owners, Messrs. Cayzer, Irvine, and Co., or any of them, to blame for the said loss?" We were told by Mr. Cayzer that in February last his firm had purchased three sister ships, of which the "Clan Macduff" was one, for the sum of £75,750 and that since then he had spent £2,000 upon this vessel. He told us also that at the time of her loss she was insured for only £21,700. The outward freight, it seems, was paid in advance, but the homeward freight, which we are told is about £7,700., was wholly uninsured. Messrs. Cayzer, Irvine, and Co., are therefore heavy losers by this casualty. The question, however, is, had not Messrs. Cayzer, Irvine, and Co., every reason to believe this vessel to be a good and seaworthy ship? It seems that she was classed 100 A1 at Lloyd's. She was specially surveyed in 1878, and the annual survey took place just before she left upon her last voyage. We are told also that the stringer plates and garboard strake were in thickness above the requirements of Lloyd's; that she was, too, a very strong vessel is proved by the fact that she remained so long afloat with her engine-room full of water, and without any water up to the last in any of her other compartments, showing how strong her bulkheads must have been to resist such an enormous pressure of water. As regards the fiddley house, weak and unprotected as we have shewn it to have been, Messrs. Cayzer and Co. are, in our opinion, not to blame for that. Having passed the ordeal of two Lloyd's Surveyors and of the Board of Trade Surveyor, whose duty it was to see that it was in an efficient state, Messrs. Cayzer and Co. might reasonably conclude that it was sufficient for their purposes, and that the vessel, when she left this country, was in a good and efficient condition in all respects.

The Court was not asked to make any order as to costs.


H. C. ROTHERY, Wreck Commissioner.

We concur.






The Clan Macduff (Capt W. Webster), ex-City of Oxford, left Liverpool for Bombay on Tuesday, October 18th, 1881 with 19 passengers and 46 crew.

Off Holyhead, the weather became bad and she sprung a leak. All were employed in the task of bailing out the water. By the next day, the captain ordered to abandon the ship with the six boats carried. The large lifeboat was smashed in lowering, but the gig got into the water without mishap and eight people were taken off. The cutter followed but two other boats were smashed by the seas, leaving only one which could hold 30 at the utmost, there still being 45 persons on the liner. Eventually 28, including the captain who jumped overboard, were taken off leaving the first officer and 16 of the crew on board.

During the night these men made desperate efforts to keep the ship afloat and at 4 p.m. on the 21st, they were rescued in the nick of time by the steamship Upupa of the City of Cork Steam Packet Co. The boat into which the captain had been taken capsized and only five of its occupants were saved, being picked up by a passing vessel. Another, with seven passengers and four crew, was sighted by the steamship Palestine, which took them aboard, and one, containing the body of a young lady, drifted ashore at Clonkilty, Ireland. The number of persons drowned was 32, of whom 12 were passengers and 20 crew. The Clan Macduff was last seen at 9 p.m. on the 21st with her decks awash, about 40 miles S. of Roche Point.

Investigation into the Loss of Clan MacDuff - 1881

Life before Clan Line

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The Wreck of Clan MacDuff - 1881

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