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Title: There Go the Ships

Date of first publication: 1928

Author: Archibald MacMechan (1862-1933)

Date first posted: Nov. 27, 2019

Date last updated: Nov. 27, 2019

Faded Page eBook #20191147

This eBook was produced by: Mardi Desjardins, Howard Ross & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net

Books by Archibald MacMechan

The Porter of Bagdad

The Life of a Little College

The Winning of Popular Government

Sagas of the Sea

Headwaters of Canadian Literature

Old Province Tales

The Book of Ultima Thule


Carlyle, Sartor Resartus

    Heroes and Hero Worship

        Essay on Burns

Nova Scotia Archives, II. and III.

Tennyson: Select Poems

Copyright, Canada, 1928

By McClelland & Stewart, Limited




Printed in Canada









Nearly all the tales collected here have been published separately in different periodicals. My thanks are due to the editors of The Canadian Magazine, Maclean’s Magazine, The Dalhousie Review, The Halifax Herald and The Halifax Chronicle for courteous permission to republish the different stories, which appeared originally in their pages. It is a pleasure to acknowledge my obligations to the host of friends who have helped me to information, especially those whose names stand in the table of contents. To one and all my grateful thanks.

A. M. M.


1.The Cartel Auguste17

The primary authority is a small pamphlet published by Fleury Mesplet, in Montreal, 1778, with the title “Journal Du Voyage De M. Saint-Luc De la Corne, Ecuyer, Dans le Navire l’Auguste, en l’an 1761.” A copy is preserved in the Library of St. Sulpice, Montreal, of which a photostat copy was made for the Library of the Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa. A second edition was printed at Quebec by A. Coté et Cie in 1863. A copy is in the Library of Dalhousie College. There are many differences in spelling, punctuation and even grammar between the original and the second edition.

2.On The Spanish Main57

MS Log of the Charles Mary Wentworth, privateer, Nov. 26, 1799-May 24, 1800. Preserved in the Legislative Library, Province House, Halifax. Letters of Thomas Parker. Journal of Simeon Perkins.

3.A Beacon Light101

Edwin Crowell, A History of Barrington Township and Vicinity, pp. 386-389. Journals of the N. S. House of Assembly.

4.A Master Mariner119

Personal narrative of Jonathan Borden Marsh of Economy, N. S., correspondence, and information supplied by H. McKay part owner of the Truro Queen.

5.The Great Ship137

Privately printed pamphlet of 134 pages by William Lawrence, without title-page. Preface dated “Maitland, April, 1880.” Contains much information not bearing on the actual voyage of the W. D. Lawrence. Report of the launching, in The Morning Chronicle, Oct. 28, 1874. Correspondence with Captain William Lawrence.

6.The First Mate163

Stenographic report from Captain Nehemiah C. Larkin’s dictation, confirming notes of a previous interview given to the author.

7.A Vision of the Night197

Information supplied by Mr. O. L. and Mr. S. B. Davis, sons of Captain Davis, by Captain Fred Ladd, and by Mr. R. S. McKay, K.C. of Yarmouth.

8.The Shell211

Information supplied by Mrs. F. E. O’Brien, daughter of Captain James Ellis.

9.The Captain’s Wife225

Sworn testimony of Captain Curry MacDougall, Mrs. MacDougall, H. R. Bowyer and Thomas Desmond, used in the trial of the mutineers at Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Telegraph, April 9th, 11th, 18th, 1895. Correspondence of Mrs. MacDougall.

10.The Wave245

Personal narrative and letters of Mrs. Hedley MacDougall. La Razon, of Monte Video, May 18, 1901. The Monte Video Times, May 21, 1901.


Personal narrative of Captain H. A. Inness.

12.The Lunenburg Way279

Personal narrative of Captain James L. Publicover. Letter of Frederick Richard. Official documents. Report of Captain P. W. Sprague.


For the third time, I offer the public a handful of true stories, chiefly adventures of Nova Scotia seamen. My aim is plain truth; “romance” I avoid and abjure. The sources of each tale are noted in the table of contents, under each title. My task has been to order my material, correlate and harmonize statements, and thus reconstruct the incident. Inference and deduction came into play; but it was surprising to find how readily the collected facts fitted together as whole coherent narratives. Perhaps they may serve some native Carlyle of the future as data in a study of heroes and the heroic in history.

The adventures of Saint-Luc de La Corne, afloat and ashore, form only one chapter in a long, roving, exploring, fighting life. He seems a type of the old native Canadian noblesse, whose story is yet to be told. It was a hardy, warlike race ready for any bold enterprise like Iberville’s descent upon the English garrison at Hudson’s Bay, or the bloody surprise of Noble at Grand Pré. They intermarried, and seem to have formed one large family. One hopes for other documents like Saint-Luc’s journal buried in obscurity for a century and a half. An excellent portrait of Saint-Luc, painted apparently during his visit to London, is preserved in the Château de Ramezay. It makes credible everything that is known about him, both good and bad.

The basis for the second saga is a remarkably full and well kept log of the privateer Charles Mary Wentworth. It is doubtful if any other document, in Canada, at least, presents so clear and truthful a picture of life on board an eighteenth century “private vessel of war.” Benjamin Knaut became sheriff of Queen’s County, and Mr. Collins, the zealous first officer, a merchant prince of Halifax, and one of the first multi-millionaires of America.

Two tales exhibit the Nova Scotia sailor saving life at sea, at the risk of his own. In one case, he responded to mysterious monitions out of the blank night. In the other, the “perfect folly” of the Lunenburg coasting captain snatched seven men from the very jaws of death.

The saga of the Regina tells how a stout vessel may be dismembered by stress of weather in mid-ocean and how a strong-hearted, much-enduring Nova Scotia sailor used every means to save his life. From first to last, the chain of causation is strangely tenuous, but it is complete. It ends in rescue.

Still another chain of remote causation links a Maitland captain with the labours of a missionary in the South Seas and the gift of a treasure.

Two tales exhibit typical Nova Scotia ship-masters extricating their vessels from great difficulties and navigating them safe to port. One is old school, and the other new school; but both manifest the same professional skill, resource and indomitable spirit.

The saga of the W. D. Lawrence, the largest ship ever built in Nova Scotia, illustrates the enterprise of the past generation. To have conceived, financed and carried through such an undertaking would have been a notable achievement for a company of rich Halifax merchants; Lawrence did it single-handed. His voyage round the world in his masterpiece is of the essence of poetry. The sailing ship is the universal symbol of romance.

There are two tales of heroic women. The name of Mary Hichens, who built the Seal Island lighthouse, should be written in our national scroll of fame in letters of gold beside Laura Secord and Madeleine de Verchères. Beside it should stand the name of Margaret MacDougall, who threw herself between her wounded husband and the knives of the Launberga mutineers.

“The Wave” illustrates the perils faced and the hardships undergone by the Nova Scotia girls who married sailors and went to sea. What capable helpmeets they were is shown by Ada Inness steering the Whidden at the critical juncture of re-rigging the dismasted schooner.

Danger comes rarely into the ordinary life of the landsman; it is the sailor’s element. Death may spring upon him at any moment of the day or night. Swift destruction may overwhelm him and his vessel in an instant of time. He must always be on the alert. The sea is a hard school, but it breeds men of courage, fortitude and swift decision; it breeds heroes.

Praise for the men and women whose deeds are written in this book is impertinent. No form of words, no flight of eloquence can add a glory to the plain record of what they did and endured; but the province which bore and bred them should remember them with pride and the giving of thanks. These shining examples of courage, hardihood and self-devotion are a far more precious heritage than all the wealth ever won or still to be drawn from the mine, the field, the forest and the sea.

A. M. M.


Being Some Passages in the Life of M. Saint-Luc de La Corne, Captain in the Marine Troops, and Chevalier de Saint Louis, Including His Attempted Voyage to France, His Ship-wreck upon the Island of Cape Breton, and His Sufferings in Returning by Land to Quebec.



New France had fallen. The Battle of the Plains had been lost and won. The victory of Ste Foy was illusory, for no aid or reinforcement came from France. British hosts had moved up the River of Canada from Quebec and down the River from Oswego, and penned up the gallant remnant of Montcalm’s army in the little fortified town of Montreal. There it had been forced to surrender without the honours of war; but the battalions had burnt their flags. The toast of the British Army had been fulfilled. The Golden Lilies were hauled down for the last time and British colours flew over every fort, post and garrison in America.

The new British possession was no place for any loyal Frenchman. As soon as the articles of the capitulation were signed, the British began to send their prisoners back to France, with the hard obligation not to serve again in the present war. In the first flight were Vaudreuil, Lévis, gallant Bougainville, who was to give his name to an island in the Solomons, the infamous Bigot and his gang of profiteers. Soldiers and civilians, rank and file, great and small followed as quickly as might be, but the war was still raging, transport was scarce, and the work of evacuation was necessarily slow. A year after the capitulation there were still French soldiers remaining in New France. Almost the last company to be dispatched sailed in the autumn of 1761. How they fared in the memorable adventure of their voyage is told by one of their number.

On September 27, 1761, the Chevalier La Corne took passage from Montreal for Quebec in the schooner Catiche. He was no ordinary personage. His family name is writ large in the early annals of New France. A La Corne was joint seigneur of Contrecoeur from the seventeenth century. He came of a line of soldiers. His father was town-major of Quebec. He himself had been a man of war from his youth. At nine he was enseigne en second; at twenty-two he was lieutenant; at forty he was captain and had won the coveted Cross of St. Louis. He was a renowned partizan leader, adept in Indian warfare, whether fighting with the savages or against them. He had taken part in the midwinter Deerfield massacre, he had seen unmoved the English sick dragged out of their tents and butchered by the savages at Fort William Henry. He had led in the bloody surprise of Noble at Grand Pré, in February, 1747; he had shared in the great victory of Montcalm over Abercromby at Carillon. He had watched from the shore, Amherst’s flotilla bearing ten thousand men shoot the rapids on their victorious way to Montreal. He had served with distinction through the late disastrous campaign; he had been twice wounded; and now, with his two sons, he was on his way to France. In his correspondence, Montcalm calls him “a prattling boaster,” but he was undoubtedly the first partizan leader of his time.

Though not so distinguished as his elder brother, M. de Saint Luc de La Corne, écuyer was also a man of mark. An explorer and a fur-trader, he was amongst the very first white men to penetrate the perilous interior of the continent and to see the limitless prairies alive with moving seas of buffalo. He had established a post, presumably at the forks of the Saskatchewan as early as 1747. Hendry visited him there in 1755, approved of his appearance and praised his hospitality. La Corne had taken part in the late campaign, commanding parties of Indians, for no one knew them better. He could speak the language of all the nations from Sioux to Micmac. He was, in fact, chief interpreter for the government. He was famous, or infamous, for another reason. The author of the Mémoire du Canada names him in the scandalous list of the nineteen millionaires, who fattened on the plunder of the dying colony, and sets his fortune at 1,200,000 livres. He is pilloried with Vaudreuil, Bigot, Cadet. He also has two sons with him, and details of famous regiments like Béarn and Royal-Roussillon, married men with their wives and children. This La Corne becomes the historian of the voyage; for he was methodical and kept a journal.

In two days the Catiche ran down the river and anchored in the Basin below Cape Diamond. The brothers La Corne went ashore to pay their respects to the Governor, General James Murray, the keen-faced, fiery, Scottish aristocrat who received them at Castle St. Louis with all imaginable courtesy. He spared no pains to make the projected voyage pleasant for his late enemies, for he was fond of the French, too fond, thought the English traders at Quebec. Two small vessels had been appointed to convey the large party of refugees, but they were quite inadequate. La Corne, the younger, to be named henceforth Saint-Luc, wanted to hire or buy outright a suitable ship. Murray would not hear of such a plan. In his generosity, he placed at their disposal the full-rigged ship Auguste, all ready for sea. She was to go armed en cartel, which means that she sailed under a white flag and she was allowed only one gun, for signals. She had already been used for this purpose in 1757.

This Auguste was not the only vessel of that name. There is record of a fishing smack also so christened in compliment to the King of France. The cartel ship had been plying between Quebec and France for at least fifteen years. Her name was known to the King’s ministers and her comings and goings were noted at Versailles. So far she had proceeded on her lawful occasions without mishap. Now, as prize of war, she obeyed an English master, one Joseph Knowles, and was once more to turn her bow eastward across the Atlantic. She was the best transport Murray had at hand. In spite of her age, she seems to have been thoroughly seaworthy, for Saint-Luc’s log says nothing of the almost inevitable hard labour at the pumps; but she could hardly be reckoned well found. The only charts on board were of the French coast, and there was no pilot to take her safely through the many dangers of the lower St. Lawrence. When the two La Cornes pointed out this serious defect, Murray rejoined that all vessels leaving port at that time were in the same case; and he met the difficulty in his own way. Murray and Saint-Luc were destined to meet again and sooner than they thought.

At Quebec other distinguished Canadians joined the La Corne party. One was Lieutenant Pierre La Vérendrye of the famous family of explorers. His high-souled father had trained himself and his sons for the great exploit of finding the Western Ocean; he himself had toiled heroically, but he had failed through no fault of his own. Thirteen years before, he had died in Montreal. Jean Baptiste, the eldest brother, had been murdered by the Sioux on the far western plains, François, the youngest, had fallen in the defence of Quebec. Pierre was the last of his ill-fated family. He had one servant with him, named Etienne.

The seigneury of Senneville covered the end of the Island of Montreal, where the ruins of the old château may still be seen. The original Jacques Le Ber de Senneville hoped to found a family in the old feudal fashion. A daughter of the house became a saint. His descendant, Jean Baptiste Le Ber Saint-Paul was one of the Canadian noblesse who had sold his estate at a great sacrifice rather than retain it by becoming a British subject. He joined the ship with his wife, his sister-in-law and his two young sons, who had already entered the army as cadets à l’aiguillette. The passenger list included Captain Bécancourt Portneuf, Lieutenants Varennes, Saint-Paul, Saint-Blain, Pécaudi de Contrecoeur, and other bearers of historic names, the flower of the native noblesse leaving for ever the land of their birth.

And there were seven ladies of quality in the party, dames and damosels, who had graced the salons of the Rue St. Louis as well as the picnics and balls and suppers of the polite and hospitable Intendant Bigot. Even in the crisis of the war, Quebec had been a little Paris, with the charming Mme. Péan for Pompadour. Now they came off in boats to the anchored Auguste in their manteaus and cloaks and hoods, bringing with them numberless trunks, valises and strong-boxes containing their wardrobes, as well as provisions, eatable and drinkable, and household goods. There were mirth and jests of Gallic quality, little shrieks and giggles as the ladies were swayed up the side in their billowing hoop-skirts. The cluttered decks and low-ceiled cabins resounded with voluble French; and there were greetings and salutations, bows and low curtsies as the ladies and gentlemen encountered and recognized the fellow passengers. Friendships are quickly formed on board ship. Severe Abbé Faillon more than hints at conduct unbecoming Christians, and levity in leaving their native land which seems to him out of place and ominous. No doubt there was much gallantry, as indeed how could there fail to be whenever French men and French women met in the age of gallantry? The last of the Canadian noblesse were quitting Canada as exiles and refugees, and they faced the unknown not with sighs or tears, but with laughter and a high heart. It was another “Embarkation for Cythera,” but dearly did they pay for amorous dalliance.

More soldiers with their wives and children came on board, some civilians and one English merchant. The crew consisted of fifteen officers and men. Altogether the Auguste had one hundred and twenty-one souls on board. Saint-Luc engaged the captain’s cabin for his party, paying Knowles five hundred Spanish dollars for the accommodation, a rich man’s price, but he wanted the best the ship afforded.

By October 12, the Auguste was ready for sea, with passengers on board, provisions stored, trunks and strong-boxes lashed securely to cleats in the cabins. Murray arranged that she should sail in company with the other two packets and that a little English tender in charge of a British officer should guide them through the difficult navigation to the last anchorage in the river. One pilot would thus serve all three. Guards were placed on them as a natural precaution. For three days they were wind-bound in the Basin, but on the 15th, the tiny squadron of four sail made a start, but they got only as far as St. Patrick’s Hole. The next day the furious currents nearly wrecked them on reefs a league above Isle aux Coudres. They anchored, but their anchors dragged and they were within an ace of running aground. Afterwards Saint-Luc came to think that being wrecked here would have been preferable to what did happen.

On the 17th the four vessels reached Isle aux Coudres on the north bank and found a safe anchorage. Here again they were wind-bound for ten whole days until the 27th of the month. But being wind-bound in a river is no great hardship if you are not in haste and have agreeable company. The cabin of the Auguste was a Paris salon full of amusing people who aimed at pleasing and understood the art. Here, if anywhere, was opportunity for conduct unpleasing to severe Abbé Faillon. Certainly Saint-Luc makes a curious admission in his narrative. During that ten days wait, “We consumed a great part of our provisions and were obliged to purchase more at great expense.” Plainly he refers to his own party, for passengers in those days brought their food with them. There must have been great extravagance, and ill husbandry. As there were no shops at Isle aux Coudres, Saint-Luc must have bought his provisions from the other passengers. Naturally he would have to pay high for them. On the 27th the wind blew from the southwest and took the four vessels as far as Kamouraska on the southern bank, where they anchored for the night.

The morning of October 28th saw the exiles’ final severance with Canada. As the wind held steady from the south-west, the officer detailed to escort the cartel ships withdrew his guards and returned to Quebec. For some time, the three vessels under the white flag kept together down towards the Gulf before the favourable wind, but at length the Auguste parted company with the other two and never saw them again.

There was every promise of a pleasant crossing for the time of year, until November 4th, when the wind shifted into the north-west and blew a gale for three days. Throughout the 4th, 5th and 6th of November the Auguste with close-reefed sails and lashed helm was hove-to in a furious tempest. To Saint-Luc the hollows of the waves seemed open graves gaping for the luckless passengers and crew. It seemed every moment as if they would swallow up the ship. The terrific pitching and tossing wrenched trunks, strong-boxes and luggage generally free from their lashings, even taking the cleats with them. These heavy objects were flung about the cabins in terrible and dangerous confusion. Several persons were badly hurt by the careering boxes, and the terror of the passengers almost reached delirium. The cabins resounded with agonized prayers to the “Supreme Being,” with promises of reformation, and, Saint-Luc adds, with perjuries. This time the “Supreme Being” heard the prayers of the faithful and spared the penitents. The gale blew itself out, and a lull followed during which all hands laboured to repair the damage which the ship had sustained.

“Then,” continues Saint-Luc, “a new danger appalled us.” It was the supreme terror of sailors, fire at sea. While all available hands were hardest at work, the cook was labouring also, preparing extra dishes for the toiling men. Perhaps he was in too great a hurry, but, whatever the reason, he set the galley alight for the third time. Flames shot up, fanned by the wind, and black smoke shrouded the deck. Twice before the same thing had happened, but the flames had been easily put out. This time the task was much harder. Confusion reigned on board; the screams of the terror-stricken women filled the air; even some of the men broke down. Only after hours of severest labour with buckets and whatever would hold water was the fire mastered. There ensued for the ill-starred ship’s company a brief respite from toil and heart-shaking fear; but the galley was burnt beyond repair. It could not be used again; and all on board, passengers and crew, soldiers and civilians, dainty ladies and rough spouses of the barrack-room, rich profiteer and poor cabin-boy were reduced to munching dry ship’s biscuit. Such food barely kept body and soul together, and seasickness prostrated the passengers in their berths. Dalliance must have been over for good and all, in that ship of misery.

After a very short calm, a westerly gale arose and drove the Auguste back to Brion Island north of the Magdalens, just missing the Bird Rocks. The gale continued until the morning of the 11th, at 9 o’clock in the morning, when land appeared. It was the west coast of Newfoundland; and, on sounding, the Auguste was found to be directly over the Orphans’ Bank. Saint-Luc says “we” suggested to the captain the use of the lead. Then ensued an incident illustrating the swift resilience of the French spirit. All hands began to fish and soon they had two hundred cod flopping about the deck. These they salted and laid down as provisions, with the feeling that now at least they could not starve. The clouds had opened for a moment to let a gleam of sunshine through, and then closed down again in utter blackness.

Then the easterly gale sprang up once more with heavy rain, and drove the Auguste toward the west coast of Cape Breton. Here she was embayed and narrowly escaped being driven on shore. In the night of the 12th-13th, the wind shifted into the west and drove the ship beyond Cape North. For several hours, she continued on a long stretch to the northward; then she put about and during the night of the 13th-14th made a long tack to the southeast. No one had any idea of the ship’s position for the sky was always overcast and the rain poured. No observation could be made, though those on board saw the land, they could not identify it, for they had no charts except for the coast of Europe. And so the last day dawned for the ill-starred Auguste.

On the north-eastern side of Cape Breton is a great semi-circular inlet, ten miles across, known as Aspy Bay. Behind it a great tableland rises up steeply from the sea, a thousand feet high. The scene is unsurpassed for grandeur even in Cape Breton. At one end towers Cape North, and at the other, White Head.

On November 15th, 1761, about two in the afternoon, in a raging storm and torrents of sweeping rain, these capes saw a full-rigged ship in distress with sails blown to ribbons, hopelessly embayed and driven straight on shore. It was the luckless cartel Auguste.

On her reeling, wave-washed quarter-deck clung a small group of men, the master Joseph Knowles, the man at the tiller, a servant, and Saint-Luc, seasoned to many perils, clear-eyed, steady, master of himself. A landsman, not a sailor, he did not realize their deadly peril. Passengers were in their cabins, out of the rain; the worn out sailors had taken to their hammocks; they could do no more. Hunger, labour, loss of sleep had done their work. Neither the arguments of the captain nor the blows of the mate could arouse them. Now he came aft from the forecastle and swiftly ran up the poop, tossing overboard a stout rope’s end he held in his hand.

“We cannot work the ship, sir,” he said. “Our mizzen mast is sprung, the sails cannot be lowered or furled; the men are as good as dead already. I cannot rouse them. Whatever we do, we cannot weather that point. We must run her ashore.”

“We saw land on both sides of us,” reports Saint-Luc, “and fancied we saw a river half a cannon-shot away.”

The description fits Aspy Bay with its long aboiteau; the river is the inlet at Dingwall. Captain and mate turned hopeless eyes upon Saint-Luc, and without a word, put their hands together as if in prayer. Then he understood for the first time.

“There is no time to lose,” said the mate. “We must run her ashore, to port.”

There was the bare possibility of steering her through the white wall of thundering combers into the mouth of the so-called “river.” But as the doomed ship swept swiftly towards the shore, they saw that there was no water in it. Saint-Luc made his way into the great cabin to tell his fellow passengers that the end had come. Wails and shrieks, useless questions and vain prayers broke forth, and all hurried on deck. At that moment, the vessel struck with a terrific grinding crash and careened almost on her beam ends. The waves leapt over her. Knowles and the mate did what they could; they cut away the shrouds on the weather side; the masts crashed down, the Auguste righted, drove heavily on within a hundred and fifty yards of the shore, struck again, and broached to in the combers. She was half full of water. Men and women were clinging to the mizzen-shrouds and back-stays. Some flung themselves into the breakers, in the vain hope of reaching the shore by swimming.

What happened next must have happened in a few seconds. There were two boats on board. A wave swept away the larger one and smashed it to pieces. A second carried the smaller one overside where it floated for an instant in the lee of the Auguste. Saint-Luc was holding one of his sons in his arms, and had young Héry fastened to his belt. Etienne the servant of La Vérendrye was the first to act on man’s deepest instinct and to leap into the boat. The captain and some others followed him. Saint-Luc had not noticed it until young Héry said,

“Save us! The boat’s in the water.”

Then he seized a rope, slid down to some projection on the vessel’s side, made a violent spring, and flung himself into the boat.

“But,” he adds, “I lost my son and little Héry, who had not the strength to follow me.”

No sooner was Saint-Luc in the boat than a wave well-nigh filled it, a second swept it from the side of the wreck, and a third flung him up on the sand. It was a miraculous escape.

Through the cold driving rain, he could see his friends clinging to the wreck and hear their anguished cries for help, where there was no help possible. Though the wreck lay so close inshore, there was no possibility of rescue.

After a three days’ gale, the combers rolling on the sand must have been monstrous, and struggles in the deadly backwash, which drags the swimmer away from shore as with a giant’s grip, must have ended soon.

Saint-Luc, the much-experienced, practical man, turned to the unconscious forms on the sand. The first was the captain, lying as if dead. Saint-Luc got the water out of him and brought him back to life; but his mind was wandering. He saw five others stretched on the beach but showing signs of consciousness, and slowly he brought them round, for he himself was exhausted. There were seven living men out of the entire ship’s company,—Captain Knowles, Corporal Laforet, of the Royal-Roussillon, Corporal Monier of the regiment Béarn, the servants Etienne and Peter, Laforce, a discharged soldier and Saint-Luc himself. He carried money, both French and English, on his person; and he had his journal, his pipe and tobacco. He had saved some things from the wreck. He mentions his powder-horn, his flint and steel, no doubt parts of his military equipment. These he handed over to the five soaking, exhausted men and directed them to light a fire at the edge of the spruce wood, which grew only a few hundred yards away. He remained within sight of the wreck, in the vague hope of being able to help. So exhausted were the five, that they could not make a fire, and had barely strength enough to tell him so. So he went to their aid. Starting a fire in the pouring rain with green wood, by means of a flint-and-steel is no easy matter; but Saint-Luc succeeded at last after many vain attempts. But for this blazing fire on that tragic beach, which burnt like a beacon all night, they must have perished with the cold. It was about three o’clock when the seven men were cast up by the sea; between five and six in the November dusk they dimly saw what was left of the Auguste crumble and disintegrate in the breakers.

That night, the exhausted survivors huddled around their bonfire, but no one closed an eye. Early on the next morning they went down to the beach to view a piteous spectacle. The shore was strewn with wreckage, scattered and piled and tumbled at the will of the waves, large fragments of planking still holding together, masts and spars tangled in cordage and ragged sails, ship’s stores, casks of provisions, supplies of all kinds, some cast high and dry, others half out of the water. All kinds of flotsam and jetsam were washing to and fro. And among all this confusion were the bodies of one hundred and fourteen persons. There were the thirty-two soldiers, their wives and their sixteen children, the officers and gentlemen, the merchants and the artizans, the youthful enseignes en pied, and cadets à l’aiguillette, whose military career had ended there in Aspy Bay. And there were the fair bodies of the seven gallant ladies, in their draggled finery, who Abbé Faillon judges, were justly punished for their sins. Some of the corpses were naked, as the men had tried to swim ashore. Some had broken limbs and other injuries.

The day was spent in doing what they could to give the bodies Christian burial, but they could not have done much, even with proper tools. One imagines Saint-Luc’s family had his first attention and then the members of the noblesse. The commoners must have been left as they lay.



The seven men were saved from the sea; their feet were on dry land; but their fate was still uncertain. They did not know where they were. All they could see was an uninhabited wilderness. Captain Knowles had a vague idea that they were somewhere in the territories of Louisbourg; and the event proved that he was correct. In virtue of his character and experience, Saint-Luc now took command of the party, a born leader in difficulties and dangers. To remain where they were was unthinkable. They must find some settlement. Saint-Luc advised them to take eight days provisions from the casks they found on the beach—flour, biscuit, pork. The sailor and the two servants listened to reason by the mouth of the experienced Saint-Luc, but the three soldiers knew better; they fancied themselves nearer aid than they were; they would take only three days provisions in their packs and, soldierlike, loaded themselves with valuables which in a few days they were forced to throw away in the forest. At last, a start was made vaguely to the westward on November 17th.

For four days they marched at random not knowing where they were, but of necessity keeping along the coast. They clambered over steep rocks, forded swift Cape Breton rivers, and worked their way through the terrifying, gloomy spruce woods. They were “rebuffed” by the mountains, but somehow they found their way over the heights of Enfumé. Then, on the 21st, to complete their afflictions, the snow began to fall. Winter had set in. In spite of Saint-Luc’s husbandry, their provisions were running low. Three of the party were so worn out and discouraged that they wanted to die where they were rather than continue their march. Saint-Luc coaxed and argued and persuaded and promised; and at last they were induced to continue their march. On the 25th, they reached the second great bight in the eastern coast, the majestic harbour of Ingonish. It had taken them eight days to make a stretch of some fifteen miles in a straight line. No doubt they had wandered three or four times that distance. At Ingonish they met an ill omen. They found some small abandoned huts, and in them two dead men.

Here the servant Etienne fell sick of pleurisy. Saint-Luc turned doctor, and, in accordance with the best medical practice of the time, bled him and sweated him. In the one night, he opened the vein six times with the point of his knife, and sweated him three times. There was some relief for the stabbing pains and horrible difficulty of breathing. But he had to be left behind. Corporal Monier volunteered to stay with the sick man. He himself was not so ill, but he was at least as exhausted and discouraged. Next morning, after assuring them that he would infallibly send help from the first settlement he reached, Saint-Luc and the four resumed their march. With the sick men he left about four pounds of flour, two cooked chickens, about a pound and a half of pork and half a pound of broken biscuit. He could not spare a cooking pot, but he gave them a silver goblet.

In the night, five or six inches of snow had fallen. Finding the huts at Ingonish raised the hopes of the castaways. Settlements might be near; but the snow blotted out all tracks and trails. None the less they had the heart to press on. Now their greatest hardship was fording the swift and swollen brooks which empty into Ingonish harbour. No one would venture in, until Saint-Luc had crossed. Often he had to go back and hunt up their packs in order to induce them to follow. Only the English sailor was entirely loyal, having, says Saint-Luc, “no will but mine.” He recognized his master. The Frenchmen swore a thousand times that they would rather die than keep up. Only Saint-Luc’s indomitable will kept them moving. They were so discouraged that Saint-Luc had to make moccasins for them and often fasten on their packs.

It was December 3rd when they reached the third great deep inlet on the east coast, the grand fiord now called St. Ann’s Bay. On both sides the steep wooded cliffs towered a thousand feet above their heads. Here another gleam of hope cheered them, for they found on the long narrow sandspit, which nearly closes its mouth, an abandoned boat. They were less cheerful, when they discovered that it was almost rotten and lacked three strakes. There was nothing to do but try to make repairs.

Now, Knowles the sailor was of the greatest service. Working hard all day, he succeeded in patching up the boat, so that with luck she might possibly carry them over the narrow strait of only two hundred fathoms which separated them from the western shore. Then, a blizzard from the north-east overwhelmed the worn-out, starving men and filled the boat with snow. They were now reduced to an ounce and a half of poor food per day and, like the castaways of the St. Lawrence, twenty years later, in the same circumstances, eked out their miserable ration with hawthorn berries and kelp. Still they “camped” on this sandspit; which means they were able to keep up some sort of wretched fire all night with a few barrel staves they found. The snow was always putting it out; but, somehow or other, they survived the snow-storm and the night.

Next morning, the storm was over; morning broke dazzling, but their boat was full of snow. By dint of great exertion, they emptied her and shoved her down into the water. Then a new complication arose. The much-enduring Knowles was at the end of his tether, and broke down. His legs were all torn (déchirées) and covered with ulcers, and he was in a high fever. He declared he would go no farther; and the three Frenchmen applauded his resolution. They were in almost as bad a case. Saint-Luc was in a quandary. For the first time in this adventure he was without a plan. He could not abandon his fellow sufferers now; but to remain with them meant certain death. In this extremity, he lit his pipe.

He was, he declares, awaiting Providence. He was certainly taking counsel of My Lady Nicotine, and gazing across the narrow waterway to the tall cliff beyond, when he heard cries of joy, and turned to see the Frenchmen running towards two Indians coming down the point from where they had left the shelter of the woods. The Frenchmen were sobbing hysterically and could hardly get out the words, “Have pity on us!”

Saint-Luc continued calmly smoking his pipe and watching the scene. The Frenchmen told their rescuers who Saint-Luc was and how he had led them so far. The Indians then came up and shook hands with him, but so wasted was his face and so overgrown with hair that it was some time before they recognized him. He had been able to do these eastern tribes favours on several occasions, and he was welcomed accordingly. Now he learned where he was, about thirty leagues from Louisbourg, for three years in the hands of the British; but the Indians would guide him to St. Peter’s at the western extremity of the island. That morning they had seen the strange sight of smoke rising faintly above the distant tree-tops, and had come to see what it might mean. From the edge of the wood, they had watched the five strange men in the strange place, and when they were sure that there was no danger, they came forward.

Saint-Luc caused his four companions to be ferried over to the farther shore. He had a good fire made, with plenty of wood at hand, and gave them what remained of the pork and flour, enough for one scanty meal. It was cold comfort, but little worse than what awaited Saint-Luc himself. With his two friends he set out to their camp three leagues away. There he was kindly received. The Indians understood French and were zealous Catholics. A squaw seemed to have the headship of the little band. She was greatly affected by Saint-Luc’s story, and retold it to Ensign Prenties of the 82nd Foot twenty years later. The savages had no food except dried meat; but they gave their unexpected guest sufficient for two days.

Next day, December 5th, he and the two Indians set out in two small birch canoes and picked up the four men they had left behind. Perilously overloaded, the two canoes succeeded in doubling Cape Ann in a heavy blow from the northeast and getting into the Bras d’Or. Here they were “cashiered” says Saint-Luc in his army slang, by a storm of rain and snow which lasted two days and a half. As soon as it was over, they pushed on resolutely and reached the eastern side of the isthmus at St. Peter’s, at midnight on December 8th.

Here they found five Acadian huts and ten men. There must have been some sort of store or trading-post also; for Saint-Luc immediately dispatched his two Indian friends to Ingonish to rescue, if possible, Etienne and Corporal Monier of the regiment Béarn. They carried in their canoes twenty-five pounds of flour, fifty pounds of pork, tobacco, powder and shot, a silver cup and many other things; and to speed them on their way, Saint-Luc gave them twenty-five louis d’or. It is hardly possible that they found the Frenchmen alive. The huts at Ingonish held four dead men instead of two. And now they are out of the saga.

At St. Peter’s, the five adventurers took a needful rest of two days and a half. Saint-Luc decided to send Knowles and the two soldiers to Louisbourg, since 1758 in British hands, and push on with the servant Pierre for Canada. Knowles, the British sailor and Saint-Luc, the French fur-trader had become like brothers in distress. Knowles urged him with all his powers of persuasion to give up his mad project of a journey of eight hundred miles through an uninhabited wilderness in the depth of winter. Louisbourg was less than twenty leagues distant, two or three days paddle along the coast. There lay an English garrison; that meant food, shelter, security, and, probably, the opportunity before long of a vessel to Halifax. But Saint-Luc was like a rock. He took an affectionate farewell of Knowles, gave him nine guineas, the last of his English money, and a letter to the commandant at Louisbourg, containing a brief account of the shipwreck and telling of his intention to go back to Canada. Knowles made his way safely to Louisbourg and thence to Oporto, whence he reported the loss of the Auguste in a letter to the King of France. And now he is out of the saga.

Saint-Luc’s design of paddling over thirty miles of open water, round Isle Madame to the main land terrified the two Acadians to whom he proposed it; he had to offer them twenty-five louis d’or before they agreed. They crossed the half-mile isthmus now known as Haulover and slept at the house of one Abraham on the night of the 12th. The man of great experience waited till the wind fell and the sea went down, and in the night of the 13th, Pierre, and the two guides paddled over to Chedabucto in their old patched canoe. They landed at a hamlet of Acadian huts, where they stopped with Joseph Maurice. As soon as possible, Saint-Luc and Pierre made their way to the head of the bay, where Guysboro’ now stands. Here was another Indian camp. They made snow-shoes and on the 15th set out with Indian guides over the trail westward. Following the valley of the Guysboro’ river, and then the valley of the Black river, they reached Pomquet in three days hard marching. Here they found five Acadian cabins and stopped with Jacques Côté. Snowshoeing was too hard for Pierre. He had to be left behind. Now he is out of the saga, and Saint-Luc pushes on alone.

Next day he reached Artigogné, now Antigonish, a march of twelve miles in bitter frost. Here was an Indian camp of five wigwams; the savages were dying of hunger. Saint-Luc hired two guides and set out for Pictou, which it took them three days to reach. At Pictou also the Indians were starving.

“Here,” says Saint-Luc with grim humour, “we found no better hosts. They were all fasting together.”

In three days more, following the coast he reached Tatamagouche in a state of utter exhaustion on Christmas Eve. And here he halted for a fortnight to recover his strength.

On January 5th, 1762, he sent two runners to the commandant at Fort Cumberland, with a letter explaining his situation, and asking for sufficient provisions to enable him to reach the post; and he followed in their trail. On the 6th, they had the luck to shoot a fox and picked him to the bones. On the next day, rescue came. His couriers brought word of his plight to an English sergeant holding a block-house at Baie Verte with a dozen men. The honest fellow sent back at once a bottle of brandy, cooked pork and bread. Strengthened by this timely aid, Saint-Luc reached the block-house about noon of the 7th, where he was received with every kindness and courtesy. About two in the afternoon this indomitable man set out for Fort Cumberland five leagues away; but the commandant, Benoni Danks of “Danks’ Rangers” had sent off a sleigh for his use, with food and drink; so he made this stage of his long journey in comfort. Instead of covering the whole distance of five leagues in one stretch, Saint-Luc camped that night in the woods and reached the English post next day. He was worn out with hunger and want of sleep.

“I was flattered,” writes Saint-Luc, “at the welcome I received. The commandant, his officers, the traders, and the merchants expressed their sympathy for me in the losses I had suffered by the wreck, and manifested their delight that I had been saved.”

The adventurer had a moving tale to tell, and the garrison had something to talk about. Nothing that would tend to his comfort was left undone. For the first time since leaving Quebec, he had a proper room to sleep in. His troubles were now practically over. He left Fort Cumberland on the 14th and reached Haute Paques on the St. John River on the 29th. Here he found an old family friend, Father Germain the Jesuit missionary, who with Le Loutre had so long incited the Acadians and Indians against the English. Father Germain had been with his elder brother the Chevalier at Beaubassin when Lawrence rushed it in April, 1750, and had accompanied the troops in their winter march on Grand Pré and the bloody night attack on Noble.

On February 2nd, he quitted the hospitable presbytery at Haute Paques, taking as provision two bushels of Indian corn, which was the only kind of food Father Germain possessed. With his two Acadian guides, he snow-shoed up the old Indian road of the frozen St. John to Lake Temiscouata. Here at the portage, he left his worn-out guides, and pressed on to Kamouraska, whence he sent back a sleigh to fetch them to the settlement. Now they are out of the story.

On February 23rd, seventeen weeks after his departure, Saint-Luc was back in Quebec and made his bow to Governor Murray in Castle St. Louis. He reported the wreck of the Auguste and hurried on to Montreal which he reached on the 24th, and made a second official report to General Gage.

Thenceforth he lived in Montreal. He was involved in the exciting affair of Mr. Walker’s ear, he became one of the earliest senators of Quebec, and he led a force of French and Indians in Burgoyne’s luckless expedition. His trials by sea and his journey by land form only one recorded chapter in a long life of adventure. He may have been a profiteer, and he may have deserved Burgoyne’s denunciation as a traitor; but he was certainly a man.


Names have a subtle and mysterious influence. Liverpool in England was built on the slave trade and privateering, and its namesake in Nova Scotia, seated at the mouth of a more beautiful Mersey, was destined to become the home and dragons’ nest of provincial privateers. The origins of Liverpool-the-Less were peaceful enough. It was founded at the end of the Seven Years War by Puritan settlers from New England, who wanted to be near the great Atlantic fishing-grounds. The very year they came to Nova Scotia, some went to the Banks, while the rest cleared the forest and built the first houses. For half a century the leading citizen of Liverpool was Simeon Perkins, who came from Norwich, Connecticut in 1762, as one of the Proprietors in the confirmation grant. He was a merchant, a pillar of the Methodist chapel, a reader of serious books, who rose to be Colonel in the Militia and Member of the General Assembly. He is the Samuel Pepys of Nova Scotia. His journal of more than 2000 folios offers a cross section of life in the province for fifty years. When the American Revolution broke out, he found himself in the plight of hundreds of New England settlers in Nova Scotia, by mere accident of residence, officially an enemy of the friends and relatives he had so lately left behind.[1]

The conflict with Britain dragged on to its destined end, the loss of an empire and the founding of a new world power. Simeon Perkins naturally sympathized with the Revolution, but, when the “rebel” picaroons captured one of his vessels after the other, he turned to privateering to make good his losses. He had his losses, but, on the whole, he prospered in this new form of business enterprise. After a lull of nine years, a world war broke out with the explosion of the French Revolution, and, except for eight months, peace was to be unknown to Colonel Perkins, J.P., M.L.A., until his death in 1812, just before Liverpool privateering ended in a golden harvest.

Many and varied were his activities in the last twenty years of his very active life, but chief of these was the building and management of privateers. This was the most exciting and profitable form of speculation known at the time, and it often proved a short and easy road to wealth. Of all the vessels in which he was interested the best known is the Charles Mary Wentworth. It is possible to follow her career from the laying of her keel till she was sold to some one in Newfoundland. She had a busy life of two years.

The story begins in 1798. In the spring of that year, Perkins had a new full-rigged ship of 130 tons built at Liverpool, which lacked nothing but a name. On June 20th, he sailed in Captain Barss’s shallop for Halifax, which he reached the next morning at ten o’clock. He had come up to the capital to attend the sessions of the General Assembly. As a person of importance, he is invited to dinner by the local grandees, Richard John Uniacke, Judge Deschamps, Governor Wentworth himself. At Government House he meets Prince Edward with his officers; and it may have been on this occasion that Sir John was pleased to bestow the name of his young son, Charles Mary Wentworth upon the new venture of Colonel Perkins. At the time, the boy was ill and not expected to recover, not, one would think, a favorable omen for the ship; but he lived to hand to the Prince the £500 star voted to him by the loyal legislature, and to inherit his father’s title. These summer weeks were full of festivity. On July 11th, Perkins dined again with the Attorney-General and attended the play for the first time in his life. His ticket cost five shillings, and he sat in bad old Admiral Vandeput’s box. He records that he did not enjoy the bill, a musical piece called “The City Romp”, which was followed by “Chrononhotonthologus.”

Pleasure did not divert his mind from business. He sent in a memorial to the Governor for sixteen cannon, four, and six pounders; and Sir John used his influence with the Prince and the Admiral so effectively that the guns were soon on their way to Liverpool. By the end of July, Perkins was home again, closely followed in the schooner Betsey by Captain Joseph Freeman, with his commission in his pocket. On August 1st, there was a meeting of the owners in the office of Colonel Perkins to settle the shares and to select the officers. Freeman was placed in command. He was a typical privateer captain. More says of him; “While in charge of vessels at sea, he was very strict, and adopted the same rules as on board a British man-of-war, the articles of war being read every Sunday morning.” He was, according to the same writer, “an industrious, temperate and frugal man, and well qualified to command by land and sea.” Under him he had three lieutenants, Thomas Parker, Joseph Barss and Benjamin Arnold. The sailing master was John Galvin, a man with a charmed life. He had been chained leg and leg to his friend Lieutenant Thomas Fennell in a fever-stricken prison in Guadeloupe; and he was a passenger on board H.M. frigate Tribune, when she was wrecked at Herring Cove, on the night of November 23rd, the year before. When she sank, he was below directing the men at the chain-pumps; he was washed up the hatchway and fought his way to the rigging of the foretop. He survived that awful night, and he was the first man to be rescued the next morning by the boy hero, “Joe Cracker.”[2]

Now, he is taking to the sea again for one more cruise, and to that Spanish Main where he had suffered so many things.

The same day, the officers entered twenty men. They paraded the town in a body, first to Mrs. Phillips’s tavern and then to Mrs. West’s; but they were very orderly, Perkins notes, and broke up in good season. Next day more were enrolled. There was never much trouble in recruiting hands for a privateer. The complement of the Charles Mary Wentworth on her maiden cruise consisted of sixty-seven men and four boys, far more than were needed to handle this toy of a ship with her three masts and all her tangle of yards, sails and running rigging; she was about the size of a modern Banks schooner; but privateer policy required men in plenty for boarding and spare hands to take charge of possible prizes.

On August 15th, the new privateer put out to sea, proceeding to the southward in a warlike manner against the enemies of George III. In less than a month, on September 11th, her first prize arrived at Liverpool. She was a Spanish brigantine loaded with cocoa and cotton. On October 20th, Perkins informed the Cochrans at Halifax that the prize had brought about £7460, the vessel herself fetching £871.10. In this form of business, returns could be quick, and profits large; it was better than selling cod on long credit. Six days later, she was followed by the American brigantine, Morning Star, Captain Hoar. This was a recapture, and would have to be returned to the lawful owners, but the Wentworth’s claim for retrieving her would not be small. On December 16th, Perkins records in his diary, “About Sunset a Ship comes in sight which proves to be the Privateer Charles Mary Wentworth. She gits into the River, and on to the flat, gives a gun and 3 Chears, all well on board.” The privateersmen just missed the general illumination and other festivities in honour of Admiral Nelson’s victory over the French fleet at the mouth of the Nile, but they were at home in time to spend their prize money at Christmas.

On December 18th, Perkins and his fellow speculators agree to fit out the Wentworth as soon as possible for a second cruise. Early in January, 1799, she was hove down and properly tallowed. Then Thomas Parker and John Freeman were very busy on board with a strong crew, filling water-casks and generally getting the ship ready for sea. At the same time Liverpool was the scene of several tempestuous episodes in which Mr. John Galvin was chief actor. He seized the ship’s log, insisted that it was his property and refused to surrender it. He is very ready with his fists and his pistols; he defies the magistrates; he is, in truth, neither to hold or bind, and then, on January 28th, as passenger on board the Juno, he vanishes from provincial history.

By Sunday, February 3rd, a little squadron of three sail got out of the long harbour and past the Western Head,—the Wentworth with Joseph Freeman again in command, the schooner Fly, her consort, Ephraim Dean, commander, and the schooner Victory. The policy of sending privateers in company for mutual support and aid, instead of singly, was proved sound by its results. They were bound to the West Indies, on what proved to be a lucky cruise. Once more, returns were quick and returns, by no means, small. On March 24th, the Spanish brigantine Nostra Signora del Carmen was safely moored in Liverpool harbour. She had been taken off Tortuga, nearly 2000 miles in a straight line south of the home port. This was quick work. Perkins valued this prize at £10,000. On May 1st, the vessel was sold for £1110, and three days were needed to auction off her cargo.

Even better things were in store for the fortunate owners. On May 11th, the Wentworth made port with three prizes under her wing,—a copper-bottomed schooner of about 140 tons, with eighty tons of cocoa in her hold, a small lugger with twenty more tons of cocoa under her hatches, and an empty packet schooner. Soon after, a fifth prize was safely anchored below the bar, a brig laden with blankets, red wine and 450 barrels of flour. Perkins reckons complacently that these five prizes “may net nineteen thousand pounds.” Murdoch notes that this brig “fought near an hour before she struck.” Privateersmen did not always win wealth without blows given and taken.

The third cruise of the Wentworth, again under Captain Freeman, was short and unlucky. On June 19th about sunrise, after firing a gun, she started southward. Ten days later, another new Liverpool privateer followed in her wake. This was the full-rigged ship, the Duke of Kent, named by the loyal owners after the new title conferred on His Royal Highness Prince Edward. She measured 194 tons, and mounted twenty carriage guns, four, and six pounders; she was provided with twenty barrels of powder, thirty-eight rounds of great shot, and one hundred cutlasses. Her crew consisted of nearly 100 men. Perkins notes, with pride on June 28th, “the Ship Duke of Kent goes over the bar and makes a very War-like appearance.” The two consorts met for the first time in Mona Passage on August 16th. The Duke has captured the schooner Lady said to have twenty-two thousand dollars on board, while the Wentworth reports taking two schooners. On September 11th, Perkins records, “A Ship heaves in Sight. I repair to the point, and find it to be the Charles Mary Wentworth, Capt. Freeman, he left his Cruizing Ground on account of Sickness on board, he had near 40 at one time down.” So, she was unrigged and laid up, all her gear stored; and then towards the end of 1799, the owners decided to send her to sea again.

Thanks to Benjamin Knaut, who kept a model log, it is possible to reconstruct the daily life of a typical eighteenth century privateer in all its vicissitudes. This precious document is rich in detail, for the “Remarks” are full and precise. As preface stands a list of the whole ship’s company, giving the name and station of every member of the crew, beginning with Captain Thomas Parker and ending with Peter Stevens. There were eighty-two all told; ten or a dozen were not to return in her. Where and how they all berthed in their toy ship with her sixteen guns, furniture, ammunition, provisions, is something of a puzzle. Undoubtedly they must have found it “hard lying.” The Liverpool “private vessel of war” was organized like one of the King’s Ships. In addition to executive and navigating officers, the Wentworth carried ten marines, including a sergeant, the force commanded by Mr. Knaut as Lieutenant. Her complement included a sailing master and his mate, a surgeon and his mate, a master-at-arms, a carpenter, a cooper and eleven boys, lively youngsters no doubt, with a taste for adventure. The clerical staff consisted of two pay-masters and three mates, for accounts were bound to be complicated. The log shows how discipline reigned on board. The crew were frequently, exercised at the guns; the marines were drilled, and made to keep their arms clean and ready for use. The hands were never idle on board the Wentworth. Perkins’ journal records how Freeman sent one incorrigible ashore and put another in irons. It also records more than once his pride in the “warlike appearance” of his vessels. The Bluenose traditions of discipline, with the accent on the second syllable, and of smartness were already firmly established. The provincial privateers were not homes for casual gangs of legalized pirates, but, as far as possible, “private vessels of war.”

Tuesday, November 26th, 1799 was bitter cold in Liverpool. At eight in the morning, the Wentworth hauled into the stream and let fall her three topsails as a signal to call all hands on board. Lodovick Harrington, the sailing master was busy putting the ship in order for sea, and the privateersmen came off in boats, with their clothes and small stores. The next day, she dropped down below the bar and anchored. Captain Parker and Lieutenant Knaut went ashore to collect the laggards of the crew. By eleven the remnant were on board. Some of the owners paid a farewell visit and dined with the captain; at one o’clock they took their leave, and the ship saluted them with one gun.

This time, the Wentworth set out in company with her former consort, the Duke of Kent, Captain Joseph Freeman, and the armed schooner Lord Spencer, captain, Joseph Barss, Jr. When Captain Freeman conferred with his owners on May 13th, he signified his willingness to go on another cruise, provided his officers were “preferred” to other privateers. His wishes were met. He was given command of the biggest vessel, and his first lieutenant was promoted to the Wentworth. The little squadron of three sail was dispersed almost at once, by violent storms, and one of them was destined never to reach Liverpool again. The Wentworth was forced to lay to, and, straining heavily, began to leak in an alarming way. Day and night, for nearly a week of unrelenting tempest, both pumps were kept going. Some of the hands fell sick and were incapable; the rest were almost worn out with pumping. Life was not all beer and skittles on board a privateer.

On Wednesday, December 7th, the weather moderated, and is described as “clear and pleasant,” terms which are almost stereotyped in the log for the next four months. The cold, leaden, winter clouds of Nova Scotia were well exchanged for tropic blue in sky and sea. A winter cruise in the tropics is now a luxury of the rich. By this time, the Wentworth had run nearly 800 miles due south, and her officers took the first opportunity to put everything shipshape and Bristol fashion. The top-gallant masts, which had been struck to take the weight off her, were hoisted back into place. Mr. Ebenezer Harrington, the gunner, and his mates were busied “fixing the guns fore and aft.” They had evidently been “struck down” into the hold during the storm; two were in the ward-room. It was not till two days later that all the sixteen barkers were in position. The master-at-arms, Thomas Harrington saw to the cleaning of the small arms, the job of the marines. The yawl was hoisted out over the stern. Soon studding-sails were possible alow and aloft. There was but slight respite from labor at the pumps; they were kept going at four hundred strokes per hour. Nor was there lack of other work, besides “doing ship’s duty.” All available hands were kept busy making points for new sails, wads and new sponges for the guns, and cleaning muskets, employments which must have left them scanty leisure to brood on the boils that now afflicted them, as their colds began to disappear.

On December 12th the Wentworth crossed the Tropic of Cancer in a stiff breeze with all sail set. At six in the morning, Old Neptune paid a visit. He found twenty-three of his children who had never been to see him before. He made the novices undergo the traditional initiation of shaving and ducking, gave them his advice and departed. The game ended abruptly when a sail, was sighted to the eastward, and the Wentworth bore up to speak her. After giving her five shot, the chase halted and let the privateer come alongside. She was a Yankee schooner, sixteen days out of Salem, bound to Martinico, John Gray, master, and certainly not a prize. Many a chase was just as fruitless.

It took time to get the Wentworth into full fighting trim. The boarding-nettings, which covered the deck in a fight, were stowed where they could be quickly triced up. The waist-cloths to mask her batteries and disguise her as a peaceful merchantman were blacked and laced along the sides. The cutter was painted on the booms, and the cables were made ready for bending to the anchors. Spare hands were busy on deck in the sunny weather making sinnet, and points for the topsails. Work did not slack for Sunday the 15th. The yawl and her oars were painted, and the cables were bent to the anchors. Perhaps the service was unique; perhaps it was so much a part of ship routine as to escape mention in the log; but on this Sabbath day, all hands mustered for prayers, and the surgeon, Mr. Andrew Collins acted as chaplain. No doubt the mariners’ unspoken orisons were for prize money.

On Tuesday, December 17th, somewhere between Barbuda and Antigua, the Wentworth made her first capture. In the gloom of the tropic night, the lookouts descried a topsail schooner, which the privateer chased for three hours before she brought her to with a couple of shots from her bow guns. It was the schooner Betsey belonging to New Providence, bound from Charleston, S. C. to Martinique. Ten days before she had fallen a prey to a French corvette mounting sixteen guns with a crew of 140 men. The prize crew of Frenchmen were taking her to Guadeloupe; now they became prisoners of war. Mr. Nathan Tupper, third lieutenant, with three hands, was put in charge to navigate her to St. Kitts. Her lading consisted of sixty-one hogsheads of tobacco and fifty-eight thousand cypress shingles. On board were also four African slaves. The Betsey’s provisions were transfered to the Wentworth, and next day privateer and prize were safe at anchor in the Basseterre Road. Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts was the privateers’ rendezvous. The Lord Spencer had arrived two days before. She too had suffered in the bad weather off the coast, having lost her boat from off the stern, split her fore-topsail all to pieces and carried away her jib-boom. Next day the Duke of Kent turned up, all well on board, but Captain Freeman had news to tell of Captain Dean in the Shelburne privateer Lord Nelson. He had fallen in with a French privateer schooner of sixteen guns and 140 men, who engaged him for five glasses, that is, two hours and a half, but was then obliged to sheer off. The Nelson was badly mauled. She lost, two men killed and five wounded; she had her rigging very much shattered and had to put into Antigua to refit. That was a proper fight, privateer to privateer, and it shows the mettle of Nova Scotia seamen. Captain Parker and Lieutenant Knaut had business on shore, and dined twice with the Wentworth’s agent, Mr. Robertson, under whose care they left the Betsey. At Basseterre, another hand was shipped, one Simon Ritany, a negro fifer, to enliven the chanteys on the capstan-head.

The privateer worked like a skilful angler. The old hand does not waste his time making casts all along the stream; he goes direct to the pools where the fish are apt to lie. After meeting at their rendezvous, these three private vessels of war made sail for the southward, where the stream of coastwise traffic flowed east and west between Trinidad and the cities on the Spanish Main.

About half way across the Carribean Sea—the observation is exact—the crew of the Wentworth celebrated Christmas Day after the custom of the sea. Knaut remarks, “The Ship’s Company in high Spirits Spending Christmas with a Double Allowance of Grog and a good Dinner with plenty of Danceing and singing.” Discipline was relaxed for the horn-pipes and the forebitter songs, but did not disappear. In between, the hands were busy making reef-points and pumping at the rate of four hundred strokes per hour.

By the end of December, the Wentworth was on her proper cruising ground, working along the coast from Margarita as far west as La Guyara, or standing on and off shore. The North-East Trades served her well, whether in working to windward or in bearing down upon her prey. The weather is nearly always noted as “pleasant”; the privateer sailed blue water with sunny skies above, and always had a wind. After three cruises in these waters, it is highly probable that the Wentworth would be recognized by Spanish ship-masters as far as she could be seen and be given a wide berth. Coastwise traffic moved, apparently, by night, in small craft, close to the shore. To meet this move, the privateersmen laid their plans. Every night, the Wentworth sent out her cutter, or yawl to cruise in the dark and trap the quarry between the mother ship and her boats. Mistakes happened in the dark. The Wentworth would chase a strange sail and discover it to be the Duke or the other way about; or their boats would pursue one another. The net was swept systematically for whatever it might catch.

On December 30th, the three Liverpool privateers were in company off the island of Margarita, destined to be the scene of the Rover’s famous battle; and they set forth in a warlike manner, “Guns all in good order and everything Clear,” towards the mainland and the city of Cumana. The Lord Spencer was the unlucky ship and got all the hard knocks. Captain Barss reported a brush with a French privateer the day before, mounting twelve guns, with a crew of 75 men. They exchanged one broadside and some musketry fire. Three of the Spencer’s crew were wounded, “one verry bad but receiv’d no Other great damage.” The great irreparable damage was to come.

A study of Knaut’s “Remarks” for the month of January, 1800 goes far to explain the fascination of privateering. Life was not monotonous on board the Charles Mary Wentworth. Rarely did twenty-four hours pass without the excitement of a chase and clearing for action. The analogy of angling holds good. Every sail sighted is like the flash of fin in a pool; the next cast may hook a heavy fish; the next vessel brought to may be ballasted with dollars. Care seems to have been taken to feed the men well. Discipline was firm but easy. A couple of men deserted at Antigua; but there is no logging of insubordination or of punishments. The hands were kept busy, and Nova Scotia captains knew how to command their own ships.

New Year’s Day was a mixture of good luck and bad. At noon the Wentworth went in chase of two launches to the northward, overhauled one, and brought her to, after firing five shot. It was a Spanish sloop bound to Trinidad from Barcelona, loaded with mules. The Wentworth took her prize in tow, and, soon after, at five o’clock, she struck on a reef off Point Orilia. For an anxious hour, it looked like the accident which later befell the Lord Spencer. Captain Parker did what was required. The ensign was hoisted in the mizzen shrouds, union down; signal guns were fired; the water puncheons were staved in, and, after an hour’s hard work, the privateer “lighted over and fleeted again.” An examination showed little material damage, and soon the Duke and the Spencer came up. They had heard the minute guns and hurried to their consort’s assistance. The importance of such mutual support was later to be demonstrated more fully. The cutter returned from a cruise with some arms taken out of a shore battery. Then the Duke and the Spencer sailed off together, while the Wentworth ran down and anchored under the battery which her crew had “destroyed” the day before.

For a fortnight or so the Wentworth sailed prosperously. Hardly a day passed without the capture of some small prize, a launch, a sloop, a schooner. The usual procedure was to take out the lading—packages of canvas, dry goods, sugar, or, it might be ammunition and arms, and “dismiss” the vessel, or return it to the master. But the total value of such plunder could not have been great. Once the privateer stopped a fishing boat, and took out enough fish to give the crew a good dinner.

On the 15th, the Wentworth ran into trouble. Cruising off Barcelona in clear weather with fresh breezes, she sighted a sail to the north-east and started in pursuit. In an hour and a half she must have realized her grievous mistake, for the stranger was no peaceful merchantman, French or Spanish, no rival privateer, but the Unité, one of the smartest frigates in the service, commanded by a rising young officer on his way to become admiral, baronet, Member of Parliament. It was no other than John Poo Beresford, son of Lord de la Poer, on the wrong side of the blanket. It was he who, in his little 24-gun frigate, La Raison, beat off a French ship of the line in September, 1796, and brought his treasure of specie safe to Halifax. Lady Wentworth gave a dinner dance for him in old Government House. Out of compliment to him, the Halifax belles sported blue cockades or blue bandeaux bearing his name in letters of gold. It was he who, as captain of H.M.S. Poictiers, captured both the Wasp and the Frolic immediately after their bloody duel, October 18th, 1812. Just now he was on his way to fight the French frigate Berceau. A very active and zealous officer was Captain John Poo Beresford.

But this was not a case of “Excuse me, I mistook you for some one else.” Captain Parker was not to get off with a sea apology for his unwitting affront to a King’s Ship. He had to heave his vessel to and go on board the frigate with his papers. It was easy to show that the Wentworth was legally commissioned, but Captain Parker was not therefore courteously dismissed, as he was by the commanders of the Boston and the St. Albans. The first lieutenant of the Unité went back with him to the Wentworth, and desired him to muster the entire crew. He looked them over with a practised eye, picked out nine of the likeliest men, ordered them to get their belongings and come with him. This was impressment on the high seas.

The argument was as plain as a pike-staff. War was raging. The privateer had far more hands than she needed; the frigate not enough. Both were fighting the enemies of King George. Backed by the Unité’s broadside, Captain Beresford had the best of the argument. He wanted also the carpenter, John Dexter, and Captain Parker had much ado to prevent his being pressed with the others. It was well for the Wentworth that he was allowed to remain in her. Next day, all hands were mustered at nine o’clock, and the stations distributed afresh.

Four days later, the Wentworth encountered H.M. frigate Boston, Captain Douglas, who also ordered Parker on board with his papers. Finding them correct, he dismissed the Liverpool man “politely,” and molested him no further, but all on board must have had anxious thoughts during the interview. It was this frigate, under the same captain, in which the poet Moore took passage from Halifax in 1804. He was glad to go.

With triumph this morning, O Boston, I hail

The stir of thy decks and the spread of thy sail;

For they tell me I soon shall be wafted in thee

To the flourishing isle of the brave and the free,

And that chill Nova Scotia’s unpromising strand

Is the last I shall tread of American land.

January 21st and 22nd were holidays for the privateersmen. In company with the Lord Nelson, the Wentworth filled her water casks at the “Island of Eves,” Kingsley’s “pleasant Isle of Aves beside the Spanish Main.” Both captains went ashore for a walk, on the 21st. The next day at high noon Captain Dean signalled for Captain Parker and Lieutenant Knaut to come and dine with him on turtle soup. Some of the Nelson’s crew took their boat and rowed over to the Wentworth to visit their friends on board. The aldermanic dinner in the hospitable ward room of the Nelson seems to have been prolonged throughout the afternoon, for when the boat returned at six o’clock for the Wentworth’s officers, Dr. Collins stepped on one side of it, upset it, and nearly drowned the crew.

What happened on January 27th betokens the enterprising spirit of these privateers, a combined attack on a shore battery. In light winds with pleasant weather, the Wentworth and the Duke ran down to Cow Horn Bay and anchored in seven fathoms of water abreast of the battery, with springs on their cables. By this means they brought their broadsides to bear. Their boats were armed and manned and sent off to effect a landing, supported by salvos from the ships. But the surf was too heavy to permit of a landing, and the Spaniards kept up a heavy fire of musketry from behind the trees. At last, the boats had to be recalled. Then, by way of bravado, the Duke ran in closer and fired two broadsides. Nothing was effected beyond burning so much powder. Ships, big or little, many or few, operating against shore fortifications are always at a disadvantage; but this attack shows that plunder was not invariably the motive of privateersmen’s action. Here it was to “annoy” the King’s enemies. The only prospect was hard knocks and no prize money.

The end of the month saw the Nova Scotian sailors fraternizing with the Spaniards. On January 30th, the Wentworth anchored in Chapesa Bay, about twelve leagues to the windward of La Guayra in eight fathoms of water, and sent the cutter well armed and manned, under American colours to look for water. The boat’s crew soon found good water and were well received by the Spaniards. Soon they were trading with their official enemies for fruit and vegetables. The good feeling continued. Next day Knaut records “a brisk Trade going on for the Produce of the Country with the Natives on Shoar and along side ... Bought a fine mess of fresh fish which made the whole Ships Company a good dinner.” He grows enthusiastic at the prospects on shore: “A Grand Country Wants nothing more than good Husbandmen to Improve it well and they would soon reap the Benefit of their Labour.”

The month of February was not lucky for the Wentworth. On the 2nd, she chased a strange sail, which proved to be an American schooner, with flour and dry-goods, bound for La Guayra, thirty-two days out. The captain told of the death of General Washington on December 25th. Later in the day, the privateer had to land her “Linguister ... being in a very bad state of health.” Where the unfortunate Peter Brown was set on shore, or what became of him is not recorded.

On the 6th, Knaut logs an unpleasant incident. Lieutenant Enos Collins had gone off in the cutter for the usual cruise by night. Next morning at eleven she came alongside with two wounded men in her. Lieutenant Collins had a story to tell. In the night he had captured a launch, and put Sam Kinney, the boatswain in charge with a boy, Matthew Dazy, while he hurried on in pursuit of another small craft. The second launch escaped. In the meantime there had been a fight on board the capture. The twelve Spaniards evidently reasoned that they ought to be able to overcome one man and a boy, and recover their property. They rushed the prize crew of two, wounded the boy on the head and threw him overboard. They attacked the boatswain, “who struggled hard for his life,” as a two-fisted Bluenose boatswain would, but finally the twelve of them overpowered him and threw him overboard to the sharks. Somehow or other, in spite of their wounds, the two managed to swim ashore. When Lieutenant Collins, warned by the turmoil, turned back from his fruitless chase, the Spaniards in the launch, “Jump’d over board and made their escape in the woods, our People follow’d them but could not overtake any of them.” It must have been an exciting night. A worse fate befell Captain Thomas Burnaby of Liverpool in June 1805. With a man called Ryan, he was bringing a captured Spanish launch up to his privateer, when the launch missed stays. The Spanish crew rose, threw Ryan overboard to drown, and carried Burnaby off to Barcelona, where he died in prison. The wounded men from the Wentworth were soon convalescent. Three days later, Knaut observes, “The Boatswain as well as can be expected Considering the Warm Climate we are (in) and the Boys head almost well.”

On February 7th, the cutter went off again for the launch, which she had left on shore on an unnamed island. She brought her capture alongside the Wentworth. Whatever was valuable was taken out of her and then she was scuttled. A new energy is observable in these night cruises when Lieutenant Collins is in command; he obtains results.

On the same day, the Wentworth pressed a Spanish pilot for Santa Fe Bay, three leagues to the windward of Barcelona, detaining him with his launch, lest he should give information. Charts of the coast were not to be had. The privateer anchored close to the shore, ran the starboard guns to the opposite side of the deck, so heeling the vessel over, in order to scrape and paint the bottom. This job of work was barely begun on the morning of the 8th, when the cutter returned with three launches from Cumana bound for Barcelona, loaded with flour and sugar. They also carried passengers, amongst them a friar and two merchants. Santa Fe Bay was not a healthy anchorage; Knaut thought the heavy dews injurious, but there the Wentworth remained until the 11th, until her overhaul was completed. On the 10th, she saw a large ship lying off the bay and sent the cutter to obtain information. It was the Lord Liverpool, privateer, of Bermuda, Captain Morgan, mounting sixteen guns, with a crew of 75 men. Captain Morgan would lay to until the Wentworth came out, for the purpose of exchanging signals. The next day, the Nova Scotian beat out of the bay and lay alongside the Bermudian. Captain Parker had Captain Morgan on board for dinner and supper. His guest had been cruising for three months and had taken nothing. It may be the merest coincidence, but the Experiment, which the Wentworth spoke on January 18th had the same story to tell. The Bluenose privateers were luckier or more energetic.

Towards the end of February, the Wentworth was hardly seaworthy. On the 22nd, Knaut, was “sorry to add the Ship Leaking very bad.” She abandoned her cruising ground off Margarita and hurried north. Two days later the entry reads, “Our Ship making from 800 to 1000 Strokes per Hour both pumps going People almost wore out.” The crew kept their ship afloat by main strength. On the 26th, she was working into St. John’s Harbour, Antigua, for safety. Two days later she had been warped up to the wharf, still leaking badly.

For two strenuous weeks she lay alongside the wharf, stripped and empty. Everything had to come out of her down to the guns and stone ballast. The prize goods were put in the safe keeping of Mr. Shervington, to be sold for the benefit of the ship. When the Wentworth was an empty hull, she was “hove out,” or hauled over on one side by means of powerful tackles. The bottom was scraped and the cause of the leaks discovered. She had taken little harm from grounding on the reef, but Teredo had been busy; ship-worms had riddled the planking. “The vast number of worm-holes” were quickly filled up with pegs, and over all was “a good Coat of Hott Stuff.” This time the overhaul was thorough; all necessary repairs were made; and then, everything that had been taken out of the vessel was replaced,—stone-ballast, provisions, water, guns. The yards were got across again, and the sails re-bent. Last, when everything was once more ship-shape, the powder barrels were received from the fort; the cutter was hoisted in on the booms; and on March 11th, the Wentworth dropped down below Goat Island and anchored. To the joy of the whole ship’s company, their craft was now tight; not leaking. Pumping for dear life was over for a season.

But the ship’s company was not complete. There were four absentees, or deserters. Energetic Mr. Collins went off in the yawl to bring them back. He found them all four in a negro house, dancing, and he arrested them; but as he was bringing them down to the boat, they gave him the slip, and the Wentworth put to sea without them.

On March 13th, she set out on a cruise off Guadeloupe, until Mr. Shervington could sell the prize goods. She made no captures, but she had one exciting chase. On the 16th, she fell in with the privateer schooner Lydia, Captain Swain of Antigua, who reported having been chased not long before by two French privateers. So she and her new friend set off in company to hunt them up. In a few hours, they sighted one of the vessels which had chased the Lydia, and they drove her into a little, barred harbour. The Frenchman struck twice on the bar, but, by swiftly lightening ship, he got through the breakers, and anchored in safety.

St. Patrick’s Day came in with light winds. At nine in the morning, the Wentworth sighted a sail to the leeward, making out from the land. At ten, the stranger was seen to be a large schooner flying the new tricolor of the Republic, and soon after, the Frenchman saw the shotted guns run out of the ports of the British vessels. Instead of merchantmen, an easy prey, they were fighting ships. So the Frenchman hauled his wind and made for the land. The Lydia tried to cut him off, and at 11 o’clock gave him her bow-gun, which the schooner repaid with a whole broadside. The Lydia retorted with round and grape. Unfortunately the wind fell almost calm. The Frenchman took to his sweeps, nine to a side, and the big oars pulled him into safety. As he crossed the Lydia’s bow, the Antiguan poured in grape and round shot, and the schooner replied with “musketry as thick as hail.” Sixteen guns showed through the enemy’s ports, and the decks were thick with men for boarding. The Wentworth came up in time only to fire one broadside, but she followed the Frenchman into shore until he came under the protection of a heavy five-gun battery, which immediately began to play on the pursuing privateer. One shot struck close under the Wentworth’s stern, but such good practice would not have held her back, had there been proper charts or a pilot on board. Knaut remarks, “not being Acquainted Obliged us to give up the pursuit before we could get within shott (of) her by the help of our glasses we could planely see she were a large Schr. of sixteen guns and full of men.” This lively skirmish only whetted the appetite of the privateersmen for fighting. They had noticed some vessels lying to windward, under the guns of the fort, and they organized a cutting-out expedition. Under the cover of darkness, the armed boats of the Lydia and the Wentworth would row in with muffled oars and attempt to carry them by boarding. So did Hamilton and his men cut out the Hermione, under the guns of Puerto Cabello, the year before. At eight o’clock that night, the boats pulled away in silence on their perilous enterprise; and at two in the morning they returned without having accomplished their purpose. A dog on board one of the vessels had barked and warned the French of the attack. The privateersmen were always ready to fly at anything they saw. Only once is it recorded that they held off, on their homeward run, from a large frigate-built “outlandish” ship, with two tiers of ports, which dogged them for several days. This stranger was plainly too heavy metal for them.

There comes a time in the angler’s day when he realizes that his luck is past. The sun is still high, he continues to flog the stream, but he hardly expects to take more fish. So with the Wentworth. After returning to St. John’s, prizeless, and collecting the proceeds of Mr. Shervington’s sales, she headed south again for her old cruising ground between Margarita and the Main. She worked the water in the old scientific way, had chases and various encounters with her consorts or the King’s Ships; but she made no more important captures. Disappointments were frequent. On April 7th, the second lieutenant John Goreham, Mr. Knaut and six hands went off in the cutter for the regular nocturnal prowl. At five o’clock in the afternoon, they saw a small schooner at anchor under Cape Cuddro. They hoisted their sails and ran down to her. When abreast, they gave her a shot and the stranger ran up the Union Jack. At once they rowed alongside and found that this was a tender to the Duke of Kent, commanded by Captain Barss. Like the Wentworth, the Lord Spencer had gone on a reef, near Cumana, but she did not get off. Barss saved all his crew and part of his provisions, but he lost his vessel. Goreham and Knaut took him back to the Wentworth, no doubt to get full details. He did not return to his schooner until ten o’clock. This was amongst the last of the Wentworth’s adventures. On April 30th, she was in Mona Passage, and Mr. Knaut took his departure for Liverpool, N. S. from the north-west end of Porto Rico.

During the uneventful latter part of the cruise, Mr. Knaut is distinctly bored. “Verry Lazy times,” he notes on May 11th, “Nothing to do but sleep as much as possible, having no Books to read for Amusement.” Still, to the very end, by night or day, the Wentworth would chase, and bring to, anything that floated and looked like a possible prize. Provisions ran very low. The crew were put on three-quarters allowance of beef and pork. On May 20th, they ate their whole allowance at one meal. Knaut observes the keen appetites and long visages. Three days later, the Wentworth was in Liverpool Harbour once more. “At 10 A.M. Saluted the Fort. At half past 10 let go our best bower Anchor on the Barr, at 11 some of the Owners came on board with a number of the Inhabitants to Welcome us on Shoar, which I return thanks to my Maker Once More, haveing a keen appetite, being almost starv’d to Death.”

Next day, the cruise came formally to an end. The final entry in the log-book tells how the Wentworth was warped up to Mr. Zebulon Parker’s wharf, and made fast. The sails were unbent; the small arms and the rest of the “furniture” were put in store. At high noon, a gun was fired, the crew gave three cheers and went ashore, “After a six Months Cruise, and little or no Prize Money to receive.”

See Old Province Tales, “Trials of a Sympathizer.”

See Old Province Tales, “At the Harbour Mouth.”


In a raging snow storm last night the tern schooner ‘Burpee L. Tucker’ sailing in ballast was wrecked on Seal Island and pounded to pieces on the rocks, the crew being rescued with the greatest difficulty.

The Morning Chronicle, Jan. 12, 1927.

Haliburton, the invaluable, has saved me the trouble of describing the scene of this story. In his second volume it is written:—

“Twelve or thirteen miles from the shore, and 21 west by north from Cape Sable, lies the Seal Island which is about two miles long. The southern part is elevated thirty feet above the level of the sea and is covered with stunted birch trees. It is emphatically called the elbow of the Bay of Fundy. The American fishermen resort to it for wood and water; the former they obtain in abundance from the drift timber and wreck, and the latter from a large pond in the centre. Five low, ragged islands lie between four and five miles to the N.E. of it, and are sometimes called the North Seals, though more frequently the Mud Islands. Wild fowl and fish are found here in great abundance. They are chiefly remarkable as the resort of ‘Mother Carey’s Chickens’ which hatch their young there.”

Seal Island was christened by no less a personage than Samuel Champlain. In May, 1604, the Man of Brouage discovered a group of five islands at the western end of the American peninsula now known as Nova Scotia. They were peopled with “sea wolves” and countless flocks of sea-fowl. So he named the rookeries the Seal Islands, as they are unto this day. Lying so far out to sea, with dangers all about, they have been the bane of many a ship and many a sailor. Here the speedy frigate Blonde was lost during the Revolutionary War, and Blonde Rock perpetuates the memory of that disaster. All but one of the shipwrecked crew got safely ashore upon Seal Island. Here they were discovered by two ‘rebel’ privateers, the Lively, Captain Adams, and the Scammell, Captain Noah Stoddard. The Americans showed no little kindness to their official enemies in distress. They received the shipwrecked ‘Blondes’ on board humanely and furnished them with passes or protections, so that they should not be molested by other hostile vessels, a deed memorable in the chivalry of the sea.

But this was an exception to the long dreary catalogue of wrecks about this Island of Desolation. As often as winter came, so surely would some fated vessel, blinded by fog or snow, driven by storm, or swept along in furious tides, crash upon the Seals. So notorious was the loss of life that it became a custom for the people of Yarmouth, when the weather moderated in the spring, to sail over to Seal Island and bury the dead mariners who had been cast up by the sea. Calvin Cann, lay preacher, led in this ancient Work of Mercy; one spring, he buried twenty-one corpses. No doubt there was wreckage also of some value to be picked up. Haliburton expressly says that American fishermen came there for drift timber.

Now the story turns to the southward more than a thousand miles away, to the high-peaked, tropical, green island of St. Lucia. Under the guns of Castries, the brig Friendship of 175 tons is loading sugar for Halifax. Her master is a competent young Englishman named Richard Hichens. In due time she got her cargo stowed and stood to the northward, but she never reached her port of destination. On January 17th, 1817, she was wrecked on the west side of Cape Sable at a place which is still called Hichens Cove.

The captain and crew of the Friendship were rescued and brought round to Barrington. As the haggard, half-clothed, bearded men came up from the wharf and passed the house of the Reverend Thomas Crowell, the girls of the family crowded to the windows to see the shipwrecked sailors. Some one said,

“There goes the captain!”

And pretty little Mary Crowell, aged seventeen, asked

“What’s his name?”

“I heard he is called Hichens.”

“Oh, what a name!” cried Mary, never thinking that she was to bear it herself. For Captain Hichens was taken in to the village preacher’s house; and though one Friendship had met with disaster, another soon began, which lasted a lifetime. He fell in love with Mary Crowell and soon they were married. Her mother was a Doane. In her, two strong Puritan strains were united. The original Doanes and Crowells came to New England early in the seventeenth century, and the two names are widely spread in Nova Scotia. They have always borne a good repute in the province. Doanes and Crowells served and laid down their lives in the Great War.

Of Mary Crowell few facts have been handed down. In person she was tiny, the sort of short, slight woman who never weighs more than one hundred pounds, and she favoured the fair strain in the Crowells, having blue eyes and light hair inclined to be curly. She was musical, and had a sweet, true voice. Though bred a Methodist, she often aided in the services of the English church, which had no organ, by “setting the tune”. She became the mother of three sons and five daughters; and she died at Wellfleet, Cape Cod, in her eighty-sixth year. Two traits of her character are beyond dispute; she had a tender heart, and an energetic will. What she felt she ought to do, she did.

“She was greatly distressed,” says the record, “by the stories that came to them about the wrecks on Seal Island.”

It seemed to her a sad and bitter thing that men should suffer shipwreck, and then escape from the cruel sea, succeed in reaching the firm land and, after all their struggles, perish of hunger and cold, on this Island of Desolation. Within a few miles there were willing hands to help, and shelter, and warmth, and food. These unknown mariners died almost at her door.

One spring the visitors from Yarmouth had found a figure frozen stiff, kneeling over some fuel with flint and steel in his hands. Some strong, brave man had fought his way to shore, had preserved his tinder-box, had gathered sticks to make a fire, which might attract some rescuing vessel, and had so died. The pathos of such an incident would touch the hardest heart, and the heart of Mary Hichens was tender.

“She urged her husband” the record states. She pleaded and argued with him, until he said,

“I was shipwrecked myself. I will build a hut there and live to rescue the shipwrecked.”

She said, “I will go with you.”

So their resolution was taken; but they did not wait even to build a hut. A man from Clark’s Harbour, Cape Sable Island, had built a shanty on Seal Island for curing and storing fish. This was a daring deed. The scattered bones and shallow graves of the castaways made the island a place of fear. The Hichens persuaded Edmund Crowell and his wife Jerusha, who was a Nickerson, to go with them. All these names should be held in memory for their self sacrifice. By the next winter, the Hichens had a log house to shelter them instead of a fish shanty.

At the present day, any one who tries to land on Seal Island risks death by drowning. The Hichens and the Crowells ferried their building materials, supplies and scanty plenishings over from Barrington and made a little settlement on this Isle of the Dead, haunted by the witch birds and strewn with shallow graves. Let comfortable dwellers in steam-heated houses picture existence in a log hut a hundred years ago throughout the rigours of a Nova Scotia winter. For more than half the year, these two families were cut off from the rest of the world. They renounced even the poor comforts of the pioneer in order to live where they might render aid to strangers in extremity. What they really established was the first life-saving station in Canada. It was a brilliant success.

In the autumn of the third year, Richard Hichens left his wife and two babies, Richard (the second) and Mary Jane and went as “ship’s husband” in a brig to South America. He was away for six months and, returning from a voyage of three thousand miles, made a land-fall of his own house, “a most wonderful thing and much talked of.”

Richard Hichens kept a journal of the wrecks on the Seals, but the precious document has disappeared. Lawson records, however, that the brig William Henry was lost on the Seals, November 18th, 1831; that the fishing schooner Friendship struck on the South Breaker in the night of June 26th, 1832, and immediately sank; that the barque Kent struck on the ledges off the north-east point, during a thick snow-storm on Dec. 26th, 1833, and became a total wreck; that the American brig Mexico, in ballast, was wrecked near Seal Island, May 13th, 1836, and so on, year after year, in dreadful monotony. The Reverend Edwin Crowell, the historian of Barrington declares that, though ninety-five wrecks have occurred at the Seals, since the Hichens and Crowells settled there, not one life has been lost ashore.

The wreck of the ship Vivid is typical. At night and in a blinding snow-storm, she ran high up on Race Point. All hands dropped off the end of the jib-boom and so got safely ashore, into the scrub birch woods, but they did not even know that the island was inhabited. Some of the drenched, exhausted, half frozen men stumbled on a path or trail through the birch wood, and crawled along it until they saw a light, which came from a candle in Edmund Crowell’s hut. They managed to reach the door and tell their story. Crowell and Hichens went out into the stormy night, found the other survivors, and guided them to safety. But for that hut and the candle shining in the darkness, the crew of the Vivid must have gone the way of so many other shipwrecked mariners. This good work went on for seven-and-twenty years. In that time there was an average of one wreck every twelvemonth, on, or about, Seal Island, but never again did a sailor escape the ruin of the sea to die upon that desolate shore, because help was not at hand.

The tiny settlement had proved its value, but still more was to be done. A wharf was needed “for the safety of decked craft and the relief of persons who may be unfortunately shipwrecked” on the dangerous ledges and reefs round about. It would cost a hundred pounds. So Hichens and Crowell drew up a petition to be laid before that remote and august power, the House of Assembly, at Halifax, asking for this sum, for this purpose. Their modest request was laid before the House on March 2nd, 1827, the memorable year in which the Roman Catholics of Nova Scotia were freed from the test, and duly referred to the Committee of Supply. A month later their petition was granted, the money was voted, and in due time the small wharf was built. Hichens and Crowell not content with helping men who might be cast on shore, went to the rescue of any whose vessels might be wrecked on the islands around.

But Mary Hichens was not satisfied with provision made for saving the lives of castaways. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. She wanted to prevent wrecks. Once more, as the record has it, she “urged her husband” to a still greater enterprise. Why not build a lighthouse, to warn the anxious ship-master of the danger he was standing into? Nowhere along the whole perilous coast was there greater need for the faithful beacon than at the Elbow of Fundy. Traffic was growing, ships were passing more often, wrecks were more frequent. Already there was a light at Shelburne, at Sambro, at Cranberry Head. The cost would run into hundreds of pounds, but the saving in vessels, cargoes and lives would run into uncounted thousands. Though the Hichens and Crowells were humble folk, the success of their petition for a wharf emboldened them to try for something greater.

At this time the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia was Sir James Kempt, a famous Peninsula and Waterloo officer. He had been badly wounded while heading the forlorn hope at Badajoz. His province knew him for a pleasant, dapper, little, old bachelor, who wore white ducks in summer and was fond of driving his four-in-hand about the country. He was always on tour from Yarmouth to Sydney. In July, 1827, he embarked in the province brig Chebucto in order to visit the principal western harbours. In consequence of the Hichens petition, he went ashore on Seal Island and saw the situation for himself. What he saw and what he heard during that brief visit must have furthered greatly the benevolent enterprise on which Mary Hichens had set her heart. In response to the petition, backed by Sir James’s personal interest, the House of Assembly voted a thousand pounds to build the much desired lighthouse. As it was to benefit vessels bound up the Bay, and out of the Bay, to or from New Brunswick ports, the sister province undertook to pay half the cost. So was built Seal Island Light.

It is a wooden tower, eight-sided, to present the least resistance to winds which beat from every quarter. The beams are massive squared timbers, jointed, and mortised, and fitly framed together. It is built like a ship, with heavy reinforcing knees. It is sixty-seven feet in height, and stands on an elevation of thirty-five feet. The lantern is 102 feet above sea level. It can throw its beams sixteen miles across the waters in the night. The builder’s name was Cameron, and he did honest work. Captain Edward Boxer of H.M.S. Pique inspected it in 1837 and expressed approval. It was “very good” and in a “good place.” The Pique, by the way, brought out troops to Halifax to put down the Canadian ‘rebellion’, in 1838, and could not get into the Harbour because it was frozen over down to Mauger’s Beach. Seal Island Light stands to-day as it stood complete and finished nearly a century ago, to the great joy of Mary Hichens. The first lighting of the beacon on November 28th, 1831, must have been an epoch in her life.

Richard Hichens and Edmund Crowell tended the light turn about, six months at a spell. For this service, the Government paid them thirty pounds a year. Out of this sum, they provided boats for rescue work, as well as for their business as fishermen. About the Seals lie rich fishing grounds, not even now exhausted. Once the august Assembly advanced them half their annual salary on account of building a boat. Richard and William Hichens inherited the spirit of their father and their mother. When they came to manhood, they paid George Stoddart to build them a sixteen foot lifeboat. The Royal Humane Society presented them with seven inflating lifepreservers.

It is pleasant to learn that thrift and hard work, as in Defoe’s immortal fiction, were potent to redeem this real Island of Desolation. When it became known that a master mariner was living there, who was able and willing to give instruction in the mystery of navigation, ambitious young sailors came over from Barrington and put themselves under his tuition. Captain Hichens had a sort of school, which at one time brought up the number of his family to twenty-two. He discovered that sheep throve on the island, the dense scrub affording them the shelter they needed through the winter. The little settlement on the inhospitable island grew into a centre of friendly help. Many a fisherman found there shelter for his boat and lodging for himself. Many a shipwrecked sailor was generously cared for till he could be ferried over “to the main.” The life of these humble dwellers on Seal Island makes worldly ambitions and worldly success look rather small and cheap.

Nearly a full century has passed since Seal Island Light was built. By day it can be recognized far off by the two broad bands on its white body and the red, circular lantern atop. Modern improvements have been added. An automatic “groaner” anchored off shore utters dismal warning by day and night. A radio beacon projects its dots and dashes with a wave length of a thousand metres. By night the flashing white light shows its beam at three second intervals. But the old structure is essentially the same. The great-grandson of Mary Hichens tends the light to-day, and the tall red-banded tower stands as a monument to her tender heart and energetic will.


This story is told end for end. Against all the rules of art, the sequel comes at the beginning, because the latter part of the tale explains and illuminates the first.

In 1918, when the German submarine warfare was unlimited, and one out of every four ships leaving British ports failed to return, the Truro Queen was built at Economy, Nova Scotia, to meet, in her own small way, the clamour for tonnage to make good such awful loss. She was a tidy little tern schooner of three hundred and eighty-six tons. A lucky error which lengthened her keel beyond the plan, endowed her with almost supernatural powers as a carrier and a swift sailer. Incredible cargoes could be stowed in her well-moulded hold, or piled on her trim deck, and she would walk away with them like a witch on a broom-stick, passing plodding freighters and other sailing vessels as if they were anchored. Experience soon proved her to be an excellent sea-boat in all weathers, dry, and rising on the waves like a sea-bird, the pride and delight of her master. In short, she was a modern triumph of the ship-builder’s honest craft, which flourished nowhere more brilliantly than in the maritime province of Nova Scotia.

To command the new vessel, the owners dug out a retired sea-captain, Jonathan Borden Marsh of Economy, who was then seventy-nine years of age. He went to sea first as cook in a coaster at the age of twelve; he had transported Zanzibaris to the Congo, for Stanley; he had piloted a steamer up and down the Yukon for many years. On September 9th he took charge of the Truro Queen and loaded deals at Saint John. The prepaid freight was thirty thousand dollars, and on December 7th with her decks piled perilously high, he put out in a howling gale for Buenos Aires. Wiseacres of the port thought the old man was crazy, but the gale blew in the right direction, and he ran one-third of his distance in seven days. One rule of the Jomsburg vikings’ code forbade striking sail in any tempest.

The distance from Saint John to Buenos Aires is four thousand miles. Borden Marsh reached his destination with ship and cargo intact on February 6th, 1919. The night before he said to his mate,

“If my calculations are correct, we ought to raise the lights of Montevideo in twenty minutes. Send a man aloft.”

Marsh had not been in these latitudes for thirty years. In fifteen minutes, the lookout reported the fight.

But here he encountered a decided check. The great strike of 1918 was not over, and it had been complicated, South American fashion, with plentiful fusillades. On visiting his consignees, the Nova Scotian captain learned that his cargo could not be discharged because the strike was still in operation. He went out, and, on making inquiries, he soon discovered that the longshoremen were willing to return to work, but that the employers of labour had locked them out. Armed with this knowledge, Marsh returned to his consignees, and said,

“I have a permit to land my cargo, and men to discharge it. Are you ready to receive it? If not, I will send you a bill for demurrage, two hundred dollars a day for every day you detain my vessel.”

Marsh gained his point. The Truro Queen was the first vessel to unload at Buenos Aires after the great strike in 1918-1919, in which eight hundred men were shot. The little captain had unblocked the traffic of the port. The fourteen steamers which had been lying at anchor in the stream for days or weeks now began to discharge their merchandise. But the employers did not forgive the old sea-dog from Nova Scotia.

His next charter was for bone-ash from Paysandu to Liverpool at £9 per ton. Paysandu is two hundred miles up the Uruguay river, and the quickest, easiest, cheapest way to get a sailing vessel up a river against the current is to tow. There were only two tugs available at Buenos Aires, but when Marsh tried to engage one, he encountered endless difficulties. The men who had tried to deceive him about the strike controlled the tugs, and would not let him have one.

“Very well” said the indomitable little man, “I’ll sail.”

And sail he did. His years of experience in the Yukon now stood him in good stead. Marsh could smell shoal water, and, in the strange foreign river, the Truro Queen never once touched ground. On the way up she passed three steamers, for she was a witch to sail.

In July, Marsh was discharging his cargo of bone-ash at Runcorn on the Manchester Canal, and loading salt for Halifax, where he arrived after a stormy passage of forty days. Then the little Queen carried plaster from Walton to New York, coal to San Domingo, logwood to Mobile, lumber to Cienfuegos, as busy as a bee all round the two Atlantics. In fourteen months, she netted her owners fifty thousand dollars, and Captain Marsh was not five cents out in his accounts.

Such was Jonathan Borden Marsh. In daring, in seamanship, in ability to deal with men and to enrich his owners, he was a typical old-time Bluenose master mariner. It was not he who lost the charters and piled up the dainty Truro Queen on Egg Island in the fog. He came ashore from his last command on July 2nd, 1920. At eighty-one a man is entitled to rest from his labours.

In one day, I travelled nearly two hundred miles to have speech with Borden Marsh in his own house at Economy, a curious corruption of the Indian word Okonoma. It was well worth while. I found him in his shirt-sleeves, papering his kitchen. He was a light, little man, with a broad forehead, clear brown eyes, and a clear, brown, healthy skin. In speech he is deliberate and direct, dryly humorous. He has never touched tobacco or liquor. He has all his faculties keenly alert; and I was not long in discovering that he was a Christian mystic. He knows his Pilot Who has guided him throughout his long life from the Arctic to the Line over all the waste of waters. Nor has he ever carried fire-arms of any kind. He believes that if the Power he trusts in cannot protect him, nothing can.

With the burning of the Milton in my mind and Captain McArthur’s voyage of two thousand miles in an open boat, I stumbled on the threshold and asked the wrong question.

“I never lost a ship,” said Captain Marsh, stiffly, “and I have commanded twenty,—and only two men.”

He told of two accidents no foresight could have prevented.

Unwittingly I had touched the pride of the master mariner, and I hastened to make amends. Relenting, he told me of his experience in the brigantine Cleo, which I had come to hear. The saga turns backward nearly sixty years.

On Christmas, 1868, the Cleo was in Little Glace Bay, Cape Breton, loaded to the hatches with coal for Boston. The distance to be covered is some five hundred miles, and the Cleo was only provisioned for a short voyage. Christmas was no holiday for a working coaster. Time and tide wait for no man. The wind blew fair from the north-east, the weather was bright, so she made sail and stood out to sea. But her troubles began at once.

Before the evening the wind shifted to the south-east and blew a strong gale, which carried away the fore-topgallant mast. Worse was to come. At midnight occurred one of those sudden changes in weather at sea which make havoc of the stoutest ships. The wind shifted again, into the opposite quarter, the north-west, and blew with cyclonic force for a whole week. It was a blinding snowstorm from the Arctic, scourging the Cleo out of her course as it had scourged the St. Lawrence and the Auguste, and the Research, and many another vessel. Some weathered the storms, and some were lost. Even the landsman can perceive that a fierce wind working its will on the fluid element, water, first from one quarter,and then from the very opposite, would stir up such a hurly-burly of warring waves as might dismember the strongest wooden ship that ever floated. The sailor calls the phenomenon a cross-sea. In such a cross-sea the Cleo laboured heavily. An ocean billow represents uncounted tons, and it flings its weight with the fury of a cataract. Waves swept the Cleo. This is no figure of speech but a statement of literal fact. Boats and everything movable on deck went first and then the heavy bulwarks. Moreover, the constant fierce buffetings from side to side wrenched and racked the stout fabric of the vessel with the heavy load of coal, and the Cleo began to leak badly.

The gale lasted seven long days, driving the brigantine ever south and east towards the Gulf Stream. The crew were at the pumps day and night, labouring to keep their vessel from filling and sinking under their feet. Pumps in small craft like the Cleo are of the simplest construction. Two logs bored hollow were fitted, each with an iron shaft and a leather-covered piston. In sea language, the shaft is a spear. It is worked by a short lever terminating in an iron hook, which locks into the bent end of the “spear.” Leverage is obtained by means of a stout arm running out at an angle from the top of the pump. The pump-handle works up and down on a bolt through this post. Suction brings the water to the open top and spills it on the deck to run off through the scuppers.

Pumping is toil for galley-slaves; but to sailors it is often a choice of pump or drown. Therefore the crew of the Cleo kept at it day and night. Then, the pumps failed. The constant friction wore out the leather which clad the plunger, and the plunger would not draw; it worked loose in the hollow of the pump, and the laws of hydraulics prevailed. The water rose in the hold relentlessly. Marsh ransacked the vessel for leather and re-covered both plungers. But a new difficulty arose. The narrow space in which the plungers worked was so enlarged by the constant friction that the plungers would not fill it. The pumps were useless. The water was four feet deep in the hold. In fact, the Cleo was going down.

It was only a little collier in distress, with the lives of six men at stake, but the problem was the same as for the ice-gored Titanic. Save the ship or save life.

The Cleo’s boat was gone; there was nothing left on deck to build a raft with; the pumps were useless; the water was gaining fast. Borden Marsh retired to his cabin with his problem, to think it out. As a mystic, he has his intuitions, the inner voice to which he listens, and meditation brought the solution.

If the “spear” could be shortened so as to bring the plunger above the worn place in the pump, the laws of hydraulics would resume their sway, and sea water would flow again into the sea from which it came. The man of resource fastened a “luff-hook” to the “spear”; in sea parlance he “seized” it with spun yarn. He made repairs. Then he broke off the “spear” of the other pump with a cold chisel and bent the end into a new hook in the fire of the cook’s galley. The device answered perfectly. Now, both pumps were drawing. By constant labour, keeping at it for twenty-four hours at a stretch, the crew of the Cleo saved themselves from the immediate danger; but even then, one pump had to be kept going night and day to keep her free.

In these circumstances the young captain decided it would be madness to think of beating back to Boston. There was nothing for it but to run before the gale and make for the West Indies. Expecting but a short voyage, he had laid in provisions accordingly. Now he had to make the pork and biscuit last as long as possible, and he put the men on short allowance.

A fresh peril menaced the little brigantine. When the terrific cross-seas smashed the bulwarks, the broken stanchions remained sticking up all around like so many ragged fangs. As every wave had now free access to the Cleo’s deck, the water poured round the stanchions and rotted the oakum packed about them where they fitted into the water-line board. This would cause a leak from above. The water would seep into the timbers which form the skin of a vessel, and rend the fabric of the little ship in pieces. The sea assaulted from without, and sapped and mined within. The end would come speedily. There was nothing to be done but caulk the seams.

Now, caulking requires two hands to do the work; the right, to wield the heavy mallet, and the left, to hold the caulking-iron and feed the oakum into the seams. The holes were in the Cleo’s water-line board. Whoever undertook the difficult and dangerous job of work must go outboard. It was so difficult and so dangerous that it could not be entrusted to any of the men. The captain himself went over the side in a double bowline.

Let the landward reader try to grasp the factors of the problem.

A sailor is lowered in a rope over the side of a pitching, heaving vessel in a storm. He has a hammer in one hand and a piece of iron in the other, and between the uncertain rolls of the labouring vessel, he tries to drive ravelled rope into gaping apertures. The only time to do the work is when the vessel rolls away from him. When she rolls the other way, the sailor is buried under the water and half drowned. As he comes up, he clears the water from his eyes, and strikes a few hurried blows with his tools. Then, before he has drawn half a dozen breaths, he is plunged under the waves again. The action is repeated and repeated.

Aaron Churchill went over the side of the Research with snatch-blocks to hobble the broken rudder, and was drawn up unconscious; but Marsh’s job was even more exacting. One would think he would need as many arms as a Hindu god; and he was slowly starving. He was hauled back on deck exhausted, with his task not completed; but he had done enough to keep the little ship from dissolving in the waves. In this way the master of the Cleo saved ship, cargo, crew, and himself. Good right had he to his captain’s pride that he never lost a ship.

The work was done just as the brigantine was entering the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The weather had moderated; but, even on the shortest of short allowance, the pork and biscuit came to an end at last. Then, for an entire fortnight, neither captain nor crew had a bite of food. For fourteen days and nights they starved. The Africans were clamourous; the white man tightened his belt and bore privation with the cheery stoicism of the sailor. He called it his hunger strike.

“We had nothing to eat,” said Captain Marsh, “but we had plenty of good, sweet water.”

On the fortieth morning after leaving Little Glace Bay, the Cleo turned the huge rocky shoulder of St. Thomas, glided into the ample harbour, and came to anchor. The high hillsides were gay with rich patches of bougainvillea, and the town was a dream of white, coral-pink and yellow houses. Marsh hoisted the signal, “Short of provisions,” and the runners’ boat brought off some food.

“I took a hard biscuit,” said Captain Borden Marsh, “but I wasn’t hungry, and I’ve never been hungry since.”




The great ship was first an idea in the brain of William Lawrence. Of sound Ulster stock, born near the river Bann in County Down, he came to Maitland with his parents as a babe in arms. There he grew up and learned the ancient craft of the shipwright, and he taught himself to play the violin. For nearly thirteen hours a day, he swung the broad-axe in Lyle & Campbell’s yard at Dartmouth. He was enrolled in the classes of the newly opened Dalhousie College in 1838. And he learned drafting in East Boston under Donald MacKay, the Scot from Shelburne, who gave the world the clipper ship. Then, having served his apprenticeship and fulfilled his wander-years, he came back to the beautiful hamlet of Maitland to build vessels on his own account. He hewed and fiddled his way through life.

He began in a small way. His total capital for his first venture was no more than thirty pounds. Tradition says he cut the frames for his first vessel in the woods and carried them out on his shoulder, for he was a tall and powerful man. This was the brigantine St. Lawrence. She was lucky and made money. Then followed the barque Architect, the Persia, the W. G. Putnam, the Mary, named for Mrs. Lawrence, and then the Pegasus, known of course to sailors as the Pegashious, which was launched in 1867. She was famous for rolling, but also for quick passages and making money. Captain Jim Ellis from Shubenacadie sailed her; he married the owner’s eldest daughter, who went to sea with him as was the wont of Nova Scotia girls who married sea-captains. William Lawrence prospered and was respected in his community. He represented Hants in the House of Assembly and gave his voice and vote against Confederation.

The great idea of William Lawrence was simple enough. One big vessel with one crew would do the work of two smaller vessels with two crews, to an immense saving in operating costs. It is the same idea which went to the building of the Titanic and the other steel leviathans. Lawrence had thirty-four years of experience in his craft, and from that experience he conceived his grandiose plan. He did not proceed by rule of thumb. First, he drafted his dream ship,—hull plan, spar plan, profile, section, streamlines, everything to accurate scale. He then made his half model, which is preserved in the provincial museum. Then, the layers of wood were taken apart for the actual moulding, and the huge frames, or ribs, were drafted in strict accordance with the little model. Then, like the true artist, he turned his dream into a concrete reality.

In September, 1872, a little to the south of Maitland, in front of his own house, William Lawrence laid the keel of the giant ship to be. No such keel had ever been laid in Nova Scotia; it extended two hundred and forty-four feet, nine inches, on the grass. John M. Blaikie showed me where he and his partners built their first vessel in Great Village. She measured a hundred tons.

“And we thought her a whale of a ship.”

But this Maitland venture was designed to be bigger than twenty of Blaikie’s “whales”. It was a daring conception; but all the winter of ’72/’73, little work was done upon it.

In April, 1873, Lawrence’s plans were ripe, and work began in earnest. He engaged a force of seventy-five men. His brother Lockhart was the master-builder, and John Lawrence, his son, moulded the timber. He himself was in the yard from morning till night, and saw to every detail. First and last, this vessel was a family affair. The keel is the spine of the ship, and it behooves it to be strong. This was of birch, seventeen by thirty-one inches square. Keel and kelson together were eight feet through, bolted with 1½ and 1⅜ inch iron, hammered out in Isaac Douglass’s smithy. The stem was forty-seven feet long. Towering in the air, it showed plainly how huge the new ship was to be. The frames were set in their places; from the keel to the rail they measured fifty-five feet; the breadth of beam was forty-eight feet. Never before was seen so huge a skeleton of a ship in a Maritime ship-yard.

Lawrence built for strength as well as beauty. No trenails for him. All was metal fastened. Two hundred tons of bolts were put into her. There were three decks, each nine feet in height, and the beams of the two lower decks were reinforced by one hundred and sixty iron knees, some of them weighing eighteen hundred pounds apiece. In all, they weighed sixty-two tons. There were double waterways around each deck, the inside one being dovetailed into the beams, and fastened with 1¼ and 1⅜ metal. In reviewing her career, Lawrence noted with pride that she never damaged a cargo. So the vessel grew deck by deck and plank by plank, “Lock” Lawrence working at the outside, and John, within. The long bowsprit was set in place, projecting above the roof of the Lawrence mansion. It was of yellow Southern pine, as were the three lower masts. Now MacDonald’s riggers came on and set up the shrouds, and chains of thirty-three tons weight, and stays, like the timbers, all of unusual strength. The top-masts grew on the lower masts, fore, main and mizzen; and then the top-gallant masts, on the topmasts. Then, the yards were swung across, with their trusses, halliards and braces. Above the royal yards were swayed up the three skysail-yards, which marked the final development of the full-rigged ship in Nova Scotia. The main-yard was ninety feet long; the truss that held it weighed five hundred pounds. From kelson to truck, the main-mast measured two hundred feet, eight inches. The lower shrouds and topmast backstays were of 5½ inch iron wire, made to order in England. Her rigging has been described as “massive”; and the official figures support the term. Finally, the sails were bent on the yards, 8,000 square yards of them. For eighteen months, the yard rang with the cheerful clamour of broad-axe and saw, ten hours a day, but not more, for Lawrence was the first to break the universal custom of working his men from daylight to dark.

In a hut by himself, J. S. Shaw, carver and gilder, worked at a gigantic figurehead. It represented a forward-looking, square-headed, bearded man, attired in a flowing cloak. He bore a scroll with the piously aggressive motto, “God defend the Right.” It may seem strange, but Lawrence had to stand on the defensive all the time his ship was building. Few believed that he would succeed; fault-finders were many.

A busy shipyard is a spectacle to draw and hold all eyes, the activities are so many and so diverse. Visitors came to see the new venture from idle curiosity; and they were, for the most part, hostile critics. Let her builder and maker testify as to what happened, in his own vigourous English. “The ship W. D. Lawrence, from the time her keel was laid, up to the time she was sold, seemed to be an eyesore to a certain class of men, who could see nothing about the ship that was right or speak a favourable word about her. During the time I was building her I had visitors from the United States, Saint John, all parts of Nova Scotia, England, and even from the Continent, who with very few exceptions were fault-finders. One would say, ‘Don’t you think, Mr. Lawrence, she is too large?’ Another would say, ‘Don’t you think it would have been better to have her in two ships?’ Again, another would say, ‘I’m afraid you will not be able to make her strong enough out of pine and spruce; I would not trust myself in her at sea in a heavy gale.’ Another would say, ‘Don’t you think, old man, she will be unwieldy and labour hard at sea?’ And so on. I generally passed it all off in good humour ... But on one occasion I had to act differently. A certain man came into my shipyard and, before bidding good-day, began to find fault with the ship. He said everything about the ship was wrong. It would be impossible to make her sea-worthy. She would ruin me and everyone else who had anything to do with her. I tried to reason with him but to no purpose. At last I said to him, ‘Friend, do you know the way you came into this yard?’ He said, ‘I think I do.’ ‘Then, sir, please take your back tracks, and if you need any assistance it is handy.’ He took his departure and never came into the yard again.”

Lawrence worked on, and at last the end was in sight.



Launchings marked gala days in old Nova Scotia. From far and near people flocked to see the impressive sight. The thing of wood, built on land, would take the water in a splendid dramatic rush. It was a critical moment, big with fate; for the launch might fail. The vessel might not leave the ways; she might even capsize; or stick ingloriously in the mud. Hence the announcement that Mr. Lawrence’s “notorious and much abused ship” was to be launched on Tuesday, October 27, drew four thousand persons to Maitland. From Windsor, from Parrsboro’, from Londonderry, from Truro, from both banks of the Shubenacadie they came, and a goodly number from the capital itself. Mr. John Stairs and Mr. Adam Burns made a special trip from Halifax, to see the sight. Early on the Monday morning every boarding-house in the village was filled, and crowds poured in on Tuesday morning.

Two of the visitors were not well received. They were slick, well-dressed, high-hatted gentlemen who came over by the ferry from Truro, with a barrel of whiskey for the benefit of the thirsty. But Lawrence heard of the enterprising strangers, and had no desire to see the holiday disgraced by drunken riots. He was a magistrate, as was Alfred Putnam, his friend; and both were tall and formidable men. By virtue of their office, they apprehended the two gentlemen from Truro, marched them through the village to the ferry and shipped them back whence they came. That little procession of the crestfallen pair, wheeling their stock-in-trade on a barrow through the street, the two stalwart magistrates marching behind and the bearded Presbyterian minister showing the way, was long remembered in Maitland.

All Maitland kept that Tuesday as a holiday, and did no work. Round the ship and into the ship pressed the curious crowds, peering, examining her all over from the patent rudder which weighed seven tons, to the patent, double-action, metal pumps and the patent windlass, which was to work by steam. They inspected the clean, big deck-house, fifty feet by twenty-six, with accommodation for twenty-four seamen, sail-room, carpenter’s shop, galley, boatswain’s store-room, engine-room, and rooms for the boatswain, carpenter and boys. Even more admirable were the cabins for the after-guard, fifty feet long by thirty broad, more roomy than many a Maitland dwelling. There she stood, as strong as wood and iron could make her. The carpenter’s measurements made her 2858½ tons; her nett tonnage was 2459; and she was rated A1 at Lloyd’s for seven years. Would she ever leave the ways? Would the prophets of evil see their predictions fulfilled?

At one o’clock the workmen began to wedge up the ship for launching and to split the keel-blocks. This last was no easy task, for the vessel, with 400 tons of stone ballast in the hold to steady her, weighed 3800 tons, and the great weight split the supporting keel-blocks. For nearly an hour the carpenter’s hammers rang, and, about ten minutes before two, all but the forward block had been worked out. Then the ship began to move, slowly at first as the clutch of gravitation laid hold of her; soon her speed increased, and, amidst the crash of falling shores and the cheers of four thousand throats, she glided majestically into the orange coloured Fundy tide.

“She went off like a row-boat,” said an eye-witness.

It was William Lawrence’s great hour. After long months of labour and anxiety, aggravated by hostile criticism, he stood justified by the work of his hands, and received the congratulations of his friends.

Out on the Bay, proud and tall, rode the Great Ship. Two tugs were in readiness. They made fast their hawsers, the crew of Maitland boys on board loosed the lower topsails, and away she went with a fair wind and tide for Saint John. The crowds gazed and approved. In spite of her immense size, she was a thing of beauty, and made a picture on the waters as she passed from sight. Suddenly there fell a hush. On shore there was a great void, filled a few moments before by her rich and mighty symmetry. Only the black, greased parallel timbers, a confusion of planks and a thick carpet of chips betokened her presence. And the place that had known her once knew her again no more for ever.



Building a ship without a rival on the five oceans was not the only great idea cherished in the brain of William Lawrence. “For years past,” he writes, “I had a desire to make a voyage around the world.” It was this same romantic desire which sent Drake from Plymouth in the Pelican. It was a royal thought. Voyages hither and yon, however long and adventurous, do not appeal to the imagination like an entire circumnavigation. Putting a girdle round the globe, tracing a single furrow with a single keel through all the Seven Seas and home again, is an exploit in the realm of romance. William Lawrence was able to convert his thought into action.

“I now set about to make arrangements for the voyage, settling up the ship’s accounts and paying off the carpenters.”

Having done so, he left Maitland on November 15th for Saint John, taking with him his fiddle and his Bible. His daughter, Mrs. Ellis, and three grandchildren were also on the passenger list. The Lawrence loaded a thousand standard of deals, filling her three-fold hold and piling up her deck. Then, on December 4th, with a crew of runners and Captain Ellis in command, the great ship towed down past Partridge Island. Instead of the usual course by Brier Island and Digby Neck, Captain Ellis chose to take her between Grand Manan and the mainland, with a leading breeze. It was no easy navigation, but the great ship proved her capacity at once. Captain Ellis worked her “as easily as a pilot boat and handled her like a yacht,” records the delighted owner. No king could have been prouder on his throne than William Lawrence on the deck of the ship he had built, as with all her span-new canvas set, and every sheet taut, she walked down the Bay to the open Atlantic. Twenty-three days later she was in Liverpool, filling up the Mersey.

After discharging her cargo of deals, the Lawrence went into dry dock to be coppered, and to ship a donkey-engine for hoisting the heavy yards. Then she signed on a crew of negroes, loaded coals at Birkenhead, and set sail for Aden on April 10th. On June 7th, at five in the morning, she had an accident. Carrying all sail proudly, even her three sky-sails, and plowing along at fourteen knots, with the wind on the starboard quarter, she met with a sudden gust which carried away her mizzen top-gallant mast. Over the side it went, taking with it the main top-gallant mast, with the main topmast head at the hounds. The crew made repairs, of course, as the Lawrence scudded before a strong gale, and covered some three hundred miles in the next twenty-four hours, but her glory was diminished. Crippled by the loss of her spars, she did not make Aden until August 1st. Here the owner left her to discharge her coal, and took a steamer to Bombay in order to purchase the necessary spars. Lawrence stayed a week in Bombay, seeing all that was to be seen, including the modestly managed mixed bathing of the natives. He brought his spars back in the S. S. Pekin. Captain Ellis met the steamer with part of the crew, and towed the timbers to the ship, where they were soon fitted.

“The carpenter and sailors went to work in good earnest and in a few days all was aloft, and the ship ready for sea.”

On September 13th, the Lawrence left Aden for Callao. In “a fair and pleasant passage of eighty days,” the great ship traversed the Indian Ocean, passed through Timor and Torres Straits, skirted Australia and crossed the breadth of the South Pacific. On December 3rd, she came to anchor in the port of Callao, all well on board, exactly a year since she towed out of Saint John. Here, as always, Lawrence used his eyes and saw what was to be seen, the hoods and pretty feet of the cigar-smoking Peruvian belles, and a bullfight in which seven bulls were slain. On January 20th, 1876, the Lawrence sailed for Pabellon de Pica, a small guano-loading port at the south of Peru, where a strange fortune awaited her.

Two weeks before the great ship slid off the ways at Maitland, William Lawrence obtained a charter to carry a cargo of guano from Peru to Havre. For ages, myriads of sea birds inhabited rainless portions of South America, and their droppings formed great dust deposits of a complete and valuable fertilizer. Since 1840, this precious compost had been carried to Europe in ship-loads. By 1876 a new fertilizer was discovered,—nitrate of soda. Consequently the price of guano was falling, and the French firm did not want to ship it at a loss. A dozen other vessels were anchored off Pabellon de Pica, also waiting for cargo.

“It is a wild, lonesome-looking place, with lofty cliffs and mountains on one side and the great Pacific Ocean on the other. The landing of boats is nearly always attended with danger, on account of the dreadful surf,” Lawrence notes in his narrative.

Ship after ship got tired of being put off, and went elsewhere for cargo, but Lawrence doggedly held on. Ulster blood is obstinate blood. A charter is a charter; and there is a penalty for keeping a vessel waiting for her load, which is called demurrage. Lawrence waited for eleven months, nearly all the year 1876. At last, Captain James Flavel Scott of the Antoinette (1100 tons) got his load, proving that the French company had the guano to sell, and then Lawrence’s turn came.

This long time of waiting was not spent unimproved by such a born traveller as William Lawrence. After two idle months on board, he took passage in a steamer to Mollendo, 300 miles to the northward. Here he stayed one night, then went by rail 107 miles up through the mountains, and across a white sandy plain to the city of Arequipa, 8000 feet above the sea. Pizarro founded it about the time Jacques Cartier discovered Hochelaga. Lawrence liked the climate and the towering snow-clad mountains. He spent six days in Arequipa, observing everything. He then proceeded by train to the city of Puno, 217 miles farther on, and 7000 feet higher up. The journey occupied two days, for the train was forced to crawl. Now our man from Maitland saw with his own eyes Lake Titicaca, whereabouts was the centre of the strange civilisation of the mysterious Inca race. As everywhere, he saw what was to be seen, the snow-capped mountains, as it were on fire at the going down of the sun, wheat in the fields ready for the sickle, the condor circling the sky, the llama, the vicuna, and the alpaca. When he got back to the ship he remained on board for five weeks; then, once more tiring of his enforced idleness, he made a trip south to Valparaiso where he spent two months. He witnessed the celebration of the independence of Chile, a festa “which was kept up with great spirit for seven days, accompanied with music and dancing, and ending with a grand display of fireworks.”

All things come to him who waits. At long last, the Lawrence was full to the hatches with her odoriferous dust. On December 11th, she sailed from Pabellon de Pica, bound for Havre. Good weather favoured her for a month. She rounded Cape Horn with all three skysails set, and reached Havre about the end of March, all well. The St. Stephen of New York raced her one April day, overtook her and left her astern. From the St. Stephen’s deck, the first mate, D. A. Macleod, watched her storming along in a smother of foam. Ellis mastheaded his main top-gallant sail and drove his ship, but the speedy American clipper passed him. Eleven months at anchor in tropical waters had furred the hull of the Lawrence with clogging weed. Later, Captain William Lawrence drove her three hundred and four miles under foresail and lower topsails in twenty hours off the Cape of Good Hope; and, when freshly coppered, she had done her fourteen knots, as noted in the owner’s book of travels.



At Havre, the Great Ship discharged her cargo undamaged, and paid off her negro crew. Their wages came to something between £1500 and £2000. Lawrence notes how soon and how foolishly the Africans spent it all, but that is the sailor’s way. He collected the freight and secured a portion of the demurrage he claimed for the long detention of his vessel at Pabellon de Pica. Cannily he accepted, under protest, what the charterers were willing to pay, and he placed his claims to the whole amount in the hands of a French attorney. The case was tried at a High Court of Rouen, and Dreyfus Frères et Cie had to pay the full demurrage claimed, with interest, amounting to £10,620 stg. Added to the freight on the cargo of guano, this made up the tidy sum of £23,000. Thus did the W. D. Lawrence in one voyage lay the foundation of the Lawrence fortune. In the eight years that Lawrence operated her, she made a return of twenty-two per cent on the original investment.

All this business took time, and again the man from Maitland had to wait. But with the instinct of the true traveller, he knew how to profit by his enforced leisure. He saw whatever was to be seen. He spent three hours at a masqued ball in Havre and enjoyed watching the “gay crowd rustling in silks and satins.” Then he spent several days in Paris, noting how empty were the churches on Sunday and how thronged the opera and the circus. He visited Versailles, he visited Rouen, he admired “the French forests, the admirable roads, clean and hard, unfenced, on either side, apple trees and grain fields, sheep-pastures ... a pastoral landscape. The roadside, the grass, and green grain were sprinkled with the festive poppies and the faithful bluies ... I went my way over the road stimulated by so much colour ... Everything made a vivid and glad picture to my eye.” In the end, sightseeing became wearisome, and the sated traveller longed for the little Nova Scotia village which was his home.

When the Lawrence was chartered and ready for sea, the owner left Havre in a Cunard steamer for Liverpool, waited there a few days and took an Allan Line steamer for Halifax. By June 23, 1877, he was again in Nova Scotia. He is remembered going about Halifax in his shirt-sleeves, with a red bandanna handkerchief full of guineas paying his just debts. For the Lawrence had sailed with a debt of twenty-seven thousand dollars on her. T. Forhan had trusted him for the eight thousand yards of canvas which made her spread of sail; and now the claims were met. Four days later, he was home again in Maitland “after a roving voyage of two years, seven months and twelve days.” He had traced his single furrow through all the seas engirdling the planet. Of him it might be truly said that he had seen the world.

The designing, building and operating of the Great Ship by William Lawrence of Maitland must be reckoned as the most impressive single chapter in the long and splendid story of wooden ships in Nova Scotia. His faith in his great idea, whilst all men scoffed, his gamester’s confidence in putting all his means, and more, into one venture, his daring and his caution, his North Country tenacity and strong business sense, make a rare combination of qualities. Add to these the deep vein of poetry in his nature, prompting him to visit strange cities and see with his own eyes governments of men all round the globe, as well as the traveller’s joy in all he looked upon, and the sum total represents an original man of strong character. He knew the satisfactions of the artist, the craftsman, the merchant, the traveller. Rarely is it given to mortals to drink more deeply of the cup of success.




A life on the ocean wave has been the theme of many a joyous song, but life on board the lightship which is tethered head and tail over the “Lurcher” shoal near Yarmouth is, for green hands and wireless operators, one unending bout of seasickness. Hence a considerate Department of Marine and Fisheries allows the crew one month ashore out of every three. In one such period of shore leave, I caught Captain Nehemiah C. Larkin alone in his own house, with his coat off, filling in some government returns. These he courteously pushed aside to tell me his experience in the Yarmouth ship Regina.

Let no Biblical or Puritan associations with his Old Testament name mislead. It did not prevent him from being six feet tall, with a handsome, clean-shaven, ruddy face and laughing blue eyes,—a typical sailor. Before his hair turned white he must have been as magnificent a piece of manhood as ever trod a deck or kept watch and trick. He told his tale, sailor fashion, with detachment, quiet humour and a wealth of precise detail.

He ran it o’er, at my request, even from his boyhood days. He first went to sea at sixteen in the brigantine Premier. After getting his mate’s papers, he sailed as first officer in the Tsernagora under little Ned Hilton, who died in her hold trying to put out the fire at St. Nazaire. While master of the Coipell in the West India trade, he was wrecked.

“She foundered,” he said briefly, “and we were all floating around, some one way and some another,” which must have been good practice for his next shipwreck.

The Regina was a full-rigged ship of 1212 tons, of Bay of Fundy spruce, built at Tusket in 1873 for the Western Ocean trade, to carry cotton, grain and oil. She was named for the owner’s pretty daughter, Regina. She carried a crew of eighteen, officers and men, commanded by big, handsome Joe Bain of Yarmouth, a singing seaman with a rich bass voice, and N. C. Larkin as first mate. In November, 1883, she loaded at Philadelphia with barrel oil and cleared for London on the fifteenth day of the month.

As she was loading, a dispute of some importance arose between the captain and the owners. One of the deck-beams near the main-hatch needed to be replaced; but repairs cost money and all owners object to expense, on principle. The upshot was that the Regina put to sea with the old deck-beam; and it proved to be the little rift within the lute, the weakest link in the chain. Once again, the kingdom was lost for a horseshoe nail. Captain Larkin was too loyal to his dead and gone owners to complain of this extra risk. The life of a sailor is all risk, and one more or less hardly counts in the day’s work.

It was a bad time of the year, the winds were variable, contrary, and on St. Andrew’s Day, late in the afternoon, the Regina was far south of her course, lying hove-to on the starboard tack under a single triangular piece of canvas, the main try-sail. Being hove-to means that the ship cannot sail, but is trying to save her life in the turmoil of the storm, by keeping her bows to it. Even so, in the hurricane, she was listed to leeward, and the boarding seas filled her deck. To relieve the vessel of this burden, the crew smashed some of the bulwarks to leeward and let the water pour off as fast as it poured on.

A little before midnight, the wind suddenly shifted to West-South-West, blowing with hurricane force. The effect was to run the ship right into the seas to leeward. It was as if two gigantic hands had seized the Regina wrenching her in opposite directions, to twist the fabric asunder. Such a conjuncture looks like the deliberate malice of Nature. The lee seas tumbled in on her and swept the deck. Naturally, Captain Bain tried to get his ship before the wind. The foresail and the foretopmast-staysail were set, but the vessel was lying over so far that she would not answer her helm. The fore-sheet was carried away and the sail was blown to ribbons; even the sails on the yards, though furled in the gaskets, also flogged to pieces.

“We had to cut them away and tried to keep things together as much as we could,” said Captain Larkin. “During the night the seas broke the hatch partitions and washed the tarpaulin off the hatch. We got a sail and put it over the hatch and battened it down to the deck as best we could, but it was torn away. We repaired it three times with the same success. Then, of course, she began to leak, and the men were set at the pumps. They were washed into the lee scuppers and were rescued with difficulty.”

“It was after daylight the following morning, while all hands were at the pumps, she shipped a heavy sea from the weather or starboard side, carrying away the stanchions and bulwarks from the break of the poop to the forecastle head. It took the forward house off her, broke in the cabin skylight, and carried away the binnacle.”

“The Regina was what we term a full poop ship; the poop extended from the cabin well forward to the main rigging. Four hundred barrels of oil were stored in it. The two boats rested one end on a sill built on the forward edge of the poop, and the other on a ‘gallows.’ They were right over the pumps.”

“We were at the pumps when this heavy sea hit the ship. It brought down the boat gallows, letting the end of the boats drop to the deck over our heads and smashing the fife-rail and the pumps. But none of us was hurt, to signify. The boat on the port side slid forward out of its lashings, and was immediately smashed up with the other wreckage on the deck. The starboard boat held in the grit, and we succeeded in hauling it aft on the poop. Our largest boat was secured on the top of the forward house and it was lost when the house washed off. That left us with one boat only, the smallest we had.”

So the progressive destruction of the good ship Regina went on. She was lying on her side, the waves sweeping over her, helpless, for the fury of the storm allowed no setting of sail, nor would she answer to her helm. She might right, if the masts were cut away, an expedient of extremity.

“The vessel was listed so heavily that it was useless to try to do anything with her, so the captain said to cut away.”

“Cutting away” suggests to the landsman chopping down the masts as a lumberman fells a tree; but the process is much simpler. By slashing through the standing rigging, the shrouds and stays, on the side from which the strain comes, the masts break under their own weight. But all the axes had gone, when that one wave cleared out the forward house, which is the carpenter’s shop. How was the order to be obeyed?

“I had an axe in my room” said Captain Larkin, “which was kept in a becket on the bulk-head. I went down to get the axe and found the water about waist deep. The partitions were partly down; the one that had the axe had been washed out, and just as I stepped in the door, the handle lifted above the water.” “When I reached the deck, the captain said to cut the lines of the lower rigging, mizzen and main. The mizzen-mast broke at the deck and the main-mast about twelve or fourteen feet above the deck. That carried away everything forward, except the lower foremast, which remained standing.”

The three masts with all their load of spars had crashed over the lee side of the Regina, wrenching away the bowsprit and jibboom. All these heavy timbers, with their confusion of trailing cordage, were pounding at the side, but the stripped hull righted. Now, the trim Regina was definitely a wreck.

“We cleared away what wreckage we could. The wind began to moderate, but a heavy sea was running.”

There was a brief respite for the toilworn, fasting men. They had a moment to think of food and drink.

“The provisions and drinking water were all in a tank just aft of the pumps; and when everything smashed up around the deck, the vessel was full of water and burst up the hatches. The main hatch came off and the oil commenced to come out of the ship, and it spoiled everything. There was a small tank in the wash-room used by the captain, which we used to fill every morning. I asked him if there was any water in it, and he said he thought there was. I said I was going down for it.

“The cabin was partly full of water, and the partitions washing about. He thought a sea would board her any minute. Says he,

“ ‘If a sea caught you down there, you would never get out.’

“I told him I would put a rope round me and they could pull me out if I couldn’t get out. Says he,

“ ‘You may get jammed among the wreckage down there.’

“I told him I would have to take that chance.”

Be it noted that taking chances is the first mate’s calling, and extra danger is his special perquisite.

“I succeeded in getting the water and a few biscuits that were below the water-line. That was all the water and provisions we had.”



On this, the first day of December, the elements relaxed for a little their persecution of the Regina and her crew. All hands were gathered aft on the poop of the dismantled hulk, while the captain and the mate drew apart and held council of war. Captain Bain thought that after so much bad weather, there would be a break in it, may be a spell of fine weather. Though they were so far south as to be out of the regular traffic lanes from Philadelphia to London, yet, if they took to the boat, with what little water and provisions they had, they might succeed in getting far enough south to be outside the track of the North Atlantic gales. They stood a chance of being picked up by some vessel making a middling passage to the southward. Such was his argument.

Then the captain asked Larkin’s opinion, for the first mate does not volunteer advice to his superior officer.

Larkin did not agree.

“I told him that as our boat was so small and the distance so far; and as we had no way of propelling the boat except by oars our progress would be very slow. I didn’t think it feasible. I didn’t think we could do it.”

“He then turned to the men, and told them what his idea was, and also that I differed with him.

‘We can’t navigate the ship any more, and as soon as the oil comes out of her she must sink, as she has stone ballast in her. One man’s life is as sweet as another’s.’

And he asked their opinion.”

“They all decided with the captain. I said that I still held to my opinion but if they were all going to leave the ship, I wouldn’t stay there alone.”

“Later in the afternoon, we succeeded in getting away from the ship in the boat, with all hands in her and what little provisions we had, and started rowing to the southward, as best we could direct her. We hadn’t a light of any kind. We found that our small boat was making a good deal of water, and with all hands in her, she was overloaded. While some were rowing, others were bailing. I expected to see her capsize at any moment.”

So the boatload of castaways endured through the long, black December night, rowing, bailing, expecting every moment the final blow of Fate.

“I remember asking the captain in the night if he could swim. He said he could. I said, if this boat turns over, let’s get on the bottom of her. We’ll take the last chance.”

As uncertain, wintry daylight broke, the shipwrecked men made out a vague shape in the dim distance across the tumbling billows. It seemed a sail, to the north and east, more easterly than their own ship could possibly be, and hope of rescue sprang up in all hearts. But that hope was soon dashed. As the light grew stronger, and as they rowed towards the strange sail, they found it was the poor, abandoned Regina.

“The first remark the captain made was that we had better turn round and row to the southward—no use to go in that direction. The wind at this time began to air up again from a south-westerly direction. I suggested to the captain that we try to get back on board the wreck, as it would be impossible for our small boat to outlive any kind of a storm, with so many men aboard. If we could get back on board, we could construct a raft that would give all hands a chance to save their lives.”

This time, the mate’s judgment prevailed. Captain Bain gave the necessary orders, and the boat got back alongside her mother ship.

“The ropes which we used in getting away from the ship, were trailing over the side. The men got hold of them and hauled themselves on board. The boatswain stayed in one end of the boat and I in the other. We slipped two ropes under her keel, passed the ends over the side, and parbuckled the boat, and so succeeded in getting her on the poop again.”

This means that being without davits or falls, the sailors passed ropes round the boat, made one end of each rope fast to bitts on the deck and, watching the favourable opportunity, as the wreck rolled towards it, hauled on the free ropes; and so pulled it on board by main strength. While the ropes were being passed, Larkin and the boatswain ran the risk of being swamped, and the boat being smashed against the side of the wreck; but the post of danger is always the first mate’s privilege.



“The captain and the carpenter started to fix up the boat as best they could. I took the others and started to construct a raft. We hadn’t very much to work with. Our tools were all gone except the axe which was lying on the poop where we left it. For sills and the lower part of the raft we used the ship’s spanker-gaff and boom. Then we cut the taffrail in sections, which ran round the poop. It was pinned down with iron stanchions an inch and a half thick. We had to cut those rods away with the same axe that we cut the rail off with. Not much of a cold chisel; but we did it.”

“The raft was about fourteen feet by eight or nine. There was some small chain, old t’gallant sheets in a locker in the fo’c’sl’ head. It would be a grand thing to secure the ends of the raft, which must be made solid if it was to stand the sea at all. If I could only get forward—”

“The water was just washing over the main deck as it would over a ledge, but at times there was a lull. I took a coil of rope and made one end fast to a capstan on the poop. I watched my chance, and when the vessel lifted, I ran to the fo’c’sl’ head with my rope and made it fast. This gave me something to hold on to and get what there was in the locker. Long before this, I had hauled off my sea-boots and oil-coat. I found I could get round quicker in my stocking feet. As I came back, a wave caught me, and the men yelled, ‘The mate’s gone, the mate’s gone.’

“We got oil-barrels out of the poop, emptied the oil out of them, plugged the bungholes, and lashed them securely, two abreast, to the lower sills of the raft and secured them thoroughly. For flooring we took planks which had been used for dunnage on top of the oil barrels. By evening, we had the raft completed; but we decided to remain on board until the morning.”

The thoroughness of the job was tested by the unprejudiced winter storm. It stood the test; Larkin’s lashings held, and saved six lives.

“By night the wind was blowing a moderate gale, but by next morning it was blowing heavy, with a big sea running. Just at daybreak, the pins in the main-deck came out of her. The whole forward part of the poop came out. While she had a heavy list to port, she took a heavier list, and fearing we would be all broken up with the wreckage, we decided to get away from her as quickly as we could. We launched our raft out, and made it fast to the bitts on the port side.”

“There was no decision made as to who were going in the boat or on the raft, but I had made up my mind that I was going on the raft. So I said, ‘Those who are going on the raft had better come along,’ so I started with two men besides myself. The ship was practically on her beam ends, and, at this moment, I heard the captain call, ‘For goodness sake, somebody help us with the boat.’ So I turned back to assist them.”

“We tried to get the boat aft. In order to get her down between the skylight and the wheel, the stern had to be lifted off the bitts. But with the very heavy list of the ship, it was impossible to get a footing, and it was hard to lift her that high. While we were working with the boat, the wheel standard gave way, taking the wheel and all with it. That allowed the boat to run into the water.” “The captain was pretty well on to the forward part of the boat, and when she plunged into the water, it carried him along; he was holding on to the gunwale. A good many got into the boat, and I called to the boatswain, ‘Get the captain in!’ He, with another man, got him into the boat. He sung out to me, ‘Come on!’ I said I was not coming. ‘You’ve got enough in the boat now.’ ”

“They succeeded in getting out through the wreckage, oil barrels, spars and so on. Just a mass of wreckage. I thought the boat would be swamped right there.”

“When we first launched the raft, the boatswain, an Irishman from Dublin, grabbed the captain’s big, black dog and threw him on the raft, saying, ‘We may want your blood and meat before we’re through with this job’.”

“I looked round for the raft and found that when the vessel made her heavy list, it had carried the whole port side of the poop away, and had taken the bitts which the raft was fast to. Consequently it had gone adrift and was quite a distance to the leeward of the ship. I thought it too far away for me to swim to fetch it, and I saw at that time but one man on the raft.”

“I then scrambled up on the outside of the ship (which was the top part) into the mizzen chains, and found that there were five men there who hadn’t gone in the boat,—the steward, cook, second mate and two seamen. I said, ‘I see only one man on the raft.’ The steward said, ‘The second man missed getting there. The raft pushed away. I saw him in the water and pointed to the raft. He shook his head and went out of sight.’ That was the first man drowned.”

“The captain backed his boat down to the raft and put out all the men but two. He kept two in the boat and made her fast to the raft. As the boat was the lighter of the two, he used the raft as a drag. The men with me made the remark, ‘They’re rowing back to get us’; but I told them it was impossible to row the boat to windward. We were all six lashed there in the mizzen-chains.”

‘Lashing’ is not what landsmen and uninformed artists make of it. A sailor lashes himself to the mast, or, in this case, to the mizzen-chains, by fastening one end of a rope to something solid and slipping the other end, made into a loop, over his head and under one arm. This secures him from being washed away, but leaves his arms and legs free. He can cut his lashing at any moment. Larkin and these five men were so ‘lashed’ to the wreck, with the billows sweeping right over and half drowning them.

“The heavy seas were coming over the ship and would fairly tear you. Feeling confident the ship would go down in no great length of time, I looked about and saw a piece of the poop off the starboard side that the cabin was on, and I saw Mr. Dog on this piece of poop. He had jumped off the raft and swum back to the ship, but could not get near her on account of the big wash of the ship. He had swum to that piece of poop and succeeded in crawling on top of it.”

“I know I said to the men, ‘While we are getting washed here, there is that dog standing on that cabin and there is not sea enough to wash him off. If another piece breaks off big enough I am on it.’ Just a little after, I heard an extra crash, and looking up I saw the whole starboard side of the poop had gone away in one section. When it first broke, it rushed to the leeward of the ship, and when she lifted, I told the men, ‘The whole side of the poop is gone. I am going on it.’ When the vessel lifted, I ran along the side of her, and jumping clear, swam down to the poop and got on it. The steward and one seaman saw me, and also succeeded in getting on the poop.”

“In a very short time, the ship being higher than this piece of poop, the wind drove her down so that we came back on the quarter. The three remaining men said that the vessel had lighted some; they had lengthened the ropes and had got away from the mizzen-chains and were protected from the wind. They thought they had a better place than the piece of poop I was on. They wanted to know if I was coming back. I said, ‘No, she will go down.’ We went out around the stern and the old Regina drove to the leeward of us. As night came on I could still see the ship afloat. The next morning nothing could be seen of her.”



As the helpless Regina awaited her doom, her crew were in four divisions, the captain’s dog on his own private piece of wreckage, the three men lashed to the sinking hull, the first mate with two companions on another portion of the disintegrating vessel, and Captain Bain with ten hands in the boat and on the raft. Let their part of the adventure be told next.

This is the situation.

The boat is made fast to the raft which serves as a drag to keep her head to the seas. There are three men with the captain in the boat, and six on the-eight-by-fourteen-foot raft.

About an hour after leaving the ship, the boat capsized, and all the provisions and water were lost. Captain Bain remembered what Larkin had said the night before about getting on the bottom of the boat. He dived out from under, got his hands on the keel, and, by main strength rolled her over. The three men were still clinging to the thwarts. The men in the boat had taken hold of the painter and hauled the boat up to the raft and got on it. First they tried to haul the boat on top of the raft; but to put a twenty-four-foot boat on a eight-by-fourteen-foot raft was impossible. Next, they tried to bail the boat out. This they also found to be impossible. The boat and raft were smashing together, so they cut the boat adrift. Fifteen minutes later, the overloaded raft capsized in the stormy sea. Some of the men were lashed to it, and they were thrown underneath, but the whole of the eleven managed to get out from under and on the top of their frail refuge. The barrels were now uppermost, and the level frame and platform below the surface. Those t’gallant-chains and scientific lashings of the first mate held fast. While the boat was afloat, the two drifted faster than the ship, but after it capsized, the ship drifted faster than the raft. Some strange sort of magnetism seemed to draw the Regina and the various fragments of her together. By evening, the raft was close to the wallowing hulk. The captain hailed the three seaman still on board and asked them where the mate was. They told him that he had gone off on a piece of wreckage and must have been drowned long ago. Desperate as were the chances of surviving on the Regina, it looked safer than staying with the raft. At least five of the hands thought so, after their two capsizings; and as the raft neared the ship, they jumped for it, and managed to get on board. The eight perished together that night when the Regina sank.

In the morning, the wreck was nowhere to be seen. “We were up to our knees all the time,” was Captain Bain’s report, “and continually drenched with the sea breaking over us. On the third day our sufferings were past describing. One man went mad and we had to lash him, so he could not get at the salt water. About noon on December 6th, we sighted a sail standing towards us. He passed us about two cable lengths off. He hove to, clewed up all his sails except his lower topsails and mizzen-staysail, and lay for about half an hour, when he made sail and left us. It was hard to believe that a man calling himself a sailor could do such a thing, it being fine at the time.”

“Another day and night we spent on the raft, with every prospect of a gale from the south-west; but through the special providence of God, at noon next day we saw another sail standing for us, which came to us, and hove to. He put his boat out, though there was a strong breeze and a heavy sea at the time, and came and got us. We were so weak they had to lift us off the raft and into the boat. We were taken on board the barque Helen Finlayson of Ardrossan, Captain Alexander Baker, and everything possible was done for us. It was to the kind and skilful treatment of the captain and his officers that we owe our lives, for we were very weak, and the least mistake might have proved fatal. By the time we arrived at Cork we were all quite recovered.”



Though Captain Bain and the sailors lashed in the mizzen-chains of the wreck thought that Larkin was lost, he was still afloat on his fragment of deck. Like his captain, he had his eyes on his old ship as the December night gathered down, and, like him, the next morning he looked for her in vain. They could not have been far apart.

“The second night that we were on this raft,” said Captain Larkin, “the steward said he couldn’t stand it any longer. He was dying and didn’t want to hold on any longer. The piece of poop we were on had broken off by a carlin almost as clean as if it had been sawed. There were the fife-rail and bitts at the foot of the mizzen-mast and part of the skylight. He said, ‘I will sit down here and hold on to the stanchion as long as I can.’ I said, ‘I will tie you.’ He said, ‘No, I want to die,’ and he soon washed away.”

“The other man started drinking salt water, and he went out of his head. The first I knew of it he began asking how far we were from some place,—sounded like Tron-yem. Then he said, ‘What’s the use of staying here starving? No use staying here. I was down there and saw the table spread. I looked in the window and there was everything on the table.’ He said this in broken English; he was a foreigner. He said, ‘Salt water don’ taste too bad.’ I said, ‘You’re not drinking salt water.’ It was impossible to keep from drinking some, as we were under water part of the time. Then I thought I didn’t know what he might do, so I reached round and took his knife out of his sheath. Before morning he died. I was feeling pretty hungry but I said, ‘I’m not going to eat you.’ So I cut the lashing and let him go overboard. Then I was alone.”

“Some time in that night or in the early morning, the wind moderated, so that if the boat was anywhere handy she could come to me. A little while after we drifted away from the ship, a white table-cloth floated out from underneath, and I grabbed it. The steward said, ‘That’s no good to keep you warm.’ I told him the idea was that if there was a heavy rain we could catch the water and get a little to drink. On the second morning, I decided that if the boat was anywhere handy, they could come and get me. So I took the knife I got from the seaman and a belaying pin from the fife-rail, and with these tools I worked off a little of the moulding on the inside of the skylight. I lashed the strips together with some rope-yarn and attached the tablecloth to this flag-pole, and fastened it up on the bitt. I thought the boat might see it, if it was any ways handy. This raft of mine was not the best place in the world, and I wasn’t anxious to stay there alone.”

“Quite early in the forenoon, I sighted a sail to the westward. In a short time I could see that it was nearing me. Just how the sail was heading I couldn’t tell until I got hold of the jibs. Then I saw the vessel was heading for me, or just a little north, most of the time. As she got near, I judged they also had had bad weather, and everything was being broken up. I had the impression that every one was busy. The mate would have his men at work, and I thought the chances of anyone seeing me would be pretty small. The captain might possibly be on the deck, and the man at the wheel might possibly be gazing round. So as the vessel came nearer, I got up on the bitt and raised the table-cloth in my hand to make it that much higher, and I held it up till the vessel was quite close to me. I could see men moving on the deck. By and by, they put the helm up, and I thought they saw me and that the captain intended to let his vessel come round to the wind and drop down alongside of me. When I saw that, I let my flag go, thinking it was no more good. At the last minute, the vessel hauled on her course again. I looked for my flag but as soon as it struck the piece of poop, it washed away.”

“Then I wondered if it was possible to make anyone hear. I tried to sing out, but there didn’t seem to be any power in my throat. Then I thought it might be eight o’clock, and that they had shifted watch. But they had seen me, and the captain did what I thought at first he would do.”

“When I was first discovered, it was eight o’clock, and the starboard watch had gone below. The vessel had double forecastles, the doors opening to the side of the vessel. They had all turned in but one man, and he was sitting in the doorway, smoking. The wind was on the quarter, blowing much harder than I thought. The vessel went down in a sea just as I happened to lift on one, and this man got the flutter of that table-cloth. He said, “There is something down there with a white flag flying.” The steward looked and said, “My, there is a man down there,” and ran aft to tell the captain. As soon as he came out on deck and glanced at me, he began to do what I had expected, that is, come up into the wind and drop down alongside of me. He put his glasses to his eyes, took a second look at me, saw the bitts and thought there might be a whole hull there submerged. That was why he put the ship on her course again.”

“His men were not in very good shape; they had malaria. It took him some little time to get volunteers and lower his boat. He got a little vial of water ready because he didn’t know how long I had been floating round. He intended to give it to the men in the boat for me, but he must have been a little excited, for when he went up into the main-top to see where I was, and give the boat’s crew directions, he forgot about the vial. As the boat came to me, I said, ‘You can’t come in there,’ and I jumped in and swam to it. The boatswain, an old Welshman, in charge called, ‘Don’t throw your life away!’ But I got alongside, and they picked me up. I was bareheaded, in my stocking-feet and shirt-sleeves.”

“The vessel was the barque Barroma, Captain Hughes of Liverpool, England, loaded with cotton from Charleston, S. C. He was a kind and thoughtful man, as getting the vial of water showed. I told him about the Regina and the boat, probably to the S. E. of him, and he hunted round all day for them, but did not find them. We did see a wreck, Norwegian built, with no men on it.”

“I was landed at Liverpool a little before Christmas.”


In the year 1872, there was a barque of 542 tons built at Quebec, in Narcisse Rosa’s yard, and christened the Countess of Dufferin out of compliment to the beautiful and gracious lady who came that year to Canada as the consort of our most popular Governor-General. For nigh on twenty years this ship endured the sea, a long life for a wooden vessel, and this is the saga of her last voyage.

In the latter end of 1891, the Dufferin was loading lumber at Saint John, N. B., as many a vessel has done before and since. Her hold was packed with square timber, like a sausage with meat, and her deck was piled with fragrant spruce and pine deals, lashed, chained and wedged together until they seemed part of the ship itself. Ship and cargo together must meet the ordeal of North Atlantic winter weather.

On December 15th she put out from Saint John for Londonderry. For ten days she met with variable winds and weather, but, on Christmas Day, a south-westerly gale was helping her strongly on her road to Ireland. Captain Doble, however, noticed that the barometer stood at the ominous figure 28, and still was falling. Expecting “something heavy” he had his main top-sail “goose-winged”, which means that half this sail on the weather side was tied up tight. So with just a rag of canvas showing, the ship was “hove-to,” facing her dangers.

Captain Doble also put out a “sea-anchor” or drag, to aid in keeping his vessel head to wind.

The warning of the falling glass was soon fulfilled. Hardly was the Dufferin put in this posture of defence, when, out of the north, another gale smote the barque with hurricane force, “accompanied by heavy cross-seas”. The deep boiled like a witch’s caldron. “Cross-seas” are commingling, fighting billows, a confusion of contending, furious water-jotuns, trampling down the strongest ship and crushing it like a child’s toy.

As soon as the tempest struck the Dufferin, it was plain to see that the huge deck-load would put her down. It had to be jettisoned. All the hard labour of the Saint John stevedores had to be quickly undone by desperate men fighting for their lives. But they succeeded, with great difficulty, in getting the last stick overboard, which brought the labouring vessel some relief.

All Christmas Day, the Dufferin tried to hold her own; but manifold, sudden, terrific strains in all directions, and the direct assaults of the sea began to dismember the luckless vessel. And the winter night closed down.

Before the bleak dawn of the next day, the combers that swept over her, had smashed through the forward part of the cabin, and carried overboard all provisions. The crew managed to get two barrels of apples out of the stateroom, but before they could be secured, they were washed away. Most of the drinking-water was in casks in the lower hold. The salt water got in and spoiled it. For six days following, the crew of the Dufferin had not a crumb to eat or a drop to drink.

The ceaseless buffeting and racking of ocean sorely tried the old barque. The oakum started from every seam, and the water came pouring in. The pumps were manned, and the crew did their utmost to keep her free, but their labour was useless. Besides, the bitter wind covered the decks with ice. Pumping became too dangerous, and Doble, with the good captain’s sense of responsibility for the lives of the crew, called his men off. The pumps ceased to clank, the water poured into the hull, and the Dufferin settled down and down, till her deck, over which the waves washed ceaselessly, was flush with the sea.

It stands to reason that a vessel loaded to the hatches with wood is very like a solid log. Like a log, she may roll and pitch and wallow in the sea, but she can no more sink than a log. So it was with the helpless Dufferin. There was nothing more for the crew to do but hold on and not despair, while the drag still held her head to the sea, and the pitiful red ensign streamed from the rigging, union down. Starving, freezing, they crouched together under the slight shelter of the forecastle. The short winter day ended, the long winter night came on, and then the gray dawn. Then the final calamity showed its face.

The close-packed timber in the hull took up the water and began to swell. Something must give way and that something was the old frame of the doomed barque Countess of Dufferin. The men could see the deck bulging. It was only a question of hours when their ship would go to pieces under their feet in the chaos of billows. So passed Monday, the twenty-seventh, Tuesday, the twenty-eight and Wednesday, the twenty-ninth of December, without a sign of rescue, or the least alleviation of their sufferings. When would the end come?

Now the story turns eastward to Cardiff in Wales, where the Yarmouth barque Arlington of 849 tons is moored alongside the wharf. Her captain was Samuel Bancroft Davis also of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, a lucky shipmaster, who, in all his forty years at sea, never once had to wait for a fair wind. He was a “driver”, once beating the steamer from Quebec to Havre in the barquentine Peerless with a load of deals. While at Cardiff the Board of Trade decided that the owners of the Arlington did not make sufficient provision for the safety of the crew, and decreed that a new life-boat of the latest build and pattern should be added to her equipment. Later, that boat proved its right to the name. The Arlington herself was not a lucky ship. First and last, she was the death of thirty-two men; but, before the end, she had something to show on the credit side of the ledger.

In this same December, the Arlington had brought a cargo of deals across the Western Ocean and was homeward bound in ballast to New York, all well on board. During the night of the twenty-eighth Captain Davis had a remarkable dream. He heard someone calling from a ship in distress. So vivid was the vision that he sprang from his berth and ran on deck to see if all was well. Beyond the wild winter weather, all was well. There was no sign of a ship, no sound beyond the wind and waves. In the storm, the staunch Arlington was making a good run under reduced sail. So Captain Davis went below again.

But his vivid dream, if it were a dream, would not leave him. Two terms seemed to stand before his eyes and to ring in his ears.

“Latitude, fifty-two North. Longitude, twenty-one West.”

He got out his chart and fixed this position. It was a day’s sail away to the northward, far out of the track of steamers and sailing-ships. To hunt for a derelict there or thereabouts would mean a wide deviation from his course and most serious loss of time. It might be the wildest wild-goose chase. None the less, that cry for help was so real that this hard-bitten driver of a Yarmouth captain, altered his course two points to make the Arlington cross the spot in the ocean where his dream told him the derelict was lying.

At breakfast he told his dream to the mate, James L. Hemeon, also a Yarmouth man.

“I saw us taking the crew off a square-rigged vessel, like our own. And I saw you going in the boat to get them.”

Hemeon did not, of course, remonstrate or criticize. Yarmouth captains maintained discipline, with the accent on the middle syllable. But privately he thought his captain had suddenly lost his wits. He remembered the tragedy of the Esther Roy. Putting the ship on a new course to hunt for a wreck in mid-winter all over the Western Ocean on the strength of a dream was sheer madness. If he still wanted proof, there was the circumstance of his going in the boat to the rescue. Rigid etiquette and ancient sea custom prescribe that duty to the second mate, like oversight of the sails and rigging. The first mate’s place is on board. Mr. Hemeon remembered other cases of masters going mad—Charlie Armstrong shooting the men off the yards—and so on. None the less he carried out the orders and all that day the Arlington ran on farther and farther north over an empty, angry sea. Every mile she ran took her farther from her port of destination.

So passed the twenty-ninth of December. Ship routine continued unbroken from watch to watch. Nothing happened. Every one on board knew of the “old man’s” vagary, and every one shared the first mate’s opinion. At midnight, Captain Davis took on for the middle watch and paced, as usual, the weather side.

Suddenly, about three o’clock, in the pitchy darkness, the look-out spied a darker mass upon the sea, and sung out just in time.

“Something on the lee bow. No lights up. Cannot make it out.”

Captain Davis luffed up, properly indignant, for running without lights at night is a crime, and shouted through the speaking trumpet.

“What ship is that? Why haven’t you your lights up?”

The Arlington had just missed crashing into the stranger and no more.

Out of the dark came the answer, “Barque, Countess of Dufferin—water-logged—sinking—we have nothing to put up lights with—please stand by till morning and take us off.”

Davis shouted back: “I’ll stand by.”

Five long hours passed, as the Arlington made short tacks keeping her eye on the derelict. By eight o’clock it was barely light enough for the sailors to see what they were doing. The Arlington came as near the Dufferin as she dared and spilled oil over the side to make some sort of “smooth.” Davis called for volunteers, for a captain cannot order men to almost certain death, and three able seamen, all Irish, stepped forward, Daniel Keefe, Frank Sullivan and Thomas O’Leary. Unknown to them, the crew of the derelict were mostly Irish. As they were launching the new lifeboat, Anderson, the second mate was on the rail, busy with the falls, when a sudden roll of the ship jammed him between the boat and the davits. He broke three ribs and a bone in the right forearm. So the first mate, Hemeon, had to go in the boat after all.

It was no easy work launching her in that wild sea. Two trips were necessary to take off those eleven men from the Dufferin. The rescue occupied an hour and a half; every moment had its own danger and difficulty; but the stout hearts won through. Before she could be got on board the Arlington again, the new Board of Trade life-boat was smashed against her side; but it had served its predestined purpose.

Everything possible was done for the starving, frost-bitten castaways. Food, medicine, clothing were given with sailor generosity. Captain Davis had forty pairs of woollen socks in his chest and he used them all. Captain Doble’s feet were so badly frost-bitten that he was in hospital in Baltimore for weeks. As soon as he reported his vessel abandoned at sea, Lat. 52°, 30ʹ N. Long. 21°, 20ʹ W., to be exact, he wrote a grateful letter to his preserver.

On the representations of the British Consul at Baltimore, where Doble told his story, the British Government gave Captain Davis a fine gold hunting-case watch for his “Humanity,” while the Board of Trade presented Hemeon with a silver medal, and the three intrepid Irishmen with a bronze medal and three pounds sterling apiece for “gallantry in saving life at sea.”

Captain Davis was accorded one more peep into the future, when the Peerless was being treated rudely at Glace Bay, in the matter of loading coal. He “dreamed” that the steamer which unjustly was to have his berth, lost her propeller and could not get in, and also that the mine would take fire. He told the agents of both events before they happened, so they were only too glad to load “that d——d barquentine” and get her away.

As to the rescue of the Countess of Dufferin, Captain Davis offered no explanation and formed no theory. “He rather felt,” said his proud son, “that the Almighty had used him to carry out His wishes.”


Though he always attended the Presbyterian church when home at Maitland between voyages, and though he read his Bible regularly when at sea, Captain Jim Ellis did not believe in foreign missions. A waste of time and money he declared. But circumstances over which he had absolutely no control led him to change his mind.

The Ellises were a large family living at Shubenacadie, the headquarters of Le Loutre in the olden days, whence supplies were brought down that turbulent river to the shipyards scattered along the shore of Cobequid Basin from Five Mile River to Maitland, Selma, Noel and the rest. Jim Ellis was a poor boy, but William Lawrence, the great ship-builder singled him out for his ability and character to command his vessels. It was Jim Ellis who sailed the Great Ship on her famous fortune-making voyage round the world. Like the Industrious Apprentice, he married his master’s daughter and made many prosperous voyages in the rolling Pegasus, a well-known Lawrence ship. Then he was promoted to command a big iron English ship, the Ancona and his luck changed.

On the 5th of May, 1892, he found himself off Bougainville Island, the largest of the Solomons. His Sailing Directions were clear about giving these islands a wide berth. The inhabitants were savage, treacherous head-hunters and cannibals. Theirs was a black record. In 1854, they had murdered a whole boat’s crew of H.M.S. Sandfly, survey ship. When the yacht Wanderer was quietly at anchor in one of their harbors, all on board mysteriously disappeared. And there were gruesome tales of murdered missionaries.

In the night, the wind had failed and the heavy tropical rain poured down. The Ancona lay like a log on the sea, rolling on the heavy swell, all her gear clamouring, and the water dripping from her sails. With the cloudy tropical dawn, a swarm of canoes put off from the shore and made for the motionless Ancona. Swiftly paddled, the tall, crescent-shaped prows, inlaid with shell and mother-of-pearl, came dipping over the foamless waves and were soon alongside. Then little, black, bushy-headed, naked men with runaway chins poured over the Ancona’s bulwarks and covered her decks. Every man carried a spear, or club, or bow and quiverful of poisoned arrows. Ellis and his crew were helpless in their hands. There were no firearms of any kind on board, not a shot-gun, not a revolver. Even if every one of the crew had been well armed, resistance would have been hopeless.

Captain Fred Ladd, on his honeymoon voyage, had to arm his crew to repel Malay pirates, but there was no fight.

Fear is generally a stranger to the heart of the Nova Scotian sea-captain, but now, though there was no sign of it on his face, fear laid its grip on Captain Jim Ellis. What was the object of these unwelcome visitors? What did they want? They were running about everywhere, examining everything on deck, peering into the galley, the men’s quarters forward, climbing about the rigging. They seemed filled with endless curiosity about the strange big canoe. They were picking up odds and ends.

They could not be fought with. Could they be bribed?

He consulted with his mate.

“Try ’em with food, Mr. Brierly,” he said.

“Don’t stint ’em!”

So the cook and the steward began handing out supplies from the lazarette, ship’s bread and canned goods, opening the tins of meat and jam and passing them as fast as they could to the reaching black hands. The savages ate greedily, smearing their faces with the contents of the tins, and talking all the time in their curious, low-pitched monotonous voices. There was something sinister in this flow of strange speech no one could understand. Captain Ellis had spoken to them first in English, without response. His few words of Samoan were just as unintelligible. Apparently there was nothing to do but try to fill their savage maws with food.

One man, obviously the chief, attached himself to, Ellis, and followed him about like his shadow. The burly Nova Scotian could have choked the life out of him in two minutes; the desperate thought even crossed his mind of seizing him and holding him for ransom, but a moment’s reflection showed the futility of his wild scheme. A hostile motion towards the head man would have meant a massacre. Ellis wondered when the clubs and lances would come into play, and the poisoned arrows be fitted to the bow-strings. Nothing seemed to satisfy the unwelcome visitors. They showed no sign of taking their leave.

Most of them seemed afraid to enter the various doors of the deck-house. They would peer into the dimness but they would venture no farther into what might be the white man’s trap. The chief showed greater curiosity and less fear. He went up on the poop and into the pilot-house. Ellis had no choice but to accompany him. The illsorted pair went down the companion-way to the mess-room, which the chief explored thoroughly, then into the saloon which was a new wonder. By signs he made the captain understand that he must always precede him. The saloon with its couch, especially the resiliency of the springs, seemed to interest him. Seeing a door on the further side of the saloon, he motioned the white man to open it, and the two were in the third room of the series, the captain’s own private state-room. There the head man saw something that threw him into a state of the wildest excitement; he pointed, he jabbered, he gesticulated. What roused him was the ship’s Bible lying open on the captain’s desk, where he had been reading his regular morning chapter.

Who can follow the processes of the savage mind? What thoughts passed through the brain of this savage chief? Other white men in big canoes traded. This buckra captain gave with both hands from his wonderful stores of riches and asked nothing in return. Why? Because he was a good man and followed the precepts of the good book. Now everything was plain. The book was the answer to the riddle.

The chief’s excitement increased. Always with the sibilant hum of his strange speech, he explained by means of vivid pantomime, that a man, a white man, an old man, with a long beard had come to his island, in a big canoe like this, and taught him and his people from this book. It was a good book,—a good book. He made that plain. And then he hurried on deck, followed by the bewildered Ellis. He said something to the tribesmen which produced instant silence and he pointed to Captain Ellis. Making him understand by signs that he would soon return, he jumped into his canoe which was swiftly paddled to the shore. Ellis was mystified but the cloud of his anxiety lifted. The intent of the savages was not murder and plunder.

From the quarter-deck the captain of the Ancona eagerly watched the course of the canoe to shore. Above it towered the volcanic cones of mountains 7,000 feet high, with cloud about their summits. In a short time it was returning as swiftly as the crew could paddle. It was hardly alongside before the chief was on the deck, kneeling at Ellis’s feet and pouring out a flood of strange humming hissing speech. In his hand he held some small object wrapped in a dirty piece of old sailcloth which he evidently regarded as very precious. Slowly he unwound the outer wrapper, showing a roll of grass fibre. Unwinding this, with much ceremony, he showed a roll of leaves, and then, Ellis found himself looking at the precious object—a small yellow sea-shell lying in the black palm.

He wanted to laugh—desperately. The sense of relief was almost too much. But the headman was intensely earnest, and the smeary faces of the silent, crowding, mop-headed savages were set and grave. Danger was not passed. Evidently what the chief was doing was most important. Ellis felt that even now a false move would be fatal, he must overcome the desperate impulse to giggle, and he fixed his eyes and his attention steadily on the shell.

It was cone-shaped, about five inches long, slender, graceful, the end suggesting an opening rosebud. The ground colour was pale ivory overlaid with a mosaic of thousands of tiny triangular figures of different sizes. These triangles were outlined in chrome yellow or deep chestnut brown. Ellis counted three broad spiral bands of orange encircling the body whorl beneath this fretted pattern. The longer he looked at it, the better he liked it. It was certainly a pretty shell. On the chief’s black palm it had a lustre like porcelain suffused with faint rose. It almost mesmerized Captain Ellis.

At last the incomprehensible harangue came to an end. The chief made the captain know that he was to have the treasure, and Ellis received it with bows and smiles and many hand-shakings. In return, the Nova Scotian made him a special present of tobacco, and saw him over the side, and he and all his tribe took a friendly leave. Patterson had not died in vain, nor had Atkin writhed for hours in the agonies of tetanus, without resulting good. The clouds parted, the wind came up and filled the Ancona’s sails. She gathered way and soon the green shores of the island faded. By noon, the conical mountains were below the sea-rim.

Four weeks later, Captain Ellis sat in the verandah of the hotel at Hong Kong talking to a stranger. He was an American, a great traveller, who had been all over the world in the interests of a famous museum in the United States. His department was conchology; he was collecting shells of all kinds. He was a good talker; he knew everything about shells; he had been in the game all his life; his conversation had all the fascination of a specialist discoursing on his specialty. At last the captain said, “I’ve a specimen myself. Would you like to see it?”

The American was eager. The captain went to his room and brought down the chief’s gift to the verandah. The American took it carelessly, looked at it nonchalantly, carried it over to the light, and examined the little yellow shell, through the lenses of a pocket microscope, turning it over and over.

“Yes,” he said, as he returned to his chair by the captain’s side, “it’s not a bad specimen of the ——” and he pronounced some words in a foreign language a simple seaman could not be expected to understand. “I’ll give you ten dollars for it.”

Natural caution and ingrained Nova Scotian thrift made the captain hesitate. He said nothing. The stranger went on,

“I’ll make it twenty-five.”

Ellis seemed to catch a shade of eagerness in his tone, and he shook his head.

“No,” he said slowly, “I don’t think I want to sell it.”

“I’ll give you fifty,” said the stranger, reading Ellis’ refusal as hesitation, and now there was no doubt of his eagerness. “I’ll give you anything you like.”

There was something in the stranger’s manner Ellis did not like. “He put my back up,” he said, in telling the tale.

“No,” I said, “I’m going to keep it for my little girl.”

Captain Ellis has long since done with the sea and lies in Maitland churchyard. His little girl has a girl of her own who is ready for college; and she still treasures the chief’s gift, the yellow shell, which her father brought home from the Solomons.

In the eighteenth century, Conus Gloria Maris was cherished by Dutch collectors. It is one of the rarest and loveliest things in the world. Kwass bought one at auction, paying a fabulous price. He crushed it under his heel, saying

“Now I possess the only specimen in the world.”

He was wrong. There are three specimens known to the conchologists. One is in the Museum of Natural History. Its acquisition was so important that the museum issued a special descriptive bulletin. But there is a fourth uncatalogued example of “The Glory of the Sea”, the keepsake of a Maitland captain’s daughter.


Maitland is the Deserted Village of Nova Scotia. In the heyday of sail, its shipyards rang from daylight till dark with the clamour of saw and broad-axe and adze on hardwood, of mallet on caulking-iron, of hammer on trenail. At night, nine hundred men would be free to walk about the one long street. Maitland was the home port of famous ships and able captains. Here was built the Great Ship, which made the Lawrence fortune in one voyage, the tragic Esther Roy, and many another staunch Bay of Fundy vessel.

Now the hamlet is shrunk and silent. Rarely does a human figure cross the street. The shore farms, and the few remaining big houses look across the restless red waters of the Bay, in their portentous ebb and flow, towards Economy and Masstown and Great Village, and beyond, to the blue range of the Cobequids. Sunset over these hills is like a gate; opened in the Celestial City letting free the splendour of God.

The village smithy, with the loft above it, stands as it stood when Isaac Douglass forged iron work for Maitland vessels. He was a man of character, whose sons followed the sea. Four of his daughters married Maitland captains and went round the world with their husbands. Margaret, the baby of the family, married the youngest son of “Squire” MacDougall, John Curry. He was named for the Presbyterian minister, who ended as a Hebrew scholar and Professor of Old Testament Exegesis in Pine Hill. That gives the measure of Maitland. Margaret Douglas was slender and tall, with exquisite hands and feet, a dark beauty, the clear red showing through her olive skin, eyes rather deep set, the chin firm, the mouth showing humor. Her old school-master remembers her as a bright, pretty, well-behaved child. In disposition, she was notably quiet and gentle, the sort of woman who would not say a harsh word of any one: and she was a favourite with her own large family and many relatives.

So they were married, and in a few years MacDougall was in command of the big barque Launberga of nearly fourteen hundred tons. She was a master-piece of his brother Adams, but she was also his ruin. He was three years in building her at South Maitland, where the railway station stands, which is a marvel to all who hear the tale. In 1892, when she was launched, wooden ship-building was already in its swift decline.

Now the story turns eastward. On Saturday, March 23rd, 1895, the Launberga was at anchor in Iloilo roads, near the low-lying, white-walled town with the old Spanish fort at the river mouth. She had carried a load of coal from Newcastle, N.S.W. to Manila. After discharging, she took in ballast and cleared for Iloilo to load sugar. At Manila, the hands had not been allowed on shore, but they were promised liberty at Iloilo, a promise, which in the sequel, could not be kept. Though they were the sweepings of Sydney, chiefly ‘Dutchmen,’ there had been no trouble with the crew, except with one Irishman, Pat Kelly. As soon as possible after making port on the Friday, Captain MacDougall went ashore to enter his ship at the Customs. The British Vice-Consul told him his crew were not to have shore leave, because the last lot of sailors had run riot in the town and killed a native woman, MacDougall obtained a letter to this effect from the Vice-Consul. On returning to the Launberga, he called all hands aft and read the letter to them. They received the unwelcome news in silence and dispersed to their duty without a word. Two Carabineros, or native policemen, well armed, were sent on board to prevent the sailors from going ashore.

All the Saturday, the crew were busy with whips and buckets, hoisting out the ballast into lighters alongside to make room for the sugar. Four bells struck. It was six o’clock, the end of the first dog-watch. Work was over for the day. Supper was ready cooked in the galley. Sweating, red-faced men lounged about the deck, while the ballast-lighter hoisted sail and began to move slowly away from the Launberga’s side. When a sailor makes port after a voyage, two things he must have. One is a drink. There was not a drop of liquor in the big barque. Curry MacDougall never carried it, even in the medicine-chest. But a bumboat, knowing sailors’ needs had sneaked up to the bow with rum, and the sweating hands had drunk it. They were rather talkative and noisy. Beyond the wide-spread, green, misty paddy fields, a tropical sunset of violet, gold and rose aspired to the zenith. All was peace at the end of the day’s work. Then, without warning, the storm broke.

Captain MacDougall had gone forward to see that the lighter got clear away, and then turned back to the cabin and supper. Amidships, by the starboard main rigging, Mr. Bowyer, the first mate, James Evans, the second, and Tom Desmond the boatswain were watching the lighter lazily fill and gather way. Two of the men, just off duty, Brown and Shuman came aft to the end of the forward deck-house, and began talking at their officer, with their backs to him, in loud, rum-brave voices.

“What do you know about it? You old ——” said one.

“You know nothing about it,” said the other.

A regular Bluenose mate like George Crosby or Charlie Hunter would have stretched the pair on the deck the next second, but Bowyer was old and past his work. He made as though he had not heard their drunken insolence, and walked aft toward the poop-ladder. As their officer retreated, Brown and Shuman faced round and shouted,

“You would not give us liberty.”

“We will get drunk every day.”

“Come on,” shouted Shuman, “let’s go for him,” and they rushed him and knocked him down beside the main-deck capstan. Land, Goydlewski, Kelly and Abrahams joined in beating him, till Desmond pulled two of them off and gave the mate a chance to escape. Bowyer got as far as the foot of the short poop-ladder leading to the quarter-deck. Here Shuman assaulted him again, but could not prevent him from reaching the poop, to which sacred precinct the foremast hands, awed by sea tradition, dared not follow. But only for a moment did they hesitate. Brown wrenched the door off the hen-coop, hurled it at the mate’s head and missed. Shuman flung a lump of coal from the galley with better aim and hit him in the face. He crashed over the edge of the poop to the main deck where he lay as if dead. The six drunken sailors closed in, kicking the prostrate man and stoning him with lumps of coal ...

Captain MacDougall had barely reached the pilot-house, or little porch at the forward end of the cabin, when he heard the riot, and turned to see his first officer knocked off the poop and lying to all appearance dead. The men were beating him ...

Mutiny, more dreaded than even fire at sea had suddenly flamed up in the Launberga ... The crew are many ... The after-guard so few ... Odds always against the officers ... His wife,—his two little children ... He was unarmed ...

He rushed down the companion-way and through the mess-room, where the table was set for supper. His wife in a white dress was standing with baby Annie in her arms, looking startled.

“Oh, what is the matter?”

“They’ve killed the mate. Where’s my revolver?” and he hurried to his stateroom.

In another minute he was back, pistol in hand.

“It’s not loaded. Where are the cartridges?”

“Here, sir, take mine. Don’t wait!” and the steward, Robert Otto, a Shelburne boy, thrust his own six-shooter into his captain’s hand. MacDougall sprang up the companion-way, followed by the loyal steward.

Even the children in the mess-room knew now what the uproar meant. The little Malay cabin-boy snatched the carving knife from the table and started after his captain. Maggie MacDougall twisted it out of his hand, pushed him and four-year old Fred into a stateroom, and turned the key. Then, always with baby Annie in her left arm, she ran through the inner room to the after-companion-way and flew up on deck. The ballast-lighter was just passing the stern of the Launberga on her way to Iloilo. She was within easy hail.

“The crew have killed the mate,” she shouted, “For God’s sake, send the gens-d’armes. Quick! For God’s sake! Do you understand?”

The lightermen’s shout meant they understood. Margaret MacDougall ran round the cabin on the starboard side, clutching baby Annie, “to help the captain” ...

A minute before, MacDougall had come out of the pilot-house, and forward to the break of the poop in two strides.

“Get forward, men!” he thundered. “Do you want to kill the mate?”

“Yes,” screamed Pat Kelly, “and you too, you —— and he headed the rush up the poop-ladder, his sheath-knife drawn. Close behind came Shuman, Brown, Land, Abrahams and Goydlewski, the Pole, black-and-red, scowling faces, open, cursing mouths, all mad with rum, rage, and the taste of blood.

From the main-deck, behind them, Desmond and Evans shouted:

“Shoot! captain, shoot to kill!”

As the mutineers swarmed up over the poop, MacDougall gave back two or three paces, and fired over their heads. But they were far beyond being cowed by any show of force.

Kelly, the foremost, struck savagely at MacDougall’s head, and laid his face open from the hair to the middle of the cheek. Red flooded the captain’s face, blinding him. Red flooded his clothing ...

Kelly struck again, madly ...

The men were body to body. MacDougall fired a second time and Kelly went to the grimy deck as if pole-axed, flung on his back, with a bullet in his lungs. He lay bleeding, and coughing blood. His shirt was smoking where the powder had set it a-fire.

The five others closed with the blinded captain, struggling to wrench the revolver from his hand. “Squire” MacDougall’s sons were round-headed, round-barrelled men and dangerous fighters. Curry MacDougall fought for his life. Some one stabbed him in the neck. Another struck him on the back of the head with a lump of coal and felled him to the deck ...

Why they did not end him there with a slash in the throat, or a pass between the ribs is hard to tell. They did not want the will ...

MacDougall struggled to his knees,—to his feet,—gripping his pistol,—and fought on,—blinded and bleeding. He was trying to work back to the pilot-house, and his enemies were trying to disarm him.

Up and down, the five men wrestled, over the narrow area of the poop. Land got possession of the revolver at last, and did two unaccountable things. Instead of emptying it into MacDougall’s body, he stepped to the port side and fired a single shot. Then he ran forward, knife in hand, drove the Carabineros into their room with threats of instant death, and fastened the door on the outside with rope-yarn.

Loyal Tom Desmond had raced up, weaponless, and flung himself between the knives and his captain. He threw his arms round MacDougall, offering his body as a shield, and shouting reason to the madmen. Otto also was in the mellay, doing what a boy could to protect his captain. The mutineers dragged Desmond loose with curses ...

“Damn you to hell, Tom ... Get to hell, out of this. We won’t hurt you ...”

“Let’s finish the bloody swine” ...

Gentle Margaret MacDougall, who could not say a hard word of anyone, saw and heard all this for two or three petrified seconds. Instinct, not reason, moved her. She rushed into the knot of would-be murderers and got her one free arm around her man.

“For God’s sake, men, don’t kill my husband,” she screamed; and they gave back, hesitating, while you could count ten. Her unthinking, impulsive, natural action saved her husband’s life.

Seizing the momentary respite, by some miracle, she never could explain how, she and loyal Robert Otto dragged and pushed her husband inside the door of the pilot-house, though she was shut out, and Otto was stabbed deep in the neck.

Shuman was the first to recover.

“Yes,” he yelled, “and you too, you ——”

He seized her and flung her with her baby to the deck. He struck her in the face and kicked her in the side. She was trampled underfoot.

Desmond shouted,

“Don’t hurt the woman! Think of the woman and child!”

His appeal touched one of the ruffians, Goydlewski, the Pole. He helped the battered, fainting woman, almost frantic with terror and pain, round the cabin to the after companion-way, and somehow or other she found herself in the after-cabin.

Be it remembered to the honour of the common sailor that he also picked up baby Annie and put her in the companion-way, before joining his companions in their assault on the cabin. The poor mother thought her little girl had been killed, or thrown overboard. Meantime, Desmond had bethought him of the armed Carabineros, and ran forward to their room. He undid Land’s lashings, and knowing some Spanish, begged the representatives of law and order to come out and prevent murder; but they would not stir.

The death-wrestle on the poop had swayed to and fro over the narrow ten foot area where Kelly lay in his blood, cursing, groaning, coughing blood, and crying for help. The fighters had trodden on him.

“I’m dying” he cried. “Get a doctor—for Christ’s sake—”

At last, after Captain MacDougall got into the cabin, the mutineers heard Kelly’s cries and paid heed to them.

“Signals!” he gasped. “Signal for a doctor—I’m dying—Get a doctor!—For Christ’s sake.” For a few moments, the would-be murderers turned aside to help their wounded leader.

Half stunned, panting, bleeding from two deep gashes, blinded by his own blood, MacDougall found himself in the mess-room, and made his way into the inner cabin or saloon. Otto fainted at the foot of the cabin stairs, where Mrs. MacDougall found him later in the night, lying in a pool of blood. To the inner cabin Mrs. MacDougall had already found her way. Bruised, dishevelled, badly shaken, she began at once to bind up her husband’s wounds.

The two bolted and barricaded both doors. They must have expected nothing but death, and known its bitterness. The clock against the bulkhead marked twenty minutes past six.

Overhead the uproar continued. The tramplings and outcries redoubled. The drunkards were fighting among themselves. They had broken open the flag-locker and strewn the contents all about. But no one knew which hoist would bring the doctor from the shore. They raged round the cabin like wild beasts, trying to break in, hacking at the windows with their knives, shouting obscene threats and curses.

“Come up, you —— and show us what flags to hoist.”

“Come up—”

“We’ll cut your hearts out—”

“You haven’t five minutes to live—”

They threw everything they could lay their hands on down the companion-way. Mrs. MacDougall heard them going forward for axes to break through the skylight ...

“We’ll come back and finish the job.”

And then, in their extremity, came unexpected relief. The minds of the raging drunkards took a new turn. Their victims had escaped, but poor Pat was dead, or bleeding to death. As they could not find the signal for the doctor, the next best thing was to take Pat to the doctor. So they lifted the wounded man into the quarter-boat, and compelled the other watch to help them to lower it. Brown cut the falls, and next minute the mutineers were rowing for Iloilo, though they were soon diverted from their purpose.

The two in the cabin could hardly believe their ears, when they heard the boat splash in the still water, and the sound of the oars die away. Then they were able to draw a long breath, and attend to their injuries.

Bowyer, who was not so badly hurt as the captain and the steward, went off in a boat for a doctor. He had hardly gone, before Captain Ned Hurlbert, of all men in the world, walked into the cabin. He was one of the MacDougalls’ oldest friends. An hour after the mutiny began, his vessel, the Bowman B Law of Yarmouth had anchored within one hundred and fifty yards of the Launberga. The mutineers had rowed out to her, and one had even climbed on board and perched on her rail till Hurlbert drove him off, and went at once to the aid of his friends.

In another hour, the Spanish gens-d’armes arrived from Iloilo. Little Annie was found curled up unhurt and asleep by a water-butt forward, whither she had crawled in some unaccountable way.

The mutineers were arrested that same night, examined in Manila, and sent on to Hong Kong for trial. Shuman died of sunstroke in jail. The other four were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. All the wounded afterguard recovered from their injuries, but the voyage back to New York was one long nightmare, with an incapable Lascar crew, and Mrs. MacDougall’s nervous break-down. Curry MacDougall was never the same man again, and he carried the mark of Kelly’s knife to his grave.


The casual visitor to South Maitland will hardly believe that deep-sea ships were once built there. On one side of the flat, grassy, high-walled, wooded dell are the station, the little white inn and a few houses with their backs to the hill. Behind, a steep road curves up to the house of “Squire” MacDougall. There is no water visible. But here W. P. Cameron built the full-rigged ship Savona of more than fifteen hundred tons, and he launched her without mishap on August 26th, 1891. Deep, hidden, winding creeks fill at the Fundy spring tide, and can float the largest keels out to the Shubenacadie, out to the Bay, out to the five oceans, and round the world.

The Savona, named for that city on the Gulf of Genoa, which has the credit of inventing soap, was a bonny ship, one of the latest triumphs of the Nova Scotia naval architect. She represented the culmination of the ship-builder’s art at the very moment when steam was driving sail from the sea. Above her royals, she carried sky-sails on her towering masts which seemed to rake the blue. Under full sail she was a picture to delight a seaman’s eye, and she was as staunch as she was beautiful. That was shown when the test came; but, like other beauties, she was dogged by ill luck, until her final wreck. The captain’s wife matched the ship.

One of “Squire” MacDougall’s nephews, was christened Hedley Vicars, like other Nova Scotia babies, in memory of that evangelical British officer, who was converted while in garrison at Halifax, and who died before Sebastopol. Hedley MacDougall went across the water for his bride, to Onslow, that lovely countryside, where the shire town might have been instead of Truro. The only daughter of Noble Cumming, Justice of the Peace, elder in the Presbyterian church, was a notable beauty. Black-haired, rosy-cheeked, generous, loving to rove the world, twenty years of age, she was just the wife for a sailor. Even now, when her black hair has turned grey, May MacDougall would be singled out for her looks in any assemblage of women. A photograph taken in Yokohama, shows her as a bride in Japanese costume, obi and kimono, seated on the floor pouring tea for her husband, who is also masquerading as a Japanese. The face is full of charm, at once fresh, fine, delicate and strong:—the broad forehead, the well opened eyes with arched eye-brows, the straight nose and firm chin testify to keen sensibility blended with vivacity and swift intelligence. It is Mimosa San in person, with the animation of the West.

So, she sailed with her husband in the Savona round the world. Her last voyage began on March 3rd, 1901, when the Savona set out from Sydney, N. S. W., with a cargo of oil-shale for Rotterdam. All went well. Even the dreaded rounding of Cape Horn was easy and uneventful. On the evening of April 20th, the Savona was off the Falkland Islands; the captain and his wife were on deck together at the hour of sunset. The sun had sunk below the skyline, but the horizon was a broad band of ghastly green, in which were reflected many suns. It was a strange sight, a portent. Who could read the meaning of that sign in the sky?

The woman shivered, but not with cold.

“I don’t like it,” she said, within the strong arm that steadied her on the uncertain deck.

“Pshaw!” laughed the man. “Pretending to have nerves—you!”

But it was the last time he was ever to look on the sunset.

The last night of his life, Hedley MacDougall spent chiefly on deck. Harry Mosher, the second mate, a boy from Cheverie, had suffered much from a felon on his finger. The captain relieved him; for the junior officer might fall asleep from sheer weariness and endanger the ship.

About six o’clock in the morning, the sea became strangely agitated, pitching and tossing the Savona in an unaccountable manner. There was no storm, in the sailor’s sense. Just the regular squally April weather off the Falklands. But the squalls must have been heavy, for two men, Victor Rosenkran, a Norwegian, and Karl Jensen, a Dane, were needed at the wheel to keep the big ship steady on her course. One squall fiercer than the rest carried away the fore top-mast. The mild sea term means far more than one would think. A mast is built in three sections, the lower mast, the top-mast, and the top-gallant mast, all joined together and held in place with the utmost of the rigger’s art. The Savona’s top-mast being broken, down it came with the top-gallant mast, and the five yards they carried, crashing to the deck, or over the side. The fall of the top-mast brought down all the head-sails, the jibs and staysails rigged from the fore-mast to the bow-sprit. Carrying away the fore top-mast meant wreck to the forward part of the Savona. Her bow would be a tangled confusion of spars, sails and cordage. For the time she was disabled and would not be herself again until the wreckage could be cleared away, and new masts rigged. She was a cripple, like a man with a broken arm before it can be set.

About seven, the captain came down to the cabin for his morning coffee, and he had it in his stateroom with Mrs. MacDougall. He advised her to keep her berth, on account of the rough weather. Nova Scotia captains were always slow to admit to their wives that a storm was raging. Then he went back on deck. Frank Johnson, the old black steward was setting the table for breakfast in the mess-room. On deck all hands were busy about the forward deck, clearing the raffle and making such repairs as were possible under the direction of the first mate, John S. Kyffin of St. John; the captain was at his usual station on the house, ruling over all, when the Savona was pooped.

The landsman thinks of waves as the short ripples seen in marine pictures, or as observed on his summer holidays by the seaside. Only the sailor knows that “mountain wave” is hardly an exaggeration. The wave is not a wave to the ordinary imagination. It is the sea itself, rising, lifting and falling like a slipping hillside on the ship. Such a wave, doubtless of volcanic origin, unheralded, immeasurable, towering, had fallen on the ill-starred Savona, when she was all a wreck forward, overwhelming, drowning her.

A ship is built to take the blows of the sea in front. With its sharpness, its subtle curves, and its arch-like strength of structure, the bow is well designed to sustain the mighty buffets of the sea. The bow is at once a sword to divide and a shield to ward. But sometimes, in rare circumstances, the sea bludgeons the ship from behind, where, from her very nature, she is least fitted to endure the assault. The sea “boards” the vessel from the stern, or poop, with dire effect. Such a calamity had befallen the crippled Savona.

There was a crash like the Crash of Doom. The men forward saw the wave, seemingly forty feet high, curling over their heads, and they jumped for the rigging. The enormous billow struck and covered the whole ship many feet deep. She seemed sinking to the bottom. Well for the Savona she was buoyant wood and built of honest Bay of Fundy spruce. A ship of steel or iron with a cargo of stone would have sunk, like a stone. But the stricken Savona slowly recovered and struggled to the surface again.

That single mighty blow wrecked the after part of the vessel and took four lives. It smashed the binnacle and the wheel. It killed the two men steering. They were found far forward, about amidships, and on the opposite sides of the deck, stone dead, under a pile of wreckage. Fastened to the bulk-head above the bureau in the captain’s state-room were three chronometers. One was found under the lifeless body of each wheelsman.

The strong-built cabin was swept clean. A battering-ram of water drove straight through it, cutting out both ends, as neatly as carpenters could have done it with sharp axes, but leaving the roof and sides uninjured. The skylight was not even stove in; nor was the glass in it broken. And yet the half-deck, the narrow alley-way which runs round the cabin on three sides, was crushed flat to the main deck below. The whole structure of the cabin was lifted slightly from its strong foundation on the transverse beams. There was a lateral thrust in this wave, and also a tremendous downward blow, as of a supernatural trip-hammer, or pile-driver.

In her berth, May MacDougall heard the crash of the falling cataract above her head, and the splitting, cracking uproar of rending woodwork, and found herself drowning under an icy flood. She was swept out of her berth, with her mattress under her, through the bulkhead, or partition, which divided the state-room from the saloon, through the partition that divided the saloon from the mess-room, and through the farther end of the cabin. She brought up at the foot of the mizzen-mast under six feet of piled wreckage, cabin furniture, and splintered woodwork. The icy flood drained away swiftly. Chilled, choking, terrified, she heard Kyffin shouting orders, and she knew the captain was gone. Beside her lay the body of the black steward with every bone in him broken.

“I could have put out my hand from where I lay and touched him,” she said.

Her only hurt was a little bruise on the right elbow. The lazarette and the bread-box behind the bed took the first shock of the terrific blow, and a heavy settee fastened to the saloon bulkhead had turned over her lengthwise and fended off the murderous wreckage. Her life was saved as by a miracle.

Captain MacDougall was nowhere to be seen. Just before the mountain wave broke, the mate had a glimpse of him standing on the top of the house. All thought he must have been washed overboard. There was no trace of him. But all the while he was not far away.

Fore and aft, the Savona was a wreck; “nothing better than an open boat from the stern to the waist.” The wave had smashed the steering wheel; that meant the rudder could not be moved to guide the vessel through the world of waters. It smashed the binnacle, the thickset stand in front of the wheel, holding the compass by which the helmsman steers; that meant direction was lost. The ship was afloat, her hull was sound, but fore and aft she was a wreck, and lay a helpless log upon the sea, that still buffeted and shook her. The storm raged with great fury for a whole week, during which time all suffered from want of food and clothing.

Kyffin proved himself the man for the emergency, as was the way with Bluenose mates. Out of a spare sky-mast, he made a tiller, and lashed it to the rudder-head, through which he fitted two crowbars. By means of tackles rigged to the bulwarks, the ship could now be steered by the simple process of pulling and hauling. This job was done in four hours after the accident, and it was a marvel to the old hands who saw the contrivance in port. The want of a compass was a harder matter. Two compasses had been damaged past repair, but a “tell-tale” compass escaped destruction. A “tell-tale” is an inverted compass hung face downward, from the cabin ceiling, so that the captain can see, without going on deck, if his ship is being kept on her course. The Savona’s “tell-tale” was found among the wreckage. The officers were not familiar with it and, to the nerve-shaken men, it seemed to have been thrown out of gear by the tremendous upheaval, like everything else on board. According to it, the sun was rising in the west. They brought the puzzle at last to the captain’s new-made widow. The woman’s wit suggested turning it upside down, when the sun came back at once to his proper station in the sky. So, the crew were able to make repairs and rig jury-masts.

The cook was an old Frenchman who suffered from rheumatism. Captain MacDougall had had the carpenter build a bunk for him in the galley, where he could keep himself warm. Now, with the total destruction of the cabin, this became May MacDougall’s quarters, and the cook berthed forward.

Without chronometers, without a proper compass, with a broken, patched quadrant, encountering frequent gales, still, Kyffin made the land in as true a position as steamers coming into port, fitted with the best of instruments. He was a sailor and the son of a sailor. Bringing the crippled Savona into port was a triumph of navigation.

Food was not a problem. There were canned goods, and the flour was not all spoiled. Water was a more serious matter, but it lasted to the voyage end, though it turned bad the day after.

In her crippled state, the Savona was twenty-six days in reaching Montevideo. She was once within sixty miles of port, when a pampero drove her off the coast, and it took eight days to recover the lost distance.

Some time after the accident, the cat, which had been the captain’s pet, began to behave in a strange way, mewing and trying to attract the attention of the men. At last, on the eighth day, when the storm had somewhat subsided, they followed her. She led them to the wreckage still piled forward and under it was the dead captain.

“When the men found my husband, he was lying with his arms folded,” said Mrs. MacDougall, as she told the story by her own quiet fire-side, “and a tiny blue mark on his temple—no other mark or disfigurement. Death must have been instantaneous. As the big wave rolled up astern, the mate turned from his position on the forward deck and saw the captain standing on the top of the house. I always think he thought it was death for all and folded his arms to meet it.”




There was nothing remarkable, Captain W. A. Inness assured me, in his experience on board the Leah H. Whidden, when she was dismasted off Newfoundland; but, out of his own lips, the tale, as he told it, proved that he was wrong. Like many other ship-masters, he began to follow the sea in sail, then went into steam, and finally has a proper berth ashore, which is the natural reward of every good sailor-man. During the war, he did yeoman service in command of a trawler and is justly proud of his commission and the executive curl on the sleeve of his uniform jacket. Inness is the black-eyed, black-haired, compact, alert, quick-moving, energetic type of man. He told the tale in his own comfortable house in Halifax, with Mrs. Inness sitting by, her sewing on her knee, supplying comments or making asides.

The Leah A. Whidden was built in 1903, at Liverpool, that ancient nest of daring privateers, by Steadman Gardner, and she was owned by C. B. Whidden of Antigonish. Schooners lack the majesty of the old time full-rigged ships, but they have the grace of sea-birds and the same intimacy with the sea. The Whidden measured about two hundred tons and carried three masts. Such a schooner is called a tern, which is also a name for the little skimming sea-swallow. She was a dainty craft. Wherever she went, she attracted notice by her fresh painted white hull, her red deck, her scraped and varnished spars; for smartness is an ancient tradition in Bluenose ships. Dockside spectators took her for a yacht; and newspapers had admiring paragraphs.

(“He used to walk up and down—so proud”—from the lady with the sewing.)

The Whidden was built for the fish and cocoanut trade. For some time she carried ivory nuts from the San Blas Coast to be made into buttons at Philadelphia. At one end of the voyage, the captain and his wife saw the manners and customs of the primitive San Blas Indians, a chaste and cleanly folk, and at the other, they enjoyed the hospitality of a great American manufacturer in his own home. In 1906 the schooner was sold to J. B. Parter of St. Vincent, B. W. I; and the West Indian owner, in happy ignorance of winter conditions in northern latitudes, ordered her north in the winter of 1907-8. She was to make her way to St. John’s, Newfoundland, with a hundred tons of ballast in her hold, and there pick up a cargo of fish. “Obey orders and break owners” is an old maxim of the merchant marine; and, accordingly, the Whidden proceeded to her port of destination. If the owner had only known a little more, he would have been spared a long bill for repairs.

The crew consisted of captain, mate, Arthur Vaughan of Conquerall, a prime sailor, four hands, the cook, and, this point is not to be missed, the captain’s wife. Mrs. Inness was a Telfer, which is a good Scottish name, and she came from Caledonia, Queen’s County, a point as remote from the sea and its influence as any in Nova Scotia. Nor was she bred to the sea; before her marriage, she was a school teacher.

(“I used to make him so ashamed”—from the busy seamstress—“talking about going upstairs, instead of on deck.”)

And still, with all her voyages, Mrs. Inness looks the part, with her keen intellectual face and learned spectacles. Her glory is her wealth of hair, once richly auburn, now turning gray, which she wears, braid upon braid, coiled into a coronet. Inlander though she was born, she readily learned the ways of the sea, till she could take her trick at the wheel and steer a compass course. In the sequel, she proved herself, like William of Deloraine, good at need, the man for the emergency.

It was in the night of February 12th, Lat. 33° N. and Long. 55° W., that the Whidden’s troubles began. After a fairly long passage from Bahia of thirty days, she was still about 800 miles from Cape Race, heading for the ice-lane, but not yet having reached it. At eight bells, the crew snugged her down for the night. The spanker was stowed, fisherman fashion, the boom secured solidly in the crutch with a selvagee strap on a heaver. The mainsail and foresail had each a single reef. Under these, with fore staysail and jib, the Whidden bored into the winter night. The weather was what sailors call ordinary.

At ten o’clock a hail squall out of the north struck the schooner—“The hail would cut your face,” said Captain Inness—and the port fore-rigging, which helps to hold the foremast upright, carried away. At once, Inness put his helm up, and wore ship, in order to bring the lame side of the schooner to leeward, but

“As we wore round, an extra heavy puff came at the wrong time. Under ordinary conditions of gybing, the foresail should have swung over easily and filled, but owing to the mast leaning over the side, the foresail would not gybe, until the wind was nearly on the beam.”

When the mainsail caught the wind, it swung across with a terrific wrench, which broke the gaff, riddled the sail and brought down the mast-head gear. The three top-masts came down together, but swung clear of the deck. Still held by their cordage, the heavy spars were flailing wildly in the dark.

“We daren’t go anywhere.”

And then the starboard fore-rigging carried away, and the foremast jumped out of its step. It was standing on the top of the fore-house, swinging to and fro with every lurch and roll of the Whidden. All that kept it from crashing down on the heads of the crew were the jib-stay, the fore-stay which runs down to the stem-head, and the stout spring-stay which binds, like a taut bowstring, the head of the foremast to the head of the main-mast.

(“He didn’t tell you he wanted to go up and cut the spring-stay,” said the captain’s wife, “and when he asked who would go with him, all volunteered.” “The Newfoundlanders are brave” said the captain, “but it was too dangerous. You couldn’t have got up with those top-masts swinging about.”)

If they could have got rid of the foremast, they might have saved the other two sticks. Meantime, the jib had been blown away, but the staysail was still in place. Inness sent the cook forward to cut the stay at the stem-head, but he was unable to do so. Once again, the captain wore ship, making a second great circle in the sea away from the wind, in order, if possible to save the boat which was stowed on the fore-house beside the fore-mast. They might have to take to the boat at any moment. Slowly, the injured vessel came round, and, for some time, with the wheel in a becket, she rolled and wallowed in the wintry sea.

Then—the three masts went out of her, all on the starboard side, without leaving a scratch on the boat; for it was on the port side.

“The main-mast unstepped from the kelson,” said Captain Inness, “and fell whole. It did not break till it struck the rail, and the foot of the mast hove the deck up. When it broke, the lower part of the mast fell back into the hold, and the deck went back into its shape. The broken stump remained sticking over the rail, until the end of the voyage.”

“The mizzen-mast broke off about fourteen feet above the poop-deck, but the mizzen rigging was intact. When we made sure she would be dismasted, we let go the spanker peak-halliards, and the boom-lifts, and we cut the topping-lifts and halliards. We cleared away everything from the weather side. We saved one side-light; the other went overboard.”

“All the spars were over the side, and under the bottom of the schooner, with the broken ends sticking out above the water. They were held there by the jib-stay, the starboard main-rigging, and both sides of the mizzen-rigging.”

Let the landsman consider the plight of the Whidden and the destruction worked upon her in some twenty minutes. Three top-masts, portions of three lower masts, two gaffs, two booms,—eight heavy pieces of timber in all,—inextricably knotted and netted in a tangle of running and standing rigging, are over one side of the helpless little schooner, pounding violently on the hull, threatening to stave her planks in at any minute, and send her to the bottom. And it is a black winter’s night of storm.

Inness sent the mate and cook forward to cut the jib-stay and so save the bow-sprit. They cut the jumbo stay, and reported all clear, for the other could be cut at any time, but later, they were unable to do so. In the dark, and by the feel, Inness and his men cut away whatever held the jumble of broken spars under the vessel. Soon they had the last lanyard severed, and all this indescribable raffle floated out from under the Whidden. So that immediate danger was over. After a very short time, the tugging mass of wreckage broke the bowsprit from the stem, floated off ahead, and acted like a drag, or sea-anchor.

Round about four o’clock in the morning, there was a wrench from all this dragging stuff which broke the stem-plates off. It all floated clear; and the Whidden fell off, and the seas pounded on the counter.

“Where was the wife all this while?” said Captain Inness, “She was crocheting, I guess. We had to batten down the skylight; for a heavy sea might fill you. Windows and shutters were all closed. It was dark, for the air got kind of bad, and the lamp wouldn’t burn.”

(“I wouldn’t stay below,” said the mutineer with the sewing.)



“As soon as it came daylight,” said Captain Inness, “we had a muster to see what we were doing. The sun came out clear. It was still blowing hard, but the weather was fine. Part of the mainsail was still hanging to the boom. We cleared it away, used part of it to batten the deck, and put the rest of it into the hold with everything else we could save.”

Once more let the landsman consider the situation. All the masts and sails were gone with the bowsprit and head-sails. Her means of locomotion were destroyed. The stripped hull was wallowing like a log upon a rising sea. What was to be done? Hoist the flag, union down, and wait the passing ship for rescue? That is not the way at sea. Nor is it Bluenose fashion to stand by idly waiting for Providence to aid. Sailors know that Providence helps those who help themselves.

“We took a pole used for deck-lashing,” said the captain, “and put a couple of guys on it. We tipped it up over the forward end of the deck-house and lashed it to the stump of the foremast. We carried the guys to both sides of the schooner, and fastened down the foot of the pole by spiking blocks to the deck for a step. Then we got up an old flying staysail out of the hold and hoisted the head to the top of this pole.”

The single rag of canvas on the jury mast served to give directed motion to the shorn and battered hull. The Whidden came round out of the trough and ran before the wind. But the wind increased, the sea began to make and soon the waves were mountain high.

(“You wouldn’t think a nigger could turn pale,” said the captain’s wife, “but Jeff did when he was steering and a sea broke over him.” There was danger of the stern falling off.)

“What did we eat? Something out of a can,” said Captain Inness. “We didn’t think much about eating. Then our sail blew away. I saw the middle of it half a mile to leeward; but now she had way on, and steered without it. We set a storm trysail in its place, and continued with this for two days. We also rigged a tarpaulin on the stump of the mizzen-mast, and hauled it up and down between the heavy squalls.”

“So it continued from the morning of the 13th to noon time of the 15th, when I got an observation, and found that we had run two hundred miles E. S. E. from the position where we were dismasted.”

“That afternoon, the wind moderated, but the sea was still heavy. We took down our pole from the stump of the foremast, and the storm-trysail. We cut what was left of the mainsail and sewed up the rips. We made a square sail of it from the double reef down. Then we put up the main boom for a fore-mast in the same way that we set up the pole, and we used the pole for a yard. We jogged under this sail that afternoon and night. On that same afternoon, we unbent the spanker, and made plans how to cut the sail to make it fit, and how to put up the spanker boom as the main mast.”

This spanker boom, still firmly in its crutch since the night of the 12th, was a spruce spar, fifty-six feet long, and nine inches in diameter; and it would weigh about a ton. The job of turning it into a jury-mast and hoisting it into position was something of a problem. Stepping masts is a harbour job, which is done alongside a wharf with a shears and all appliances, as well as plenty of time. How was this to be done in a tossing vessel in a heavy sea?

Captain Inness told how.

“We unslung the boom and put the forward end down on the main deck. We sawed the jaws off flush with the clapper, and put the clapper end against the after end of the port side of the main hatch. That left the after end of the boom resting on the top of the cabin, with that much of a cant on it. We took a new coil of four-inch, four-stranded Manila rope and fitted two guys on each side of the after end of the boom. Then we put a tackle on it also, and led the end of the fall forward to the windlass. Some turns were passed round the windlass, and the cook took the turn while the four men hove on the windlass. I took the two guys on the port side and the mate the two on the starboard side.”

“ ‘Who steered?’ Mrs. Inness was at the wheel.”

(“And I never got such a bawling-out,” said the sewing lady. “He said, ‘If you let it go that way you’ll kill the mate, and, if you let it go that way, you’ll kill me.’ ”)

So the four men began to heave on their handspikes. The stout four-inch rope creaked and strained as it coiled round the drum, and the cook gathered in the slack. The end of the long spar rose slowly from the roof of the cabin. At the right moment, Inness on the port side, Vaughan on the starboard side, made fast and slacked away their guys to keep the heavy timber from toppling down the one way or the other, upon their heads.

“What we did was to keep abreast of the end of the spar. Up it went. There was no place else for it to go. We had to stop when the schooner rolled, and Mrs. Inness brought her to.”

In half an hour the ticklish job was done.

The ex-spanker boom was now in the position of the main mast, firmly held by five stout ropes, but not quite in the centre of the vessel.

“We put a tackle on the foot and hauled it across in the middle and secured the foot, spiking some blocks round it and putting a lashing to the fife-rail. We set it up like a real mast. Next, we unbent the spanker, cut it across, sewed rope along the edge, and made a leg-of-mutton sail of it for our main mast. For a bowsprit, we slid out an old cargo-gaff and contrived a jib out of a condemned staysail. For the mizzen, we used light stuff, awnings and a fore staysail. Altogether, we fitted her out with a suit of six sails, and they served our purpose.”

“The ship’s cat behaved in a curious way. She used to come up on deck in the afternoons, and lie on the poop in the sun. After the dismasting, she came up one day, took a look round, decided it was not her ship, went down to the cabin and refused to come on deck again.”

“On the eighteenth, we fell in with the Matador, a big freighter going to Colombia. We got out our boat and went on board. She supplied us with tobacco, vegetables and yeast-cakes; and she also reported us when she reached New Orleans on the twelfth of March—“proceeding under jury-rig, with the crew all busy making repairs, and the captain’s wife steering.”

“They called our rig a jackass barque; but it was quite useful. With it, we made twelve hundred miles in nineteen days. We reached St. Thomas, on the morning of March the second; and sailed to an anchor.”


The four-masted schooner Joan Keilberg was lying alongside the grimy wharf, having just made Halifax in seventy hours from Flushing, N. Y. with a load of coal. Her captain, “Jimmy Leander” Publicover, knows how to get the most out of his handsome, speedy, nine hundred ton vessel. Five men out of Lunenburg suffice to handle her. His father, Leander, Mark I, aged seventy-six, sails with him as mate, and gave a hint how the Joan Keilberg earned profits for her owners in the lean years, when she carried pulp-wood, summer and winter, in all weathers, from Mahone to New York. “Been sailin’ two years and never tied a reef-p’int in her yet. May have eased the peak-halliards”, he conceded.

Captain Publicover was discovered in his ample cabin making a toy schooner. Mrs. Publicover was entertaining some friends. Several children were playing about, but Billy the eldest, aged sixteen was living in the fo’c’s’l, learning his trade like his father and his grandfather before him. Captain Publicover is a little, slight, dark, neat-footed man with a high arched aquiline nose. His expression is close, unsmiling, suggestive of nerves and anxieties. He could not be described as a willing witness, when he told of his experience with the water-logged Tilton. The facts had rather to be dragged out of him. One would almost think the gold watch and chain awarded him officially by President Woodrow Wilson in the name of the Great Republic for saving the lives of seven American sailors involved some sort of scandal. But the Lunenburg way is not effusive.

In December, 1912, Captain Publicover was bringing the tern schooner W. N. Zwicker of 398 tons, back from New York to Ingram Docks, Nova Scotia. His brother Charles, aged eighteen, was mate, with three years experience; and the other seven were all Lunenburg boys, of the finest race of sailors afloat. On Friday, the 20th, the Zwicker was forty miles E. N. E. of Cape Cod, homeward bound, in a gale from the north-west with snow squalls and a heavy sea. It was typical North Atlantic winter weather. She was proceeding with reduced canvas, reefed mainsail, foresail and staysail; the big spanker was safely stowed, as well as the jibs. At Flushing, the Zwicker had been swept clean and was navigating without an ounce of cargo or ballast. Most expert handling was needed to keep her from turning over.

“At nine A.M.” said Captain Publicover, “I sighted a tern schooner flying signals of distress, about two points off our lee bow and four or five miles away. She was heading south. She appeared as if hove-to, but, through the glass, I could see the gaffs. Her sails were blown away. I swung my vessel off and bore right down on her.”

“We did not dare to go close enough to hail, but we could see seven men lashed to the spanker boom over the cabin-house, one after the other. They were sitting in the lee, of course, and got a little shelter from the waves which were breaking over her constantly.”

“The decks were all that much under water.” And he held his hand about four feet above the cabin floor. “Only the high bowsprit and the gaff were showing. The sea was breaking like over a ledge, and it was bitter cold.”

A vessel with her decks under water, either water-logged or sinking, looks like a living person being lowered into an open grave. This was the plight of the tern schooner, Henry B. Tilton of Isleboro, Maine, P. W. Sprague, master. Thirty-six years old, she had left Windsor, N. S. lumber laden for New York a few days before, but had encountered heavy gales. Her sails had been blown away, her seams had opened and let in the sea till she was water-logged, her bulwarks were smashed, her boats were gone, her stern was stove in and her whole deck-load was canted forward. Every wave, as it encountered the solid mass of the submerged hull, broke and burst in a sheet of foam as high as the three mast-heads. The crew could do nothing more but await death or rescue. Every wave buried and half drowned them; and the smothering agony was momently renewed.

The problem Captain Publicover had to solve was by no means easy. Rendering assistance and saving life at sea come as natural to the sailor as breathing. But vessels have been known to sail away and leave shipwrecked men to their fate, like the stranger who abandoned the raft of the Regina. Publicover had been wrecked himself, and saving life was nothing new to him. When the Virginia piled up under the cliffs of LaHave at night, in the worst snow-storm in sixty years, he swung all his crew ashore, one after the other, over the bow, with the jib down-haul. He was willing enough to attempt the rescue. But there were other considerations.

It was wild weather. The steamer Florence was lost that day; the big liners were delayed and reported “the heaviest gales for years.” Was he justified in risking his own vessel with all on board? She was light and rolled terribly. It seemed as if she might turn bottom up at every roll. Only the smartest handling could keep her from capsizing. Nor could she come near the wreck, or launch a boat. Publicover might lose his vessel, his crew, his own life, in a vain attempt at rescue. For hours he laboured for a decision, torn this way and that.

“I reached to the northward, until twelve o’clock,” said Captain Publicover, “so as to get away from the schooner, and waited for the weather to moderate. If she sailed away, or drifted away, my conscience would be clear.”

The seven frost-bitten, half drowned men, lashed to the long boom, saw the strange sail come near enough to understand their desperate plight and then—desert them. Away she went to the northward till she was only an uncertain blur between the tumbling crested billows and the grey low-lying clouds. Their hearts died within them.

Then Publicover made up his mind. He wore ship, lowering his peaks and came about.

“I set the jib and came back quick. About three o’clock we came up with her again. I was going to try to take off those men, but nobody on board expected me to get through with it.”

“I got my dory on the poop with tackles in the rigging to get her over quick. A life-buoy, an iron bucket for bailing and the oars were lashed into her. When all was ready, I brought the schooner under the lee of the Tilton. I had to take chances every way, so I took ’em that way to start with. The sails were hauled down, and the wheel was hove hard down and lashed. I gave orders to the mate not to change her position unless I got to the leeward with the dory, in which case he was to run to the leeward of me and heave-to, which didn’t happen.”

“Then I called for a volunteer,” because a ship-master may not legally order a sailor to almost certain death, even if he himself leads the way.

“More than one came forward. Practically all. I picked Fred Richard, and made him understand if he drowned, my family wasn’t to be blamed. I expected to be drowned myself.”

That a captain should go off in a boat and leave his vessel in charge of the mate is clean against the ancient custom of the sea. It is unusual, almost unheard of. The captain’s place is always on board his ship. Publicover was criticized for this action; but it is hard to see what else he could have done.

Fred Richard, aged twenty, new to the coasting trade, and ignorant of danger “jumped quick at the chance.”

The two men stripped to their overalls and singlets, with their sheath-knives in their belts. They stood in the thirteen-foot dory as she hung in the tackles, steadying themselves by life-lines rigged over the side. Then as their cockleshell dropped into the turmoil of the waves, on the weather side the two, with the swift precision of acrobats, unhooked the tackles, slashed the rope-yarn that held the oars and began to pull like madmen away from the Zwicker.

“That was the hardest part,” said Captain Publicover.

They had to fight their way to windward over a quarter of a mile to the submerged hull of the Tilton.

“I called to the captain, and told him I would try and save him if he would obey my orders. Which he was very glad to do. I told him to unlash one man at a time and get him down in the lee mizzen-rigging.”

“So he did. It was smooth to leeward. We took two off the first time, one in each end of the boat. We drifted back about half a mile, but we daren’t go alongside. They threw us life-lines from the schooner which we fastened round our passengers, and they hauled them on board same as a codfish.”

For the first time, a faint smile crossed the captain’s face. “Our fellows boused them on, same as you’d haul a shark. The cook had hot coffee for them as soon as they got on the deck.”

“That first trip we were almost lost under the counter. They took the man out of the stern first and almost swamped us. But that learned us.”

Then they set out on their second strenuous pull to windward, a longer pull, for the vessels were always drifting farther apart, and took off two more men. Four men in a thirteen-foot dory would bring her gunwale very near the water; there was urgent need for the bailing bucket; but somehow this miracle of rescue was performed a second time. A dory will live when a schooner will founder.

Then for the third time, in the failing light of the shortest day in the year but one, Publicover and Richard rowed back to the wreck and took off the three remaining men, Captain Sprague, of course, was the last to leave his vessel. If four men was a load for the dory, five seems impossible; but Lunenburg boys know how to handle a dory; so these two brought their precious freight to the safety of the rolling Zwicker.

“Then I said to Fred to send the bucket and life-buoy and his oars and the thort on board. So he did. And we lost nothing. ‘Now, Fred,’ I said, ‘you go in the life-line.’ The boys were getting anxious, for they didn’t want me to go, and they thought they couldn’t find the land without me.”

“I watched for a good smooth. I made the end of one of the life-lines fast to the painter of the dory. The other I threw over my shoulder and grabbed my oars and the thort. By this time the dory was filled, and I was going up the side. We hoisted the dory in by one of the tackles, and the water spilled out of her. We lost nothing.”

He was sweating in his overalls and singlet.

Expansiveness, as already noted, is not the Lunenburg way, but thrift is. There was no reason why a careful ship-master who had earned the Victoria Cross three times in two hours should lose any of his gear, which costs money, and money is not easy to get in the coasting trade. After saving the crew of the Tilton, Publicover’s mind turned not to thoughts of fame or self-congratulation, but to saving his dory and everything in it down to the movable thwarts. His strongest feeling must have been thankfulness to find the deck of the Zwicker under his feet once more.

“At eight o’clock we made sail, and shaped our course for Seal Island, which we reached at four A.M.”

By six o’clock that same evening, the Zwicker had beat into the majestic entrance of the lovely LaHave river and anchored with twenty fathom of chain. That closed the episode as far as Captain Publicover was concerned. Of course, he logged the incident in the “Remarks” for December 20th, as the law requires, without waste of words or undue display of emotion. The entry reads, in part.

“This day comes in blowing a gale of wind and a heavy sea running, put out a boat and rescued the crew of a distress vessel, it being very dangerous work.”

But Captain Publicover was not allowed to be the grave of his own deserving. Captain Sprague was passed up the river, with his men, to the care of the American consular agent at Bridgewater. No seal was on his lips, and he put the whole affair in a different light, when he made his official report to Mr. S. A. Chesley.

“Although in the face of the storm and terrible seas then prevailing the attempt seemed perfect folly,” Publicover and Richard did, in fact, what they set out to do.

“The dangers of the transference” continues Captain Sprague, “were almost indescribable, and the heroism of the two men who accomplished it beyond praise.”

Five months later, at Mr. Chesley’s instance, Captain Publicover made a sworn statement before him, of the facts as related, and attested a copy of the entries in the log. Mr. Chesley, in turn, made representations to the American Consul at Lunenburg. And, in the end, the Lunenburg captain got his watch from President Wilson, and Fred Richard a gold medal, with an inscription on one side, and a woman’s head on the other, “in recognition of his heroic services.”


Transcriber’s Notes

The book’s idiosyncratic use of hyphens has not been changed. A small number of changes to spelling and punctuation have been made silently to achieve consistency.

[The end of There Go the Ships by Archibald MacMechan]