Upsetting of the Liverpool Life-Boat on Her Way to Rescue the Crew of the Leila

Upsetting of the Liverpool Life-Boat on Her Way to Rescue the Crew of the Leila. Click on image to enlarge it.

The wreck of the steamer Lelia off the north-west light-ship, at the mouth of the Mersey, on Saturday week, attended with the loss of twenty lives, was followed by the upsetting of the Liverpool life-boat on her way to take some of the crew of the Lelia, who had got upon the light-ship, and seven of the life-boat men thus perished in their attempt to save the survivors of the former wreck. We present two Illustrations of this double disaster, which was briefly described in our last Number.

The Lelia, built by Messrs W. G. Miller and Sons, of Liverpool, was a cutter-rigged steamer of 1100 tons burden, and of very light draught. The registered owners were Messrs. W. C. Rickarby and Co.; but the actual owner was Mr. W. C. Crenshaw. She was commanded by Captain Skinner; her first engineer wn- Mr. Middleton, and she was in charge of a Cork pilot; and there were also on board Mr. Thomas Miller, of the builders' firm, and Mr. Wm. Williams, who has lately been appointed third officer of No. 1 Liverpool pilot-boat. The crew and passengers of the Lelia altogether mustered between fifty and sixty persons. The Lelia left her moorings in the Mersey at half-past at half past nine o’clock on Saturday morning, carrying about. 700 tons of coal as cargo. On her arrival at Bermuda, however, she would have shipped a much more valuable cargo with which she would doubtless have run the blockade into Wilmington. A Confederate officer, Captain Arthur St. Clair, was a passenger on board. The furious gale which arose on that morning caused a heavy sea; and when the Leila came opposite the Great Ormes Head, about two o'clock in the afternoon, the steamer was “slowed” for the purpose of taking the anchors in lest they be lost. When the anchors were got on board the Lelia shipped a heavy sea which knocked the pea of one of the arms of the anchors through the deck. The iron covering of a small scuttle in the fore-part of the vessel was then washed away and through the hole in her bows the Lelia shipped a succession of seas, which soon filled the foremost part of the vessel. Two men named Brodey and Currey were steering at the time, and in a few minutes they discovered that the steamer would not answer her helm. They then told the pilot that they thought the vessel was filling with water, and orders wore given to have her speed still further slackened, for the purpose of discovering, it possible, where the water was getting in. This they were unable to do, as the decks were flooded. and presently another sea broke over her, smashing the forward hatches; another sea lifted the anchor from the portion of the deck in which it was imbedded, and again sent the sea through with tremendous force. Attempts were then made to change the direction of the steamer for the purpose of running her back, but she refused to answer her helm. At this time she was about six miles west of the north-west light-ship. She came up to the sea and lay a helpless body. She repidly filled with water, and in a few minutes her forward compartments had sunk, and her stern was raised high out of the water. Orders were then given for her boats, four in number, to be lowered, but in the effort to. get them afloat two were broken to pieces. The other two succeeded in getting away. Several persons were, it is feared, left on the boat, and it is known that the captain and one of the men were left clinging to some tackle aboard. The two boats — one with eighteen persona and the other with twelve on board succeeded in reaching the north-west light-ship. The boat with the eighteen, including the passengers (six or seven) first arrived, but was driven athwart the bow of the light-ship and swamped. Four men went down with her. Ropes were thrown from the light-ship, and four men were rescued. Mr. Miller, the son of the builder of the Lelia, seized a rope and was drawn close alongside. He was very much exhausted, and, on being seized by the leg by another drowning man, let go his hold and waa lost. The pilots were also lost. . . .

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“The Double Disaster at the Mouth of the Mersey.” Illustrated London News (28 January 1863): 93. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 12 January 2016.

Last modified 9 August 2018