In transcribing the following passage from the online version of The Times I have used ABBYY OCR software and added italics for the names of the vessels and paragraphing for easier reading. — George P. Landow
Mr. Abraham Dennis, whose deposition before the Receiver of Wrecks has already been printed, yesterday made the following statement to a local reporter:—
I am master and owner of the barge Ronetta, and reside at Nowingten-next-Sittingbourne. On the evening of Tuesday, September 3, I was sitting on the after part of my main hatchway, when I saw a steamboat coming up Tripcock's Point. She rounded the point hugging the south shore as closely as possible. I then heard a shout twice, “Where are you coming to?” I then heard the steamboat's whistle twice, and a shout from the screw, “Port, port.” I had not seen the screw previously, but on looking round I saw it bearing down on the steamboat,
I did not then know that the screw was the Bywell Castle, but I found out that that was her name afterwards. The collision took place a moment after I heard the shout from the screw [i.e., propeller-driven ship] “Port, port.” I called out to my mate, James Hodgman, “For God's sake come up here and save life.” I then jumped into my boat, followed by my mate, and we pulled away with all speed to the spot where the collision occurred. The Princess Alice disappeared almost immediately; I was close under her stern when she went down, and those I picked up jumped out of her. I saved eight lives. Would to God I could have saved the lot!
I hardly know how to describe the scene to you. It was too dreadful. I can compare the Princess Alice to nothing else than a cloud. One moment she was there, and the next moment clean gone. I can compare the people to nothing else than a flock of sheep in the water. The river seemed full of drowning people. I went right in the midst of them, but from their frantic exertion to save themselves I hardly thought I should get out again alive. The shrieks and shouts of the people were piteous to hear, and would have quite unnerved me but for my desire to rescue some of the poor creatures. The people were calling out all round, “Save me, save me, for God's sake save me.” I rendered all the assistance I could. My boat is a small one, only 12ft. long, and I hung more on her than she was able to carry. She was very nearly level with the water, and I dared not attempt to row ashore. Another boat took two persons from me. I do not know their names, but I have the names of the other eight or nine I persons I picked up. I then pulled to the first craft I came to, which proved to be the Eliza Belard. I had to put my passengers out there to get the water from my boat, I then took them in again, and rowed them to Beckton Gasworks, where I put them safe on shore, and saw them safe into conveyances. How we came out of it safe I don't know.
It is my firm opinion that if the Bywell Castle had not ported her helm she would have cleared the Princess Alice, and if the latter had not been there the must have gone ashore. It was a quarter or 10 minutes to 8. It was just dark, but moonlight—the moon was just showing itself. The Princess Alice was keeping her course by a proper direction, and had no other chance of going clear by porting her helm. She had no chance of avoiding a collision than by keeping the course she was going in. If the Bywell Castle had not ported her helm she must have gone clear. There was nothing else in her way to the northward for three-quarters of a mile.
“Home News.” The Pall Mall Budget. 20 (6 September 1878): 28-31.
Last modified 12 August 2018