Loss of the Comet steam-boat.

A prose description of the wreck and a set of verses focusing on the fate of the passengers

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It is with feelings of deep regret and. sorrow that we have to communicate with our readers the account of an accident of the most melancholy kind. Last Friday morning, the steam-boat Comet with passengers from Inverness & fort William was run down off Kempock-point between Gourock and Clough Light-house, by the Steam-boat Ayr, outward bound. In rounding the point the vessels came in contact with such force and violence, that the Comet went down instantaneously, when above 70 persons were in a moment precipitated into the deep - into eternity!
Ten only are saved, out of above 80 which were believed to be on board. The greater number of those who have perished are perished are persons in the superior ranks of life. The ayr we learn lais a light upon her bow, but the Comet had none. As the night, however was clear it was obvious that that bad look-out had been kept up, and most reprehensible neglect shown on both sides. The Ayr received such a shock, and was so much damaged that she reached Greenock with much difficulty, in a sinking state. It was blowing fresh with a heavy sea. It was also exceeding cold; and at the moment the accident took place, those on the deck of the Comet were, it is said, engaged in dancing, in order to keep themselves warm.
Several dead bodies were washed ashore amongst them were 2 genteelly dressed females, 2 black servants, and Mrs Wright.
In the pockets of the body of a gentleman washed ashore, 70l. was found. Amongst those who perished was Capt. Sutherland of the 33rd Regt. And his lady, who are only 5 days married. Mrs Sutherland caught hold of Mr Colin Alexander Anderson, (the only cabin-passenger who is saved), & for some time clung round him, but in the struggle with the waves she lost her hold and perished. It is reported that amongst the sufferers is the lady of a Colonel of the army, with a family of 7 children, from Inverness. The pilot and carpenter were saved: also, a young girl and a woman who was floated ashore betwixt two tables, but who unfortunately lost her child by the way. At the time the fatal accident took place, we are informed by Mr Anderson, just arrived in Glasgow, that the passengers, who were below, were in high spirits, amusing themselves, telling and listening to diverting tales. The first stroke hit about the paddle of the Comet. The Capt. And his passengers immediate ran upon deck to see what was wrong, when the next fata stroke took place with such force, that the Comet filled,, and in 2 minutes went down head foremost. Mr. Anderson states, that the moment this took place, the Ayr, instead of lending them any assistance, gave her paddles a back stroke, turned round, & went off to Greenock, leaving them to their fate. If assistance had been rendered, he thinks many of the sufferers might have been saved; but in the state of alarm in which he was, he may have been mistaken.
The vessel was about a quarter of a mile from the shore when the accident occurred. The water rushed in so rapidly that the engineman was up to his knees before he could reach the deck. They tried to keep the engine going, thinking she might drive them ashore: but the influx of water was so strong that the engine was almost immediately stopped; and in there minutes after the vessel was struck, she went down to the bottom. During the short period which elapsed between the stroke and the sinking of the vessel, about 30 people crowded into the yawl before it was cut loose, and so hastily was this done that the boat was upset, and threw them all into the Water.
The screams of the drowning people were most appalling and cannot be described. Besides many respectable people on their way the Edinburgh and Glasgow, there were, we are led to believe, several iraders (sic) going to Glasgow to make purchases for the approaching Fort William fair. A passenger on board the Ayr related, that he was one of 4 cabin passengers, who were all below when the accident happened. He had laid down on a sofa undressed, heard a noise forward which alarmed him, and before he had time to disentangle himself from the clothes he had thrown over him, the vessels struck, with a tremendous crash. On reaching the deck, he saw the Comet drifting from them. And wheeling round ; there was light enough from the mon to enable him to distinguish the hills on either side, and the various objects around. On board the Ayr the utmost confusion prevailed. The Comet was in sight for about 3 minutes, when a most appalling shriek arose from the passengers on board of her, evidently crowding to the side nearest the Ayr, and with outstretched arms imploring help : not a cry reached his ears after the vessel went down.
This melancholy event will at once revive the recollections of the loss of the Catherine of Iona, from being run down by the Hercules steam-boat, on the night of Saturday, the 10th of August, 1822. In both the calamity was occasioned by steam-vessels, in the very outset of their career. The accidents occurred almost at the same place and had similar causes assigned to them. In the case of the Catherine, 42 persons perished out of 46 -
The following is correct list of the bodies hat have been found:- 2 women, servants of Sir J. Radcliffe, one named Hannah Mitchel. Mrs Wright of Glasgow. 2 women unknown. 2 children, one of them belonging to the female passenger saved ; the other a female child unknow. Mr John Bell, butcher of Dumbarton. Angus Cameron of Fort William. Mr Archibald Graham. J. Grierson, steward of the Comet. Wm Allan, Servant to Mr Denniston, of Cambuskin. James Miller and John Read, of Edinburgh. A girl, about 17, unknow. Duncan Mackenzie, a highland trader. Old man unknow. A woman, supposed to be the mother of 4 children who were on board. James Dingwall. G. Murray, a highland trader. J. Manderson engineer of the Comet. Mis roe of Greenock. A sailor. Ronald Mackenzie, piper to Sir Joseph Ratcliffe. A young gentleman, unknown, green coat, silver watch marked C.B.S. Angus Kennedy. An Irish Pedlar. A young gentleman unknow, Sir J. Radcliff's housekeeper, and some other unknow. There were on Sunday 30 corpses in Gourock church.

 

The morn was cold, the wint'ry blasts did sweep along the sky,
And dreary was the sound of the sea-birds bitter cry;
When sweeping o'er the dark waves the Comet did appear,
With eighty passengers on board, most mournful to relate
How little were they dreaming of their unhappy fate;
With hearts all joy and gladness they long'd for break of day
But a most fatal accident did fill them with despair
The Comet came in contact with the Steam-Boat Ayr
With such great force and violence the vessels they did meet,
That the Comet in a moment went down into the deep.
When the first stroke was given, the passengers below
Rush'd up on deck, amazed, the reason for to know ;
A second stroke soon followed - to save her now was vain
For down she went head foremost into the briny main.

Young children round their mothers clung - one lady she had seven
Who from their weeping mother's arms into the sea were driven ;
A Captain clasp'd his blooming bride, and held her to his breast,
They were but a week married, now in the deep they rest.

The scene on deck was awful, the passengers and the crew
With outstretch'd arms implored help, appalling was the view ;
The LORD have mercy on us all, we in the deep must lie.
With such a loud tremendous crash the Comet she went down,
What made it still more horrible, 'twas darkness all around
The screams of drowning people was awful for to hear,
Enough to freeze our very blood, and force a pitying tear.

Some clung to one another, and struggled with the waves
A lady grasp'd some furniture, and she her life did save,
She held her baby with one arm, but O the cruel tide,
Did wash the lovely innocent from its fond mother's side.

But only ten were saved, and two of them have died,
And many bodies have been wash'd ashore by the tide ;
The moans and lamentations of friends and parents dear
'mong folks of every station is painful for to hear.

O many a heart that long'd for home their bosom friends to see,
Far from their sweethearts, wives, and babes, now sleep within the sea
And a many a mourning widow at night when others sleep
Upon their husband's new-made graves, will often sit and weep.

Printed by J. Catnach, 2, Monmouth Court, 7 Dials
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