The Princess Alice Disaster

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od0055Sketch.png The disaster was the subject of many illustrations as well as songs and poems. This illustration depicts the vessels involved with a fair degree of accuracy although in reality the Bywell Castle was bigger than the Princess Alice 


Chronology:    |     Main Themes:
All these items were produced in the weeks after the event and no other material pertaining to the event seems to have been produced until the centenary when the event was marked in a song written by the folk-revival singer Dave Richards the text of which has not been found. [i]  |    - The large number of victims (estimates vary from item to item)
|    - The passengers were taking a pleasure trip
|    - The terror of the passengers
|    - The grief of relatives and friends of the victims
|    - The relief fund 


 The Songs & Poems:

The songs and poems shown here are part of the major outcry arising from the loss of the pleasure steamer The Princess Alice on 3rd September 1878. The Bywell Castle (the ship that ran the Princess Alice down) was identified in early newspaper reports [ii] but is named in only one item (bar734) and referred to - but not named - in two other items (bar488 and bar735). The remaining items make no mention of another vessel being involved. However; such was the publicity given to the event that those who purchased these items would almost certainly have known the basic details of the disaster. Despite the fact that Princess Alice sank among the effluent of a main sewage outfall - a circumstance prominent in survivor accounts and the subject of great subsequent popular debate - none of the items alludes to the disgusting state of the Thames.

The songs and poems vary in genre and include broadside ballads (bar232; bar627; bar734 and bar737); sheet music aimed at the bourgeoisie (bar488); a poem printed in Punch² (bar736) and commemorative cards (bar611) Several declare themselves to be on sale in support of the relief fund to help the survivors and families of the victims (bar232; bar611; bar734 and bar737). 

Historical Background:

The story of the wreck has been extensively analysed and will not be discussed further here.


[i] [accessed 06Aug2019]
[ii] see for example The Scotsman, 4th September 1878 p5 and many other newspapers of that date.

3 across Articles in this Category: click a link

Wreck of the Princess Alice

bar488: Dates 1878~1878|

A general description with little detail

Wreck of the Princess Alice (They left...

bar627: Dates ----~----|

An expression of sympathy devoid of detail [627Synopsis] 

Loss of the Princess Alice

bar232: Dates 1878~1878|

Mainly about the experience of the victims [232Synopsis] 

The Doomed Ship, Princess Alice

bar611: Dates 1878~1878|

Poem sold for the Princess Alice benefit fund

Loss of the Princess Alice

bar734: Dates 1878~1878|

A detailed description of the disaster probably based on newspaper reports. [734Synopsis] 

Loss of the Princess Alice by a Survivor

bar735: Dates 1878~1878|

A poem allegedly written by a survivor

There and (Not) Back!

bar736: Dates 1878~1878|

Poem inspired by the disaster

Thoughts Suggested by the Loss of the...

bar737: Dates 1878~1878|

Religious contemplation of the event. "The profits to be given to the Relief Fund"

Princess Alice Went Down

bar744: Dates 1878~1878|

Fragment of a song sung in the street.

The Wreck of the Princess Alice

bar745: Dates 1878~1881|

Printed in the U.S.A. but probably of British origin.

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