John McCullagh July 3, 2006
PicturePostcardHarbour.jpg

There were other emigrant ships out of Newry during the Famine which encountered harsh conditions on the high seas. 

James McKevitt of Newry was Master of the Serpahine – built and owned by George Guy – which left Warrenpoint on 5 May 1850 with 230 passengers bound for New York. This sailing was not as hazardous as the voyage to Quebec – a more northerly destination and so more prone to collision with ice-bergs.

Yet storms can strike at any time. In heavy weather on 21st  May the Captain ordered all sails to be furled. Still the storm raged and by 2.00 am a hurricane wind was battering her. A massive wave shifted her ballast and severely damaged her deck and four of her lifeboats. The masts were catching the gale and all but the foremast were ordered to be jettisoned. Eventually the vessel righted herself.

 

There was however a leak below the waterline. Some passengers were ordered to the pumps. All through the following day the Serpahine struggled to remain afloat. Two vessels that attempted to aid her were unable to do anything because of the heavy seas.

The followed day the wind abated a little and two more vessels hove by.  By the morning of the 24th May boats from these ships, the Garland and the Woodland began taking on passengers from the Seraphine. After eight hours, with 50 passengers still on the Serpahine, the other boats were full.  More good fortune arrived in the shape of the ship  El Dorado which rescued the rest of the passengers and crew.

Reluctantly even Captain McKevitt and the last of his crew had to abandon the now useless vessel. In contrast with the treachery of Curry Shaw of the Hannah, Captain McKevitt of Newry won the respect and gratitude of his passengers for his valiant efforts on their behalf.

Leave a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.