Loss of the Abeona
Transcribed by Trisha McLeod from the Edinburgh Advertiser, 16 January 1821
LOSS OF THE ABEONA TRANSPORT.
It is with the most poignant regret we have to communicate the melancholy fate of the Abeona transport of 328 tons, under the charge of Lieutenant MUDGE, of the Royal Navy, which sailed from Greenock in October last, with settlers for the Cape of Good Hope.
On the 25th November, about noon, in latitude 4 deg. 30min. North and longitude 25 deg. 30 min. West, the Abeona unfortunately caught fire, and was burnt, under circumstances of the most awful and distressing nature. Out of a crew of 21 persons, and 141 emigrants, men, women, and children, making a total of 161 persons, only 49 are saved. These are happily all safely landed at Lisbon, and have subsequently sailed in the Royal Charlotte, merchant brig, for Greenock, except ten orphan boys, whom the Gentlemen of the British Factory, at Lisbon, have taken under their protection.
The fire broke out in the after store-room, whilst the Chief Mate was occupied in some necessary business there, and such was the awful progress of the flames, that only three small boats could be got overboard, before the flames consumed the tackles etc necessary for hoisting out the long boat.
In these three small boats, forty nine persons were received on board with so scanty a supply of provisions, that the consequences must have been almost equally dreadful with the untimely fate of those left on board, had not a Portuguese ship from Bahia, bound to Lisbon, most providentially fallen in with them at day light next morning, and received them on board, in which they were safely and hospitably conveyed to Lisbon, after cruising about the fatal spot till non, in hope of descrying some of the miserable sufferers who might have clung to part of the wreck, but without success.
Of the crew consisting of 21 persons, 14 are saved, including Lieut. MUDGE the Agent, Mr. FISHER, the Surgeon, the Master of the ship, the second Mate, the first Mate, in the most feeling manner, refusing to go into the boats, saying that he would abide the fate of those left on board.
Of the 126 emigrants, mostly from Glasgow and its immediate neighbourhood, 26 have been saved and 100 lost. Of the 14 passengers who had come round with the vessel from London, 9 are saved and 5 lost. The survivors, with the exception of ten orphans kindly detained in Lisbon, arrived at Greenock on Saturday night.
Lists of the persons saved have been sent to the Chief Magistrates of Glasgow and Greenock, for the information of those who may have friends or relations on board this ill-fated vessel.
The following is a statement of the Emigrants, in number 126, who were on board at the time of the melancholy catastrophe :-
A letter received from one of the survivors of this melancholy accident details the scene in the most heart-rending language. At the time of the accident they were in latitude 4º30 W. The fire was occasioned by the carelessness of the mate who took a candle into the store-room without a lanthru. This man, when the boats were preparing to put off, being urged by some of his messmates to save his life, replied, “No, I pity the people in the boats, for with us all will soon be over, but they will be eating each other soon.” The miserable scenes that occurred were beyond imagination distressing. On the one hand were seen mothers and fathers, apparently regardless of themselves, but in agonies for the fate of their children; on the other, husbands, who had wives and children clinging to the wreck, exclaimed against receiving more persons into the boats. One woman, a widow with four children, caught up her youngest daughter, about two years of age, and jumped overboard with her; at the same moment her eldest daughter, about ten years old, leaped from a different part of the vessel; a question arose among the sailors in the boats which was to be saved; the mother and infant were preferred, and the other girl perished. Several parents threw their children overboard, for the chance of preservation; in this way the eight juniors of one family, the BARRIES, were preserved, while the father, mother, eldest son and eldest daughter, were numbered with the dead. A Mrs. MACLAUREN, recollecting that her husband could swim, implored him to save himself and leave her and four children behind; he did so, and was picked up by the boats. A young man named MACFARLANE, who had been married but a few days before he embarked, took his wife, a fine young woman, on his back, and attempted to reach the boat by swimming; finding his strength fail, he turned to go towards the wreck again, but ere he reached it they clasped each other in their arms, and sunk in the fathomless abyss. Several boys and girls, become orphans by this dreadful visitation, reached Lisbon without a friend or connexion in the world. These poor infants were all kindly taken to by the gentlemen of the English factory, who humanely undertook to provide for and bring them up.
Lieut. MUDGE concludes a most affecting letter to his brother in England, with appropriate quotations from the holy scriptures:- “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not his loving-kindness. He hath redeemed by soul from destruction, &c. He hath chastened me, but hath not given me over unto death.”
We understand that Government has expressed its sense of the very laudable conduct of this gentleman on so trying an occasion, by appointing him immediately to another situation, as agent. – Ibid. Jan 17
A letter from Greenock of the 15th inst. Says, - “Arrived here yesterday, the Royal Charlotte, Hobson, from Lisbon, in 17 days, having on board the surgeon, second mate, carpenter, one seaman, and three boys; and also 22 emigrants, part of those saved by the boats from the wreck of the Abeona transport, Capt. PRITCHARD.” – Ibid. Jan 22
A subscription is now going on at Glasgow, for the relief of the survivors of the Abeona – Ibid. Jan 22
Transcribed by Trisha McLeod:
Extract from a Letter of one of the Persons saved.
“I have the melancholy task of informing you of the destruction of the Abeona transport, of 328 tons, in which I had embarked with other settlers to the Cape of Good Hope, and of the dreadful fate of the great majority of the persons on board her.”
“On the 25th ult. in latitude 4deg 30’ north longitude, 25deg 39’ west, about 15 minutes past noon, the alarm was given that the ship was on fire. It proved to be in the lazaretto abaft, the receptacle of all the ship’s stores and provisions. Every nerve was exerted in handing water to the first mate and seamen who were down in that place, but all proved useless, for the people in a few minutes were driven up from below by the dense smoke, and the rapidity with which the fire communicated to every surrounding object. In 10 or 15 minutes from the first alarm, the case was hopeless, the ship being in a perfect blaze from the mainmast aft on the lower deck, and from the excessive heat of the upper one we momentarily expected the fire to penetrate it. The skiff and two gigs were down, and the long boat almost high enough for clearing the side, when the flames rushing up from the after-hold communicated with the main rigging, flew up to the mast head like lightning, and blasted every hope of getting her clear.
“The panic and confusion were such, that the long boat proved too heavy to be launched by the few who were sufficiently collected to attend to the orders given, and on the falling of the main arm yard she was stove. Seeing now all was over, and the people were throwing themselves overboard, and into the boats, I also jumped over, and happily was picked up by the gig. Our anxiety was now to save as many lives as our three small boats could possibly swim with, and I rejoice to say that forty-nine were miraculously preserved.
“A few minutes after I quitted the wreck the main and mizzen masts fell, the flame, rapidly advancing forward, drove numbers of the poor wretches on the bowsprit, where it was our hard lot to behold them frantic, without being able to render them the least assistance. You will judge how the boats were crammed, when husbands, who had wives and children still clinging to the wreck, exclaimed against more being received!
“We kept close to the wreck till day light next morning, in the hope that any vessel which might be passing would see the immense body of fire, which continued raging till about three o’clock in the morning, when every thing disappeared. A little before day-break, the carpenter discovered a vessel close to us. We seized our oars, and were on board of her in a few minutes. She proved to be the Condessa da Ponte, Portugese merchant ship, from Bahia, bound to Lisbon.
“This dreadful accident was occasioned by Mr. Duff, the first mate, forgetting his wonted prudence in taking the candle out of his lantern to see something more clearly with, when a spark from it, or the candle itself, fell on some of the combustible matter around. His grief at having been the cause of such destruction, made him, when solicited to save his life, decline it. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I pity those in the boats the most, for with us it will soon be over, but they will be eating each other in a few days.
“Parental affection never shone with greater luster than on this occasion, mothers and fathers, apparently regardless of themselves, caught up their young children, and threw them into the boats, and in one family (Barrie’s) the eight junior are preserved – one a child of fifteen months old – while the noble parents with their eldest son and daughter, are numbered with the dead. Another circumstance of a great soul deserves to be recorded. A Mrs. McLaren, with her husband and four children upon the flames advancing, retreated into the fore channels, when recollecting that her husband was a good swimmer, she implored him to save his own life, and leave her and their children to the fate that awaited them, as he could not avert it, and her wishes were attended to.”
Philanthropic Gazette 24 January 1821
The following handsome contribution, in behalf of the unfortunate sufferers in the Abeona, which it will be recollected was destroyed by fire at sea, on her voyage with settlers to the Cape of Good Hope, was, on Wednesday, (the 15th inst.) received in Glasgow from Lisbon :-
LISBON, JULY 28, 1821
Robert DALGLISH, Esq. Glasgow,
SIR, - We have now the pleasure to address you as a Committee of the Contributors to the subscription set on foot here, for the survivors from the Abeona Transport, and to acknowledge the perusal of a correspondence betwixt you and Mr. Robert Monro on the subject of it, from which we are happy to observe, you are inclined to take charge of the sum we have collected, as you have already done of that which was raised in Glasgow. The information contained in your letter of 2d ultimo, is most ample and satisfactory, and we agree with you in thinking, that the disposal of the money we now send you, must be governed greatly by circumstances, whilst we beg to recommend our original intention being kept in view, as much as possible, that of providing for the children in preference to any other object. Of these, there remain in Lisbon five, viz. :- Thomas and Charles Coverley, Thomas and George Barrie, and Elizabeth Freeland, for the benefit of whom we have set aside a part of the sum collected, equal to ten pounds each, to bear interest in the mean time, and afterwards to be divided amongst them as their necessities may require. The balance which we remit you, we leave to your own management and that of the Glasgow Committee in general, and we beg you will accept of our best thanks for so acting for us, desiring sincerely, that the objects of your care may prove deserving of it.
We enclose the first of Exchange, Richd. Gray and Co. on Richd. Gray, 50 days sight for 95pounds 15s. 10d. sterling payable to your own order, being the next balance as above, and which, at maturity, you will please place to the credit of the “Lisbon Subscription.” You will further oblige us by acknowledging receipt of the same and
We remain, respectfully, Sir, your most obedient Servants,
JOHN W. GARLAND
The Courier : 25 August 1821