On This Day

26 July

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1889 Lost on her maiden voyage


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The 4,195-ton cargo ship Queensmore (Yard No. 215) was delivered today to her owners William Johnston & Co., Liverpool. In November Queensmore was destroyed by fire during her maiden voyage and sank in Dunmanus Bay off the Cork coast.

The remarkable story of her crews battle to save their ship is reported here:
‘On 27 October Queensmore sailed from Baltimore for Liverpool on the return leg of her maiden voyage. Onboard were 1,000 cattle and 2,000 bales cotton stowed on the top of the grain and provisions in the holds.

All went well up Monday, November 4th, when about 9.30 a.m. the chief officer, Mr. Vaughan, observed smoke coming through one of the small hatches. Efforts were at once made to extinguish the fire which was found to have broken out among the cotton on board. The Queensmore was then about 900 miles from the coast of Ireland, and for five days ceaseless exertions were made to combat the fire and carry the steamer to Queenstown.

By 6pm on Monday the flames were bursting through the hatches fore and aft, but these were tightly battened down, and the fire prevented from spreading above the main deck. On Tuesday morning the boats were provisioned in anticipation of the forced abandonment of the struggle with the now thoroughly ignited cargo. Smoke in dense clouds hung about the doomed steamer. The smell from the carcasses of the cattle burning on the main desk was almost overwhelming, but still the flames were kept sufficiently under control to leave the upper deck safe, and to keep the engines working.

About noon on Tuesday the Arizona, bound west, was hailed, and refused to stand by the Queensmore to Queenstown, offering, however, to take the crew to New York. Captain Treneny decided to continue his voyage, and did so against increasing difficulties and dangers, with cool fortitude which sustained the whole crew.

The weather, which had been thick, settled shortly after the Arizona had been sighted into dense fog, which lasted for the remainder of the voyage. On Tuesday afternoon the cattle fittings on the upper deck caught fire, and it was necessary to put them and the cattle overboard. As the cargo on the starboard side burned away a heavy list to port set in, and all Tuesday night continuous exertions had to be maintained against smoke and flame to clear the upper deck and prevent the vessel from heeling over.

On Wednesday the fire got to the coal bunkers, and a fearful exertion was necessary to keep the engines going. Coal for the boiler furnaces had be won few shovels a time, with the aid of hoses constantly playing in the bunkers, against suffocating smoke and scorching heat. The engineers and firemen, with a heroism to which praise too high cannot be given, bravely stuck to their duty to the end. From Wednesday morning more than half of the starboard side and a large part of the main deck were red hot. A stench scarcely less endurable than heat arose from the burning cargo.

About six o'clock on Friday a steamer whistle was heard. Distress rockets were fired, and the Queenmore's whistle was kept blowing. An hour afterwards the fog lifted for a few minutes, and a steamer, which proved be the St. Ronan's, bound for Liverpool, was observed making direct for the Queensmore. Again the rescue of the crew of the Queensmore was refused, and the St. Ronan’s agreed to accompany the vessel to Queenstown. For several hours the two steamers kept within sound, being invisible to each other for most of the time through the dense smoke and a thick fog. At this time the upper deck on the Queensmore had become partially impassable through the heat. The bridge deck was so hot that the water poured on the starboard side rolled off boiling to port.

At eleven o'clock on Tuesday the saloon took fire, and the flames broke out fore and aft. Half an hour later, while all hands were working resolutely, the vessel, going dead slow, struck a submerged rock and stuck. The boats were then lowered. The engineers hurried from below, relieved at last from their grim and gallant struggle, and all embarking, the Queensmore was abandoned. A few minutes later the saved crew watched their vessel lift forward, careen over to port, and disappear. The fog shortly afterwards lifted, and land was sighted, the boats rowing ashore at Three Castles Head, in Dunloch Bay, on the south coast of Ireland.’

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1883 Record round-the-world passage


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Doric (Yard No. 153) departed on her maiden voyage London-Cape-Wellington on charter to the New Zealand Shipping Co., returning in November after making the fastest round-the-world trip on record.

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1877 Rising Star

The 1,644-ton iron sailing ship Star of Italy (Yard No. 113) was launched today for James P. Corry & Co of Belfast and London. The christening ceremony was performed by the Duchess of Marlborough. The shipowners were old customers and in September 1860 had commissioned the first of twelve near identical sailing ships, eleven of which were given names prefixed by ‘Star’ setting the precedent for future ship naming and the birth of the Star Line. The sailing barque Jane Porter (Yard No. 5), named after the wife of William Corry, was the first ship built by Edward J. Harland on Queen’s Island before he entered into partnership with Gustav W. Wolff.

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1884 Lord Liner

The 2,753-ton iron cargo ship Lord Lansdowne (Yard No. 170) was launched today shortly before noon from the north end of the yard for the Irish Shipowners’ Co. Ltd., Belfast. The launch was witnessed by a large crowd of spectators in the yard and on the banks of the Victoria Channel. The vessel’s dimensions were: Length, 340.5 feet, by 38.3 feet beam; with a carrying capacity of 4,000 tons. She had a turtle back forward, while a bridge deck amidships covered the engines and the accommodation for officers and crew.

The new vessel, rigged as a schooner with two iron pole masts, was built in accordance with the rules for the highest class; had provision for water ballast in a cellular double bottom, running fore and aft; and was fitted with the latest improvements and appliances, such as steam steering gear and steam windlasses for rapid loading and unloading of cargo. The engines, designed and built by Harland & Wolff, produced 1,600 horsepower, with cylinders of 37 inches and 72 inches diameter respectively, with a 45 inch stroke.

The new steamer was the third vessel built in the yard for the Lord Line, owned by the Irish Shipowners' and managed by Thomas S. Dixon & Sons; ‘it is certainly gratifying’ reported the press ‘to find that local enterprise is so rapidly increasing, and that, at the same time, it materially stimulates one of our most promising local industries.’

Lord Lansdowne was fitted out at the lower end of Queen's Quay and delivered to her owners on 15 September. The Lord Line, formed in 1879 by Thomas Dixon, operated cargo services between Belfast, Dublin, Cardiff and Baltimore. They also made sailings to the Gulf of Mexico and South American ports. Lord Lansdowne was wrecked on 21 May 1912 after running aground Cobbler’s Reef, off Ragged Point Light, Barbados.

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1895 The first Oceanic at Belfast


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The Belfast Newsletter reported that the old White Star liner Oceanic (Yard No. 73), the Company’s first steamer built by Harland & Wolff ‘is at present undergoing a thorough overhaul at Queen’s Island, and while she lies there, in close proximity to the Georgic, it is interesting to witness the contrast between the old and the new, and reflect upon the vast strides that have been made in the art of shipbuilding - for it is an art as well as a science - during the past quarter century.’

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1930 Funeral service onboard HMS Caroline


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The Marquis of Dufferin & Ava died in an aeroplane accident in Kent (on 21 July). His body was bought home to Ulster for burial, when the steamer arrived at Belfast, his body was borne on a gun carriage and conveyed in a funeral cortege to HMS Caroline moored at this time in the Musgrave Channel on Queen’s Island. The City was at a standstill, flags at half-mast and bells tolled.

The Marquis was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Ulster Squadron of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. A salute of seven guns was fired and his funeral service was held on Caroline’s quarter-deck, attended by Lord Craigavon and all the heads of State. The pall-bearers included the Duke of Montrose, General Wauchope, Sir Charles Wickham (head of the RUC) and Flight-Commander Don.

Picture shows HMS Caroline as she appears today in the Alexandra Graving Dock on Queen's Island.

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1945 British Supremacy

The 8,242-ton oil tanker British Supremacy (Yard No. 1284) was launched today for the British Tanker Co., London.