Scotch Boat collision on the Foyle

Another of the famous Scotch Boats, 'Lairds Loch', which frequently docked in Derry throughout the last century. (3112MM01)

Another of the famous Scotch Boats, 'Lairds Loch', which frequently docked in Derry throughout the last century. (3112MM01)

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In addition to the minute books of Londonderry Corporation another source of great value to the family and local historian are our local newspapers. The Londonderry Journal, renamed Derry Journal on 22 March 1880, has been published continuously since 3 June 1772.

Brian Mitchell, local genealogist and historian, has uncovered some fascinating facts from the vast ‘Derry Journal’ archives about a collision between two of the Scotch Boats on Derry’s River Foyle in the 1800s - an incident which ultimately claimed the lives of 17 men...

The Scotch Boat 'Lairdsbank' at Derry Quay in summer 1963. The children in this photograph are in fact local genealogist Brian Mitchell and his siblings - as photographed by their father. (1303JC1 - photograph courtesy of Sam Mitchell)

The Scotch Boat 'Lairdsbank' at Derry Quay in summer 1963. The children in this photograph are in fact local genealogist Brian Mitchell and his siblings - as photographed by their father. (1303JC1 - photograph courtesy of Sam Mitchell)

In addition to the minute books of Londonderry Corporation another source of great value to the family and local historian are our local newspapers. The Londonderry Journal, renamed Derry Journal on 22 March 1880, has been published continuously since 3 June 1772.

I will use this source to tell the story of the collision on the Foyle of 2 Scotch Boats on Saturday 16 September 1865. The Derry to Glasgow passenger and livestock steamer was known as ‘The Derry Boat’ in Donegal and as ‘The Scotch Boat’ in Derry. It was an important part of Derry’s maritime history; indeed for 137 years, running from 1829 until the autumn of 1966, there was a timetabled passenger service between Derry and Glasgow.

The Journal of Wednesday, 20 September 1865, on page 2, column 6, leads with the headline ‘The Collision in Lough Foyle between the Garland and Falcon’. The column begins: ‘On Saturday evening, about half-past six o’clock, news was received from different sources that a collision of a somewhat important character had taken place in Lough Foyle.’

The Garland, a steamer belonging to the Derry and Glasgow Steam-packet Company, with a cargo of livestock and about 50 passengers, was heading down the Foyle from Derry quay bound for Glasgow.

Between Quigley’s Point and Whitecastle the Garland struck another steamer, the Falcon on the port bow, ‘cutting her down almost to the water’s edge.’

The Falcon, owned by the City of Glasgow Steamship Company, was heading up the Foyle towards Derry ‘crowded with Irish reapers returning from the Scotch harvest.’

Detailed reports of the incident, of the recovery of the bodies and of the inquests, including word-by-word reporting of witness statements, into the deaths arising from the collision on 16 September 1865 were recorded in the Journal over the next 2 weeks.

The collision featured in the editions of Wednesday, 20 September 1865 (Page 2 Column 6 and Page 3, Columns 1, 2 & 3); Saturday, 23 September 1865 (Page 2 Column 6); Wednesday, 27 September 1865 (Page 2 Column 6) and Saturday, 30 September 1865 (Page 3 Columns 1 & 3).

The inquest, before the coroner, Minchin Lloyd, into the deaths of John McDaid and William George Patterson who were killed at the time of the collision, was held in the Petty Sessions Court on Monday, 18 September and reported in full in Journal of 20 September.

The Journal reports the statement of the first witness as follows:

‘William McDaid examined – I saw a dead body examined in the Scotch steamboat yard this morning. It is that of my brother John McDaid. He lived in the village of Tirk, about four miles from Buncrana in the county of Donegal. He left home on this day week for Glasgow to purchase sheep’.

The inquest states that John McDaid was ‘aged about 47 years, and has left a widow and five children, the eldest child aged about ten years of age.’

In total 17 men died in this incident; 2 were killed in the collision and a further 15 were drowned.

The Journal of 30 September 1865 reported that the Marine Department of the Board of Trade had now received the sworn depositions of the masters of the Garland and Falcon.

This, therefore, provides clues to the enthusiast seeking further sources to examine, i.e. the records of the Board of Trade.

By the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, the Marine Department of the Board of Trade was responsible for maintaining a systematic wreck register.

The archive at the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich) has the original Board of Trade Wreck registers from 1854 to 1898.

The Journal of Wednesday, 27 September 1865 names the 15 bodies recovered from the Foyle:

James McCauley

(Carman, Kilmacrenan)

Thomas Coll

(Gweedore)

James O’Donnell

(Tonduff, Buncrana)

Michael Boyce

(Kilmacrenan)

John McCready

(Milford)

Patrick Doherty

(Tullydish, Buncrana)

Charles Devlin

(Newtownstewart)

Henry Hamilton

(Ballyare, Ramelton)

Bernard Bradley

(Illies, Buncrana)

James Coll

(Gweedore)

Hugh Boyle

(Callhame, Annagray)

Con Boyle

(Callhame, Annagray)

James McLaughlin

(Illies, Buncrana)

P. O’Donnell

(‘supposed militiaman’)

‘name unknown’

(‘supposed militiaman’)