Saturday, 20 December 2014

Waratah - Officer Phillips (Clan MacIntyre) and the 'Flying Dutchman'.

Officer Phillips of the Clan MacIntyre gave a detailed account of the Waratah sighting at the Inquiry. He described the Waratah pulling ahead of the Clan MacIntyre, crossing her bow from starboard to port, heading out to sea in a more southerly direction, the Waratah apparently upright and steaming well at the time. What Phillips omitted from his account related to the time period shortly after the Waratah disappeared into the mist and vast tract of ocean. He claimed that he saw, in broad daylight, a sailing vessel with high bow and stern illogically sailing against the growing southwesterly wind. Phillips was convinced this was the Flying Dutchman, an ominous portent of disaster to follow. He resorted to a number of cups of strong cocoa to steady his nerves.

In 'A voyage to Botany Bay' (1795) George Barrington wrote:

 I had often heard of the superstition of sailors respecting apparitions and doom, but had never given much credit to the report; it seems that some years since a Dutch man-of-war was lost off the Cape of Good Hope, and every soul on board perished; her consort weathered the gale, and arrived soon after at the Cape. Having refitted, and returning to Europe, they were assailed by a violent tempest nearly in the same latitude. In the night watch some of the people saw, or imagined they saw, a vessel standing for them under a press of sail, as though she would run them down: one in particular affirmed it was the ship that had foundered in the former gale, and that it must certainly be her, or the apparition of her; but on its clearing up, the object, a dark thick cloud, disappeared. Nothing could do away the idea of this phenomenon on the minds of the sailors; and, on their relating the circumstances when they arrived in port, the story spread like wild-fire, and the supposed phantom was called the Flying Dutchman. From the Dutch the English seamen got the infatuation, and there are very few Indiamen, but what has some one on board, who pretends to have seen the apparition.[1]

It appears that Phillips was the only man on board the Clan MacIntyre to witness this 'vision', and one wonders if he was swept up in Waratah hysteria of the time, making his contribution to the mood of mysterious disaster. It does raise an important question relating to Phillip's credibility as a reliable witness.


                                              The Flying Dutchman

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