Sunday, 24 April 2016


South Australian, Tuesday 24 August, 1847.


The only thing they remembered was that the vessel
was on fire - the bunkers or coal holds having
ignited in the first instance. Every exertion was 
made to subdue the destructive element,
but the vessel being so crowded, and the 
consternation so terrific, the efforts made to
save her were retarded, and proved unsuccessful. 
The scene, as might be expected, is said
to have been one of the most harrowing nature.
For a long time the captain was most sanguine
in his hopes of subduing the fire. In this state,
the fire raging below, but not appearing above,
the vessel kept on her course till about seven
o'clock, when she was observed by the " Bessy"
fishing smack of Ringsend, belonging to Mr
Bartlett, and Mr William Pullen, of the same
place, the latter of whom, the skipper, was on
board the " Bessy" at the time, when those of
the passengers and crew who were on deck
were rescued from their awful condition. 

When the first alarm of fire was given, one of
the steamer's boats was lowered, but the rush
of people into her was so great, that she
swamped, and almost all perished. The crew
of the steamer, with the exception of the captain, 
were all saved and Parker states that
the mate told him the unfortunate gentleman
could have saved himself, but that he refused
to abandon his vessel while there was the most
remote chance of saving her, and that he vowed
he would not stir until passengers and crew
were all safe a determination which cost him
his life, for it appears in the last extremity 
took the life buoy and jumped overboard. 

Jury came to the following verdict:
"We find that the said Captain Thomas 
Rawdon's death was caused by accidentally 
drowning, in his attempt to escape from the fire
which had taken place on board the steamer
"Grana Uile," on the 14th of April, 1847, off
Lambay, of which vessel he was captain."
"From the evidence which has come before
us, we have as yet no means of ascertaining
how this melancholy fire originated, but we do
not attribute blame or want of proper precaution 
to either the owners, the captain, or crew
of this ill-fated steamer."

And so another fire of mysterious origins and ensuing chaos. Fires on board steamers were not merely amusement for bored passengers.

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