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THE S.S. 'IRIS'
Scottish steamer, the s.s. 'Iris', built in 1876 at a cost of £23,000. for the
Glasgow & Londonderry Steampacket Co. had been a regular on the
Sligo-Glasgow route from some time before her ill-fated voyage in September,
'Iris' set sail for Sligo from Greenock at 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 1st.
1833 under the command of Captain Campbell. She carried sixty passengers, four
cabin and fifty-six steerage, the latter consisting mostly of harvest workers
returning home from Scotland. Also on board was a large mixed cargo for various
Sligo merchants, and Robert Pettigrew, in particular.
went well until about 3 a.m. on Sunday at which time the vessel was off
Inishowen Head. The sea was calm and the passengers had all retired for the
night. Suddenly, there were a tremendous shock and all hurriedly came on deck
where confusion and terror held sway. The night was drizzly and dark and for a
time no one seemed certain as to the exact nature of the mishap. As soon as the
Captain realised that his ship had struck on rocks off the Island of
Innistrahull and was badly holed, he reversed out, then ran at full steam and
succeeded in beaching her against a large rock closer to the mainland of the
Island. In this position she was in imminent danger of foundering in twenty or
more fathoms of water. A seaman, named William Bruen of Rosses Point, with
exemplary bravery, climbed to the top of the rock and succeeded in securing a
rope round it, which was made fast, thereby providing a life-line from the ship.
By this means an effort was made to get those on board onto the relative safety
of the rocky ledge. Only a few had made the treacherous crossing when the rope
gave way, throwing the steward, John Sharkey of Glasgow, into the sea where he
drowned. Others narrowly escaped with their lives in the mishap. A ladder was
then procured and by this means the passengers, many of whom were barefooted and
only partially clothed, made their way to the rock. When it was thought that all
had got clear a cry was heard. The ship's carpenter bravely made his way back to
the stricken vessel to investigate. There he found a poor woman, with a small
child, in a state of despair. It appears that she had been asleep in an egg-box
and had not been aware of the danger till she woke and found the other
passengers gone. Both herself and the child were safely taken off and re-united
with her friends.
of the nearby lighthouse, hearing the signals, rushed to the shore and by means
of ropes and a ladder succeeded in rescuing the stranded passengers and crew and
conveyed them inland where their needs were attended to with much kindness by
the islanders. At that stage the 'Iris' was badly broken up, with wreckage
deposited on the shoreline and portions of the cargo nearby.
the following day the passengers of the ill-fated 'Iris' were taken to Derry and
from there sent on the train to Sligo. They were mostly of the farming and
labouring classes, from counties Sligo, Mayo, Galway and Leitrim, returning home
after varying spells in Scotland. For most of them the wreck was a tragedy,
loosing in the mishap whatever savings they possessed. The losses sustained by a
number of the unfortunate passengers were subsequently enumerated as follows:-
John Brennan lost a box
containing £15., the savings of four years;
and many other poor working
people lost all their little savings by the unfortunate occurrence."
Copyright © 2002 by K. P.
Murray. All rights reserved.