Paddle steamer Artic collides + steam ship Artic, 1854, James Smith’s basket.

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1830 – Present Day Paddle steamer Artic collides + steam ship Artic, 1854, James Smith’s basket.

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    Annie H

      There is a basket at the Esse stove factory in Barnoldswick that has a most interesting story. And I am always surprised that there hasn’t been a PhD/ recent book/TV program or film made about it.

      My great great grandfather, Mr. James Smith, was travelling on the paddle steam ship Artic, of the Collins Line. This ship was involved in an accident in the fog with the French steamer Vesta. In 1854 this accident was regarded as one of the worst accidents that had happened at sea. ‘ Women and Children last’ by Alexander Cosby Brown was written in 1961. However we also have ‘The Story of the Basket’ written up by my great grandfather soon after and published in 1994 for family members.

      Back to the basket. No women or children survived, of the 283 passengers only 21 passengers survived, although 54 officers and crew did! Yes, it would seem that they took the boats, although Captain Luce ordered otherwise. My forbear acquired a lead lined basket, strapped it to 3 small planks, and survived in that for 50 hours till he was rescued, along with a few others on their makeshift craft, by the Cambria.

      He had wisely put a few biscuits under his top hat (well every gentleman takes his top hat with him when shipwrecked), sadly that hat has gone the way of all hats, however the basket and the shirt he was waving madly to his rescuers can be seen at the Esse factory. The rope used to tie the basket on was also providentially around his shoulders, and he had some laudanum in his pocket, which he chose not to use. However he did use his pocket knife to cut one end of a passing tin can so he could use it as a bailer.

      The shirt and basket are in Barnoldswick as James Smith, his friend, went on to set up the Esse factory there. Surely more should be made of this amazing story. There was no other important shipwreck till the Titanic, and family lore has it that it was designed differently as a result of this collision 60 years beforehand. By chance Captain Luce was also saved, and when these gentlemen got back to land they were able to tell the press and their friends the true story, rather than the one told by the crew who had taken the boats and got to land earlier.

      William Lindsay

        Great story Annie. Like so many stories that get lost over time, it’s good that you have broadcast it. Hopefully something more will come of it. You’ve hung out the bait, let’s see if anyone bites! Bill

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