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Wreck of the Commerce – 1848

Barque  Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

A most shocking loss of an emigrant ship, with upwards of one hundred persons on board, was reported at Lloyd’s. The vessel that met with the sad disaster was the barque Commerce, belonging to Limerick, 267 ton burthen, Halliday master.
She sailed from Galway in the early part of spring for St. John’s, New Brunswick. About seventy families, principally females and children, embarked on board at Galway, taking with them all they possessed in the world. The master was aware that they were near the Nova Scotia coast, but the prevalence of foggy weather and drizzling rain prevented the exact position of the ship being known.

A good look out is stated to have been kept. Be that as it may, however, she run ashore, the first intimation of the fact being her striking heavily on a rock. A strong effort was made to back her, but a current carried her over the rock, and she was swept with violence onto a bold rocky shore. The emigrants mustered on deck in great confusion; the whole of them were in their bed clothes, and their horror on discovering the awful situation of the ship may be easily conceived.

For a few hours the ship remained in an upright position. As the tide rose, however, a gale sprung up, the sea from which swept the decks. The boats had been lowered, and some of the crew succeeded in ascertaining that the shore was accessible to land the passengers. They returned and made two trips, between the ship and the land, with passengers; but on attempting the third, they were driven against the rocks, and many of the poor creatures met with a watery grave.

The vessel, by the continued beating on the rocks, soon filled. The masts were cut away, and other means to save her from destruction , were adopted, but of no avail. In the meantime, the remainder of the crew contrived to effect a communication with the shore by a line. One after another of the emigrants were dragged through the surf to the shore in a most pitiable condition. Many, we regret to say, were drowned, particularly the children. Between seventy and eighty were saved, as also the crew. The following are the names of some of the survivors;
Mrs Mary Burke and child
Mrs Coyee and infant
Patrick Corcoran aged 21
a boy names Fogant and a lad John Leydon.
A large number of the passengers had nothing on but their night clothes when they landed, some even perfectly naked. They were unable to save anything of their little property from the wreck. Captain Halliday acted with great firmness throughout the trying period. The wreck quickly broke up, with all she contained. She was partially insured.



B.A., M.A.(Archaeology); Regional Tour Guide; Dip. Radio Media Tech; H.Dip. Computer Science.

2 thoughts on “Wreck of the Commerce – 1848

  1. I am researching a shipwreck located in Port Mouton Nova Scotia which may be the Commerce. I was wondering where you obtained the source material for the article. My main interest is in getting confirmation that the Commerce wrecked in Port Mouton in 1848 as there are some conflicting reference that place the wreck elsewhere on the coast as well as some confusion with a wreck by the same name which wrecked in 1845 near the Barrington are of NS.


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