Stories of the Sea

The Wreck Of The Ship St. Bernard's

From: The Yarmouth Herald
Dated: 24 July, 1879
Dated: August 14, 1879
And J.M. Lawson, compiler
Record of the Shipping of
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Appendix, Pages: 92 - 94.

Highslide JS
Ship St. Bernard's, built at Belliveau's Cove in 1875. After almost completing her voyage from New York to Antwerp with a cargo of grain she went ashore near Flushing on July 21st, 1879. Capt. Martin Burns, the pilot and five of the crew were lost; the remainder were saved.

Yarmouth Herald of 24 July, 1879:

SAD MARINE DISASTER! - The melancholy intelligence was received here on Monday afternoon last of the total loss at West Capelle Banks, near Flushing, Belgium, of the ship St. Bernard's, of this port, and the drowning of her commander, Capt. Martin Burns, the pilot and five of the crew. The survivors landed at Flushing. The St. Bernard's sailed from New York June 27th for Antwerp with a cargo of 91,907 bushels wheat, and had thus made the passage (to the date of the disaster) in 23 days. The St. Bernard's was spoken 8th July in lat. 47.35, long. 36.15, and arrived on Saturday last at Falmouth, England, where she stopped for a few hours, and proceeded up the Channel for her destination. The St. Bernard's was a fine ship of 1564 tons register, launched in 1875, and was principally owned by W.D. Lovitt, Esq. The ship was insured in Yarmouth as follows: $7,000 each in the Pacific, Marine, Acadian and Commercial offices; freight, $5,000 in Pacific, $4,000 in Commercial, $3,000 in Marine; - total, $40,000. Capt. Burns has left a widow, two daughters and two sons (one of whom was on board the St. Bernard's). He was an able master of large experience, and was great esteemed.

***Since the above was in type a cablegram received this morning, it states that the son of Capt. Burns (Thomas, his youngest), was among those lost in this disaster.

Lawson, J.M. (Ed.) Appendix to the Record of the Shipping of Yarmouth, NS - pp 92-94. The item below is based on an article in the Yarmouth Herald of August 14th, 1879 which commenced:

Wm D. Lovitt, Esq. owner of the above ill-fated ship, has kindly furnished us with a copy of the protest of the mate, (Mr. John Banks, of England) noted at Flushing, Holland from which we extract the following particulars: -

SHIP ST. BERNARD'S, 1564 tons, Martin Burns master, sailed from New York on the 27th June for Antwerp, with a cargo of 91,907 bushels wheat, and struck on the West Cappel Banks, near Flushing, Belgium, on the 21st July, and became a total wreck. Capt. Burns and his youngest son Thomas, the pilot, second mate and three seamen were drowned. The following is the chief mate's account of the disaster:- Left New York 27th June bound for Antwerp grain laden.

Nothing of consequence happened until the 19th of July, when off Portland, we took a channel pilot - Daniel Trott - and proceeded on our course. On the 20th, off Beachy Head, took a Belgian pilot for Flushing. Passed Dungeness at noon and South Foreland at 2 p.m.; coursed toward the West Hinder; it being at the time very thick with strong W. wind. Passed Ruytingen Lightship about 4 p.m., and coursed again to the West Hinder Lightship, where we found a pilot cutter at anchor, with a blue flag at her top. The pilot supposed the cutter was lying there instead of the lightship, but proceeded to the east about one mile to make sure, and then hove ship's head to the south, it being till very thick with heavy squalls and rain, seas running very high, shipping great quantities of water. We lay so for about an hour, and then wore ship to the N.W., and set the upper topsails. About midnight wore ship again, and saw Ostende light, and made for the Wielingen, wind moderating a little. Shortly after midnight on the 21st, it became thick again with squalls. About 2 a.m. shortened sail, one man continually sounding. Still proceeding on her way to the Wielingen.

Between 4 and 5 o'clock a.m., the man at the lead reported six and a quarter fathoms of water. The Belgian Government pilot (being at the time in charge of the ship) immediately ordered the starboard anchor to be let go, which was done, paying out seventy-five fathoms of chain. A few minutes later the vessel struck. Some minutes after, she struck again very heavily, it being then about half ebb tide. At about 6 o'clock the pilot ordered the port anchor to be let go, the vessel striking very heavily, pieces of the keel and stern-post coming up past the vessel. The captain then ordered the boats to be lowered. After this was done, he consulted with his officers and the pilot who unanimously were of opinion that it was best to leave the ship and try to save our lives in our boats.

About 6:30, the storm being terrific, we commenced getting into the boats, the one being astern of the other. One boat was manned by the captain - the second mate, both pilots, captain's son and five others going also on board. The second boat was manned by the mate and the remainder of the crew - eleven in all. The last words the captain said to me were, 'Do you think the boats will live in this sea?' I replied, 'I do not think they will, except under the lee of the ladders,' but the ladders unfortunately broke adrift. In a few moments we all cast off, the captain's boat being ahead. We kept off before the sea, which ran and broke heavily, twice half filling our boat.

About two hours and a half afterwards we came up to the captain's boat bottom up, with the English pilot and two seamen on her bottom, holding on to the keel. With great difficulty I rescued them; but the rest of the poor fellows were all gone some time before. The pilot said all went well with them till one very heavy roller came and swamped their boat, turning her over three times. The second mate got hold of the boat but was washed away and drowned. Shortly afterwards I saw the land, which proved to be West Cappel, where we beached the boat and were afterwards taken to Flushing.

The following is a list of the persons lost: Capt. Martin Burns, of Yarmouth, and his son, Thomas D. Burns; Christian Hansen, second mate; the Belgian pilot; John Hansen, John Madison, and Gustav ----, seamen. Daniel Trott (English pilot), Frank Thomas and Vittorie de Grodi, were rescued from the captain's boat. Two of these found themselves beneath the upturned boat, and had a great struggle to free themselves. The captain was seen to rise once and attempt to swim after the boat, but a wave carried him away and he disappeared. His son never rose to the surface. It was afterwards ascertained that the West Hinder Lightship had been torn from its moorings on the previous day.

The 'St. Bernard's' was a fine ship and was owned by William D. Lovitt. Insured $7,000 each in the 'Pacific,' 'Marine,' 'Acadian' and 'Commercial.' Freight insured $5,000 in 'Pacific,' $4,000 in 'Commercial,' and $3,000 in 'Marine.'

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