Daily Event for January 7, 2008

Heavy fog sealed the fate of the Inman Line's SS City of Brussels on January 7, 1883. She was Scott built like
many ships of her time, being launched at Tod & McGregor in Glasgow on Aug. 11, 1869. The ship was 390'
long and registered at 3,081 tons and had that beautiful clipper bow the Inman Line was famous for. However she was not built only to be beautiful, she was built to be fast, maybe not the fastest on the north Atlantic, but nevertheless fast.

When she was built she could carry 800 passengers at a speed of 14 knots, but Cunard's Scotia held the
record at 14.46 knots and had done so since Dec. 24, 1863. Try as she would the City of Brussels would
never hold the Blue Riband for the westbound trip, but she did best the Scotia on the eastbound leg on Dec. 12, 1869 making the trip at an average speed of 14.74 knots. She held this record until Jan. 19, 1873 when White Star's Baltic took it from her.

She was later rebuilt adding extra passenger accommodations and increased tonnage, she also had new compound engines installed, but she never held the record again. She continued on her normal route of
Liverpool to New York via Queenstown, which she had been on her entire career.

Her final voyage from New York began on Dec. 28 with 167 people on board (70 passengers and 97 crew)
under the command of Capt. Land, one of Inman's longest serving officers. All went well until the ship reached the Mersey River at Liverpool, there they were met by a blinding fog. The captain stated that the fog was so dense that he "stopped the engines and allowed the vessel to drift with the tide". This may have been a mistake leaving the ship unable to maneuver on demand. After forty minuets of drifting he heard the whistles of what he thought were two steamers about to pass on a parallel course to his ship.

I don't know if there were two ships or if the fog was just playing games with the sound as it sometimes does, but there was one ship, the Kirby Hall. She was another Scott built ship of 2,715 tons and 329' long owned by the Kirby Steamship Co. of Liverpool. With captain Hambury in command she departed on her maiden voyage from Glasgow and stopped in Liverpool to pick up passengers, she left there bound for India, but her maiden voyage ended at the bow of the City of Brussels.

The Kirby Hall appeared out of the fog on the starboard bow of the City of Brussels, too close to give captain
Land enough time to get up steam and get underway, the City of Brussels was a sitting duck. The impact
nearly severed the bow of the City of Brussels and she took on 14' of water in the bow very quickly and
began to sink. The engineer soon reported to the captain that the fires would be soon put out and there was
no way of getting her to shore.

The only panic reported on board came from two Italian's who jumped overboard before the boats were
lowered. The captain and crew kept their wits about them and the passengers responded in kind. While she
sank too fast for anyone to save anything she did sink slow enough to get the boats in the water and get all
the passengers, less the two Italians, into them, albeit most of the passengers had only basic clothing on.

As she settled by the bow the captain and many of the remaining crew took to the rigging but soon the ship
violently shook and most of them fell into the water. It is believed those crewmen who died were killed when
they were hit by the rigging when she went down. Capt. Land spent 20 minuets in the water and when he was rescued he was found passing a life buoy to one of those drowning nearby. When all was over ten people had been killed, the two Italian's and eight crewmen, including the quartermaster Mr. Conner and a steward named Cochran.

The passengers were most impressed with the actions of the captain and crew and stated the following;
" We who have just been rescued from a watery grave wish to express our sincere gratitude and admiration
of the courage, promptitude and coolness in danger exemplified by the captain, purser and other officers of
the ill-fated vessel which has just gone down so near the termination of her voyage".

The Kirby Hall managed to limp back to Liverpool and continued to sail until 1904 when she was scrapped.
© 2008 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Remembrance
In memory of those who lost their lives in
SS City of Brussels
"We remember those lost at sea"

Salon Steward
Able Seaman
Malcolm, George
Quinn, James
Lamp Trimmer
Smith, Michael
Able Seaman
Wood, Henry
Young, John W.
2nd Officer
2 unknown Italian passengers

To submit a photo, biographical information or correction please email the webmaster.

Drawing of City of Brussels from an Inman Line poster.

2005 Daily Event