Daily Event for January 25, 2010

The Armenian left Liverpool under the command of captain Thomas Leamon at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 24, 1865, she was bound for Africa carrying thirty-eight passengers and about forty-nine crewmen. Conditions were foggy and Leamon felt it necessary to stop three times to make soundings, the last one made at 9 p.m. found the ship in 44 fathoms, after this full sail was raised. A little after midnight on Jan. 25, 1865 she ran on to Arklow Bank off the Irish coast. Leamon, fearing the ship would slip off the bank and founder in deep water he lowered the anchors, however the chains immediately broke, but the ship remained on the bank stuck fast.

To compound the problem a fire broke out in the deck house, but it was quickly extinguished. She was making water fast and Leamon began to abandon the ship. At least one boat was holed while lowering, but others made it into the water and away. It was not without difficulty as there was some panic on board and Leamon had to resort to firing a pistol over the heads of several men who rushed the first boat.

There were a number of women and children onboard and they were put into the boats first, rugs and coats were also put into the boat as most of them were less than properly dressed for a trip in an open boat, but fortunately the seas were relatively calm which made the task a little easier.

The ship continued to sink slowly and soon the sea was breaking over the side and washed Chief Steward Smett overboard, Leamon tossed him a lifebuoy which he took hold of, however he could not be reached and as a result drowned. The next casualty was Third Steward Watts, he somehow drowned while trying to bail out a leaking lifeboat.

With the ship at the mercy of the sea and wind, Leamon decided to have the top foremast cut away as it was causing the ship to roll, when the mast fell a most gruesome sight occurred, one of the lines found it's was around the neck of a passenger who was also a naval warrant officer, he was beheaded to the horror of those watching, most if not all of the women and children had been removed from the ship before this ghastly scene on deck.

Shortly thereafter the main deck went under water and those unfortunate souls still on the ship, including capt. Leamon, had to take to the rigging to stay alive, one passenger, Neale Horne, Esq. no longer had the strength to climb and fell into the sea and was not seen again. Those in the rigging suffered pains of cold and exhaustion, but somehow held on until rescue arrived.

The boats with the survivors, under the supervision of 3rd Officer Johnston, made it to the Arklow lightvessel and these boats were seen by captain Clarke of the SS Montague about 9 a.m., Clarke made for the lightship and learned of the drama playing out a few miles away, he took the lifeboats in tow and Johnston and made his way to the Armenian.

Clarke laid off to the windward side and the survivors were hauled over to the Montague using ropes and lifebuoys, during the rescue four men from the lightvessel took the gig around the Armenian and got caught in the surf, the gig capsized and all four were drowned. Removing the survivors, who had been hanging on all night was no easy task, two boys who could no longer hang on fell into the sea, they would have drowned were it not for 3rd officer Johnston, he jumped into the sea and rescued both of them. The last of the survivors, capt. Leamon and a couple of crewmen, were removed from the rigging at 2 p.m. while the ship broke up beneath them. The survivors were landed at Wexford where by all accounts they were very well treated.

The cause of the wreck may have been faulty or uncalibrated compasses, it was learned that they had not been adjusted before leaving Liverpool, and when they were tested later there was 3/4 of a point difference between the two.

© 2010 Michael W. Pocock

2005 Daily Event