Ann Harvey’s Weblog

dedicated to the lives of those lost and retrieved at sea

History and Background

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Ann Harvey, seventeen years old & the wreck of The Despatch at Isle Aux Morts 

A history and background created from existing books and references listed at the end of this post. An earlier post ‘Timeline’ includes more ‘known’ facts. 

Preparations were underway for departure of the Scottish brig The Despatch from Ireland for Quebec. Passengers gathered on the docks of Londonderry, Ireland, May 29, 1828. Entire families with all the belongings they can carry aboard. Approx 200 immigrants (almost all are Irish) and a crew of eleven set sail.

The passage to North America commenced via the ‘Northern Great Circle Route’, but 42 days out in early July came a building storm when The Despatch was more than three quarters of the way to Quebec City. Fog and ice were encountered near Newfoundland and the storm increased as they rounded Cape Race, the southeast tip of Newfoundland. Accurate navigation became impossible with only sporadic sightings of land and the ship sailed north/northwest from the area of The Grand Banks toward an unforgiving complex of islands just 15 miles from Cape Ray. 

On the evening of July 10th, 1828 the 100 foot brig was driven during the storm, toward the rocks of a small island, Wreck Rock, off a thundering lee shore. A submerged rock, known locally as ‘the Bad Neighbor’, almost a mile from land, was charted by Captain James Cook, and along with other dangerous shoals had been involved in many shipwrecks. Its possible that Despatch hit this rock first, before foundering upon Wreck Rock and starting to break up.

The Ship’s master William Lancaster and several passengers were lost as the ‘jollyboat’ hung up perilously then swamped in towering waves. Further attempts by the 1st Officer Coughlan allow a number of people to make it to shore in a longboat and others make it onto the almost submerged island. Some passengers and crew cling to the wreck, some are on the wave swept island having used broken rigging from the ship to get there on July 11th. The storm’s waves prevented the longboat from attempting a retun to the wreck. Night fell again. During slack tide at dawn, further attempts were made to leave the foundered ship and gain more secure positions on nearby rocks or to the island, and surviving crew were able to approach the rock and get several survivors to safety.

The Rescue at Isle Aux Morts. It is a rugged and challenging time on the island. Large numbers of immigrants have come there hoping to find a better life, but the value of the fisheries has plummeted at the end of the French Wars and there is lawlessness with roving bands trying to live off the land and sea.. or find their way back to Britain. The local islanders are no strangers to shipwrecks and tragedy.. and have saved those they could and buried those they couldn’t.

Ann Harvey and her father George, a fisherman who emigrated from the Jersey Isles, find wreckage on July 12th during the continuing storm. On July 13th despite the roaring surf, they will row east with Ann’s younger brother and the Newfoundland dog ‘Hairy Man’ for 2 hours in the wind and pounding rain to what will become known as Wreck Rock. During a lull in the storm, the Harvey’s approach from leeward in the heaving waves and Hairy Man swims to the rocks where the survivors are clinging. A rope tied to a piece of wood is thrown from the rocks and seized in his teeth, a lifeline allowing escape from the pounding waves. Survivors follow the rope to the Harvey dory, are dragged aboard or pulled through roaring surf and rowed to shore.

One account mentions a young Scottish mother, Mrs. Arnott with an infant wrapped in a shawl. She clenched the shawl in her teeth to free her hands and bravely made the tenuous passage to the dory. (This shawl is still held by the Arnott family) Weakened survivors are overwhelmed by waves as the storm continues, remorselessly breaking the ship apart on the rocks. After two days of exposure, mothers unable to hold onto infants, see them swept away by the sea.

For three days and nights, Ann and her family and Despatch crew get survivors ashore.. to food and shelter. Ann and her brother work the Harvey boat and life ropes and are able to save passengers. Under George Harvey’s direction, crew that made it ashore use ropes from the Despatch longboat and the jollyboat which washed ashore and continue to rescue survivors. Lean-to’s are constructed by the Harvey’s, their neighbors and some of the survivors. Some die on the beach.. others have died from exposure and starvation on the rocks. In total, 158 passengers and nine of the crew survived. As the final night of the rescue unfolds, the last survivors clinging to the ship’s wreckage and on the rocks are rescued and rowed to shore. And then there are no more. Ann or George notify authorities of the wreck and return to help family and neighbors nurse, clothe and feed the survivors.

On hearing of the wreck, a British warship, HMS Tyne arrives in Port aux Basques a week later where a majority of the survivors have already been moved by George Harvey and Ann. Tyne’s captain sends boats to Isle aux Morts to pick up the remaining survivors.. some of whom will die enroute to Halifax. The survivors initially stayed at the ‘poor house’ in Halifax and dispersed from there, some like the Arnott family arriving in Quebec City aboard The Kingfisher.

Ann and family and their neighbors move on with life.. their larders re-stocked by HMS Tyne’s Master. They continue to fish as they always have, harvesting the rich bounty of the Grand Banks, tending the small gardens and livestock. A reward is given to the Harvey family.. 100 Pounds.. and at George Harvey’s insistence the commemorative medal from The Royal Humane Society is given to Ann. She will be known later as the “Grace Darling of Newfoundland”, after the English girl who some 10 years later, with her father, saved the lives of a number of seamen wrecked on the Northumberland coast.

Another shipwreck occurred ten years later in 1838. All 32 of the crew of the Scottish merchant ship Rankin are rescued by George Harvey and Ann who is now 27, a mother, and will have 8 children with Charles Gillam. She eventually relocates to Blanche Rouge, a fine harbour just west and along the coast.. and the site of one of the earliest lighthouses built on the maritime coast.

Ann dies at age 49 years (1811-1860).. and George Harvey died one year before her. Life continues on the south coast of Newfoundland. The tale is told and sung about.. but other events in the harsh environment will follow, as fishermen who fish the Banks will disappear and sealers are lost on the spring ice.. tales of these losses and other stories are simply added to the lore of the island. Generations will pass.

In 1987 the Canadian Coast Guard commissioned CCGS Anne Harvey in honor of her courageous acts and the ship now patrols the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland. A hiking or nature trail at Isle aux Morts is named in her honor as well. The events are best described in Kevin Major’s book ‘As Near To Heaven By Sea’ .. and the Chamber Opera Ann and Seamus based on Kevin Major’s book. Ann is included in Merle Forsty’s book 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Heroines. An excellent chapter is found in Sea Stories Of Newfoundland by Michael Harrington.

There are excellent period references written about the Wreck and Rescue in logs, letters or journals written by Captain Grant (Tyne), Henry Lancaster, the 1st mate of The Despatch, Joseph Jukes, Archdeacon Edward Wix, Rev. Blackmore, Rev. William Marshall and Governor Cochrane. Captain James Cook charted Isle Aux Morts much earlier in 1766 and his logs include specific sailing directions with notes regarding the dangerous rocks and shoals.

In 2007, the first Ann Harvey Days is held in Isle Aux Morts (please visit their excellent website and you can hear Don Crewe’s song ‘The Legend of George Harvey’ and review the many informative links) .

Ann is nominated as a Woman of Historical Significance by Isle Aux Morts Town Council..


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June 10, 2008 at 5:05 pm

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Documentary Development

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A previous post mentioned ‘what’s involved’ in moving a Documentary project forward.. from an idea.. to a reality. Although there are numerous research contacts still to be initiated as well as ‘creative aspects’ to develop and explore.. we have developed a Preliminary Script Outline.

The Outline specifies locations we would like to shoot, identifies people we want to interview, the nature of ‘support imagery’ we need to gather or create, and how On-Camera Host(s) and Cameo Appearances bind the overall story together. Aspects of the Soundtrack are included in the Outline, suggesting how Narration, Music and Sound Effects will contribute to the production.

We have started ‘Querying’ possible Production Partners to determine their interest in the project. Typically these are companies with exceptional track records in the production of high-end Documentaries for International Distribution. I’ll update later in regard to this aspect.

I’ll add a brief technical note at this point. Our design is based on High Definition production and post-production. Ideally, all On-Camera Host shooting, Interviews and Location shooting will be shot in High Definition.. though we can incorporate lower definition footage. All ‘Support Imagery’ such as photographs, artifacts or documents, maps, and graphic elements much be packaged or edited in the same High Definition format. The finished program can be ‘down-sized’ or exported to a variety of formats, whether for DVD, On-line via the Web, or for Standard Television format.

I’ll also update later in regard to contacts and liaison we’ve initiated re shooting in Newfoundland or other locations in support of this story, as well as who we’re contacting to support the creation of ‘Support Imagery’ mentioned earlier.. and regarding On-Camera Host(s) or Cameo Appearances and Narration.

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June 10, 2008 at 12:29 pm

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Date ? George and brother Tom Harvey & wives, Isle of Jersey, come to Newfoundland (George age 27 ?)

The Despatch, 100 foot Brig, 187 Gross Tons, Captain William Lancaster.. Ships Master, part owner.. Registered out of Workington in 1828, launched February 28, 1801, built at Whitehaven by Thomas Kirk.

1811 or 1812 Ann Harvey born, Father George Harvey, Mother Jane Harvey. Ann is the eldest of 10 children the Harvey’s will have, Thomas will be born in 1816. 

1828 Ann marries Charles Gilliam (who was born 1798 Cape Ray) 1st child Charles is born in 1829 in Pointe Blanche, they will have 8 children (is Charles Gilliam the son of Michael Gilliam, the pilot at Port Aux Basques ?) (Assumed they married after the wreck and rescue.. but not confirmed)

May 29 1828, The Despatch sails from Derry, Ireland, 211 aboard including 11 crew. (note Captain’s brother is 1st Mate & survived.. trace him, Henry Lancaster) Westerlies via Great Northern Circle Route (usually a cold wind & ‘on the nose” thus they would be tacking constantly)

Mid June Despatch is crossing edge of Grand Banks (per ‘Sea Stories of Newfoundland’)

June 19 entered fog for 10 straight days (per ‘Sea Stories of Newfoundland’)

June 30 to July 7th no ‘observations’ possible but saw land believed to be Cape Chapeau Rouge on western side of Placentia Bay

July 7 fog is constant but wind from southeast is good (further info re the passage, would be priceless !)

Thurs July 10, 1828 altered course to NW for N, thinking they are abeam of  Cape Ray

Despatch grounds at approx 6:00 PM, fog and SE winds, 47° 36′ 0″ North, 59° 1′ 0″ West. Rock spotted 3-4 points off lee bow, heavy swell ‘emptied sails’ preventing response. Wreck Rock just inshore from ‘Bad Neighbor’ 1/2 mile from shore & approx 9 miles E of Port Aux Basques (between ‘Dead Islands and Burgeo Islands per Reverend William Marshall) (near Hickock’s Point, halfway between Burnt Islands and Isle Aux Morts .. per Kevin Hardy)

Captain Lancaster lost during launch of jollyboat (need info, ref re jollyboat) longboat launched, (1st Officer Coughlan) and is tied to ship overnight

Friday July 11, longboat reaches shore, heavy surf (how many aboard ?)

Saturday July 12 (evening) jollyboat gets to lee of Wreck Rock and with dog’s help 6 survivors get to jollyboat & ashore. The Harvey’s see wreckage this same day.

Sunday July 13 6:00 AM Harvey’s arrive from Isle Aux Morts 4 miles away, heavy seas till 6:00 PM when 60 rescued via 3 boats, 7 survivors taken to Harvey home

Monday July 14 heavier surf allows only 30 to be rescued, 47 survivors taken to Harvey Home

Tuesday July 15 last survivors taken off rock, it appears some may have been taken to Blanche Rouge.

Wednesday July 16 George Harvey (in Western Boat) makes 2 trips to Port Aux Basques

Thurs July 17 The Tyne under Captain Sir Richard Grant leaves Cape Ray & heads to Port Aux Basques having received word of the shipwreck

Friday July 18, 6:00 AM dense fog and South wind, Tyne is piloted approx 10:00 AM into Port Aux Basque by Michael Gillam. George Harvey is in Port Aux Basques on July 18 in Captain Grant’s letter and it appears he made at least two trips on the Wednesday to get survivors to Port Aux Basques. Henry Lancaster validates the dog as being part of the rescue (Grant letter)

Saturday July 19 Lieutenant Gordon (Tyne), with 2 Gillam sons as pilots and George Harvey return with last survivors

July 26 Tyne takes survivors to Halifax. Most survivors disperse (How?)

Colonial Brig Kingfisher (Captain Rayside) moves Arnott’s on to Quebec

? Where were most of the passengers actually headed to .. ?

1828 Ann Harvey married Charles Gilliam (did they meet as result of Despatch ?)

1830 Edward Wix meets Ann Harvey and presents medal at Seal’s Cove, Dead Islands. During a later visit (1835) he will stay with host George Harvie and go on to Port Aux Basques where he christens his host Michael Guillam’s grandchild and notes that Guillam’s wife and Thomas Harvie’s wife have died since his first visit. 

1838 Rankin, Captain Alexander Mitchell, crew of 25 rescued

1839 Joseph Jukes meets George Harvey 

1845 Ann’s last child, Thomas Guillaume is born, christened by Rev. Blackmore in Isle Aux Morts. as well as Frances & Sarah Guillaume of Michael & Elizabeth and later at Margaree christens Maria Guillaume of William & Catherine.

1859 George Harvey died & buried at Isle Aux Morts (see pictures of gravesite)

1860 Anne Harvey died Connior Bay & buried near Port Aux Basques

The Arnott ‘Shawl’ is in possession of family

July 17, 1987 CCG Cutter Anne Harvey commissioned

Ann Harvey Trail named

Anne Gillam headstone removed (per Kevin Hardy article)

July 2007 Ann Harvey Days

February, 2008 Nomination of Ann Harvey to HSMBC (Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada) as a woman of historical significance

July, 2008 Nomination of Ann Harvey not approved by HSMBC.. ‘insufficient documentation’

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June 3, 2008 at 9:59 am

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The Ships List ..

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May 27, 2008 at 11:24 am

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The Arnott Family

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The Colonial brig Kingfisher, Rayside, at Quebec, Sept 28th, from Halifax, brought up a Mr. Arnott, wife and eleven children, who, it will be remembered, were wrecked some time since on the coast of Newfoundland, in the Despatch from Londonderry, bound for Quebec, losing the whole of their valuable stock of farming implements, with £150 in sovereigns.

His excellency the Earl of Dalhousie, in that true spirit of liberality which has always distinguished him during his residence amongst us, has presented this distressed family with a most handsome pecuniary donation, and furnished them with provisions and a free passage to Montreal.

(note.. The Arnott family still has the shawl that Mary Arnott was wrapped and carried in when her mother, Catherine Ferguson Arnott was rescued from the wreck of The Despatch. Bruce Arnott from Dearborn, Michigan graciously provided letters written by Daniel Arnott Sr. to the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada in 1835 and the King of England in 1836 that portray the family’s dire circumstances resulting from the wreck.)

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May 27, 2008 at 10:25 am

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Linda Bailie and Mary Stengel

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Our heritage is attributed to the bravery and sacrifices of the Harvey family in July 1828. Brothers John and Joseph Smiley, successful weavers of linen in the County Tyrone, Ireland, married Alexander sisters. John, the eldest brother, had made a trip to Canada, making arrangements for the two families to settle in Ontario and establish their weaving business.

Sailing for Quebec from Londonderry, Ireland on the fateful DESPATCH were Joseph Smiley, his wife Margaret, their 5 month old daughter, Mary and also John Smiley, his wife Catherine (pregnant with their third child), and their two young children. Miraculously, the entire Smiley clan survived the disaster.

The Smileys and all other survivors were later rescued from Isle aux Morts and taken to Port aux Basque where they boarded the HMS TYNE to be transported to the Citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia On the TYNE ship log, the Smiley sir name was mistakenly listed as Smaley.

When it came time for the survivors to sail on to Quebec, the Smiley women refused to board another ship. Consequently, they were housed in the poor house while their husbands sought employment. They were hired by an Irish landlord on the Uniake Estate (now a Heritage Museum near Halifax). Eventually they purchased land and settled in the Halifax area for the next two generations.

Our grandfather, Ernest Smiley, and two of his brothers went west in the early 1900’s. They settled in Humboldt County in northern California. Ernest and brother, Charles, married the Kelley sisters, daughters of a local dairyman. In 1910 the entire extended families moved to Polk County near Salem, Oregon.

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May 27, 2008 at 10:07 am

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Captain James Cook, The Grenville, 1755

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Three leagues and a half to the Westward of Rose Blanche Point, is Conny Bay, and Otter Bay; the latter is good anchorage for shipping in 7, 8 and 9 fathoms, but it is dangerous in going in, because of several sunken rocks without the passage, which in fine weather do not shew themselves.

West 3 quarters South, 4 leagues from Rose Blanche Point, are the Dead Islands, which lay close under the shore; in the passage between them and the main is good anchorage for shipping, in 6, 7 and 8 fathoms, sheltered from all winds, but is very dangerous going in unless well known, by reason of several sunken rocks lying in both at the East and West entrance. The entrance from the Eastward may be known by a very white spot on one of the islands: Bring this white spot to bear N.W. by N. and steer for it, keeping the rocks on the starboard hand nearest on board, and leave the island on which the white spot is on your larboard side. The West entrance may be known by a tolerable high white point on the main, a little to the Westward of the islands, on the West part of this point is a green hillock; keep this white point close on board, until you are within a little round rock, lying close to the Westernmost island, at the East point of the entrance; then haul over to the Eastward for the Great Island, (on which is a high hill) and steer in N.E. by E. half E, keeping the little rock before-mentioned in sight.

From the Dead Isles to Port au Basques, the course is west 4 miles: between them lie several small islands close under the shore, and sunken rocks, some of which are half a mile from the shore.

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May 27, 2008 at 9:39 am

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May 26, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Compass and Steering ..

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I suggested to Bruce Arnott that every ‘discovery’ regarding this story.. ‘shapes’ the premise of a documentary. He’s a descendant of Mary Arnott who was carried in 1928, through the waves to safety in a shawl.

His research and the existing ‘facts’ and ‘fictions’.. combine with new little gems discovered regarding broad aspects or specific events or people. I’ve created a text ‘timeline’ to help link actual events to known articles, references, stories.

A good example of a topic that needs more research and relevant reference imagery is George Harvey. Every aspect of this story points to a very courageous, capable and resourceful seaman/fisherman who’s children enacted the rescue as he did, while he coordinated surviving crew and ship’s boats as well as ensuring all survivors were cared for on the beach, as well at his home with his wife.

Another example is Wreck Rock, and the sunker, ‘bad neighbor. We’d like to confirm location, get reference imagery. Similarly, the beach & Isle Aux Morts environs. Reference photos.. map this visually.

Moving on to a look at possible media that seem to spring from this story.. here’s a breakdown.

Blog: I’d like this blog to be more ‘story-telling’ visually, from this point. So I want to add a sample ‘page’ and will do so later. The sample will preview a page of a Book, a Scene in a Documentary, a Web Page, and an aspect of a Fictional Feature Film.

Book: Almost a ‘ship’s log’ but very visual, with widescreen, horizontal layout. Light textured paper embossed with entries. Artifacts, text, drawings, interviews, footage, production or research comments, footnotes. The book and documentary are essentially the same ‘document’ ..

Documentary: Widescreen High Definition video. Created at highest attainable resolution with versioning to lower resolution as required. High Definition Public Broadcasters an example. Online delivery another example. DVD or Blue Ray for retail or Institutional distribution. Emulates the Book layout & content.

Web: Again, a reflection of the Book, and the Documentary.. but presents interactivity.

Fiction Feature Film: The actual Historical events are encompassed within a modern scenario that starts in Seattle, Washington with two teenagers, but quickly moves to Newfoundland where a key ‘artist’ character is creating the type of ‘pages’ or ‘scenes’ described above.. When you see the sample page I’m suggesting, think in terms that she created it.

Ambitious.. to imagine 5 distinct media stemming from one story. !!

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May 26, 2008 at 4:19 pm

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I came across the story of The Wreck of The Despatch and the rescue efforts of The Harvey Family, in 2007. I was amazed that I’d never heard or read of the story. To date I haven’t found a single person who knows the story.. other than those involved either as descendants, historians, writers, artists, local Newfoundlanders or members of the Steering Committee behind the effort to establish Ann Harvey as a Woman of Historical Significance.

It seemed to me, that a Documentary Film or program might help.. I also started writing a Feature Film Synopsis with a fictional contemporary context and setting, that could encompass the Historical Events at Isle Aux Morts.

Along the way, I began researching the story.. to get a sense of who George Harvey was, the nature of ‘passage’ across the Atlantic in that era, the passengers and crew and ship, Newfoundland and its south coast, the locale of the wreck and rescue effort.. and to reflect the current status of the story.

Creating a Documentary and/or a Film is a major undertaking. If you work backwards, there’s audiences in Canada and the USA, and International audiences in countries such as Ireland and the UK.. perhaps even in other countries the story appeals to. Whether on televisions, via DVD or even online distribution that means ‘partnerships’ and ‘deal-making’. Working further back it means Production Companies and Networks are involved (and lawyers). That all takes MONEY .. Writing, soundtrack, camera work, graphics, photography, editing.. research, liaison, memos, phone calls, more research.

Well.. that’s where I sit today.. at the ‘more research’ stage.. as well as what we call the ‘preliminary development’ stage. Where I’m contacting Film Agents, Production Companies, Talent Agencies, Funding Sources, Networks, Film Boards etc etc. 

I’ve been down this road before.. perhaps not with a story of this significance.. or ‘weight’ .. and in the days and weeks and months to come, I’ll try to maintain a ‘log’ of how it unfolds, who I talked to, their interest or potential involvement. I just had a delightful conversation with Gordon Pinsent’s agent in regard to him being the narrator or even an on-camera host of the documentary.. I’ll update further, as we proceed.

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May 23, 2008 at 6:22 pm

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