Ann Harvey’s Weblog

dedicated to the lives of those lost and retrieved at sea

Wikepedia re: The Despatch and Ann Harvey

with 8 comments

To supply additional background on the wreck of the brig Despatch in 1828, we thought it would be appropriate to provide Wikepedia’s information on Ann Harvey. It needs updating, as there are inaccuracies.

“Ann Harvey (18111860) was a fisher and rescuer born near the small fishing community of Isle aux Morts, Newfoundland, Canada. Harvey, called “Grace Darling of Newfoundland”, is known for her bravery at the young age of seventeen for rescuing, along with her father, younger brother and a dog, 163 shipwrecked souls from the brig Despatch between the twelfth and fifteenth of July, 1828.

Harvey and her father George were fishing as usual on one early July morning when they made the discovery that would etch Ann forever in Newfoundland history. The Harveys lived, along with one or two other families, on a small, bare, rocky island near Isle aux Morts. George, born in Jersey, moved to Newfoundland with his wife where they had eight children, of whom Ann was the oldest.

That morning, when Ann sighted a keg and a straw bed floating in the turbulent seas, they immediately realized a ship had been wrecked nearby. George and Ann fetched twelve-year-old Tom, George’s oldest son, and their Newfoundland dog, Hairy Man, and launched their punt with little regard for their own safety. On a beach nearby they found six men who had survived the wreck and set out to find more survivors. They found a large group on a tiny island that would be thereafter be known as Wreck Rock. This rock, three miles from shore, was barely large enough to hold the remaining survivors of the thirty or more who had died from exhaustion or washed away and drowned. They got to this small rock by means of a mast they had cut away from the sinking vessel. George could get no closer than 100 feet of the survivors due to the heavy seas. He threw a billet of wood to which the survivors attached a rope and George got his dog to swim for it. Each of the passengers were taken off the rock in this fashion.

Five more of the survivors died on the rock and ten more expired on land after their dramatic rescue. The waves remained merciless the entire time; two babies were swept from their mother’s arms. But over an exhausting three-day period from Sunday morning to Tuesday morning, more than 180 people were saved in this manner by Ann and George.

Their work did not end there, for now the survivors had to be fed. This was a challenge given the high numbers and the limited supplies the tiny community had available. Besides, the nearest merchants were many miles away in Jersey Harbour and Harbour Breton. Although Ann and her family had saved their lives and tried their best to feed and care for the survivors in the intervening days, the would-be immigrants were in a pitiful condition. There were few homes on Dead Island, so the Harveys and some of the survivors built lean-tos for shelter.

When Captain Grant of HMS Tyne arrived about eight days later, after receiving word of the wreck, they found no bread, flour or tea left in the Harvey home, their winter provisions all gone. Grant replenished the food stocks of the Harveys and removed the survivors to St. John’s, where news of the heroism of Ann and her father travelled throughout the island. From Government House, Governor Thomas Cochrane applied to the Royal Humane Society for recognition of the family and a special medal was struck. Lloyd’s of London, the insurance agents, gave the Harveys the then princely sum of 100 pounds.

Ann’s days as a rescuer were not over; ten years later on September 4, 1838, the Rankin was sailing from Glasgow to Quebec and went aground near the same spot as the Despatch. This time she helped save the lives of twenty-five people.

For a time, Ann was know as the “Grace Darling of Newfoundland”, after the English girl who, with her father, saved lives of seamen wrecked on the Northumberland coast. On July 17, 1987, the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Ann Harvey was commissioned in memory of Ann’s heroic deeds.”

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8 Responses

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  1. If anybody cares to share any information on the wreck of the Despatch, or the life of Ann Harvey, or, for that matter, any lesser known shipwrecks deep in Canadian lore and mythology please add a comment or a post.


    May 6, 2008 at 10:43 pm

  2. There are errors and assumptions in the Wikepedia page. Should consider replacing it with a ‘Details’ page that is more accurate. George and Jane Harvey had 10 children and there is more accurate info re the actual rescue process and how the Despatch crew assisted.


    May 24, 2008 at 1:55 pm

  3. It is my understanding that the HMS Tyne took the survivors to Halifax rather than St. John’s.

    Linda Bailie

    May 30, 2008 at 12:54 am

  4. Agreed! There are several errors in this document. Visit our website at and see our nomination to the HSMBC for a more accurate one.

    Blanford Billard

    May 30, 2008 at 10:05 am

  5. Daniel Arnot, his wife, and eleven children,all who survived the wreck of the ‘Despatch’ in writing to the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada in 1835 and the King of England in 1836, stated in both letters,”we were observed by the Tyne Frigate who took all who remained alive on board and conveyed us to Halifax.” “We remained there until the family recruited in strength.” “The Brig Kingfisher removed us to Quebec.”

    Bruce Arnott

    June 2, 2008 at 5:17 pm

  6. I understood the story to be that George Harvey found depris of the shipwreck and went out the next day with his family to help.

    Margaret T. Coley

    June 5, 2008 at 2:58 pm

  7. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Enlarged


    June 21, 2008 at 8:21 am

  8. The June 1854 edition of Harper’s Magazine included a biographical sketch of Ann Harvey’s father, and clearly stated that their dog was not a Newfoundland, but a Labrador Retriever.

    “The island has not only its fishermen, but fishing dogs; at least Harvey had one of this class, who had not been taught the craft, but took to it of his own accord, and followed it apparently for amusement. The animal was not of the breed distinguished as the Newfoundland dog, so celebrated for beauty, sagacity, and fidelity; but one of the short-haired, sharp-nosed Labrador race, the most abundant dogs in the country, not handsome, but intelligent and useful. When no wanted for the service of his master or the family, the dog would take his station on a projecting point of rock, and attentively watch the water, where it might be from six to eight feet deep, the bottom being white with fish bones. Upon a fish appearing, easily discovered over the whitened ground, it was immediately “set” by the dog, who waited for the favorable opportunity to make a plunge. This was upon the fish turning its broadside toward him, when down he went like a dart, and seldom returned without the struggling prey in his mouth. The animal regularly conveyed his capture to a particular spot selected by himself, and on a summer day would raise a fish-stack at the place, consisting of fifty or sixty individuals a foot long.”

    Jonathan Hart

    April 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

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