Ann Harvey’s Weblog

dedicated to the lives of those lost and retrieved at sea

History and Background

with 2 comments

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 http://www.annharveydays.piczo.com/?cr=3 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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Written by annharvey

June 10, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Posted in uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Interesting stuff and good luck with the project.

    FYI, Canadian spelling includes a ‘u’ in neighbour and honour, just as you properly used in harbour.

    YYC Guy

    May 5, 2012 at 9:17 am

  2. 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. Approximately 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 Neighbour’, 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 return 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 neighbours 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 neighbours 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 en route 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.

    With their larders re-stocked by HMS Tyne’s Master, Ann and family and their neighbours move on with lives. They continue to fish as they always have, harvesting the rich bounty of the Grand Banks, tending the small gardens and livestock. A 100 Pound reward is given to the Harvey family 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 honour 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 honour 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 http://www.annharveydays.piczo.com/?cr=3 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.

    Vicky

    May 5, 2012 at 9:21 am


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