An Excursion Steamer Sunk in the Tay

’Twas in the year of 1888, and on July the 14th day,
That an alarming accident occurred in the River Tay.
Which resulted in the sinking of the Tay Ferries’ Steamer “Dundee,”
Which was a most painful and sickening sight to see.

The Steamer was engaged by the Independent Order of Rechabites,
And all were resolved to see some rural sights;
And the place they selected was the village of Newburgh;
While each heart was happy and free from sorrow.

And the weather was sunny, and really very fine,
And 900 souls had agreed to while away the time;
And they left the Craig Pier at half-past two o’clock,
Never thinking they would meet with an accidental shock.

And after passing underneath the Bridge of Tay,
Then they took the Channel on the south side without dismay;
And Captain Methven stood on the Steamer’s bridge, I do declare,
And for the passengers he seemed to have very great care.

And all went well on board for some time,
And the silvery Tay shone beautiful in the sunshine;
And the passengers’ hearts felt light and gay,
While they gazed on the bonnie banks of the silvery Tay.

To do justice to the passengers, they were a goodly band,
For their behaviour, ’tis said, was truly grand;
But to the eastward of Newburgh, the Steamer was too close inshore,
And on passing a boatman, he warningly to them did roar,-

Warning them not to come inshore so near,
But his warning voice the helmsman didn’t hear;
Neither the Captain or passengers his warning dreads,
Until the Steamer struck a number of boulders, known as The Heads.

And close to the point where the Pow falls into the Tay,
Which the people that escaped drowning will remember for many a day,
Because many of the passengers were thrown off their balance;
But, most fortunately, they were all saved merely by chance.

And owing to the suddenness of the shock, many women fainted away,
Which filled the rest of the passengers’ hearts with dismay;
But they soon regained their composure when close to the land,
Especially when they saw that succour was near at hand.

The engines were kept going at full speed,
And God helped His people in time of need;
And in a short time Newburgh was reached,
While many women wept bitterly, and loudly screeched.

Because by this time the forehold was nearly filled with water,
Which caused the passengers’ teeth with fear to chatter;
Because the Steamer was settling down forward,
While to land the passengers safe Captain Methven struggled hard.

But before one-half of them had got ashore,
The women and children were in a state of uproar,
Because the forepart of the Steamer was submerged in the Tay,
Which filled the passengers’ hearts with dismay.

But, thanks be to God! all the passengers were sent to Dundee
By the Steamers Renown, Forfarshire, Protector, and the Lass o’ Gowrie,
Which certainly was a most beautiful sight to see,
When they landed 900 passengers safe on the pier at Dundee.

Then, good people, away to the mountains, glens, and lakes,
And drink of milk and pure water, and eat oaten cakes;
And sit down on the margin of a little burn in the sunshine,
And enjoy yourselves heartily during the holiday time.

Exciting Scene In The Tay

Steamer Sunk — Narrow Escape Of 900 Passengers

On Saturday afternoon a serious disaster occurred to the Tay Ferries steamer Dundee as she was proceeding up the Tay to Newburgh with about 900 excursionists on board. The vessel was hired by the Ancient Order of Rechabites for a pleasure trip to Newburgh. The arrangements for the excursion were undertaken by the brethren of the Order in Dundee, “Scotland’s First Tent,” taking the responsibility of the trip. They were also accompanied by the “Pride of Dundee (Juvenile) Tent” and a few members of the “Lochee Tent” and the “Excelsior (Lochee Juvenile) Tent.” Tickets were sold to the general public, and a large number availed themselves of the opportunity of enjoying an afternoon’s sail on the river and a picnic in the ruins of the Abbey of Lindores. The steamer sailed from the Craig Harbour about half-past two o’clock in the afternoon. The weather was all that could be desired, and every one on board was in high spirits. The vessel was crowded from stem to stern, a large proportion of the passtngers being young women and children. Music was supplied by a quadrille band, and dancing was engaged in on the main deck, while a dance party was got up under the bridge to the music of a melodian. Everything went well till the steamer came within sight of Newburgh. At this part of the river the channel is very narrow, the navigable part being close in to the southern shore. About half-a-mile from the harbour of Newburgh the channel is contracted to an extremely narrow passage by a dyke running out from the south shore and the sandbanks of Mugdrum on the north. The dyke was built a good many years ago for the benefit of the salmon fishing, but it has worn away greatly, and is now covered at high water, and marked by a buoy. In passing this point the ship struck on the north end of the dyke. She bumped hard, and the shock made her quiver from stem to stern, and then she grated and groaned as she dragged herself over the obstruction. The passengers were shaken in their seats, and some of the females gave vent to a startled exclamation, but as the ship glided into deep water again nothing more was thought of the matter, the general impression being that the keel had simply grazed a sandbank. There was no panic, but had the passengers been aware of the extent of the damage the vessel had sustained it would have been impossible to have restrained their fears, although there was no real danger at the time. The ship was not more than a couple of hundred yards from the shore and the harbour was close at hand. After she floated off the dyke the Dundee steamed slowly on and stood in for the pier, but her stem took the ground before she could be laid alongside, and there she stuck, her stern post being eight or ten feet from the quay. Captain Methven, who was in command, wisely resolved to get the passengers ashore as quickly as possible. A gangway was accordingly run out from the poop-deck to the quay, and a broad plank placed alongside made an additional bridge, and by these means the passengers were all disembarked in safety.

So far the excursionists had every reason to congratulate themselves; but the vessel had sustained more serious damage than anyone was aware of. The force of the collision had started her bottom plates in several parts of the hull. Scarcely had she floated off than the water began to flow into the engine room, and two watertight compartments forward began to fill. The tide was low at the time of the grounding, or probably it would not have happened. As the water rose the ship filled, and at high water she was lying alongside the quay completely submerged, with the exception of her funnel and poop deck. Meanwhile the excursionists, the majority of whom were ignorant of what had happened, proceeded to Lindores Abbey, where tea was served out, after which they engaged in various amusements.

Dundee Courier, 16th July 1888

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Comments (5) »

  1. Angie T
    In the year 2014, on the 9th day of August at 2:02 pm

    Horrible! I think I would Loudly Screech as well under such circumstances.

  2. Stephen Midgley
    In the year 2014, on the 11th day of August at 9:56 am

    Yes, but could you get your teeth to chatter with fear at the same time?

  3. Anthony Webb
    In the year 2014, on the 1st day of November at 11:18 pm

    A man from whom no disaster was safe!

  4. Dan E
    In the year 2016, on the 7th day of April at 12:23 pm

    Some people on here seem to think that William was the cause of theses disasters, I’d like to say that I and others wouldn’t have known anything about them, if he had not lived or used his unique form of ryme to inform us.

  5. Dan E
    In the year 2018, on the 12th day of August at 4:30 pm

    There is a moment when “Our Wullie” seems to talk what appears a load of nonsense,! His bad poetry is used by others to denigrate what he as a human being. Is trying to express in his own way,and that is his own style. If only our young folk knew what this man could teach them just by being our William. As an Englishman, I can’t fault William in his style of trying to get though to those who are less than knowledgeable due to the Political Correctness of this era. The Scott’s should be proud of this man, he is in fact the best thing that has come from this land.Make no bones about this Our Wullie has done more for Scotland that Mel Gibson.

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