Most Popular Post

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Stowaway

Over one hundred years ago today he stowed away on the ship, probably below deck, and died the next day when she sank. This was my great uncle, Jim O'Brien (1885-1910), my grandfather, Gus O'Brien's older brother. Granda always said that his mother, Bridget Kielly O'Brien, never recovered from the drowning death of her son. The headstone in the old cemetery in Petty Harbour which bears her name states that Jim O'Brien drowned on the Regulus. The steamer came to an untimely end on October 23, 1910, south of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. Jim was from Maddox Cove, in Motion Bay, near Petty Harbour. He died near home.

The Regulus left Wabana headed for Sydney, Nova Scotia. My grandparents made this same trip years later when they headed to Boston where they married. Was Jim headed to the United States along this same route?

There was a cook by the name of M L Brien on the ship. He and the rest of the eighteen member crew jumped in the water but all perished. None of the bodies were recovered according to the records. However, Jim O'Brien's name is on the headstone where his mother is buried. His family put his name there in his memory.

It was common for O'Briens of that time to be called Brien. My own mother was baptized Mary Brien. Her father was know as Gus Brien. Jim was probably known by Brien as well. However was Jim Brien the M L Brien who was the cook on the Regulus? It is more likely that Jim was one of the stowaways on the ship and perished along with the crew that fateful night.

The following is from
The Evening Telegram, St John's, Newfoundland
Oct 24,1910

This is a fairly complete list of those who went down on the SS Regulus.
(Please note that Shoal Bay and Harts Cove are pretty much the same.


The Regulus is swept on the rocks at Shoal Bay, near Petty Harbour and her
crew of Nineteen lost.

List of those lost:

Capt Taylor of Cabot Street, leaving a wife and
several children.

Mate; Malcolm McNeil, son of a widowed mother. Leaving
to mourn two brothers.

Chief Engineer; John Penston.

Second; M F Knight, second son of Mr Stephen Knight, the
Chief Engineer on the Stella Maris.

Bosun; John Kent.

A B and Lamp Trimmer; Fred Cooke.

A B's; M Dalton and Joseph Fitzpatrick.

Firemen; Arthur Forbes, Joseph Murphy and John Rodgers.

Cook; M L Brien.

Stewart; John Osbourne. Leaving to mourn a wife and
five children. Son-in-law of Sergt. Courtenay of the
police force.

Herbert Goudie. Joined the Regulus as Engineer.

A young man named Barnes, who also joined as Engineer.

  Regulus, loading talc, probably near Manuels, pre 1909

An interesting set of circumstances occurred just prior to the disaster, involving the Regulus and another ship. The Regulus was on her way from Wabana to Philadelphia with a load of ore. According to the New York NY Evening Call, the Regulus crashed into the SS Karema, head-on on the Karema's port side. The Regulus was repaired and passed inspection, earlier in October of the same year. The Karema was sunk in 1917 by a German u-boat.

The accident happened in July, 1910, as described in the New York NY Evening Call.

In the report to the inquiry of the sinking of the Regulus, November 5, 1910, Captain Collins of the ship Eliza stated that his ship came upon the troubled vessel hours before she sank. Collins reported that Captain Taylor told him the main shaft had broken though he could not understand why because it was a new one. Members of the crew also reported that there were stowaways on board.

Could the collision with the Karema have damaged the Regulus in some unknown way causing this new main shaft to break, or was the shaft faulty? We will never know.

A tug boat did get a line on the Regulus that night to take her in tow but the line broke. The ship went onto the rocks and everyone perished.

Regardless of the reason or the circumstances of the tragedy, Bridget O'Brien dropped dead in the yard the next year. My grandfather, just a child of eleven at the time, never forgot his brother or his mother's untimely death. He thought she died of a broken heart.
The Regulus is sometimes spelled as Regalis. Like so many tragic events in Newfoundland, the Regulus disaster was immortalized in song, the words of which are on the websites below. I think the last song puts Bridget O'Brien's anguish in perspective.

The Loss of the Regalis           Author Unknown
Collected by MacEdward Leach

" a mother's heart is breaking for her blue eyed sailor b'y,
the salt seaweed entwines his brow that once she kissed with joy."

1 comment:

calem 007 said...

Hi Marie, beautiful post. I have never heard of a Jim O'Brien though. The headstone in the old graveyard lists Michael O'Brien not Jim. I have a photo here somewhere.