The shipwreck of the Annie Jane – 1853

The Annie Jane was a newly built emigrant ship rated A1 at Lloyds which was the highest possible rating for a Quebec built ship. She was launched in May and made a successful crossing of the Atlantic with a full load of timber, then was fitted out in Liverpool as an immigrant ship . Sailing from Liverpool on the 24th of August to Quebec with a full complement of immigrants aboard and a cargo mostly composed of iron products for Canada’s new railways.

She was a three masted triple decked wooden sailing ship of 1294 tons 179 feet long carrying a cargo of over 800 tons of iron and 300 tons of paper, sails, rope, and tea.

annie jane advert

Manned by 48 crew, of which  17 were French Canadians, and four were apprentices, she was carrying just over 385 emigrants aboard on the way to Quebec. These included approximately 100 Glasgow and west coast tradesmen going to work on the Canadian railway. A high proportion were Irish but also English, Swiss/French emigrants.

The ship was caught in a squall and suffered damage to her masts and was forced to return to Liverpool arriving back on the 31st of August. Some passengers left her at this point refusing to sail on but were quickly replaced by other emigrants.

Sailing on her fatal voyage on 9th of September, she was caught up in another gale and dismasted again and also holed. The Annie Jane was finally driven ashore on the island of Vatersay in the outer Hebrides close to midnight on the 28th of September 1853. Reports were confused but most newspaper articles of the period say that about 330 drowned with 102 survivors.



Monument to the Annie Jane erected in 1881






I have examined every account of the incident and looked at the reports of the return of the survivors; I have come to the conclusion that there were 102 survivors, if you include Julie Macarthy’s 4 month old baby who was never counted as a survivor. Captain Masons list of survivors compiled on the morning of the 29th on Vatersay beach, used at the Beechey inquiry which the newspaper reports were based does not stand up to any critical examination.

There is also a list of the 316,  passengers and crew who lost their lives, those whose names I have been able to establish.

I am inviting any person who has looked at their family tree and found a gap or anecdotal evidence of a family member who survived or died in the tragedy to contribute to this page.

If you have access to a local copy of a census of 1851 and you have been wondering where a family member has disappeared to, could you check them against the casualty list.

I would also like any information on the 80 individuals who left the Annie Jane after her aborted first voyage. I know that around 30 of these took passage on the Sarah Sands around 15 September 1853. with some others on the Jane Glassin. I am appealing to Canadians who might know that their ancestors refused to sail on the Annie Jane on her last voyage and made it to Canada by other ships. Many more would have left the ship after the aborted first voyage but Thomas Holderness the owner of the vessel refused to refund the passage fares.

Sarah Sands

162 years has passed since the event and it is about time that a fuller picture was available as to the casualties and survivors of the Annie Jane.

While every effort is made to establish the veracity of the crew and passenger lists, sometimes it is impossible to establish beyond doubt looking back over 160 years ago, that we have the correct information about a person or family group. If you are using these lists for family research a degree of caution is best exercised and we would advise that you check against other resources.

Any help will be gratefully appreciated.

Please send any information to be added to me via the Contact page.

Regards Allan


Articles featured are sourced from the British newspapers archives

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