Thursday, 14 June 2012

Antonio Cruse, seaman

Maggie Jack has kindly written to advise me of an interesting reference she found to a sailor by the name of Antonio Cruse who was sadly drowned at sea. Antonio was one of the crew of the Grace Darling of Blyth in Scotland which was wrecked on 28th February 1874 after losing its mainmast in treacherous conditions off the Aberdeenshire coast. Intrigued by the story, I trawled through a few newspaper reports in the British Library 19th Century Newspaper Collection and elsewhere and found a number of accounts of the shipwreck, a selection of which I've transcribed below. Antonio Cruse was from South America and was either 27 or 37 at the time of his death but I've not been able to find out anything more about him. If anyone has any further information do get in touch.

Disasters on the Scotch coast
[From the Liverpool Albion, March 7]
Great consternation was caused at Shields on Sunday by receipt of intelligence of the loss of the barque Grace Darling, belonging to Blyth, on the Scotch coast, near Fraserburgh, with all the crew except one man. The barque left Shields only last Tuesday, bound to Swinemunde. The following is a list of the crew:- Ralph Davidson, captain; James Graham, mate, South Shields; Geo. W. Girling, boatswain, Jarrow; Wm. Townsend, cook and steward, South Shields; John Claxton, South Shields; George Horn, North Shields, Edward Stevenson, Norway; Thomas Nelson, South Shields; Antonio Cruse, seaman; Patrick Chapman, seaman; and William Barker, apprentice, Blyth. The Grace Darling belonged to R. Richardson and partners, of Blyth, and registered at North Shields. Four of the crew of the Stoneheaven lifeboat, which put off to aid the Grace Darling, were lost through the capsizing of the boat.
Source: Grey River Argus, Volume XV, Issue 1803, 23 May 1874, page 4

Disastrous Shipwrecks
The barque Grace Darling, of Amble, was totally wrecked near Rattray Head, on the Aberdeenshire coast, late on Friday night, and out of a crew of 15 men 14 were drowned. The Grace Darling passed Stonehaven on Friday afternoon flying signals of distress. The Stonehaven life-boat, manned by two of the regular crew and 10 volunteers, went out, but was unable to contend against the gale, and was driven north to Aberdeen, where, in attempting to make the harbour, she upset. She immediately righted, but four of her crew were drowned. The poor fellows, buoyed by their cork belts, were seen making signals for help, but none could be rendered, and one by one they were lost to sight in the heavy sea. Meanwhile the Grace Darling was driven before the wind on the rocks at Rattray Head, where she broke in pieces. Two of the bodies of her crew were recovered next day. Another vessel, the James, of Inverness, is supposed to have been lost with all hands.
Source: Morning Post, 2 March 1874

Dreadful wreck and loss of 16 lives
A telegram from Dundee states that six of the crew of the Grace Darling have been washed ashore. On Friday the barque was seen driving past Stonehaven, flying signals of distress. So stormy was the sea that only two of the regular crews of the lifeboat would go on board, the other ten being volunteers. On getting outside it was seen that the brave fellows were unable to contend against the fury of the gale, and that the boat was being blown rapidly to northwards. Instructions were at once telegraphed to Aberdeen to keep a sharp look-out for both lifeboat and ship, but the Aberdeen lifeboat was not launched, and nothing was done to meet the emergency. The ship and lifeboat soon appeared. The former had by this time lowered her distress signals, and she drove on to the north. The lifeboat made for the harbour, and in attempting to enter was upset. She righted immediately, but four of the crew were carried out to sea and drowned. Had the Aberdeen lifeboat been in readiness it is believed that all could have been saved, as the poor fellows, buoyed up by their cork belts, were seen for nearly half an hour, holding up their hands and crying for help. The Grace Darling meanwhile sped on, and after sailing 30 miles north from Aberdeen she struck the rocks two miles north of Rattray Head, some distance south from Fraserburgh. She soon became a total wreck, and out of a crew of 17 men 16 were drowned. The vessel was laden with coke. The wreck took place late on Friday night, and next morning the beach was strewed with wreck.
Source: The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, 3 March 1874

Loss of the Grace Darling and ten of her crew
When the Grace Darling passed Peterhead it was about ten o’clock at night. After a good deal of opposition on the part of the wives, a picked crew was got to man the life-boat. Every other precaution was taken upon the receipt of the telegram from Aberdeen, that the circumstances suggested. By the time the lifeboat was ready to start the Grace Darling was off the North Head. The boat put out to sea, but owing to the distance between them and the vessel, and the darkness of the night, they were obliged to abandon the quest, after being out for a couple of hours. Nothing more was seen or heard of the ill-fated vessel till early next morning, when a fisherman found one of the crew lying half-dead on the Sands at Powkburn, about two miles north of Rattray Head. This man, Edwin Stephenson, a native of Norway, was the only survivor of the crew of eleven men, including the captain. From the statement of this man it appears that the vessel was driven ashore about two o’clock in the morning. When no assistance reached them from Peterhead, and as their means of burning signals were exhausted, and the vessel was in a sinking state, the captain resolved to run the vessel upon the sands, expecting that she would hang together till daylight or till some assistance should arrive. But in less than ten minutes after striking the sands she became a total wreck. Stephenson floated ashore on a piece of wreck, and all the others – 10 in number – were drowned.  The Grace Darling was a barque of 366 tons register, loaded with coals from North Shields for Swinemunde. She was owned by Robert Richardson, Amble, Northumberland. She left North Shields on the 24th ult., and on the following day (Wednesday) had her mainmast carried away in the gale. They then put back, and on Friday sighted land south of Aberdeen, when they hoisted signals of distress, being in a sinking condition. All the bodies were washed ashore and removed to St Coombs. The following is the list of the crew:-

Ralph Davidson, master, 38 years, Blyth, married.
James Graham 25 years, London, mate, married.
William Townsend, 34, Exeter, cook and A.B. married
John Claxton, 21, Norfolk, A.B., unmarried.
George Horn, 26, Woodbridge, A.B.
Thomas Nelson, 20, Finland, A.B.
George W. Girling, 27, Newcastle, boatswain, married.
Antonio Cruse, 27, South America, A.B.
Patrick Chapman, 18, Londonderry, O.S.
William Baker, 18, apprentice, Blyth.

            Edwin Stephenson, 29, Norway, A.B.
Source: The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, 3 March 1874

© Debbie Kennett 2012

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