King Alfred (1)

Board of Trade Wreck Report for 'King Alfred', 1894


The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1887.

IN the matter of a formal Investigation held at Glasgow, at the Sheriff Court, on the 4th and 5th days of May 1894, before Mr. Sheriff GUTHRIE, assisted by Captains KENNETT HORE and A. WOOD, into the circumstances attending the stranding and loss of the British steamship "KING ALFRED," near Stuley Island, on the 4th of April 1894.

Report of Court.

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the annex hereto, that the vessel struck on a sunken rock (called Ring Rock) off the Island of Stuley on the east coast of South Uist, and that the casualty was caused by the neglect of the master to take common precautions in approaching the land to verify his position by bearings. The Court therefore suspends the certificate of the master, Mr. William Wishart, No. 09291 for the period of 12 months from this date.

Dated this eighth day of May 1894.


W. GUTHRIE, Judge.

We concur in the above report.





Annex to the Report.

This was an inquiry into the circumstances attending the stranding and loss of the British steamship "King Alfred" on or near the Ring Rock, Stuley Island, on the east coast of South Uist, on the 4th of April 1894, and held before Sheriff Guthrie at the Sheriff Court, Glasgow, on the 4th and 5th of May 1894. Mr. C. D. Donald appeared for the Board of Trade, and Mr. Wyllie represented the master, Mr. William Wishart. The first and second officers were not represented by counsel.

The "King Alfred," of Glasgow, official number 96086, was a screw steamship built of steel at Blyth by the Blyth Shipbuilding Company (Limited) in 1889, her length being 225 ft., breadth 32.75 ft., and depth of hold 15.8 ft. She was fitted with triple expansion engines by the North-Eastern Marine Engineering Company, of Wallsend, of 99 horse-power combined, her gross tonnage being 1,136.62 tons, and registered tonnage 717.36 tons.

She had two masts, schooner-rigged, and was fitted with boats and life-saving appliances according to the Board of Trade regulations, and carried four (4) compasses, two of which were placed on deck, a standard on the bridge by which the courses were set and the vessel navigated, and a steering compass in the wheel-house by which the vessel was steered, the other two being kept below as spare compasses. The standard and steering compasses were last adjusted on the 25th of May 1892, by Messrs. John Bruce and Son, of Liverpool. They were in good order and condition, and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel, the standard being a patent compass supplied by Messrs. Alexander Dobbie and Son, of Glasgow, in 1891, the steering compass by Messrs. Hutchinson, of South Shields, in 1889, when the ship was built and, judging by the evidence adduced, the vessel appears to have been well found and properly fitted and equipped for the voyage on which she was engaged when the casualty occurred.

The "King Alfred" was owned by the King Line Company (Limited), and managed by Mr. Owen Cosby Phillips, of 12, Renfield Street, Glasgow, as per register dated 16th of October 1890, and she was commanded by Mr. William Wishart, who holds a certificate of competency numbered 09291. On the 16th of March 1894 the "King Alfred" left Fernandina, in the Gulf of Florida, with a cargo of about 1,225 tons of phosphate rock, bound for Barrowstoness, with a crew of 20 hands all told, as follows: The master, 2 officers, 6 A.B.'s, 3 engineers, 4 firemen, 1 donkeyman, 1 cook, 1 steward, and 1 boy, her draught of water at the time of leaving part being 15 ft. 2 in. forward and 16 ft. 2 in. Aft.

The weather fine and clear with a smooth sea. She proceeded on her voyage all well, having met with occasional heavy weather about the 22nd, 23rd, 24th. and 25th of March, from the S.W., West, N.W., and Northward, and on the 4th of April at noon was said to be in latitude 56.36' north longitude 7.10' west, by good observations, the weather fine but dull, with light airs from the southward and a smooth sea. This position would place the vessel about S.S.E. 3/4 E. from Barra Head Lighthouse, distant 19 1/2 miles, and nearly 8 1/2 miles from the N.W. end of the Island of Tiree; the master stating that it was then his intention to proceed up through the Little Minch Channel towards Cape Wrath, that having had good observations for latitude and longitude on this day and the day before he was quite confident where the vessel was.

From this position at noon of the 4th of April, a course was set N.E. by E. magnetic till 1 p.m., the vessel going full speed about 8 1/2 to 9 knots. At about 1 p m to 1.15 the course was altered to N.E., and about 2 p.m. the land was sighted on the port bow 3 1/2 miles distant. The course was then altered to N.N.E. to draw into the land, and shortly afterwards they were within 300 yards of it, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Ru Horday between Eriskay Sound and Loch Boisdale, and the second officer, who was on the bridge with the master, appears to have advised him to keep further out, as they were getting dangerously close to the rocks. The master took no heed of this warning, and about 3 pm. an island with a lighthouse upon it was seen on the port bow, and also a buoy on the starboard bow, and he stated in his evidence that he at once took the lighthouse to be that of Glass Island or Scalpay, and the buoy to be the one marking the position of the Skeir-inoe Shoal. But how or why he could have so suddenly imagined himself to be 47 miles further ahead than he ought to have been when only three hours previously he had taken the latitude at noon, there is no evidence to show. Moreover, a glance at the chart would at once have made this error clear to him by the bearings of the land and the courses he was steering; but this simple precaution was either neglected or disregarded, for no bearings were taken of the land at any time after it was first sighted. The vessel's course was altered to pass inside the buoy seen on the starboard bow, and she was then steered along the coast going full speed till 3.50 p.m., when, passing an is