Tuesday 1 September 2015

Any connections to the 1853 Annie Jane tragedy?

A new website, www.anniejane.net, has been launched by independent researcher Allan Murray to gather information on the people involved in the Annie Jane tragedy of 28 September 1853.

The Annie Jane was on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Quebec with more than 450 emigrants, most of them Irish, on board. They didn't get far, as the ship had to return to port within a few days after losing her mast. Following repairs, the ship set sail again, only to lose her mast again and be wrecked on the island of Vatersay in the outer Hebrides. Just 103 passengers survived.

Although he lived relatively close to Vatersay, Allan Murray had never heard of this tragedy when he came across a monument commemorating the dead while hiking on the island. He resolved to discover more, and it's turned into a personal mission. He has started to write a book to record the story of the Annie Jane.

"It's a great, if haunting, story," he told Irish Genealogy News. "There was the aborted first voyage and then the second voyage when Captain Mason, ignoring the pleading of his passengers to return to port, famously declared 'It's Quebec or the bottom', as he threatened them with a gun. Then there was the shipwreck and the bodies strewn across the beach, the looting by locals, and the hardship of 103 people arriving on an island where there was only one proper dwelling house. Even then, the ordeal wasn't over. One group of survivors were almost shipwrecked again on the Isle of Skye as they made their journey back to civilisation.

"And then the inquiry into the disaster was a whitewash, with blame attributed to the French-Canadian crew."

Allan intends his book to identify and reveal details of all those who lost their lives and all those who survived. He has already carried out a lot of research and has compiled a list of 307 named casualties, among them whole families. Surviving passengers originated from counties Armagh, Kerry, Cork and Antrim, but those who perished may well have come from other counties.

He is looking to explore the lives of all the passengers, whether they survived or not, and needs help from other family historians. “I’m inviting any family historian who has anecdotal or other evidence of an ancestor who survived or died in the tragedy to contribute to the website. There were also a number of passengers who refused to get back on the ship after its first aborted voyage; some travelled to Quebec on the Sarah Sands and Jane Glassin; their stories would be welcome, too.”

He believes the information is 'out there', it's just a matter of finding it. "Yes, they were poor immigrants," he says. "But somebody must have grieved for them."

Allan tells me he has never undertaken something of this nature before, and since he works full-time, he really does need to draw on other people's research skills and own family stories to bring together all the pieces of the jigsaw.

"At this point, I'm not really sure I can finish the book. It's a long-term project. But one thing I will have achieved is an online memorial to the Annie Jane and her passengers.

Why not take a look at Allan's website and see if you have any possible connection to the named passengers or any other pertinent information to pass on? Or maybe just lend him a hand with some genealogy research?