The Wreck of the Emperor

George Barrett, Captain of Emperor

photo courtesy Richard Dolman

From Times Newspaper of Friday July 19th 1872.

A shipwreck. Some details relating to the loss of the Bark "Emperor" with all hands St. Pauls Island on 28th November 1871 on a voyage from Quebec to Bristol received by owners at Poole from Superintendent of the Island.

"The Emperor was lost on the north side of the island on the night 28th November during heavy snow storm, wind and North blowing tremendous causing a terrific sea. On the 29th sent men across the island where they observed a quantity of pine logs floating at the foot of the cliffs. They returned to report and after a short rest I sent them back to ascertain if possible if a vessel had been wrecked. They returned without being able to make any further discovery with the exception of a piece of a vessel's spar.

On the following day I went to the place were we supposed the vessel was lost and observed a quantity of broken wood had lodged in an opening in the cliff. I at great risk lowered one of the men down the cliff but the surf being high and everything being covered up with ice and snow, he could not make much of a search. It was here that we found the life bouy and the sailors vest. This I consider to have been a fortunate discovery, otherwise the fate of the vessel would never have been known.

I kept up a search for several days at and in the vicinity of the wreck, but not a trace could be found that would lead to the supposition that any of the poor fellows escaped to land. On the 3rd. January the ice moved from the cliff which enabled me to visit the place in a boat and with the help of a water glass I discovered the naked body of a man in deep water and with much trouble I managed to fish him up. The head and legs were off, and the body otherwise much mutilated. I buried him decently.

There is nothing of the ship to be seen but her chains and anchors entangled in the rock in deep water where they are likely to remain: everything else was swept away by the sea so that no salvage could be made."

(1) From Lloyds Registrar of Shipping, 1851 and 1852:

Wooden Ship,
Built Quebec 1847
723 tons Register
Owners: Restarick
Port of Registry: Plymouth.
Master: T. Liddle
Voyage: Liverpool / Australia

(2) From "The Shipping Gazette" of 7 May, 1853:

Daily News: 31 Dec 1852 - HMS PLUMPER arrives Portsmouth from the Brazils with gold from Australia from the EMPEROR, which put into Monte Video in a leaky state on her homeward voyage from Sydney.

(3) From "Shipwrecks of Nova Scotia" By Jack Zink, Vol. 1, Lancelot press, Hantsport, NS. Published 1975, Sixth printing February 1989:

EMPEROR, a barque of 625 tons register sailed from Quebec to Bristol and was wrecked at St. Paul Island on the north side on November 27th., 1871. Her port of registry was London and the cause was due to a snow storm. (Sixteen lives were lost)."

One of the lives lost was an Englishman by the name of John Richard Mauson who drowned, he was 21 years of age.

Obviously, Restarick sold the EMPEROR to someone who re-rigged the aft. mast from a Ship rig to a Barque rig, had her re-registered in the Port of London; and, she was re-measured down from 723 to 625 tons. This means that instead of having 72,300 cubic feet of "enclosed" cargo carrying space, she had only 62,500 cubic feet when she sank. This could have happened in one of several ways (a) simply a new surveyor re-measuring and coming up with a new internal volume (b) space could have been taken from the cargo hold to build workshops, or crew accommodation, etc. (c) space could have been taken from the cargo hold to be replaced by permanent ballast (d) space could have been taken from the cargo hold for increased spar ceilings/ permanent dunnage/ water tanks/ etc.

Following courtesy Richard Dolman:

My wife's great Grandfather, one George Barrett born 1822 South Wraxall, Wilts, England was the Master of the Emperor for a few years but he and all crew were lost that day on November 1871 when his ship sailed into the cliffs of St. Pauls Island. Some of his crew were from the same home port of Weymouth where George Barrett lived, although based and sailing from Bristol.

We have quite a lot about him including photograph of him taken in Quebec on one of his trips. Also have two of the last logs he sailed prior to that fateful last journey to Canada. they make interesting reading as in 1870 he lost two men from the riggings into the sea and also early on in this journey he had a lot of trouble from one of his crew members and he had this man taken off his ship in the Cape Verdes Islands while waiting I suppose for favourable winds to sail over the Atlantic to Savannah prior to sailing up the coast to Canada.

On this 1870 voyage he had his oldest son George Barrett (named after him) aboard as a boy/steward...... This son later became a Master in his own right sailing as Master in Passenger liners to India and Burma...........The other son, James Walter Barrett (my wife's grandfather) born in 1864 after his fathers death joined the Royal Navy and rose through the ranks to Chief Petty Officer. He retired in 1903 but remained on the Reserve List and rejoined the Royal Navy for the first world war- in 1917 he was awarded the DSM for bravery....... He must have been one of the oldest serving Petty Officers at this time I should think!

George Barrett
George Barrett applied for his Master's Certificate at Poole, Dorset in 1850.
His Claim for Certificate of Service gives us:- date 15th day of (??) 1850.............
George Barrett (number of Reg. Ticket) 11,249; when and where born = South Wraxall 9th Feb. 1822/3
((note the last digit in date is over written and could read either as a 2 or a 3?) present age is given as twenty seven.
Particulars of Service.
` (follows list of vessels served on; Port, tonnage, Capacity, vessel in trade and dates of service.......
Robert and Mary, Port Weymouth, ton'g; 50, capacity Boy; Coasting duration 18 months
Ann., Port Weymouth, ton'g 50, as boy, Coasting, for two years.....
Julia., Port Weymouth, ton'g. 85, Mate, Coasting/ Foreign, Three years.....
Harriett and Ann., Weymouth, ton'g., 50, Mate. Coasting... two years....
Nelson Packet., Poole, ton'g 140. Able Seaman, Foreign, 11 Months.
George Welsford, Weymouth, ton'g. 280, able seaman, Two years......
Astrea., Weymouth, ton'g. 230, Mate, Foreign, Seven Years........
Vixen., Weymouth, tonnage 150. Master, Foreign and Coasting..... two years.....
(Working back from 1850 when applying for his certificate George had already been in service for about 20 years; which would mean that he went to sea from Weymouth aged about 7 years on the Robert and Mary. Witnessed by one Richard Pinney of Poole and signed by George Barrett place of address, Poole.
George requests that my Certificate be transmitted to the Customs House of the Port of Poole between the 1st and 31st of December 1850. ((Note If these small coasting vessels are anything like the East Coast / Thames barges, they sailed with the Master and one seaman named as Mate, often just a boy)).
Application for Master's certificate also included a personal discription of George Barrett :-
(also this form gave wrong County for birth as *Gloucester instead of Wiltshire)
George Barrett, born Wraxsal, *Gloucester, 9 day Fe'y 1823, Seaman, Height 5ft 7; complexion Dark; Hair glt.(?) Brown; Eyes Blue...... Marks: Scars on each wrist: first went to sea as a Boy in the year 1826
Served in the Royal Navy -- No
Has been in Foreign Service - No
When unemployed resides at - No address given......
Issued at London 15 day of Febry 1845
Age when Ticketed 22; Can write - yes.
Georges Master Certificate of Service ( issued and numbered 11,249)
Number 36.145 (number thirty six thousand one hundred and forty five.) George Barrett
Born at South Wraxall county of Wilts on the 9th Feb. 1823
Has been employed in the capacity of Boy, Mate and Master 20 years in the British Merchant Service in the Coasting and Foreign Trade
Bearer's Signature = George Barrett (Signed)
Granted by the Registrar General of Seamen, London. By order of the Board Of Trade.
Signed by the Registrar and one other. Certificate issued at Poole this Third day of January 1851
After gaining his Master's Certificate George went on to Captain other vessels:-
Atlantic 1855- 60
Huma 1861- 63
Conway 1864
Emperor 1864- 1871 when on November the 28th 1871 Emperor was lost with all hands when it ran into the North side of the island St. Pauls Island.

From Lloyds list Tuesday August 6th 1871 (page w col. 9)
PILL Aug 6th Emperor Barrett Quebec

(This note of outward journey to Quebec.
Lloyds List December 7th (page 4 col 20)
Quebec cleared November 17th Emperor Barrett from Bristol. (return journey). December 29th/1871 page 7 col. 32.
.......With respect to the loss of Emperor (reported by cable) The superintendent of St. Pauls Island informed the master, Dodd of the Neptune(s) of this port, that indications of a wreck having taken place on the N.W. of the Island were discovered on the 29th November.

A party of men proceeded to the spot and lowered one of their number down a cliff. He stated that the violence of the surf prevented him from clearly making out surrounding objects but that he saw what he believed to be dead bodies and brought up some sailors clothing and a buoy marked Emperor of London, he also stated some timber had been driven up twenty feet by the force of the wind.

From cablegrams Emperor of London Lloyds number 48696
Emperor of London 84/86 Bristol to Quebec 6.8.71 Barrett. Lost at St Pauls Island about 29.11.71 dead bodies seen about.

Owners Boyt and Co. Poole, Dorset.
Gr. Reply letter 98/41/72.
The Neptune Ship was compelled by heavy weather to leave St. Pauls Island without the reports of the calamity which had been prepared by 2 the Supt's. The crew were to be on board 1 August but as the shop remained at Bristol till 6th August it is probable a number did not commence work before the day of sailing. Should the captain's chest be found it might contain this and other particulars. Applications therefore for delay and for particulars to Peter Collins GR1. with letter 98 PRPD.A.HG 21 Quebec to Supt. Poole 28.1.72
List completed rec. 4.3.72

Following extract supplied by Pam Day.
A local paper in Weymouth also reported on the loss of the Emperor..
"Loss of six Weymouth men reported".

For about a fortnight since sinister rumours of the shipwreck of Captain Barrett have reached Weymouth but his family have been buoyed up by hope that the Emperor stated to have been lost in the Gulf of St Lawrence, was not the Emperor commanded by Capt. Barrett.

The latest accounts from Sydney, Cape Breton, seems, however, fully to confirm the sad suspicion that the lost vessel was the Emperor, of London, that one belonging to Mr. Boyt, baker, &c. of Poole, and having beside the captain, five Weymouth men on board.

Captain Barrett's Emperor, and we know of no other in those seas at the time, left Quebec on Nov. 19, bound from (for?) Bristol. She passed Bic (?) Island further down the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the 21st and Captain Thorburn of Bristol, reports that a few days later he encountered a terrific storm with snow, and the cold was so severe that the braces could scarcely be got to run through the blocks. In this storm it is supposed that the Emperor must have become utterly covered with ice, and probably unmanageable.

Indications of a wreck were discovered on the 29th November, on the north west side of St. Paul's Island N.E. of Cape Breton, and a party of men proceeded to the spot, and lowered one of their number down a cliff; he stated that the violence of the surf prevented him from clearly making out surrounding objects; but he saw what he believed to be dead bodies, and brought up some sailor's clothing, and a buoy marked Emperor, of London. He also stated that some timber had been driven up 20 feet by the force of the wind.

The cliffs at St. Paul's Island are steep and there was no chance for any man to have escaped to them from the ship, while the storm was so violent that it is not considered possible a boat could have lived.

Captain Barrett leaves a wife and five children, dependent on her at Chapelry, Weymouth, and besides him were also from this district - Mr. Bagwell, second mate, a wife and three children; Thomas Miller, carpenter, a wife; John Vaux, seaman, no family; Augustus Blin, who supported a sick sister, now in the Infirmary; and Mawson, of Wyke, who supported an afflicted mother, who in her turn takes care of a relative stricken with cancer, and discharged from hospital as incurable of that disease.

The mate is of Poole, and he leaves a wife and child. In order to form the nucleus of a fund to assist the bereaved relatives subscriptions will be thankfully received at the Telegram office, Middle Bond Street, and our reporter will be happy to meet with any charitably disposed persons who are willing to collect and to distribute what may be raised.

Our worthy Mayor, on being informed of the effort to be made at once cordially approved it, stating that he knew Captain Barret well for many years, as a thoroughly upright man. His Worship heartily granted his patronage to the movement and spontaneously proffered a contribution of 2.2s.


On this sad event being hastily brought under the notice of H. Edwards, Esq., M.P. that gentleman imediately wrote " I am sorry indeed to hear of the loss, and shall be glad to do anything in my power to mitigate the distress of those bereaved. If you are getting up a subscription and think it desirable to add my name, you may do so, and I will subscribe Five pounds, * * * " The Mayor's subscription has been paid into Messrs. Eliot's Bank, where (and doubtless at the other banks) subscripton in aid of the bereaved relatives will be received. We may state that though one of the widows appears to have property, yet it is mortgaged to its full value.

Other extract; also from Pam Day.

Headed Loss of Emperor.

Southern Times Newsp[aper dated January 6th 1872, page 9
Report of the loss in bad storm.
Southern Times, February 10th 1872, page 9
Mr. C.J.T. Hambro has consented to subscribe 5 towards the fund now being raised on behalf of the widows and children of the seamen belonging to the ill fated "Emperor" A concert is announced to take place on Tuesday next at the Royal Hotel in aid of the same fund.

Southern Times February 17th 1872 page 9.
The Emperor Relief Fund, full report of concert held at Royal Hotel Assembly Rooms, Wednesday 14th February 1872.
Telegraph February 23 1872 page 6
13. 10s. 0d Gross amount for concert. Expenses was 8.10s.0d and 5 credit to fund.
Vaux left daughter who has now been included in the fund.
Southern Times, February 24th 1872 page 9.
The Emperor Fund, Sum of 5 paid into bank.
Southern Times, Saturday March 9th 1872, page 11
Two letters and balance sheet under heading "The Emperor Fund Concert."

George Barrett made a Will which states:-
The Will of George Barrett.
This is the last Will and Testament of me George Barrett. Master Mariner of the town of Weymouth in the County of Dorset. After payment of all my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses I give devise and bequeath all the real and personal estate of which I shall die possessed of to my dear wife Ann Barrett (for hers and the children's sole use) and after her death or should she marry again then the whole shall be sold by auction or private contract and equably divided between our children viz. Ann Elizabeth Barrett, Sarah Jane Barrett, George Barrett, Augusta Mary Barrett, Agnes Jessie Barrett, Leddia Ellen Carter Barrett, James Walter Barrett. Executrix - and hereby appoint my wife Ann Barrett sole executrix of this my last Will in witness hereof I have herewith set my hand this twenty second day of August one thousand eight hundred and sixty five.
(signed) George Barrett.
Signed published and declared by the said George Barrett, Master Mariner, as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us at his request and in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as witnesses.
(signed) James Hill William Dibbins.
/x/3 folios A correct copy.
Affidavit of deed execution filed. (signed) S...... Smith District
Will Proved at Blandford on the 31st day of August 1872 by the oath of Ann Barrett, Widow the Relict of the deceased the sole executrix to whom administration was granted.
The testator George Barrett was late of Weymouth in the county of Dorset, Master Mariner and in Her Majesty's Service and died on or about on the 28th day of November 1871 at sea on a voyage from America to England. Under 800 Mr. R.N. Howard. Solicitor, Weymouth.
Also checked in London the Death Duty Register Chancery Lane which states:- Will Proved Blandford 31.8.72 Folio 1104 Entry 4.11.72....... Sum sworn under 800
George Barrett of Weymouth Co. Dorset (Master Mariner) who died about 28.11. 71. Date of Will 22.8.65 Ann Barrett of the same place (The Relict) the sole Executrix.
1. Real and Personal Estate. "Affidavit includes Leaseholds" To the wife Ann (for hers and the children's use). and on her death or remarriage to sell proceeds and equally among children. (Children named as in will).............(( *Cons: Not a profitable case to follow signed E.A. Eaton 10.12.1909)).
((*=This note penciled in at later date to close entry. = this could be a clue to the death of the widow Ann?))