White Wings - Sir Henry Brett
Page 118 & 119
Mr T Leitch, now residing at bayswater in Auckland, was a passenger by the ship on this occasion and has kindly supplied the following details of the disaster:
The Wild Deer, Captain Kerr, was chartered by the New Zealand Government to take out some 300 immigrants and a few other passengers to Port Chalmers. On January 12 we were towed down the Clyde: the Pilot leaving us well past "Paddy's Milestone."
A stiff breeze was blowing,a nd with most of the sails set good speed was being made, the night being clear and a starlit sky. I, with others, had just turned in about 11pm when we heard a strange and alarming sound like "bur-er-er, thud, thud, thud" and a voice shouted down the comapnionway; "Do you young fellows down there know that the ship is ashore?" The vessel then gave a sudden quiver and commenced to settle. A rush was made for the deck. On looking over the ship's side we saw reefs a short distance away and large pieces of timber from the hull floating around. The vessel had now a good list, and altogether the position seemed desperate, with little hope of anyone being svaed. Rockets and flare lights were sent up, but to no purpose, the sea being too rough to allow the coastguards to put out in their boats.
"The vessel was quivering," says Mr Leitch, "and everyone feared the final plunge would be made into the fathoms of water between the peaks of rock all along the dangerous coast of North Ireland." One of the Officers cried out "Well boys what is to be done, are we going to take in sail?" The men all went off with a will to the orders given, and immediately they had completed the work the main mast went crash, snapping off at the deck, tearing the bulwarks away, the lot falling into the sea. This appeared to steady the ship as the yards rested on the reef. We passed a long weary night, and being mid winter there was no daylight until 8am. All were thankful to see land and the coastguard boats approaching the ship. The women and children were first taken off and the sea moderating, as many of the ships boats as were available, landed the crew.
The other passengers were then all safely landed and all were thankful for their miraculous deliverance from a watery grave. We landed at a small fishing village named Cloughy, County Down. Over 300 persons wer billited on the generous hospitality of the residents. The Presbyterian Church and Manse was thrown open and all the cottagers played their part in supplying food and shelter. Meanwhile arrangements were made to take us overland to Belfast. For this purpose all the jaunting cars for miles around were requesitioned and the shipwrecked people, over 300, in their various garbs, presented a curious sight driving along the country roads or Ireland. Arriving at Newtonards we were taken by train to Belfast, thence by steamer to Glasgow, arriving there just one week from the day they went on board.
The immigrants were lodged there until another ship was ready - the Caroline, a vessel of 1515 tons, Captain Hardy.