Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Interesting Bit of Islands Lighthouse History

In 1828, Captain Edward Boxer sent a report to the Grand Admiral of Maritime Britain, in which he mentioned: "I have found a great need for lighthouses in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. On this sea, navigation is so dangerous because of strong and irregular currents, and there is not a single lighthouse in all the Gulf. It is truly lamentable to find so many shipwrecks at different places on the coast... the number of lost lives is very large and certainly incalculable...."

One of the most talked about shipwrecks on the Magdalen Islands is the immigration ship, the "Miracle", which was transporting families from Ireland to Canada, when she went ashore at East Point during a violent storm. The Captain of the "Miracle", Master H.H. Elliot, while expressing his gratitude and admiration for their Magdalen Islands rescuers in his report, highlighted the necessity for having lighthouses in these areas. "This is to certify that the ship "Miracle" under my command wrecked on the Magdalen Islands on the 19th, of May, 1847, with 446 souls on board, and through the exertions of Mr. James Clark and his sons succeeded in saving nearly the whole of them and they deserve great praise for their exertions, both in supplying them with provisions and shelter.
I firmly believe a light on the east end of the island would save many a shipwreck, as Brion and Bird Rocks can be sure."

Note: The ship "Miracle" carried a ship's fever, typhoid, when it went ashore. The victims were cared for at East Cape, shelter in the home, barns and outbuildings of the Clark family. Mary Goodwin, James Clark's wife, contracted the contagious disease and died that same spring.

Also note: In July 1969, Leonard Clark, the great, great grandson of James and Mary, spearheaded a project to place a cross at East Point, where it was believed the victims of the "Miracle" were buried. The cross was very large, maybe 20 feet or more in height. It took many men to lift it into place. The cross blew down the next winter. The brass plaque had been removed and finally found it way to the museum, Muse de la Mer in Amherst.

5 comments:

jamesperry196 said...

This is an interesting blog. My ggg grandfather Daniel McMurchy owned a ship the Madawaska that was wrecked on Biron Island (or Brian Island as it is called in the newspaper report) in July 1838. I also have a newspaper article that lists all ships lost on the Magdalene islands. I'd be interested to know whether it is likely there is any documented history of the Madawaska ship wreck.

Magdalen Islands said...

I have quite a bit of information about the shipwrecks, but the Madawaska doesn't ring a bell. That doesn't mean anything though. I'll look the ship up in our records and see what I can find out.

Improvedliving said...

i am sure this will interest lot of folks

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jamesperry196 said...

Musee de la Mer sent this info:
Your ggg grandfather Daniel McMurchy’s ship, the Madawaska is one of the 56 shipwrecks we recorded at Brion Island in the Gulf of St-Lawrence.

Madawaska : Navire de 272 tonneaux, enrégistré à Bathurst, N.B.. Il a fait naufrage à l’Ile Brion le 18 juillet 1938. Cpt. McMurchy.

Report from Halifax, N.S., July 21 st, 1838. « The Madawaska » from Bathurst, was on shore on Brion Island the 18 th ult.of July,

Crew and partof the materials saved.

Madawaska was a 127.0 feet L. x 26.2 W x 18.7 D. built at Québec by Jos Fibbitts.

I'd be interested to know if you have any more in your records.

Cheers,

James

Gary T said...

This is very interesting as my grandmother told an account of how her grandfather, Paul Chenell, died at one of the lighthouses here. here is a link to one account: http://www.lighthousedepot.com/lite_digest.asp?action=get_article&sk=1936&bhcd2=1258549819
there is also mention of this episode in Edward R. Snow's "Secrets of the North Atlantic Islands".
My grandmother always claimed that her grandfather and his 2 or 3 old son had been shipwrecked off of Byron Island about 1847 and ended up settling in the Magdalenes.
Do you know of any way of verifying this story? I had always been told by geneologists that these stories of relatives being shipwrecked were almost always a bunch of hooey.
I could send her accounts of it, along with her lists of her relatives there (Her grandfather had 14 children) to you if that would help. She wrote a 4 page history of what she knew in 1967 and also mentions the many ways of spelling their last name, about 25!