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Ouless painting of Waverley's shipwreck

The paddle steamer Waverley was used on the Southampton-Channel Islands route from 1868 until she was wrecked five years later

In August 1868 the London and South Western Railway Company bought an iron paddle steamer, the Waverley, from the North British Railway Company. Waverley was built in 1865 by A and J Inglis of Glasgow. She was of 529 tons, 222 feet long, her engines developing 280 hp and giving her a top speed of 13 knots.

Her lounge was fitted with coloured glass scenes of Sir Walter Scott's novels. She was refitted at Northam and put on Southampton-Channel Islands mail service, setting off for the first time on 21 December, and taking two days to make the crossing in bad weather. She was under the command of Captain Goodridge, who was only master for three voyages before his retirement.

On 5 June 1873, on a voyage from Southampton, Waverley struck the Platte Boue rock off Guernsey and was wrecked, fortunately without loss of life. The mail was brought to Jersey from the Waverley by HMS Dasher the old mail ship which was then a fishery protection vessel. There was an enquiry but Waverley's master, Captain Mabb, was exonerated.


19 July 1870: [1]

As a fog covers the Channel - thicker and lasting longer than usual - islanders were getting worried as none of the mail steamers had arrived in Guernsey until this evening.

Those who continued on to Jersey again got caught up in fog and did not arrive until the early hours.

Waverley had a 30-hour adventure. She met the fog five miles north of the Casquets. She drifted and set anchor half a mile off Alderney breakwater. After hours of being stranded, provisions ran low, so a boat was sent out for supplies.

While Waverley was at anchor a rowing boat appeared out of the gloom. It carried 14 sailors who had just lost their ship Broomielau on nearby rocks. She had been bound for the North of England with coal from Bordeaux.

With the relief of passengers and islanders a like, Waverley entered St Peter Port pier heads at 1830 pm, with no reports of injury or damage. Resupplied and with the ps Southampton's passengers transferred to her, Waverley continued her journey to Jersey. Again she got caught in fog off Corbiere resulting in a journey time between the Islands of five hours.

Shipwreck report

5 June 1873: [2]

The Waverley paddle steamer belonging to the London and South Western Railway Company has been wrecked this morning on the Platte Boue rocks, Guernsey.

The eight year old vessel, 67 Meters in length was traveling at a slow speed in a fog bank. The sea was calm. All passengers and crew have been saved.

There has been some criticism of Captain Robert Mabb's conduct prior to the accident, but there is no doubt his actions after the steamer struck saved many lives. Should Captain Mabb have dropped anchor when visibility closed to only feet?

As his steamer ground to an abrupt halt on the Platte Boue rocks, Captain Mabb immediately launched his boats and transferred his 70 passengers to the Grande Amfroque, a substantial outcrop of rocks which remain dry. Passengers waited the best part of the day for rescue, but were never in danger, and rowing boats from Guernsey conveyed provisions on what was now a lovely summers day.

The company steamer Brittany sailed out of St Peter Port to perform the rescue, all passengers were transferred safely from the rocks by boats.

Captain Mabb and his crew remained at the wreck in a boat and rescued what they could. His conduct after the accident has been looked on favourably. He organised his boats, transferred his passengers to safety, and sent to Guernsey for help.

The Waverley became a total wreck.

Notes and references

  1. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  2. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley

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