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Shipping Tragedy April 1937
by Leslie Campbell

Loss of SS Alder & SS Lady Cavan in Carlingford Lough &
drowning of Capt. Robert Campbell & wife Kate


Use the Find button in your Edit tab to search for individuals.

newspaper account of the accident body washed ashore Mrs. Campbell's funeral
coat washed ashore Mrs. Campbell's Inquest Memorial Service for Capt. & Mrs. Campbell
claims & counter claim in Admiralty Court another body found Capt. Campbell's funeral
another body found at Whitehaven raising of Newry collier Pine 3rd body washed ashore
James Davis Inquest Robert McGrath's body found Robert McGrath's funeral
claims for damages compensation claims Capt. Robert Campbell's body found
inquest for Capt. R. Campbell funeral Capt. R.Campbell newspaper report
SS Alder SS Lady Cavan




At 4a.m. on 4 April 1937, Fishers’ steamer the Alder (341 tons) edged her way into the Lough in dense fog, steam whistle sounding sonorously. Unwilling to proceed through Narrow Water, Captain Robert Campbell, dropped anchor off Greencastle, which is on the Down side of Carlingford Lough, opposite Greenore on the Louth side and a short distance north of Kilkeel. It was the intention of Captain Campbell to lie up for a few hours before making for Newry.

Aboard the Alder were Captain Robert Campbell (42) and his wife Kate (39) and the crew: Chief Engineer Robert McGrath married with four children, of 3 Erskine Street, Newry; Second Engineer J. Davis(47) married with three daughters, of 41 Kingscourt Street, Belfast; Mate Michael O’Neill of Fathom, Newry; Deck Hands - Jack Gorman of Rooney’s Terrace, Newry; John Conlon married with four children, of Upper Chapel Street, Newry; James Hollywood of Fathom, Newry and W. Cahoun of Carrickfergus.

The Alder was anchored for less than a quarter of an hour when the Lady Cavan (602 tons), under the control of Captain Gallimore and carrying a general cargo from Liverpool, loomed out of the murk and struck the Alder amidships. On deck were Captain Campbell, O’Neill, Hollywood and Cahoun and they were about to change watch.

Capt. Robert Campbell Mrs. Catherine (Kate) Campbell  

The crew of the Alder thought that there was no immediate danger (although coal could be seen pouring through a rent in the plates) but the captain and crew of the Lady Cavan realised the great danger that the Alder and crew were in and offered assistance but those aboard the Alder declined it again apparently minimising the danger.

Captain Campbell went below to arouse his wife Catherine and she came on deck with him wearing an overcoat over her night attire.

The bow of the Lady Cavan was plunged into the collier in the collision and when they were locked together there was a steadiness which concealed the gravity of the injury the Alder had sustained, so that when the Lady Cavan reversed engines and withdrew from the collier the vessel suddenly developed a list.

John Conlon crew of SS Alder

The water rushed in through the yawning chasm caused by the impact and carried the Alder to the bottom of the Lough.

All aboard the Alder went down into to the depths.

O’Neill and Hollywood, both strong swimmers, rose to the surface about 50 yards away and swam towards an upturned lifeboat and clambered on to it.

Just after they had got on to the lifeboat they saw Cahoun, a non-swimmer, come to the surface fortunately beside an oar which he held on to until a lifeboat from the Lady Cavan rescued him.

The Lady Cavan lifeboat circled around and searched until daylight but there was no sign of Captain Campbell, his wife, who had only at the last minute decided to accompany him on the voyage, or the other four crew members.

John Conlon L-R; Michael O'Neill, James Hollywood & W. Cahoun  

The three rescued men M. O’Neill, J. Hollywood and J. Cahoun were good friends and had only a few weeks previous been photographed together. They were fed, clothed and sent home by the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Royal Benevolent Society.

Captain Campbell and his wife had been married 17 years and left four children: James (16), May (14), Louis (12) and Percy (9).

Mrs. Campbell had two sisters- Mrs. Nicholson and Mrs. Harper and one brother Mr. Samuel Hale who is in America.

Captain Campbell was the son of Mr. and Mrs. James Campbell, Maghereagh, Kilkeel and leaves four brothers; Messrs. Charles, William John, James and Harry. It appears that Mrs. Campbell had arranged to be home for dinner on Sunday. The children were stopping with their grandparents.

The mountains around the Lough still bore the traces of a recent heavy snow and one can only imagine with a shudder how the six poor victims and the three survivors must have felt in the icy waters of the Lough.

On the Sunday afternoon the Lady Cavan steamed up to Victoria Locks, the entrance to the Newry canal. The vessel remained there for several hours before going on to the Albert Basin, which she reached about 6 p.m. Groups of people watched her sadly, in silence, for the tragedy affected everyone. Like a funeral pall the black smoke hung over the green funnel as she steamed past the pierhead.


The Sabbath stillness of the town seemed doubly intense as the dejected townspeople gazed on the ship, gloomily conjecturing the feelings of those on board her. Even the children stood wide-eyed and silent looking at her – and beyond the town.

‘Under the dove-grey sky – as wide as death-

The sea,

Fall, fall way, all soot and dust despair,

Turmoil and broil, uncertainties that rend,

All grinding noise and pain be ever still.


Here is the end-

Unmeasured sands to walk as spirits may

With washed unweighing feet, forever free.

The hush of waves, almost unreachable

By mortal sense, as in Eternity’.


On Monday sightseers from various parts came to gaze at the scene of the collision at Greencastle, but saw nothing more eventful than the operation of shipping potato supplies from the Down to the Louth side of the Lough.

A thick mist hung over the Lough like a pall of death. A few hundred yards from the shore the mast tops of the ill-fated Alder mournfully projected over the waves and the peace of death was all-pervading. The visitors included some of the relatives of the drowned seamen and Mrs. Campbell.

The search for the bodies of the six victims of Sunday’s Carlingford Lough disaster continued without result.

On Monday night the Lady Cavan passed over the spot where the tragedy had occurred, captain and crew standing bareheaded as the steamer made her way out of the Lough.

At a meeting of Carlingford Lough Commission on Tuesday 6 April 1937, the Chairman (Lord Kilmorey) proposed that letters of sympathy should be sent to all the relatives of the victims.

The motion was seconded by Mr. W. Moorehead, D.L. and passed in silence, the members standing. The meeting was then adjourned as a mark of respect. Afterwards the matter was discussed in committee, and arrangements were made for a continuance of the search for the bodies.

At the first meeting of the newly formed Kilkeel Urban Council, the Chairman (Mr. Edward McGonigle) read the following message from President de Valera:-

‘I have learned with great sorrow of the deaths by the sinking of the Alder, and I beg you to convey to the relatives of Captain and Mrs. Campbell my sincere sympathy – Eamonn de Valera’.

On the motion of the Chairman, the members stood in silence in tribute to their memory. The Clerk was instructed to convey the message to the bereaved relatives.


At Newry Urban Council on Monday 5 November 1937 Mr. G.W.Holt, J.P. referred to the recent shocking disaster in Carlingford Lough, when six people – five from Newry and district and one from Belfast lost their lives and then proposed a vote of sympathy with the bereaved relatives. The vote was passed in silence

At a meeting of the Council of the Borough of Drogheda held on the 6 April 1937 on the motion of Alderman O. Kierans, seconded by His Worship the Mayor (Alderman Walsh), a vote of condolence was unanimously passed with the relatives of those who so tragically lost their lives on the ss Alder in Carlingford Lough.

The Captain and crew were well known in the town and the tragic occurrence came as a great shock to the citizens and the town clerk, J. Carr was asked to convey to the relatives’ the deep and sincere sympathy of the Council in their bereavement’.

At a meeting of the Carrickfergus Urban Council reference was made to the tragic sea disaster which occurred in Carlingford Lough, resulting in the loss of six lives and the clerk was directed to convey to the bereaved relatives an expression of ‘the Council’s heartfelt sympathy and hope that all will be comforted and strengthened in their sore trial.





On Wednesday morning 7 April 1937 the body of a woman, found washed ashore at Rathcor, on Dundalk Bay was identified as that of Mrs. Kathleen Campbell, wife of Captain Campbell, master of the ss Alder.

The body was found at a point six miles from Greenore, off which the vessel sunk. It was clad in night attire, and a fur coat, and was identified by Mr. William John Campbell, brother of Captain Campbell.

An intense search for the other bodies continued along the shores of the Lough by police, coastguards and civilians. The remains were taken to the licensed premises of Mr. Patrick Martin, Riverstown, Carlingford and there an inquest was conducted on Thursday morning by Mr. J.H. Murphy, solicitor, Coroner for Co. Louth. Evidence of identification was given by Mr. Wm John Campbell, Kilkeel, a brother-in-law of Mrs. Campbell and the inquest was then adjourned to a future date.

On Thursday 8 April 1937 the remains of Mrs. Campbell were conveyed by boat from Carlingford to Greencastle, across the Lough and passed close to the scene of the disaster. On arrival at Greencastle the remains were conveyed by road to Kilkeel.






Amid many manifestations of great grief the funeral of Mrs. Robert Campbell, took place from the residence of her brother-in-law

Mr. Chas. Campbell, Bridge Street, Kilkeel on Friday evening 9 April 1937.

It was a very imposing cortege, extending almost a quarter of a mile long, and represented all creeds and classes from over a wide area. All business in the town was suspended, windows shuttered and blinds drawn in silent tribute to the deceased’s memory whose tragic death and that of her husband and the other members of the crew of the Alder have occasioned grief and sympathy. All shipping in Kilkeel Harbour flew their flags at half-mast during the funeral procession. There were a large number of public men present and representatives of the sea-faring profession.

It was a touching sight to see the three little sons of the deceased, James, Louis and Percy, march behind the coffin carrying a wreath, which they placed on their mother’s grave after the internment.

The chief mourners included:-

 Jim, Louis and Percy Campbell (sons) and Isabella May Campbell (daughter), Mr. James Campbell (father-in-law); Charles, Wm J. and James and Harry Campbell; A. Kenmuir, G. Harper, R. Nicholson and R. Newell (brothers-in-law); James and John Campbell, James Mitchell (uncles).

The remains were received in the Church by the Rev. H. Martin, M.A. minister of Mourne Presbyterian Church, who conducted the funeral services in the Church and at the graveside.

The assembly present sang ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’.

Taking for his text: ‘Oh, death where is thy sting, oh grave where is thy victory’. Rev. Mr. Martin preached a very touching and impressive address.

He said ‘ We in this church have all met on former occasion which have been sad, but never on an occasion which is so full of sadness as the present occasion’.

‘Robert Campbell, continued Rev. Martin, was a son of the sea. He was born beside it and played along its shores as a boy. He knew all its moods of storm and calm. Just before he embarked on what was to prove his last voyage, he remarked that last winter was the worst winter for storms he had ever experienced at sea. It is an irony of fate that it was not in a storm but in a perfectly calm sea that the brave Captain, his wife, and four other gallant men met their doom.

Proceeding, Rev. Martin said that ‘he felt the present tragedy so deeply that it was with difficulty he spoke of it. Captain Campbell, he continued, was a powerful swimmer and could have saved himself but he would not leave his wife to perish, and so in trying to save her, the mother of his children,

they were both drowned. ‘Greater love than this hath no man, than he lay down his life for his friend’.

In conclusion, Rev. Martin expressed his heartfelt sympathy with the bereaved relatives, the sisters and the little children of Mrs. Campbell, and the parents, brothers and other relatives of Captain Campbell.

Minister of Mourne Presbyterian Church  

Included in the funeral cortege were the three young men who were rescued off the Alder.

Messrs J. Fisher and Son were represented by Captain Connor, Captain O’Neill and Superintendent James Torrens, while Mr. J. Birrels, Manager, represented the Dundalk and Newry Steam Packet Co.

 Amongst the many beautiful wreaths were the following:-

‘In loving remembrance’, from father and mother.

From Robert’s sisters – Isabella, Cissie and Libby.

‘In affectionate remembrance’, from her sorrowing sisters and nephew at Teacher’s Residence, Ballinran.

‘With deepest sympathy’, from Mr.  and Mrs. R.E.Green.

‘To our darling mammie’, from her children.

From Uncle John, Aunt Minnie and Family

From Robert’s brothers; Wm. John, Charlie, James and Harry.

Amongst the letters and telegrams of sympathy received was one from Right. Hon. The Earl of Kilmorey, P.C.D.L.J.P. and one from Mr. Eamonn de Valera, President of the Irish Free State.



13th April 1937


A double breasted black overcoat of heavy material and comparatively new in appearance found on the shore of Dundalk Bay at Rathcor on Saturday is believed to have belonged to one of the men lost in the Carlingford Lough disaster on the 4th inst., but there was nothing in the pockets to indicate ownership.

The Carlingford Civic Guards daily patrol the extensive coast line in their area.






Mr. J.H. Murphy, Coroner for North Louth, held an inquest at the Dundalk Courthouse today concerning the death of Mrs. Kathleen Campbell, Kilkeel, who lost her life in the Carlingford Lough disaster on 4 April 1937.

Mr. A. Fisher (Messrs. Fisher & Fisher, Newry) appeared for the next-of-kin; Mr. Thos. M’Kinty (Messrs. M’Kinty& Wright, Belfast) appeared for the owners of ss Alder; Mr. J.D.Chambers (instructed by Mr. Robert Wallace, Belfast) for the owners of the Lady Cavan, and Superintendent M’Donagh represented the Civic Guards.

The Coroner said he had already taken a deposition from Wm. John Campbell, who stated he was a brother of the deceased’s husband. He had seen the woman’s body and had identified it. She was aged 39 and was married to Robert Campbell, captain of ss Alder, the property of Messrs. Fisher, of Newry. Deceased had gone with her husband on a trip from Belfast to Irvine (Scotland), and was to return to Newry.

Michael Sheelan, fisherman, Rathcor (Co. Louth), deposed that he was at Rathcor shore at 7p.m. on 7th inst. When he saw a bulk some distance away, and found out afterwards that it was the body of a woman. He at once reported the matter to Guards M’Grath and Darcy who went to the scene and removed the body to Riverstown. The body was dressed in a singlet, short coat and a pair of stockings. There was a slight mark on the nose.

Guard Darcy said it was dark when he reached the shore and he viewed the body with the aid of a flash lamp. The remains were those of a woman dressed in fur coat, vest, and stockings. There were some slight marks on the forehead and nose. The body had been found at high water mark; the tide was practically full in at the time witness was there.

Replying to the superintendent, witness said the shore was very rough and rocky.

Dr. E.M. Finnegan, Carlingford, said the deceased was a well-nourished woman of about 40 years. In witness’s opinion death was due to drowning. There were several small bruises on the forehead, which he thought were caused by the body coming in contact with stones on the seashore. There was a lot of sand in the deceased’s hair and on her face. Deceased had no teeth – evidently she wore dentures.


The Coroner said that was all the evidence he had in court, and if, Mr. Fisher, representing the next-of-kin wished he might recall witnesses. He (the Coroner) would have to have evidence that this lady was on the boat.

Mr. Fisher said there were two witnesses present.

Mr. M’Kinty, representing the owners of the ss Alder, said he was not calling any witnesses, but he willingly left any available at Mr. Fisher’s disposal.

Michael O’Neil, Victoria Locks, Newry, said he was mate on the ss Alder, which belonged to the Newry and Kilkeel Steamship Company. On April 3 they sailed from Irvine (Scotland), there being nine on board – eight of a crew and one passenger, Mrs. Campbell, wife of the captain. The boat had a cargo of coal and was bound for Newry.

At 10.30p.m. on the 3rd they arrived off the County Down coast and proceeded up to Carlingford Lough, which they entered on the 4th and anchored. There was a collision between the Alder and the Lady Cavan shortly afterwards. Witness saw Mrs. Campbell standing on the deck of the Alder. He was thrown into the sea when the boat sank and swam back to the wreck, being rescued in about ten minutes by a lifeboat from the Lady Cavan, in which there were two other rescued members of the Alder’s crew. Witness never saw deceased afterwards.

The Coroner asked for the address of the deceased, but Mr. Fisher said Kilkeel was sufficient address, as Kilkeel was a small, though important place.

The Coroner asked how far the Alder was from the coast.

Superintendent M’Donagh said it was two cables from the County Down side and seven cables from the nearest point in County Louth. A cable was 700 feet.

The Coroner said, subject to what might be said by those representing the parties, he proposed to find a verdict that deceased was found drowned on the beach at Rathcor, on April 7, and death was due to asphyxia, due to immersion in the sea in Carlingford Lough, on Greenore (County Louth), on the 4th.

Mr. Fisher asked that it should not be stated ‘Carlingford Lough (County Louth).’ The Lough was` partly in County Louth and partly in County Down.

Mr. M’Kinty – That is an international question.

 Mr. Fisher – If you say Carlingford Lough it is enough. You are only finding that the vessel went down in the Lough. You do not want to settle any international question by saying, County Louth or County Down. I say it is not fair. You are taking on yourself to decide what is not required at the present moment. That can be settled by the courts afterwards if it arises. You are doing me harm.

The Coroner – I am not doing anyone any harm.

Mr. Fisher – As no evidence had been produced to you whether it was County Louth or County Down, if you simply say Carlingford Lough it is quite enough for me.

Mr. Frank Fisher

If you want your findings I will ask that the inquiry be adjourned and we will bring experts. In justice to the relatives of the deceased, it is not a fair thing to do. I ask you to say Carlingford Lough, which is quite sufficient or Carlingford Lough, which lies between County Louth and County Down. If you put it down as a particular place I will enter a strong protest, as it is doing an injustice to the relatives of the deceased if you make a declaration of that description without notice to us and without taking evidence of any kind on it. At the start of this inquiry I consented with the other gentlemen here that there should be nothing controversial brought up today. This is certainly controversial, and if you are putting down that declaration I will have to meet it and respectfully ask you that the inquiry should be adjourned.

Mr. Chambers said he did not want to put Mr. Fisher to any trouble. He realised that Mr. Fisher was raising the matter for a technical reason, but it did not affect the issue before the inquiry, which was to find the cause of death. For his part he was agreeable to it being stated that the body was found at a point in Co. Louth. He did not want Mr. Fisher to feel that any difficulty was being put in his way as regards where deceased died. He was quite agreeable that something neutral should be put in.

The superintendent – The only thing is that we claim the sea right round the whole coast of Ireland as territorial waters.

Mr. Fisher – It is inside, not outside.

Coroner amends verdict.

The Coroner amended his verdict to read that death was due to immersion in the sea in Carlingford Lough, which lies midway between Co. Louth and Co. Down.


Mr. Chambers, on behalf of the owners, master and crew of the Lady Cavan, said he wished to tender to Mr. Fisher’s clients their deepest sympathy. Those for whom he (Mr. Chambers) spoke were engaged in this hazardous seafaring life, just as were those who had died, and on that account their sympathy was very deep and sincere.

Mr. M’Kinty, on behalf of the owners of the ss Alder, deeply deplored the tragedy and associated himself with the expression of sympathy.

Superintendent M’Donagh said everyone felt for the relatives, and especially for the unfortunate children who had lost their parents.

The Coroner said it was one of the saddest cases that had occurred in the district for many years. That they should have been so close to land and yet met their deaths was a tragedy.

Mr. Fisher, replying on behalf of the relatives, returned sincere thanks, and particularly to the Coroner for his action in facilitating the identification of the body to permit burial without undue delay.

It might be of interest to those present to know that at the funeral service held in the Presbyterian Church at Kilkeel the Rev. Martin, who officiated, bore public testimony to the kindness received from the Coroner, the Guards, and all the people of the district.

The Coroner said he could assure the relatives that the officials there were most sympathetic and tried to do their duty in the most humane manner possible.






There was an extremely large congregation present on Sunday evening in the Mourne Presbyterian Church, Kilkeel, when a memorial service for the late Captain and Mrs. Campbell who perished in the recent Carlingford Lough disaster.

The service was conducted by Rev. Herbert Martin, M.A. assisted by Rev. Alfred Eadie, B.A.



Basing his address on the text: ‘They that go down to the sea in ships, and do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep’ (Psalm 107 v 23&24).

Rev. Martin said:

The session of this church invites the members of the congregation to make this service tonight a memorial in the highest sense, and to join in this expression of public sympathy with the Campbell family in their unspeakable sorrow. We have met on many occasions to speak our word of comfort and hope to the greatly bereaved, but few, if any events in our time, have aroused so much genuine feeling of regret as this sad happening on our own shores has done. Many messages of condolence have come in from near and far, among them one from the Moderator of the General Assembly to this effect:- ‘All that human sympathy can do has been done in the fulfilment of the Law of Christ – Bear ye one another’s burdens’.

As the minister of the Campbell family, I know that sympathy has been valued more than they are able to express. It has done much to assuage their grief and lift their hearts to Him who still bears our burdens and carries our sorrows. It is a fine faith that stands unmoved as a rock whatever the storm. It is to encourage them in that satisfying faith that we are making this a memorial service. Somewhere out in that vast ocean one loved at home and esteemed by all who knew him has found a grave, but it is not so vast as the ocean fullness of the love of God. ‘No one knoweth of a sepulchre unto this day’ – unknown to us, but not unknown to Him Whose footsteps are upon the sea, and without Whose knowledge not a sparrow falls.’ Those who live by the seaside have sorrows unknown to those who live inland. It is forever taking its toll of human life. What a mystery is the sea –‘the unplumbed salt estrangling sea’.


What secrets it holds in its wild and wandering waters- secrets that will not be revealed till the sea gives up its dead : Thou goest forth dread, fathomless, alone’. Mrs. Henmans, in her poem, ‘The Graves of a Household’, with a plaintive melody touches the ground tone of many a mother’s heart: -


‘The same fond mother bent at night

O’er each fair sleeping brow;

She had each folded flower in sight,

Where are those dreamers now?


The sea, the blue lone sea hides one,

He lies where pearls lie deep;

He was loved of all, yet none

O’er his low bed may weep.’


Isaiah said’ There is sorrow in the sea – It cannot be quit.’ There is a wistful fascination about the sea, it draws and holds. What is its influence? That is part of its mystery.

In a little book called the ‘Surgeon’s Dog,’ one of the seamen says to the young surgeon taking his first trip: ‘Don’t stay with us long if you don’t mean to stay with us always, for once the sea gets you it will never let you go.’

Robert Campbell was born by the sea; the first sounds he heard were of the sea. Its vast expanse was amongst the first things he saw. As a boy he played by the dancing waters. He grew up intimately acquainted with its storm and calm. He knew the restless moods, the whimsicalities, the diapason of the sea. His spirit was attuned to the music of the waves. Such a man possessed the essential qualities of a great seaman – keen, intelligent and without fear he answered the call of the sea. His home was on the sea. One of his shipmates said of him ‘He would take you into  storm, but he could bring you out of it again.’ He always did. Just before he set out on his last voyage he declared the past winter to be the worst in weather he had experienced  in all his twenty years at sea. It has been a winter of storms, and every storm has been a gale.

Isn’t it a strange irony of fate that such a man should lose his life when the sea was calm as the face of a sleeping child.


But he knew that a fog at sea is more to be dreaded than a storm, for there the seaman does not fear the sea, but those who sail on it. There the careful man is at the mercy of the careless and, indeed, the good seaman is the enemy of the best.

Only a clever man could bring his vessel across the bar in the fog that lay over Carlingford Lough that night. He knew the Lough – he knew how far to go and when to stop. And only a skilled and careful hand could drop anchor where he did – well out of the fairway, so as not to endanger other shipping.

I have been over the ground and within a few yards of the Alder’s masts and funnel. They are a melancholy sight, rising upright from the water, dignified in death. Experts will give their views on the position of the wreck and it is not for me to say if the disaster could have been avoided or averted. But the blow has fallen – Captain Campbell and his wife are gone, and with them four brave seamen. It is said to be the worst disaster since the sinking of the ill-fated Connemara and Retriever. In the providence of God the body of Mrs. Campbell has been recovered and laid to rest a week ago in the family burying-ground. To the children it will always be a matter of thankfulness to know that the dust of their mother sleeps here in the quiet grave.

But black as this disaster is, it is shot through with rays of fine nobility. Captain Campbell could easily have saved himself. He was a strong swimmer. He was last seen standing with his wife on deck, awaiting an opportunity to bring her to safety, while the others rushed to man the lifeboat, little dreaming that the Alder was so badly damaged, and was sinking like a stone. And in the vain effort to save his wife he lost his own life as well. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.’ The large concourse of men at Mrs. Campbell funeral was a genuine tribute of public sympathy. And here in this memorial service I wish to recall the kindness received by Captain Campbell’s brother from the people on the other side of the Border when he went to bring home the remains of Mr. Campbell. The kind people there, and especially the Sergeant of the Civic Guards, did everything they could to make this melancholy offices as light as possible. Before such a human tragedy, thank God, all our divisions disappear  borders and boundaries melt into one: ‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.’ A disaster like this makes deeper impressions than we know.


 Our characters must in some way assimilate our pain. Three of our membership this year lost their lives at sea.

The wounds will heal but the scars remain, and those who sit in solitude and mourn will see the scars the plainest. We, in the deepest sympathy for them, will tell them that we will remember too.

Captain Campbell’s wife and children were his darlings. Much as he loved them he never lost touch with his own parents and his home family.

That fact has made natural for the children to turn to them and to find with them all that a home should be to children who have lost their earliest and truest friends. ‘The true way to mourn the dead is to take care of the living who belong to them’.

There is a line in an old Greek play which says:’ The youthful mind is not won’t to grieve,’ and yet these children are old enough to go into the years with a memory that love will not let die till ‘ the day break and the shadow flee away.’

‘You may shatter the glass in which roses distil,

But the scent of the roses will hang round it still.’

Life is like a troubled sea – we are  voyagers – but we need not be helpless victims of uncertainty, for we have with us One Who knows the sea, One Who walked to meet the disciples on the Galilean Sea. As they wrestled with the storm He came walking on the sea. And if the Lord of Life came to them in that unexpected place, would He not come, think of you, as surprisingly to those who needed Him most that morning two weeks ago by the Greenisland when those in whose memory we meet tonight were in the presence of death and eternity.

The praise portion of the service was led by the choir under the capable direction of Mr. W. J. Chambers. Both choir and congregation gave a sympathetic rendering of the 42nd Paraphrase: ‘Let not your hearts with anxious thoughts be troubled or dismayed.’

The service concluded with the singing of the hymn: ‘For ever with the Lord.





London Hearing.

Thursday 6th May 1937&

Friday 7th May 1937


Continuation of Evidence


Following further evidence on behalf of the Newry and Kilkeel Steamship Co., Ltd., the master and crew of the Lady Cavan gave their account of the accident in Carlingford Lough in the early morning of April 4 in the Admiralty Court, London, on Thursday, when Sir Boyd Merriman, sitting with Elder Brethren, continued the hearing of the action and counter-claim arising out of the collision.

The action was brought by the Newry and Kilkeel Steamship Co., Ltd., owners of the Alder, who claimed damages from the British and Irish Steampacket Co. (1936) Ltd., owners of the Lady Cavan.

The Lady Cavan, in counter-claiming, said she was misled by the Alder’s anchor lights.

Having seen what she supposed to be the side lights of a vessel at anchor, the Lady Cavan saw a further light, which she took to be that of the No. 12 buoy, and she aimed to pass between it and the vessel. It was in fact the Alder’s stern light.

It was further suggested by the Lady Cavan that the Alder was not ringing her bell in accordance with the fog regulations and did not sound her whistle, and that she was lying athwart the fairway.

The Alder pleaded that, bound from Irvine to Newry with coal, when she swung to the flood she headed southward and westward. The Lady Cavan, incoming from Liverpool, struck her amidships.



The mate of the Alder, Michael O’Neill, in answer to the Judge, said the anchor lights were not the only lights to be seen from his vessel. Lights were in all the cabins.

Some portholes might have curtains, but all of them had not. Some of the lamps were hanging; some were in brackets.

The mate agreed with Mr. Noad, K.C., for the Lady Cavan, that while there was a light in the captain’s room and a lit swinging lamp in the mess-room, the mess-room curtains were usually drawn for it was not desirable to have a glare upon decks at night time. The lamps were paraffin and he did not think a vessel approaching him broadside on could see the chimney and lighted burner of any lamp.




Captain John Gallimore, of the Lady Cavan, gave evidence of how he approached the Alder. He saw two lights, the lower a shade to the left of the higher. He presumed they were on a vessel lying to the flood end on with her head towards him. He intended to pass down her port side to come to an anchor and was heading clear. The he saw a further light lower than the others. He ordered the helmsman ’Hard aport (to lift her head quicker), go between the ship and the buoy.’ Then he saw the hull of the vessel. After collision he kept the Alder alongside with a rope for five minutes till she began to heel. He called the crew to come on board and threw out lifebelts. His speed had been about two knots. He thought the crew of the Alder was preoccupied with getting their own lifeboat because the captain’s wife was on board. They could quite well have stepped from the deck to the Lady Cavan, though the necessity was not at first apparent.

From first seeing the lights of the Alder to the collision was about a minute. He did not sound his whistle when the fog came on, though he slowed his engines as a precaution.

The Judge – Why did you not sound your whistle?

The Captain said the weather did not appear thick enough.

They were coming up from Liverpool and had passed Buoy 10. The fog closed down and when, having heard no sound signals, he picked up a couple of lights on the Alder he judged from their position that they indicated a vessel at anchor end on. Then he heard a bell, and saw a further light, nearer his port bow, and took it at the moment to be upon Buoy 12. He steered to go between this light and the other lights and then made out the hull of the vessel.

He had rung ‘slow’ at 4.10, he gathered from consulting the engineer’s record just after the collision, and his speed would be four knots at sighting and two knots when he struck.

Answering the Judge, Captain Gallimore said that travelling full speed it would take about six minutes to pass from No. 10 Buoy to No. 12 Buoy. The distance was just over a nautical mile.

On the distance from No. 10 Buoy the light could not have been No. 12 Buoy, but was misled by supposing the visibility was better than it was

Sir Boyd Merriman made the comment that the captain jumped to the conclusion that the light was on the buoy although he saw the light on his port bow, and the buoy must have been half a mile away.





Witness replied that when he ordered hard aport wheel and full ahead he did not want the chain round his propeller.

His Lordship added if witness thought he was near No. 12 buoy he must have travelled faster than he admitted.

Captain Gallimore said his look-out man had only been in the ship six days. The man, he thought, did not report lights and signals coming up. He asked the mate about him after he rang ‘Slow ahead’

The Judge – The Elder Brethren who are assisting me would like to know whether it is the practice in this ship, in reporting lights ahead, to include the lights of buoys.

Captain Gallimore said it was.

His Lordship remarked that the vessel must have passed one light after another without a hail.

The Captain said he called for the chief’s record immediately after the collision and saw that the entry of ‘slow’ was at 4.10. Sighting the two lights of the Alder, the sound of her bell, and sighting her stern light came in rapid succession. His speed was four knots at sighting and two knots, he thought when he hit the vessel. He did not take the times of passing the lights of buoys. He had not looked at his watch since passing the light-house at 4.5, and he did not know the speed at which he was going over the ground. He knew that the light on the No. 12 Buoy had a two minute range in clear weather.

The chief officer of the Lady Cavan, Mr. John Joseph Higgins said he took the last light to be the No. 12 Buoy on the port bow, though normally the No. 12 Buoy would appear on their starboard hand.

Frank Giles, of the Lady Cavan said the engines had been going astern for 15 seconds when the collision occurred.

A young man Hugh Hollywood, look-out on the forecastle head said he reported the first two lights but the collision came before he saw the Alder’s stern light.

The hearing was then adjourned till Friday.




The Judge had noticed the indication of an erasure in the Engineer’s Log among the records of the engine movements round about the of collision, and Mr. Robert Wright, the superintendent engineer of the British and Irish Steampacket Co., went into the box and explained that when he was going through the records at Newry with the engineer he lightly placed a mark at a passage, as he frequently did he going through his papers.

Having made the pencil mark, he at once said ‘I should not have done that. We must rub it out’ and he directed the engineer to take out the pencil mark. He had been asking about the point when the engineer felt the contact with the other ship.

Mr. Carpmael, K.C. (for the Newry and Kilkeel Steamship Co.) asked was the mark place to indicate the moment of contact?

Mr. Wright replied not the actual moment of contact. The mark led down from immediately before the contact to the point of contact.

The Judge directed Mr. Wright to come on the bench and look at the log through his magnifying glass;’ I never thought much about the erasure’ added the judge. ‘I am more interested in the next page.’

Mr. Wright turned over the page which bore the erasure mark and observed that the page bound next after it in the book had obviously disappeared.

The Judge went on – ‘Do you see upon what becomes the next page, not pencilled figures, but the impress of pencilled figures and the letters ‘a.m.’ Where do you think those pencilled letters were made?’

Mr. Wright said he could only suppose they were made on the page which was missing. He thought possibly a blank page had been taken from the end of the book and that had liberated the page about which his Lordship was curious.



The Court found that the Lady Cavan was 4-fifths liable and the Alder one-fifth liable for the collision, and apportioned the costs of the proceedings accordingly.

The damages will be assessed on this basis later.

A record of clarity in the Admiralty Court was made by the action brought to trial exactly a month after the collision. The preliminaries for a trial in the Admiralty Court are seldom completed in less than three months.

Messrs. McKinty & Wright, Belfast, were solicitors for the Newry and Kilkeel Steamship Co. Ltd. And Mr. Robert Wallace, Belfast, solicitor for the British and Irish Steampacket Co., Ltd., Mr. Alexander Fisher ( of Messrs. Fisher & Fisher, solicitors, Newry) holding a watching brief for the next-of-kin of the victims of the disaster.



Messrs. Fisher & Fisher, solicitors, acting on behalf of all the victims of the collision, having issued writs for damages against the British and Irish Steampacket Co., Ltd. (owners of the Dundalk & Newry Steampacket Co., Ltd.), and same will come on for hearing in the Northern Ireland High Court of Justice at Belfast.

The victims were:-

Captain Robert Campbell, Kilkeel, who left four children

Mrs. Catherine Campbell, his wife.

Chief Engineer Robert McGrath, 3 Erskine Street, Newry, who left a wife and four children.

Second Engineer James Davis, Belfast, who left a wife and several children

Jack Gorman, Rooney’s Terrace, Newry, deck hand (unmarried)

John Conlon, Upper Chapel Street, Newry, who left a wife and four children.




VERDICT OF ‘FOUND DROWNED’ RETURNED at inquest on 10th May 1937


The shipping disaster in Carlingford Lough on 4th April last had a further sequel on Sunday 9th May 1937 when the body of a second victim – John Gorman, Rooney’s Terrace, Newry was recovered.

The body of Mrs. Catherine (Kate) Campbell who was drowned with her husband Captain Robert Campbell, and four members of the crew of the ss. Alder, the sunken Newry vessel was recovered on 7th April, although an inquest did not take place until 16th April 1937.

It will be recalled that the Alder, a vessel owned by Messrs. J. Fisher & Sons the Newry Shipping Firm sank in Carlingford Lough following a collision with the Lady Cavan.

Of the nine persons aboard the Alder, only three were saved.

Gorman’s body was seen floating in the Lough between Greenore and Carlingford by members of a steamer making for Newry and the matter was reported to the civic guards on the Louth shore of the Lough, and the R.U.C. on the County Down side. The shore was immediately patrolled on both sides and at 4.20pm. when the tide had ebbed, the body was recovered by Guard James Reynolds.

Two of Captain Campbell’s brothers made the journey across the Lough to Carlingford when relatives of others who had lost their lives also attended on Sunday evening.

The body was identified as that of Gorman, and an inquest was conducted in Carlingford Courthouse on Monday morning by Mr. J.M.Murphy, coroner, and Superintendent McDonagh represented the police.

The first witness was Miss Mary Gorman, Chapel Street, Newry, sister of the deceased, who gave evidence of identification of the garments worn by her brother. In particular one garment had been stitched by her, and she had no doubt whatever that the clothes were those worn by her brother.

Michael O’Neill, Victoria Locks, Newry, mate of the Alder, and one of the survivors, said that he saw Gorman on the deck immediately after the collision and did not see him alive afterwards. He identified the body as that of John Gorman.

Guard J. Reynold said he was on patrol duty and saw the body floating on the Lough about 500 yards from the shore at 2.30pm. He waited until the ebb, about 4.20pm. and recovered the body from the shore in the liberties of Carlingford.


Dr. Finnegan, who examined the body, said it was that of a man of about fifty years of age and 5 feet 7 inches in height. Deceased had on black boots, grey socks, brown dungarees, leather belt with buckle, greyish-black shirt with short tucked-up sleeves. The hair was grey. The knees and chest were injured – the skin being off – leading him to believe that the body was that of a man who had been drowned about five weeks previously.

The Coroner found that the deceased, John Gorman, was found drowned, the cause of death being drowning due to immersion in the sea in Carlingford Lough which lies between Counties Louth and Down. He said he would record in his findings an expression of sympathy from himself and he wished to repeat what he had said on the occasion of the previous inquest at Dundalk on Mrs. Campbell. They were all extremely sorry at the terrible tragedy which had taken place.

The Superintendent of Guards joined in the expression of sympathy.

Mr. Alexander Fisher (Messrs. Fisher and Fisher, solicitors, Newry) said Mr. Wallace, solicitor for the owners of the Lady Cavan had asked him to state that the owners of the Lady Cavan desired to repeat the expression of sympathy already extended. Mr. Fisher said the owners of the Alder, through him, desired to express the greatest sympathy with the deceased’s and all other relatives. He said he represented the relatives of the deceased and on their behalf desired to return most sincere thanks for all the kindnesses which had been shown the relatives at the time of the discovery of the body on Sunday afternoon and during the terrible ordeal of identification; also at the inquest that day. He also said they wished to bear testimony to the most commendable elasticity exercised in the Border regulations when vehicles were passing and repassing to Carlingford; and also to the arrangements made for and facilities given to the relatives in having the body taken across the border.


Mr. Fisher also thanked Captain McKevitt, harbour master at Greenore, for his assistance.




The funeral took place at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Newry, yesterday amid many manifestations of regret. Rev. E. Campbell, C.C. officiated, and other clergy present were Rev. P .F. McComisky, Adm; Rev. J. P. Burke, C.C.; Rev. A. O. Quigley, O.P.


The chief mourners were – Misses Bridget and Mary Gorman (sisters), Messrs. Harry Gorman, John Gorman and Jim Gorman (nephews), Mrs. Gorman (sister-in-law), Misses Dora and May Gorman, Mrs. Brady, Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Trimble (nieces), M. K. Hughes, Mrs. Hagans, Mrs. Hearty, Glasgow; Mrs. Malone, Mrs. Murphy, John Hughes, Hugh and Paddy Golding (friends)

Wreaths were received from Mrs. McGrath, Erskine St., and from ‘Ellen and family’

Rev. Father Campbell, in the course of a touching panegyric, said the Holy Spirit warned them to be prepared because they knew not the day or the hour when the Son of Man cometh. They saw life all around them and death occurring sometimes in unusual and peculiar circumstances. Death always brought sorrow and sadness, but when it came in tragic and sudden circumstances the blow was more severely felt. On that occasion they were paying their respects to one who had been called away in sad and tragic circumstances, and it was sufficient for them to remember that Christian charity required their prayers on behalf of the soul of him who so suddenly lost his life. They knew that death took him unexpectedly and suddenly, and he may not fully have realised that death was about to take place. Even though death has come suddenly they felt he was not entirely unprepared.

He had been a man with a kind and charitable heart, and had been faithful to his Christian duties. They had every confidence that God in his mercy would take him to a happier existence than in his earth. He expressed heartfelt sympathy with the sorrowing sisters and other relatives





Messrs. Fisher & Fisher , solicitors , Newry, are in touch with Whitehaven police on behalf of Mrs. McGrath, Erskine Street, Newry, as to the possibility of a body found at Whitehaven being that of her husband Robert McGrath, chief engineer of ss. Alder who was drowned when the ship sank on April 4th last.

The police authorities have given information to the effect that the body was buried on Friday last (7th May 1937), but that they had retained the clothing for identification purposes.

The clothing and other articles found on the body are to be dispatched to the Bridewell police, Newry, so that Mrs. McGrath may have an opportunity of inspecting them.




The salvage work to retrieve the Newry collier Pine, which was sunk in Carlingford Lough last November and which has been in progress at intermittent periods during the past couple of months, was brought to a successful conclusion on Saturday (8th May 1937), when the vessel was removed from the fairway and brought close in to deep water at Greenore. There is now no danger to navigation in the fairway, and the buoy marking the wreck has also been removed.


The working of lifting the Pine was carried out by Mr. Samuel Gray, salvage contractor, Belfast, assisted by the Carlingford Lough Commissioner’s tug Slieve Foy (Captain McKevitt)


Captain Campbell who lost his life, as also did his wife and three of the crew when the Alder was sunk at the beginning of April, was in charge of the Olive when she collided with a sister ship (the Pine) which then sank in the Lough. No lives were lost on that occasion.




Another body, identified as that of James Davis, aged 46 years, 41 Kingscourt Street, Belfast, one of the six victims of the Carlingford Lough disaster of 4th April 1937 when the ss. Alder sank in collision with the ss. Lady Cavan.

Davis was second engineer on board the Alder, and leaves a wife and a young family.

The body is the third to be recovered, the others being that of Mrs. Campbell, Kilkeel, wife of the Captain of the Alder, who was also drowned, and that of John Gorman, deck hand.

It appears that about eight o’clock on Sunday evening, Mr. Bob McKibben and Mr. Sidney Chambers, Annalong, saw a body floating on the incoming tide at Annalong. They informed the police and Constable Patterson accompanied by Mr. T. McBurney, tailor, went to the scene and recovered the body from the sea.

The body was in an advanced state of decomposition, and was removed to Mr. Robert Gordon’s licensed premises at the Harbour, Annalong.

The body was clad in a blue double-breasted coat and dungarees, and in the pockets were found a union key, attached to a chain, and a cigarette lighter.

The Coroner for South Down, Mr. R. S. Heron, was communicated with, and also the relatives of the three men who are still missing from the wreck of the Alder eight weeks ago.

Mr. Alex Fisher, accompanied by Mr. Conlon, Newry, son of Mr. J. Conlon, who perished in the disaster, and Mrs. McGrath, Newry, wife of Mr. R. McGrath, who was also drowned at the time, arrived at Annalong on Sunday night and inspected the remains, but recognised that the body was not that of either of the two missing Newry men.

The remains were identified by Mr. S. F. Kelly, 43 Maymount Street, Belfast, a brother-in-law of deceased.



Mr. R. S. Heron, coroner for South Down, conducted the inquest yesterday, when District Inspector Silcock represented the police and Mr. Alexander Fisher appeared on behalf of the relatives.

Samuel F. Kelly, brother-in-law , said the deceased was 46 years of age and was second engineer on board the Alder at the time of the disaster. He had identified the body.

Michael O’Neill, Victoria Locks, Fathom, Newry, one of the survivors said he had been mate of the Alder at the time of the disaster. He had known the deceased and remembered 4th April last when the vessel was returning form Irvine to Newry, and had anchored in Carlingford Lough on account of the fog. Between 4 and 5 am. On 4th April the Lady Cavan struck the Alder amidships and the vessel sank n a few minutes afterwards. Deceased perished with the others.

Robert McKibben, Shore Road, Annalong, said he saw a body floating in the sea when he was at the back of his own house. He reported the matter to the police and in his presence the body was recovered in the townland of Moneydarraghmore and conveyed to the premises of Mr. Robert Gordon. The body was fully clothed except for the boots.

The jury, of which Mr. Isaac Hamilton was foreman, found that death was due to drowning in Carlingford Lough on 4th April and added a rider expressing sympathy with the widow and children and other relatives of deceased.

District- Inspector Silcock also joined in the expression of sympathy on behalf of the police.

The Coroner said that in common with so many people and various public bodies he extended his sympathy to the relatives. The sinking of the Alder was undoubtedly a very sad affair but not so terribly sad as on the occasion of the sinking of the ‘Connemara’ and the ‘Retriever’ in 1916. Mr. Heron recalled that on that occasion he had inspected forty bodies at the inquest at Kilkeel.

Mr. Fisher, returning thanks on behalf of the relatives, paid tribute to the people and the police of Annalong for the assistance they had rendered in the recovery of the body.

The remains were removed to Belfast where they will be interred.





On Thursday evening, Mr. J. H. Murphy (Coroner for North Louth) held an inquest in the licensed premises of Mr. John Finnegan, licensed publican, Whitestown, regarding the finding of the body of Mr. Robert McGrath, chief engineer on the Newry collier Alder, who was drowned in Carlingford Lough, when the collier when at anchor was sunk in collision with the Lady Cavan on the 4th April 1937.

Inspector O’Mahony, Civic Guards, conducted the proceedings, and Mr. Alex Fisher appeared for the widow of deceased.

Mrs. Madeline McGrath. 3 Erskine Street, Newry, widow of deceased, identified the remains by a gold watch, a coronation knife and a key found in the clothing of deceased. She also identified the clothes.

Michael O’Neill, mate on the Alder on the morning she sunk, said the deceased was aboard on the morning of the collision. Witness last saw him on deck as the vessel began to sink. He identified the remains by the one-piece boiler suit which deceased wore, also by the gold watch and coronation knife.

Guard Francis McGrath, Carlingford, gave evidence of finding the gold watch, coronation knife, etc, on the body.

James Finnegan, Whitestown, stated that about 4 o’clock on the evening of the 26th he sighted a body about a mile off Ballagan shore, and with a pair of marine glasses he satisfied himself that it was a human body. The wind at that time was due south and the body was drifting in towards the rocks. The wind, however changed, and witness and James Killen got a boat and brought the body ashore about 10 o’clock that night, afterwards reporting the matter to the Civic Guards at Carlingford.

Dr. Finnegan stated that death was due to drowning.

The Coroner recorded a verdict of death form drowning in Carlingford Lough, and expressed his sympathy with the widow and family of the deceased.

Mr. Fisher, on behalf of Mrs. McGrath and family suitably acknowledged the vote of sympathy, and said he desired to thank the Civic Guards, and the people of Whitestown, and especially James Finnegan and James Killen for what they did in recovering the body



Mr. Robert McGrath's Funeral , Friday 28th May 1937


Amid many manifestations of regret the funeral of Mr. Robert McGrath took place on Friday to Mullaghglass New Burying Ground.

A service was conducted in the house by Rev. R. A. Swanzy, B.A., Vicar of Newry, and Rev. Dr. Martin, Mullaghglass, officiated in Mullaghglass Church and at the graveside.

The chief mourners were:  Mr. James McGrath, Belfast (brother); Master Allan McGrath (son); Messrs. Harold Thompson and Stanley Briggs and Robert Briggs (brothers-in-law); Mr. James McGrath, Barrack Street, Newry (cousin); Messrs. James Thompson, David Hawthorne, Herbert Nelson, George Heasley, James Bradley, Gerald Bradley (Bessbrook), W. Holmes sen., William and John Holmes, David McElroy (relatives)


The three survivors of the disaster were present, viz., Michael O’Neill, Newry, Jim Hollywood, Newry and W. Cahoun, Carrickfergus.

Messrs. Joseph Fisher sons, owners of the ill-fated ss. Alder were represented at the funeral.

Wreaths were inscribed as follows:-

‘From his sorrowing wife and family’

‘In remembrance of Bob’ from his sister Mrs. Thompson and his nephew Harold.

‘With deepest sympathy’ from Misses Gorman

‘With deepest sympathy’ from Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell and family, Dublin Road, Newry.

‘With deepest sympathy’ from Mr. and Mrs. McElroy, Basin Walk, Newry

‘In fond remembrance’ from the Briggs family, Craigmore.

Numerous messages of sympathy were received.

The late Mr. McGrath is survived by his wife, one son, Allan, and two daughters, Misses Beatrice and Muriel McGrath.

Mr. W. Heslip, Hill Street, Newry, had carried out the funeral arrangements.




Newry Reporter Saturday 19th June 1937


It is probable that the claims for damages on behalf of the dependents of the victims of the disaster will come before the Ulster King’s bench towards the end of the present month.

Mr. E.S. Murphy, K.C. M.P.; Mr. A. Black, K.C., M.P.; and Mr. W. Johnston (instructed by Messrs. Fisher & Fisher) represented the plaintiffs, and Mr. J.C. MacDermot, K.C., and Mr. Chambers (instructed by Mr. Robert Wallace) were for the defendants.




The collision in Carlingford Lough on 4th April between the Newry collier Alder and the passenger-cargo steamer, Lady Cavan, as a result of which six persons lost their lives, had a further sequel in the Belfast Court of Appeal on Friday 20th  when Lord Justice Best and Mr. Justice Megaw heard an appeal by the defendants in the pending claims for damages against the order made by Lord Justice Andrews, refusing to stay the trial of the actions.

The claims for damages on behalf of the defendants will come before the Ulster King’s Bench on Monday 28th June.

The plaintiffs in the actions are: - Robert James Campbell and others, dependants of the captain of the Alder and his wife; Madeline McGrath, Rose Conlon, and Margaret Davis, dependants of other members of the crew of the Alder; and the defendants are the owners of the Lady Cavan, the British and Irish Steampacket Co. (1936), Ltd.




Mr. J. D. Chambers said his clients were appealing from an order made by Lord Justice Andrews refusing to postpone the trial of those actions which were originally fixed for Monday next. There were four actions, ordered to be tried together, arising out of the unhappy deaths of a passenger and members of the crew of the steam ship Alder, who lost their lives by drowning as a result of a collision between that vessel and defendant’s vessel, the Lady Cavan. The actions were brought by persons who were dependants of the victims and the pleadings were the same. In the case of Campbell, who was master of the Alder – and although he and his wife lost their lives – there is a plea of contributory negligence against his representative alleging that there was contributory negligence on his part leading to the disaster.

Mr. Chambers continuing said, Proceedings to fix the responsibility for that collision were instituted in the Admiralty Division of the High Court in London, and those proceedings came before the President of the Division on the 5th, 6th, and 7th May this year. By his findings, the President assigned the blame as four-fifths upon the Lady Cavan, owned by the defendants and one-fifth on the Alder.




During the course of the trial the engineer’s scrap book which purported to show very material records of speeds of the Lady Cavan was produced and criticised by the President. As the President said in his judgment he thought it right to institute an inquiry as to whether or not the entries made in that log book were true. That was to say whether they were made at the time; whether or not there had been removal of pages from that book

That book was discredited at the London inquiry. His clients, contemplating the appeal, which had since been lodged against the findings of the President of the Admiralty Court, thought it necessary that that view which the president had taken of the log book should and must be upset if the appeal was to succeed and accordingly applied for an order that that log book should be given out to the defendants, so that it might be examined by an expert in regard to the writing. An expert was finally agreed upon.

Lord Justice Best – There has been no delay about this

Mr. Chambers – Certainly not.




Mr. Chambers read an affidavit by Lt. Col. Mansfield, expert, in which he said the book was collected on 15th June. It would take him ten days to examine the book.

It was essential that the hand writing expert’s examination of that log book should be carried out so that the very serious reflections on those who testified as to that book should be removed, if possible. Recognising that that book goes to the root of the actions – it showed the speeds at which the boat was travelling – the experts report was crucial to the case.

Proceeding, Mr. Chambers said the expert apparently intended having ultra violet photograms taken of the log book, and also subjecting it to other scientific processes. The main allegation against his client was with regard to the speed and the allegation against the Alder was that she was carrying misleading lights.




Mr. Chambers said if the expert found that if the book did not present the appearance of having been tampered with, surely it would be a matter of very great importance if in support of the claim, an attack was made upon the log book. His evidence was crucial. He submitted that they must be given an opportunity to present the evidence if it could be presented.

He (Mr. Chambers) was in this position – that if the expert found the book did seem to show that the suspicions of the President were well founded no attempt would be made to call another expert.





Opposing the granting of the stay, Mr. Murphy said that Lord Justice Andrews had arrived at a most correct conclusion on the facts of the case. It must be conceded that to the defendants it was a matter of the very greatest importance that at the earliest moment they should be in a position to assert their rights.

Mr. Justice Megaw remarked that the Admiralty action was tried in a very short time.

Mr. Murphy, continuing said there was in fact some delay between the delivery of the statement of claim on the 7th May and the delivery of the defence. It was on affidavit and the letters were accepted on 13th May, six days after the judgment was delivered in the Admiralty action, wrote Messrs. Fisher & Fisher requesting an extension of time for a week or ten days in order to allow him to have the defence delivered. Six days after the judgment Mr. Wallace, presumably on the instruction of his London correspondents, asked for an extension. ,Messrs. Fisher & Fisher replied that they would not take any steps without giving notification.

Continuing Mr. Murphy said, that during the three day hearing in the Admiralty Court no application was made for any opportunity to inspect the log book.




It was perfectly preposterous, continued Mr. Murphy, to suggest that it would take an expert a month to decide whether a page had been torn out of a log book.

Mr. Murphy added that he should be delighted to cross-examine that expert on the ultra violet photograms or on his time and examination.

Mr. Chambers said there was grave danger of an injustice, and the log book was on of the most vital pieces of evidence, and an essential piece of evidence for his clients. Until that document and its authenticity had been inspected, he submitted there should be no trial.

Lord Justice Best said they had two issues to decide. First – would it materially interfere with the interests of justice so far as the defence was concerned? And in the second place, should they interfere with the discretion of the learned judge, who fixed the hearing of the trials for Monday.

Neither he nor Mr. Justice Megaw was satisfied that it would be an injustice to one or other of the parties, if the trial were to go on. They refused the application, which they dismissed with costs.

Mr. Justice Megaw concurring complimented Mr. Chambers on the splendidly clear manner in which he had presented his case

Remains of the Alder Alder





The hearing was commenced, on the 28 June 1937, before Lord Justice Andrews, in the King’s Bench Division of the Ulster High Court yesterday of the action for compensation for the loss of five lives as a result of the collision in Carlingford Lough, on 4th April last, between the Newry collier Alder and the Lady Cavan, a passenger-cargo vessel, trading between Liverpool, Newry and Dundalk.

The plaintiffs were Robert James Campbell and others, dependents of the captain of the Alder and his wife; Madeline McGrath, Rose Conlon, and Margaret Davis, dependents of three other members of the crew of the Alder, and the defendants were the owners of the Lady Cavan, the British and Irish Steampacket Co. (1936) Ltd.

Mr. E. S. Murphy, K.C.; Mr. A. Black, K.C., M.P.; and Mr. W. Johnston (instructed by Messrs. Fisher & Fisher) represented the plaintiffs, and Mr. J. C. MacDermott, K.C., and Mr. Chambers (instructed by Mr. Robert Wallace) were for the defendants.

Mr. Johnston, opening the case, said defendants denied that they were guilty of any negligence and in the case of Robert Campbell, deceased, they said he was guilty of contributory negligence.



Mr. Murphy said there were four actions and it had been agreed as all the actions arose out of the same catastrophe that they should be tried together. In the first action the claim was made on behalf of Robert Campbell. He was a young man, aged 42, and most unfortunately on this occasion when his ship ss. Alder was sunk his wife was on board and she was drowned with him. Claims arose in connection with the loss sustained by the children of both father and mother. There were four children – Robert James, aged 16; Isabella May, aged 14; Henry, aged 12 and Charles Pearson, aged 9. Captain Campbell had a weekly wage of £5 10s when at sea.

The second action was brought by the widow of William Robert McGrath, chief engineer, who lived at Newry. He was 47 years of age. They had three children, Beatrice, aged 19; Muriel, aged 11; and Alex, aged 7.

The chief engineer’s wages when he was at sea were £4 9s 3d per week, and in the previous two years his earnings were £166 and £232 respectively.

The third action was brought by Rose Conlon in respect of her husband John Conlon, who was a fireman, aged 52. They had two children, John, the elder and Jane aged 19. The father earned £3 2s per week and in the previous two years his totals were £92 and £144 respectively.



The fourth action was brought by Margaret Davis, widow of James Davis, second engineer, who was 48 years of age. He lived on the Castlereagh Road, Belfast, and they had three children – Rita, aged 18; Muriel 17. and Mary E., 12. The second engineer’s wages were £3 13s 9d per week when he was at sea, and his earnings for the last three years were £155, £135 and £176 respectively.

Mr. Murphy proceeded to review the facts which were to be given in evidence.




The first witness called for the plaintiffs was Mr. S. Wilson Reside, C. E., Newry, who stated he had actual experience at sea being an engineer on the Headline for a time. On the 12 April this year witness made an inspection of the ss. Alder in the position in which she now lies in Carlingford Lough. On that date he took a number of bearings. On the 1st May he made another inspection and took the position again. On the same day he took the position of the buoys in the Lough and prepared a map which was now before the jury. On the 15th June he made a further inspection, accompanied by Mr. James Torrens, of Messrs. Fisher & Sons, and Mr. Wm. John Press. He sailed over the course taken by the vessel. The Carlingford Channel was a buoy channel maintained by the Carlingford Lough Commission. The buoys bore numbers, which were painted on them. There was a lighthouse at No. 6 buoy, called the Hawlbowline Lighthouse.

Continuing witness said that a fathom was 6 feet and a cable 600 feet. There were 10 cables in a nautical mile, and 6008 feet in a knot. The situation of the Alder where she is now lying was two and two thirds cables, or 1,600 feet from Greenisland. At the present time her bow was pointed towards Greenisland. As regards the channel, she was laying two thirds of a cable clear of the channel.




Lord Justice Andrews – Is she lying in the channel? – Yes, she is 150 feet from the North side of the channel.

Lord Justice Andrews – She was not off her course in any way? – No.

Mr. Reside said that the distance from the Hawlbowline Lighthouse to where the Alder now lay was about 8,800 feet. Assuming that a vessel covered that distance in ten minutes her average speed would be 8 and two thirds knots per hour. From No. 10 buoy to the Alder would be about 4,500 feet. If it covered that distance in 6 minutes, the sped would be about 7½ knots.

Cross-examined by Mr. MacDermott – May I take it as right that one knot per hour is 100 feet per minute? – Yes, 100 feet.

How far is it from the Bell Buoy to where you marked the wreck of the Alder? – Almost 10 cables.

What would the average speed in knots be? - 4¾ knots per hour.

Can you tell me the distance between the Bell Buoy and  the Upper Pine Light? – About 27 cables.

Are you familiar with the routes about the Bell Buoy? – Not outside it.

Do you know from your knowledge that vessels coming from Dundalk would pass close to the Bell Buoy? – Yes.

The Alder, when sunk, is lying clear of the channel, - She is lying a little bit inside.

I take it she is not clear of the channel? – A little bit in the channel.

Assuming that she was sunk where she was struck, was she on her course? Do you agree with that? – I do.

James Torrens, superintendent engineer of Messrs. Joseph Fisher & Sons, ship owners, Newry, stated that he had experience as an engineer on a ship, and that he held a chief engineer’s certificate since 1904. He produced a document which gave particulars of the Alder. On 26th April he inspected the lamps of the Alder. There were two hatches – one forward and one aft. When witness examines the Alder the tide was at the low-water mark. Witness said the measurements were agreed to by a representative of the owners of the Lady Cavan. Witness was able to give exactly the position of the anchor light after it was hoisted.

Lord Justice Andrews – How exactly is the lamp secured in position? – On a block with a stay.


Continuing, Mr. Torrens said that at low water mark half of the mast and 6 feet of the funnel were visible. It was clear that the lights were burning when the Alder sank, as the wicks were up in the burners, in ordinary conditions, apart from fog, the light would be visible for about a mile. The stern light was screened. Witness was with Mr. Reside on the 15th June to take soundings, and also sailed over the course with him.

Cross-examined by Mr. MacDermott – Looking at the ship’s bow, would one see the mast-head light a little to the left and above the anchor light? – Yes, that is correct.

Would it be possible to see the mast head light and the stern light at the same time in a fog? – It would be possible.

To Mr. Murphy – The actual stern light was the one produced.

The Court then adjourned for luncheon.

Wm. John Press, partner in the firm of James Maxton & Co., Ltd., naval architects and consulting engineers, proved a sketch showing the beam of the lights on the Alder. The mast head light was 20 points and the other 12 points.

Cross- examined by Mr. Chambers – Did you yourself see the point of impact between these two vessels? – On the Lady Cavan, not the Alder.

The Alder is so designed to have no belting? – I cannot say, as I have not seen it.

Did you make any calculation taking into account the damage done to the vessel by the speed at the point of impact? – No, as I think that would be impossible.

Did you examine the Alder at all? – I received reports from the diver.

From the information did you form any conclusion that there was very low penetration? - Yes.

In what condition was , the bow of the Lady Cavan? – Very good, except for marks and scrapes.

You were able to form what speed there was at the impact? – I cannot say what speed.

Did the marks on the Lady Cavan indicate the depth of penetration? – Twenty feet on the port side.

Mr. Murphy – That gave you some indication of the impact? – Yes.


Michael O’Neill, aged 23, one of the survivors of the Alder, stated that he was mate on the Alder at the time. He held a home trade mate certificate, which he received in November last. The Alder had a crew of 8 all told. The watch consisted of two on deck and two below. On the 3rd April last they sailed from Irvine to Newry, and they were laden with a cargo of coal. They left Irvine in the afternoon of the 3rd April. The watch commenced on board from 4 to 8 in the evening. Witness was accompanied on watch that night by A. B. Cahoun. They reached the Whistling Buoy about 3.20am. on the 4th April. The Bell Buoy was not the Whistling Buoy.

Lord Justice Andrews – They both answer to their names, and have whistling and bell sounds? – Yes.

Witness said that the captain was on the bridge when they got to the Whistling Buoy. Witness called for the captain as he had been told to do, and he came on deck at 3am. At the Whistling Buoy they became aware of the presence of another boat at anchor, and he saw the anchor lights and heard the bell. They found that it was the Lady Cavan. They exchanged signals with her, and she indicated where the whistling Buoy was.

After passing the Whistling Buoy the weather cleared and they proceeded towards the entrance to the Lough. They entered the Buoy Channel. Witness was at the wheel. They passed the Hawlbowline Lighthouse about 3.45am. Coming up the channel to the Hawlbowline Lighthouse the visibility was clear.

Lord Justice Andrews – Was that bout the point when you changed your course? – Yes.




Proceeding, witness said they later reduced to ‘slow’ and continued. Witness and Cahoun went forward. They let down the anchor at 4.5am. with 30 fathom lengths of chain. It was a very calm night. After he let down the anchor he rang the bell. As it was a calm night the bell should be heard at a distance of about a mile. After witness rang the bell he saw Hollywood go to the forecastle with an anchor light. The anchor light was lit. He went along to the bridge to take in the side lights. Those lights were fastened by lashings. At that time it was almost high water. When the vessel came to anchor she swung round… At the time of the collision she was heading somewhat to the West.


Lord Justice Andrews – Was the tide not strong to make her head down the channel? – The tide was not strong.

Continuing witness said he rang the bell again.

Lord Justice Andrews – What time did you continue to ring it? – About a few seconds.

Resuming his evidence, O’Neill said he rang the bell a third time. The first witness saw of the Lady Cavan was when he noticed the two mast head lights and the two sidelights. As compared with their ship, the Lady Cavan would be on the port side. The Lady Cavan would then be about 500 feet away. Witness said he could see her red and green lights. He heard a signal, one sharp blast from the Lady Cavan. They heard no signal from her previous to that. ‘The Lady Cavan appeared to be coming head-on for us’ proceeded the witness. The Lady Cavan seemed to be altering to starboard. He next heard someone on the Alder shout to the Lady Cavan: ’Go astern,’ and someone on the Lady Cavan answered: ‘Wee are going astern.’ The Lady Cavan did not continue to go to starboard and came back again. The Lady Cavan struck their boat about the middle of the after-hatch on the port side. It was pretty heavy blow, and the witness thought she would doing about 4 or 5 miles an hour, when she struck them.

After the Lady Cavan struck them their boat (the Alder) listed to starboard.

Lord Justice Andrews – Were the two boats interlocked after the collision? –No.

Lord Justice Andrews – What did you think made her heel to starboard? – The blow.



Immediately after the collision witness proceeded the Lady Cavan backed out from them again. The Lady Cavan threw the Alder a line. After the collision witness could not see the Alder swinging. He tried to get a lifeboat out but was unable to do so. He tried to get out on the port side, but she heeled over on the port side. The Alder sank within about four minutes from the time she was hit by the Lady Cavan. All hands were on deck at the time of the collision. The captain’s wife was also on deck. Cahoun, Hollywood and witness were picked up from the water and taken aboard the Lady Cavan. All the ship’s books were lost.


Cross-examines by Mr. MacDermott – You say that at the time of the collision all hands were on deck? – Yes.

The time you let go the anchor who was with you? – The skipper, Cahoun and myself.

No other person before that? – Not that I know of.

Was Hollywood on deck? – He was called shortly before that and I don’t know whether he was up or not.

You remember the night you came to the Whistling Buoy and you hailed the Lady Cavan? – No, she hailed us.

At the time she hailed you could you have been bound for Dundalk or Newry? – Yes, we could be.

At the time you saw the Lady Cavan you had not seen the Whistling Buoy? – No.

How far were you away from the Whistling Buoy when the Lady Cavan hailed you? – I cannot exactly say.

Did you whistle passing the Lady Cavan? – No.

How long was it after you left the Whistling Buoy before the weather began to clear? – Scarcely five minutes.

Did I gather from your evidence that you had good visibility down to No. 6 buoy? – Yes.

Did you vary your speed passing the Lighthouse? – No.

Were you able to see the lights on Greenore? – No.

All you had to navigate by were lights? – That was all.

What time did you say it was when you dropped anchor? – Approximately 4.5am.

Are you a bit confused about your time regarding this? - No.

Did you tell the Master of the Lady Cavan that you were ten or fifteen minutes anchored before the collision? – No.

Would you swear to that? – I would.

If there was any vessel close after you from the Whistling Buoy would the stern light of your ship be visible? – Oh yes.

Mr. MacDermott then turned to the body of the Court and asked a man named Millar to stand up, and pointing towards him, he asked the witness –

Had you any conversation with this man on the Lady Cavan? – Yes.

Did you say anything to him about the time you had been anchored? – No.

Where had you the conversation? – With Mr. Millar on the deck.

Continuing, witness said they were anchored about five minutes before the collision took place. There was no doubt that the anchor light was showing at the time.

Mr. MacDermott – Why did you not take the masthead light down? – We looked around for other lights.

I suggest to you that you thought that you were satisfied that there was no other ships coming down on you and that you might as well let it stay there until you moved off again? – No, no.

To Mr. Black – There was nothing suggested to him about the conversation with the Master when at the Admiralty Court in London, or about the conversation with Millar.


The hearing was adjourned until 11 o’clock on Tuesday morning.



James Hollywood said he had been ten years in the Coastal Service. Previous to joining the Alder witness said he had been on the ss. Pine for six months. He was a lamp trimmer. He was called about 3.45a.m. and got on deck shortly after4 o’clock. There was a thick fog, and the boat was stopped. The anchor was let go as he went on deck. Witness lit a candle and got the anchor light out of its position and lit it. He carried it to the forecastle head. While he was hoisting the light he saw O’Neill who was ringing the bell. Witness saw Cahoun. He was` leaving the forecastle head to take in the side lights. Witness had the anchor light in position, and was looking around to see if he could notice anything. He saw two masthead lights and the port light of a boat, the Lady Cavan. It was heading to the port side of the Alder, and was about 500 feet away from the Alder. When he first saw it witness did not see or hear anything from the Lady Cavan, but as she was coming towards them he heard one short blast of her siren. That was the only signal he heard from the ship. The Lady Cavan seemed to alter her course to starboard and straighten up again. Witness heard someone shout on the Alder ‘Go astern’ and a reply came form the Lady Cavan, ‘We are going astern’. After the collision the Alder heeled over to starboard. The Alder sank in about 3 or 4 minutes after the collision. The crew were thrown into the water, and witness was one of the three picked up.


Cross-examined by Mr. MacDermot, witness said he did not hear any person being told to bring in the stern light. He agreed that the wrong lights would mislead.

Wm. Cahoun seaman on the Alder said he had about 4 years experience. His watch on this day was from 12 midnight to 4a.m. The mate was also on watch. Sometime during that period witness called the master, and towards the end of the watch went down to call the next watch. That was about 3.45a.m. and Hollywood and Gorman were called.

After that witness went back on deck and when the time came to let go the anchor the witness went forward to the forecastle, O’Neill going also, witness took the stoppers off the port anchor and the anchor was let down. That was shortly after 4 o’clock. Witness then went down to the bridge to take in the side lights and noticed Hollywood coming down from the forecastle head. He had the anchor light with him, and after anchoring witness heard the bell rung by O’Neill. Witness was on the foredeck when he first saw the Lady Cavan’s masthead and sidelights- about 500feet away. The Lady Cavan appeared to alter course to starboard. She gave one short blast on her siren which would indicate that she was going to starboard. Subsequently she came back to port again and was travelling about 5 or 6 knots per hour when striking the Alder.

To his Lordship – The Lady Cavan never appeared to slow down at all.

Cross-examined by Mr. MacDermot- It was clear that night that there were clear patches and very bad patches of fog? – It cleared up after we left the buoy. The weather was bad when we anchored.

The masthead light should have been taken down, and also the rear light? - Yes

You must have known that you were anchored in the channel? - I did not know.

You passed No. 10 buoy?-I did not know whether we had or not.

Are you quite sure? - I saw the anchor being got ready

When you saw `lights did you know that they were lights of a vessel? - I did.

If that vessel has stayed where she was without going to port side, would she have cleared you? - I think she would.

Mr. Justice Andrews- In London did you say anything about lights? As far as I remember, I said I saw all four lights.


In further cross-examination, witness agreed that when anchored in fog it was essential to get the proper lights up at once.

Mrs. Madeline McGrath, widow of Wm. Robert McGrath, who was chief engineer on the Alder, said her husband was 49 years of age. She could not say what her husband’s weekly wage would be.

Mr. Black said the deceased’s earnings were April, 1934 to April 1935, £166 14s 6d; from April 1935 to April 1936, £222 13s 6d and from April 1936 to April 1937, £232 1s.

Mrs. McGrath continuing her evidence said that out of her husband’s wages she received £2 1s per week. Out of that she paid the rent and kept the house. When the ship was laid up he was on a smaller wage and paid her 35s per week. Witness had three children.

The eldest named Beatrice Gwendoline, who was 19 years of age. She had not been working since her father’s death. Prior to that she worked in a mill in Bessbrook and received 17/4 per week. She had to pay for stamps out of that. Witness’s second girl, Muriel Elizabeth, was 12 years old and was still at school. Her son Allan was 7 years old and was still at school. Her husband on the last occasion, had been nearly three years with Messrs. Fisher, and before that he was employed by Messrs. Kelly for about 12 years. Previous to that again he was with Messrs. Fisher for 18 years.

Cross-examined by Mr. Chambers- Was your husband off work for a year? – No; he was off from January to June.

He was not earning anything? – No

When he was not at sea he was at home? – Yes

And he had to buy his clothes? – Yes

He had to have clothes? – Yes

There were weeks when he only gave you 35s per week? – That was when the boat was tied up.

Lord Justice Andrews – Did he pay you out of the £2 10s or out of his money? – Out of the balance.

Did you send your daughter away after the unhappy accident occurred? – Yes

She is getting the bureau? – Yes; 12s per week.

Mrs. Rose Conlon, widow of John Conlon stated her husband was 50 years of age and she was 52. Her husband was a fireman on the Alder.

Mr. Black gave particulars of her husband’s earnings as follows – April, 1934 to April, 1935, £1337 4s; April, 1935 to April, 1936, £92;and from April, 1936 to April, 1937£144 1s; a total of £373 5s.


Mrs. Conlon, proceeding, said her husband was with Messrs. Fisher for ten years. Her husband’s weekly wage was £3 and he gave the witness £2 per week. Out of the amount her husband gave her she paid the rent of the house. Witness had three children. The eldest of the family was Mary Rose, who was married and lived with her husband at Warrenpoint.

The boy John, was aged 20 years. At the time of witness’s husband’s death John was working in London and had been there for about a year.

After his father’s death he came home and did not go back since. Her daughter Jane, aged 17 years worked in Dromalane Mill and earned £1 per week. Out of that she gave witness 17s 6d per week.

Mr MacDermot did not cross- examine.

Mrs. Margaret Davis, widow of James Davis, who was second engineer on the Alder stated her husband was 46 years of age. He earned a set wage of £3 11s 6d per week.

Mr. Black gave particulars of deceased’s wages as follows: - .April, 1934 to April, 1935, £155 14s; from April 1935 to April 1936176 11s 6d; and from April 1936 to April 1937, £117 11s 6d, making a total of £467 17s.

Witness had three children – all girls. The eldest girl, Rita, was 19 years of age, and was employed as a stitcher in Messrs. Thompson’s Victoria Street, Belfast. She was on piece-work and earned 15s per week. She gave witness 12s 6d per week. She was idle at present owing to slackness of work. Her second child was also in Messrs. Thompson’s learning to be a stitcher. She received a set wage of 12s per week and gave witness all her money. The next girl was Evelyn, aged 12 who was still at school. Her husband traded from Newry. He sent her £2 10s per week, and when he was out of work he got bureau – about 30s per week.

Mr. MacDermot did not cross-examine.

Charles Campbell, merchant, Kilkeel and brother of Robert Campbell, master of the Alder, stated that his brother lived at the Moor, Kilkeel, about a mile outside Kilkeel town. The deceased was about 40 years of age. His wife Kathleen Campbell, who also lost her life. She was 37 years of age. Witness was well acquainted with the circumstances of his brother’s family. As far as witness knew, his brother earned about £5 10s per week.

Mr. Black gave particulars of the deceased’s earnings as follows; - 29th Nov 1934 to April 1935 £61 13s; from April 1935 to April 1936 £171 19s 6d; and from April 1936 to April 1937, £280 10s. Total £514. 2s 6d.


Mr. Campbell continuing his evidence, said that his brother was at home for a short time, and previous to that he was with Messrs. Kelly. His brother had 4 of a family, and the eldest was a boy, Robert James, aged 16. Robert James had left school about 12 months ago. The second child was a girl, Isabella, aged 13 years, and was still at school. The third child was Henry Louis Wilbert, aged 9 years. The youngest child was Charles aged 7 years. All those children had lived with their father and mother. The three boys now lived with witness’s father , and the little girl with his (witness’s) sister. The family was entirely dependent on the father’s income.

To Lord Justice Andrews – His late brother’s wife had no income of her own.

Mr. MacDermot did not cross-examine.




Mr. MacDermot, before the jury took their seats after the luncheon interval, asked his Lordship for a direction, that in the claim of Mrs. Campbell there was no case to go to the jury. So far as her death was concerned, however lamentable it might be, there was no evidence of any prospective or actual pecuniary loss as a result of her death. In the case of the master of the Alder, they pleaded that he was guilty of contributory negligence. He was on the bridge either upper or lower for some time – at least 5 minutes before the collision, and gave one order at least. He submitted that while the ship was at anchor she was showing wrong and misleading lights. The onus was on the plaintiffs to show that the lights were not conducive to the accident. The Alder had anchored showing the wrong lights. It was admitted by at least two witnesses that the lights of the Alder were lit, and it was a matter of importance that the proper anchor lights should be exhibited. Particularly so if the night was foggy, and further, that the vessel was in the fairway.

It was also admitted that had the Lady Cavan taken the last turn to port she would have cleared. It emphasised the importance of the strict observance of the rule of anchoring, and that the proper lights were exhibited. He submitted that the onus was thrown on the plaintiffs, and that the breach did not contribute to the accident.

Mr. Murphy said that the Campbell children were divided up, and that therefore, the services they got would now have to be rendered by someone else. The children had been getting gratuitous service from their mother, and would now have to get it elsewhere.


His Lordship – Gratuitously, also.

Mr. MacDermot – If a housekeeper had been engaged it would be a loss, as pointed out by Mr. Murphy, but since it was not there was no loss, as the children were at present staying with friends.

His Lordship said he would reserve a decision in the application, and Mr. MacDermot could renew it later.

Mr. Murphy – In regard to the second part of Mr. MacDermot’s submission, he said the Alder’s signals should have been heard some distance away, and the Lady Cavan should therefore, have exercised caution.

Mr. MacDermot said he proposed to stand on his submission and call evidence in respect of the other three cases.

Mr. Murphy said he actively opposed the attitude taken by Mr. MacDermot, and submitted that all four cases be taken together he should not now deal with three out of the four.





Mr. MacDermot, addressing the jury, said it was his duty to state for the defendants in the four actions, who were the British and Irish Steampacket Co., owners of the Lady Cavan, this was a matter of importance, not only to traders generally, but also, to the owners of the Lady Cavan and to the captain of the vessel.. The accident resulted in the sad loss of the lives of several people who were breadwinners. He did not wish to say a harsh word, but wishes to sympathise with those who were left behind. However, he did not wish, and would ask the jury not to be persuaded by his sympathy. They would also see that the owner of this vessel, the Lady Cavan was a man with a career who also had a crucial point. So far as he was concerned, he was not going into that matter, at any length. The damages could not be measured to make up the loss of life. There was, however, damage for the pecuniary loss, which had been reasonably anticipated. If they could measure the loss it would be according to the figures of the earnings.

The question was, was the Lady Cavan navigating negligently, or in a manner as to contribute to the loss. He asked the jury to keep matters of technical expressions such as starboard and port etc, from troubling them and appealed to them to keep in mind that this was an accident caused by two ships in the fairway going to Newry at night.


One had to go by lights one saw, and he submitted that the only course the jury could adopt was that the Alder’s lights were misleading.

It was characteristic of that night’s fog that it was very patchy. He thought they could come to the conclusion that the eyesight on one side was as good as on the other.

The first witness called for the defence was John Gallimore, captain of the Lady Cavan, who stated that he had been at sea for 26 years and had held a master’s certificate for 10 years, He held various pilot licences. He had been master of the Lady Cavan for two years. The Lady Cavan ran from Liverpool to Newry on Saturdays and from Liverpool to Dundalk on Wednesdays. The Lady Cavan was 602 tons gross and was 178 feet long. She had a 29 feet 6ins. beam, and carried a crew of eleven. Her full speed was 10 knots, and half speed 5 to 6 knots. Slow speed was 3 to 4 knots.

Witness said they left Liverpool on the Saturday prior to the accident shortly after 2 o’clock in the afternoon. They had 275tons of coal. Coming to Ireland, the weather got hazy, and from 8.30 there were fog patches. These patches caused them to slow down. On two occasions they stopped altogether. They reached the whistling buoy at 2.55am. and anchored about 3 o’clock. He anchored there because he thought the visibility in Carlingford Lough was not good. While they anchored there the Alder came along about 5 minutes after they had anchored. She did not hail them, but they hailed her.

They told the Alder of the whistling buoy. The Alder did not tell them where they were going. She was about 150 to 200 feet on the starboard side. Witness heard a bell ringing and it was that of the Alder approaching. They weighed anchor and proceeded up the Lough. He saw all the buoys going up as far as Carlingford Lighthouse, and having seen them, they went full speed. They did not continue at full speed all the way. They could see the light on buoy 10. After they passed No. 10 buoy the fog seemed to be getting thick again with wisps of fog coming over the masthead. He had his full complement of men on deck at that time. Witness said he passed a remark to the other men on deck that the fog was setting thick again, and he put the telegraph to slow. That was at the No. 10 buoy. They had up the ordinary underway lights. The visibility did not appear to be bad, so they intended to get up and get to anchor. When they came to that decision they had reduced to slow. They kept up to slow speed to just before the collision.



When they first sighted the Alder she would be about 500 or 600 feet away. At the time they sighted her they were doing about 4 to 5 knots. They saw two white lights, one a little to the other. Witness made those lights to be about two points on the port bow when they first sighted them. If the lights had been what he thought they were he would have gone quite clear. He did not change his direction at all, but kept his course and speed. He gave a short blast on the whistle. After he saw the Alder’s lights he heard the bell. That was the first time he heard the bell, and it was in answer to his whistle. The third light was sharp on the port side as though it was a bit finer on the bow. Witness’s boat passed No.10 buoy and they expected to see No. 12 buoy. It had a big bright white light. The two officers on the bridge and himself agreed that they could go between the buoy and the Alder, and he gave the men the order to go hard to port, and go between the ship and the buoy. He also gave the signal to the engines to go full speed in order to swing quickly. The next thing they observed was a light and they knew that it belonged to the Alder and not the buoy. He was about 200 feet away when he recognised the Alder’s bow.

He ordered the engines to go hard astern and gave the double ring for urgency, but unfortunately it did not bring the ship round, and she struck the Alder. Witness said he never deviated out of his course until he went hard to port.

He put his ship hard to port to make her swing quickly but the distance was too short and it did not counter it. They hit the Alder at right angles. He thought the impact was not that severe as to knock them off their feet.

They could not do anything to avoid the accident but if the Alder had even the stern light in she would have been afloat today, and they would have got clear of her. After the collision they did their best for the Alder and its crew. The survivors of the Alder were taken on their boat into port.




The hearing was continued with the cross-examination by Mr. Murphy of John Gallimore, master of the Lady Cavan.

Did you know whether you had a man on the look-out forward? – Yes

I put it to you that you asked the mate that question and he answered ‘yes’ – No

When did you ask the mate if there was a man on the look-out? – After we slowed down I asked him.


That man’s duty would be to report what he sees, and especially lights at night? – Only in foggy weather.

Did you on that night receive any report from the man on the forecastle head?- No

Would I be right to say that that man had no idea of his duties? – He was only temporary, and had been with us for six days.

Then he would have no idea? – He would have some idea.

I put it to you in view of the answer you gave in London, that the look-out man had no idea of his duties? He would have some idea.

Did you say in London that all you had found out about that man regarding his experience was that he could steer and nothing more? – Yes

And the President asked you if you had found that out before, and you answered ‘yes’? – Yes

And you said that when he passed the buoys you had no faith in him as a look-out? – It was the first time he had been on the look-out in foggy weather.

Do you remember him saying how many times he heard the Alder’s bell ring? – Yes, four times.

And no report- No

You yourself heard the bell once? – Yes

Rather unfortunate that you did not receive a report from the look-out? – I could hear it as plainly as him

Yet you heard it only once?- Yes

According to you, you could not see a man on the forecastle head? – No

You answered a question that the bridge of the Lady Cavan was a little forward of amidships? – Yes

You remember making a report to your owners? – Yes

Did you report to your owners that the seaman was on the forecastle head getting the anchor ready? – Yes.

 Why did you report that to your owners if he was on the look-out? – That was part of the mate’s answer to me, that there was a look-out on the forecastle head, and that he was getting the anchor ready.

He told you he had reported seeing the Alder? – Yes; sometime after the collision.

You said he did not report seeing the Alder? – No, sir; I said I did not hear him.

At what time was it you passed the Hawlbowline Lighthouse? – About 4.5am.


And how do you fix that – I keep my own time

What time did the collision occur? – At 4.15am.

And you kept it? – Yes

You heard that the distance between the Hawlbowline and the spot where the collision occurred was 14 cables

What time did you pass No. 10 buoy? – About 4.9am.

I take it that you are not sure of the time? – Only a second or so out.

Was it from what you were told by the engineer that you are fixing the time you passed No.10 buoy? – Yes

What was your average speed between the No. 10 buoy and the Alder? – I have not worked it out.

There was one engineer on duty? – Yes

Then I put it to you that you did not reduce to slow until practically the point of impact? – I definitely reduced at 4.10am.

Because you were looking out for buoys you did not record the order? – Yes

No. 12 buoy should be seen to your starboard? – Yes

Do you agree with me that, according to the chart of Carlingford Lough, the tide is running straight up the channel? – That is not correct.

How? – It is local knowledge that the tide sets to starboard.

That morning was there any such tide as would lead you to expect that you would be taken inside No. 12 buoy? – Not on the tide. But you cannot rely on the buoys.

To Lord Justice Andrews – They drift or be washed away.

Are you telling the members of the jury that No. 12 buoy might have been moved by the wind? – No

Was the visibility about 500 feet before you saw the lights? – Yes

You knew it was pretty dense fog? – Yes and getting worse.

There was practically no wind? – Yes there was a slight breeze.

Might I suggest to you that under the conditions you could not see what you took to be No. 12 buoy? – Not according to visibility.

You were approaching the Alder on the port side? – Yes

And you had seen the masthead light on your port bow? – Yes

Would you agree with that approaching the Alder as you did you could not see the stern light, but only a reflection in the fog? – From the way the Alder was lying, yes.

It is correct to describe the Lady Cavan as very contrary? – That is in a tideway.


You say you wanted to go to the anchor? – Yes, to the westward.

Were you intending to pass the stern of the ship? – Yes leaving the Alder on the port side.

Even on your assumption, it is prudent to give lights in a fog a wide berth? – No, I thought we were going to clear.

To Mr. Chambers – The look-out was a  man called Hollywood. When the lights of the Alder came into view he saw two lights first and two immediately afterwards. The first two lights were the masthead light and anchor light. If he had kept on his course he would have passed safely.

To his Lordship – It was high water that morning about 4.9 or 4.11. The tides in Carlingford Lough were pretty strong. The light he saw was definitely a clear third light. John Joseph Higgins stated that he was chief officer on the Lady Cavan, and had held that position for four years. He held a home trade certificate for 18 years and had been going to sea for 26 or 27 years. He also held a pilot’s certificate for Carlingford Lough. Witness had been trading from Liverpool to Newry for 25 or 26 years. On the morning of the collision witness came on deck at midnight. He agreed with the master that it was a foggy night. Their ship anchored at the whistling buoy round about 3 o’clock.

Witness was on deck at that time and hailed a ship, and later they discovered that that ship was the Alder. They told the Alder where the whistling buoy was. They weighed anchor about 20 minutes to four, and at that time the weather had cleared. They then proceeded to enter the Lough, as they did so the visibility was good. They were going along at various speeds up the whole way. As they were passing No. 7 buoy the weather was clear, but the fog was closing in. They passed No. 10 buoy on their starboard side in the ordinary course of navigation. When they were passing No. 10 buoy the speed was reduced to slow.

At that time the master, the second mate, and himself were on the bridge. After they reduced speed they did not make any sound. Shortly afterwards they gave the ordinary fog blast , and after that they saw two bright lights on the port bow. Witness said they took the lights for a ship at anchor. He could not say exactly how far away the lights would be.

After he saw the lights they saw a low white light and took it to be a buoy light.No.12 buoy was not a winking light. They saw this light on the port bow.


The Lady Cavan intended to go for anchor, as they thought it was getting foggy. After they saw the third light the captain gave the order to port, and before that they did not alter their course to starboard. When they put the engine to go astern they would not be more than 400 or 500 feet from the Alder.

Cross examined by Mr. Black, when you passed No. 7 buoy it was getting foggy? – Yes.

I think you said in your deposition that the fog was getting thick? – Yes

When you got to No. 10 buoy, the fog was definitely thick? – Not a dense fog.

You have told us that you saw a couple of ship lengths ahead? – When we passed No. 10 buoy they could see one ship’s length.

Do you agree with me that when you have a visibility of only a ship’s length, you should have stopped as a seaman, do you think that is so? – Yes

You will agree that in fog such as the one experienced it would be essential to have a look-out? – Yes

When you weighed anchor you placed Hollywood on the forecastle, and I think he was told that was what he was there for? – Yes

You could see Hollywood from the bridge? – Yes

Anyone on the bridge could see him moving about? – Yes

There was nothing to obstruct your view? – No

Did Hollywood report any of the lights that you noticed? – Not that I heard.

To his Lordship – His (witness) hearing was good, and if Hollywood had reported that he had heard sounds he would have heard him.

Mr. Black resumed his cross-examination.

How many times did you hear the bell? – I did not hear it at all

How can you explain that? – I don’t know.

So you were within a length of the Alder when you saw the light? – Yes

Assuming that the engines had been altered to slow, what is your slow? – 3 or 4 knots

How far does it take to reduce speed? – I could not say that

This light that afterwards turned out to be the stern light of the Alder, was it a clear light or a dim light? – It was a clear light.

If you got No. 10 buoy on your port bow, where would you be heading for? – Outside the channel.

Thinking that was No. 12 buoy, did you put the helm to port or hard to port? – To port.


What was the captain’s order? – I would not say.

You were navigating then into a space of 100feet in breadth? - Yes

To Mr. MacDermot – When they put their vessel to stern, the Alder was about 500 or 600 feet away. He could not exactly say what Hollywood was doing.

James Hollywood said he was second officer on the Lady Cavan. He held a master’s certificate from 1930. When they came to anchor outside Carlingford Lough he was on the watch below. Witness was called at 3.45am. and the boat was then under way. Witness remembered the No. 10 buoy. After passing the No. 10 buoy they reduced to slow and gave a blast on the whistle. The weather was getting thicker as they were going on. Witness sighted two lights port bow about 500 or 600 feet away. From the position of those lights he took it that it was a ship at anchor. He saw a third light, which he took for No. 12 buoy. The captain ordered the ship to go aport and the engines to go full speed astern. After their whistle the witness heard the Alder’s bell. Witness only heard the bell once. He heard someone on the Alder shout ‘Go astern’ and he heard someone on the ship reply ‘We are going astern’. The collision was not a violent one.

Cross-examined by Mr. Murphy – the gentle collision sank the Alder in five minutes? – Yes

Had you a man on look-out? – I did not know.

You never heard of him being on look-out? – Never heard.

You did not ascertain whether there was a man on the look-out? – That was not my job.

If the look-out man was standing on the bridge could he see a man on the forecastle head? – I could not.

James Millar, A.B. helmsman on the Lady Cavan, said he took the third light on the Alder to be buoy. After he saw the third light the vessel was ordered hard to port, and the engines full speed astern. At the time of the collision he would estimate the speed of the Lady Cavan to be 3 or 4 knots. Witness had a conversation with the survivors on the deck of the Lady Cavan and one of them said they had been at anchor for about ten minutes. He could not say who said it.

Cross-examined by Mr. Black, witness said he saw no sign of fog until they got to No. 10 buoy. After that the fog was getting thicker.


Charles Edmund Roffey, a member of the Naval Institute of Architects and a member of the Institute of Marine Engineers, stated that he had made an inspection of the wreck. Witness agreed with surveyor for the plaintiffs as to the position of the lights on the wreck. Witness estimated that the maximum penetration of the Lady Cavan was 20 inches. He saw the divers report, already mentioned, and also a plan of the Alder. The Alder was 28 years old.

Cross-examined by Mr. Murphy witness said that since the case came on he had discovered that the screening on the Board of Trade lamp was not very effective. He made a careful investigation of the marks on the Lady Cavan and was able to judge the speed of the Lady Cavan at about two knots.

This closed the case for the defendants, and Mr. MacDermot renewed his application for a direction in the Campbell action.

Lord Justice Andrews said he had considered the matter overnight, and he had come to the conclusion, with a view to preventing the possibility of a new trial and of the expense that would be attendant on bringing it again before a jury, that the safer course to adopt was to allow the Campbell case to go to the jury with the others.

In summing up the case for the defence to the jury, Mr. Chambers said they had listened to all the evidence and they asked their permission to go through the evidence so that he might have full claims brought by the defendants of the crew of the Alder against the owners of the Lady Cavan. The plaintiffs had set out to prove that it was the fault of the Lady Cavan that the unhappy members of the Alder lost their lives.

The earnings of each of those for the three years prior to the loss had been submitted. They had no figures for the captain’s wife and there was no evidence at all that the captain’s family had suffered pecuniary loss as a result of the death of their mother. They had evidence of the captain’s earnings. He submitted that in the case of Mrs. Campbell there should be none at all as to the other cases.

The question of damages was up to the jury. They were asked to assess the pecuniary loss that the persons had suffered, and that meant how much money the people had lost through the loss of life. They were not entitled to damages for feelings or bereavements. They had to find for the pecuniary loss how many months of the year the men had been employed. They were not to say that the people were not to be treated in a fair way, and he wished them to be treated fairly.


Mr. Chambers continuing, described how the Lady Cavan was in the fog and had anchored and how the Alder had passed her. How was it to be proved, he said , that those on the Lady Cavan were not taking care of their ship. They were at anchor and the Alder moved past them.

The Alder was lying in the middle of the fairway and in The Lady Cavan then proceeded up to No. 10 Buoy and came to anchor. Did they think from the evidence of O’Neill and Cahoun that the Alder had any idea where they were?

The Alder was lying in the middle of the fairway and in what they themselves admitted was a dangerous position. Surely they knew that the Lady Cavan was following them up to Newry, and that they had passed her before. The Alder was guilty of negligence in coming to anchor on a course for other shipping, and the Lady Cavan in particular. She should have regularised her position with regard to other seamen coming along. It was also important that she did not erect the proper lights. Mr. Chambers pointed out that if a motor car on the road had its right head light out, and another vehicle crashed into its radiator, it would be due to the left light giving a wrong impression that that side of the road was clear. The Alder, therefore, should have been showing regulation anchor lights. Surely they did not believe that the Lady Cavan had deliberately crashed into her. He submitted that it was for want of care on the part of those on the Alder that caused the accident. The speed of the vessel did not enter into the question at all, as the Lady Cavan went full speed ahead in order to clear the Alder. There had been no negligence on the part of the Lady Cavan, and the captain of the Alder had ignored the anchor lights that were necessary for other vessels at sea.




Mr. Black, in summing up for the plaintiffs, said that defendant’s counsel had raised the point about the look-out. That was negatived by common-sense. When they were dealing with possibilities that might happen in a ship’s length the distance from the forecastle head to the bridge – about 60 feet – was vital and it was not for counsel to say that there was no call for a look-out on the forecastle head when there were four men on the bridge.

One of the questions put by Mr. Murphy to the captain of the Lady Cavan was, did he think it necessary to have a man on the look-out? The captain answered ‘Yes’.


The mate and the second engineer of the Lady Cavan agreed that it was necessary to have a man on the look-out, so that all the officers agreed that a look-out was necessary for sound seamanship to have a man on look-out. Hollywood, of the Lady Cavan, stated that he had seen a man on the look-out in foggy weather before, but he added the very significant words that it was not Hugh Hollywood. The job of the look-out man was to report any sounds or lights he saw or heard.

Yet the men on the bridge of the Lady Cavan got no report from Hollywood, and that he was seen by the mate from the bridge. Yet the captain said he did not know he was there.

‘What sort of seamanship was this’ went on Mr. Black, ‘and what sort of organisation was that’.

The captain did not see the look-out at all, and the second officer never knew about him until after the collision. What kind of way of observing the prime necessity was that? Those on the Lady Cavan did not discharge their duties by putting a fellow up on the forecastle head who knew nothing about his job. The captain said that Hollywood was with them for six days prior to the accident, and that he could steer. That was all he knew about him. Hollywood had allowed the Lady Cavan to pass buoy after buoy and had not given hail. Eventually Captain Gallimore stated that he had no faith in the man.


One of the main issues of the action was obviously that a proper look-out be kept and if that was going before the jury surely the man who was put there to keep a look-out was the most important man to have in court? But that man was not in court, and was not put in the box. He (Mr. Black) was sure that the jury would supply these things for themselves. Hollywood, the look-out was examined in London.

The Lady Cavan’s captain said he did not hear the bell once, the mate that he did not hear the bell even once, and yet the look-out said that he heard the bell four times, and he submitted that they were afraid to put the look-out in

the witness-box because he would corroborate the plaintiff’s case. He would demolish the defendant’s case.

Hollywood said he reported that he saw the Alder, the captain that he did not see Hollywood. He (Mr. Black) asked that the jury draw their conclusion from the fact the vital man was not put in the box.


Proceeding, Mr. Black said there was not the keen, alert concentration on the Lady Cavan that there should have been. He put it to them that none of them on the Lady Cavan was keenly keyed up as they ought to have been going into that fog. He put it to them that they went blundering along into the fog not thinking that anything might happen, with no look-out – and worse than no look-out. Dealing with the speed of the Lady Cavan, he said the duty of a ship in a fog was to go with the greatest possible caution. Certainly on that night they could not see far. Some of the witnesses put the visibility at 500 feet, and the maximum was three ship’s lengths. His witnesses estimated the speed of the Lady Cavan at four or five knots. It was difficult for them to gauge exactly what the speed was, but in any case it was substantial speed. He relied on the evidence of the other side. The captain of the Lady Cavan in the witness box professed to give them exact times. He said he passed the lighthouse at five minutes past four, and the time of the collision was fifteen minutes past four. That represented an average speed of 8 knots.

It was 1,500 yards from the No. 10 buoy to the collision and that was covered in six minutes, representing an average speed of 7½ knots- their own figures. He submitted that they were driving into that fog with the greatest carelessness and negligence, at an average speed of 7½ knots.



Continuing, Mr. Black said on the issue of the look-out, that they had not produced the man who could have told them about the look-out and on the issue of speed they had not produced the man who could have told them about the speed.

One of the questions to be put to the jury would be: Was the captain of the Alder guilty of negligence? They had to consider was any failure to have the proper lights on the Alder the cause of the accident? Defendants said they had been misled by the Alder’s lights, but he put it to them – was it a story that hung together? He suggested they could not have been misled by the lights as they could not have been near the No. 12 buoy, which, they said, they mistook for one of the lights.

He said the Lady Cavan was completely lost, and had not been keeping an alert look-out. If the lights of the Alder had been misleading, could not the Lady Cavan have avoided the collision? He suggested that she could.


O’Neill, mate of the Alder, said, he struck the bell three times. Hollywood and Cahoun then struck it. In London, Hollywood, the look-out on the Lady Cavan, admitted he heard the bell of the Alder for times. The mate of the Lady Cavan was so alert that he did not hear the bell at all, and the captain heard it only once. He would ask them to find that the bell of the Alder had been rung several times that night, and that the Lady Cavan had not shown the alertness that she should have on hearing the bell. Hearing the bell, her duty in a fog was to have stopped. One of the causes of the disaster, he submitted was that even if the plaintiffs were guilty of negligence, the failure of the Lady Cavan in blundering along with the navigation of her apparently everyone’s business.

There was then the question of the amounts to be awarded. No doubt, some of them might have considered the question of widow’s pensions for the three widows, but under the Act, the jury, when assessing damages in fatal accidents, must leave that question of our calculation, and dismiss the thought of pensions from their minds.



During the concluding stages of Mr. Black’s speech one of the widow’s was led from the court in tears.

In his charge to the jury, Lord Justice Andrews said he was sure they wearied with the evidence of the three days’ trial, and which they had listened to with exemplary patience, and during which they had travelled up and down Carlingford Lough with both defendants and plaintiffs and with counsel in their very interesting and helpful speeches. In the circumstances he did not wish to address any prolonged review of the facts. The jury were the constitutional tribunal. This had been an appalling tragedy and one which was very tragic and he thought they would come to the conclusion that the accident would not have occurred had both parties exercised the proper care. The plaintiffs, as could be naturally understood blamed the defendants and the defendants blamed those in charge of the Alder. The sole question they had to determine was whether one or other of the ships were responsible and whether both were responsible. Let him give them a bird’s eye view of the cases. Questions in relation to the cases had to be determined with regard to John Conlon, Wm. McGrath and James Davis.


In those three cases they would have precisely the same issues to determine, except in regard to the amount of damages.

There was no question of negligence on the part of those men, who were not in command, and who were not in any way responsible for the orders of the master. There was no suggestion that any of the three men were guilty or negligent by refusing to carry out any orders that might have been given, and which, if carried out, might have avoided the disaster.




The other case was sub-divided into two parties – one the case of Kathleen Campbell, wife of the master of the Alder. As far as she was concerned, precisely the same issue arose in her case. She had nothing to do with the navigation of the ship, and if her husband was guilty of negligence she had nothing to do with it.

The captain of the Alder. He was master and was in charge, and if the Alder was guilty of negligence he must accept responsibility. The question which he would put to them would be to find out whose negligence had caused the collision?

The first question he meant to put to them was: Were the defendants guilty of negligence?

The meaning of that was, were the defendants guilty of negligence which had directly caused the accident?

If they answered that question in the negative the case need not go any further because if the defendants were not guilty they were under no liability and no question would have to be considered.

The second question was : Was Captain Campbell guilty of contributory negligence, as that was negligence that affected only Captain Campbell. If they came to the conclusion that the defendants were guilty and that Captain Campbell was not guilty of negligence that would put an end to the third question.

The third question was: If both were guilty (a) could the defendants have avoided the consequences therefore, and (b) could the master of the Alder have avoided the consequences therefore? The question was put for the purpose of ascertaining which was really the responsible party, and could either have avoided doing so?


Suppose there had been no fog on that night and that the Alder was lying in the fairway suppose the Lady Cavan had been coming along and seen the Alder anchoring with proper anchor lights, or even with wrong lights the Lady Cavan would have no right to go on merely because the Alder was negligent. It was the duties of every one of them, as citizens of the Kingdom, whether on land or sea, to avoid causing accidents.




Continuing, Lord Justice Andrews said another question was: Were the defendants guilty of negligence? Unquestionably there was fog, and as Mr. Black had told them it was the duty of those in charge of vessels in such circumstances, to see there was a proper look-out, and to see that the ship proceeded at reasonable speed, having regard to the circumstances existing. Plaintiffs alleged negligence on the part of defendants in two respects – the first a matter of look-out and the second a matter of speed.

Lord Justice Andrews stressed the importance of observing the navigation regulations and quoted several rulings on the subject, and said it was the duty of vessels to observe the regulations. He proceeded to deal with the matter of look-out on the Lady Cavan and quoted the following’ As to look-out, if the ship is proved to have been negligent in not keeping a proper look-out she will be held answerable for all reasonable consequences of her negligence….’ If that duty had been interpreted in the manner indicated it would appear that the look-out must be a vigilant and efficient man. Evidence given by the principal witness – Capt. Gallimore – on behalf of the defence in his cross-examination contained many statements which appeared to be considerably material.

Continuing, Lord Justice Andrews, read extracts from the cross-examination, and said it was a matter for the jury under the directions he had given to say whether the captain, the mate and the assistant on the bridge were a sufficient compliance with the obligations to provide an effective look-out.

The second and serious allegation of the defence was a matter of speed. The article which dealt with speed was Article 16, and it reads as follows:- ‘Every vessel shall, in a fog, mist, falling snow, or heavy rainstorms go in a moderate speed, having regard to the existing circumstances and conditions.’


Whether they were considering the case of the negligence of the Lady Cavan or the Alder they must have in their minds the existing circumstances and conditions. He quoted Article 16 which, referring to the speed of the vessel approaching another requires the vessel to slacken her speed or stop or reverse, if necessary.

Let them consider the speed of the Lady Cavan going up the channel. It was admitted they were proceeding for a considerable distance at full speed – about 10 knots – and that she proceeded at that speed to No. 10 buoy, which was the last buoy before the No. 12 buoy on the starboard hand. The only evidence given was that at or about the No. 10 buoy the vessel was ordered to go ‘slow.’ The chief engineer who would receive the order was not there to give evidence. The jury had to consider at what point speed was reduced the captain stated it was just about No. 10 buoy.

Proceeding, Lord Justice Andrews said considering the allegation of negligence against the Alder, so far as he could see, that negligence could be sub-divided under two heads. One was that she anchored in the fairway, and the second was that she was exhibiting the wrong lights. There was no doubt that the Alder was anchored in the fairway. She had to come to anchor, or incur the risk of proceeding. The captain of the Lady Cavan had told them that when he saw what he thought was the No. 12 buoy it really turned out to be the stern light of the Alder – he ported his helm hard, because if he had gone outside No.12 buoy he would have gone aground.

A serious allegation was made against the master of the Alder. Again there was no contest between plaintiffs and the defence as to the lights on the Alder, who was exhibiting wrong lights. The anchor light was hanging from the forestay, but she had two other lights- one mast light forward and the other the light from the stern. The mate of the Alder said it was very important that a vessel should put up her anchor lights immediately and if she left up her navigation lights when anchored she was presenting misleading lights. If that was the law and the practice of the sea, it was the particular duty when a vessel was anchored in a fog as the Alder was in that narrow channel. How long was the Alder at anchor before the collision?

So far as plaintiffs were concerned, she had not been anchored more than four or five minutes. The defence was she was at anchor ten or fifteen minutes. The starboard and port lights had been removed, but the stern light was not removed.


Proceeding, his Lordship said they would find they would be asked to make the assessment of damages. He proceeded to give particulars of the circumstances in which the victims’ families were left, and said one general thing he could tell them it was their duty if they came to assess damages, they were to be assessed purely and simply for pecuniary loss.

The jury then retired to consider their verdict.




The jury came into court after a retirement of almost two hours, and their answers to the prescribed questions were as follows:

1. Were the defendants guilty of negligence? – Yes

2. Was Captain Campbell guilty of negligence? – No

Accordingly it was directed that question No. 3 was not effected.

The following were the awards of the jury in regard to damages:-

Robert James Campbell - £250

Elizabeth May Campbell - £250

Henry Campbell - £450

Charles Pearson - £550

Mrs. Rose Conlon, widow of John Conlon - £850

John Conlon, son – Nil

Jane Conlon, daughter – Nil

Mrs. Margaret Davis, widow of James Davis - £1,400

Beatrice Rita Davis, daughter – Nil

Muriel Davis, daughter - £30

Mary Evelyn Davis, daughter - £180

Mrs. Madeline McGrath, widow of Wm. Robert McGrath - £1,400

Beatrice McGrath, daughter – Nil

Muriel McGrath, daughter - £180

Allan McGrath, son - £420

No damages were awarded in the action on behalf of Kathleen Campbell.

His Lordship found for the plaintiffs accordingly, the total amount of damages awarded being £5,960.

Lord Justice Andrews said he was very grateful to the jury for the great care, attention and patience exercised and for their excellent discrimination. He made an order that they be excluded from jury attendance for five years.


Mr. Murphy, for all the plaintiffs asked for judgment in terms of the jury’s verdict.

Mr. Chambers asked for judgment with costs in respect of the issue relating to the death of Mrs. Campbell. He also renewed the application made by his senior, Mr. MacDermot at an earlier stage in the proceedings for a direction in that case and in regard to all actions, for a stay. Notice of appeal against the decision of the Admiralty Court in England had been lodged and since that in addition to that tact, there were important as well as difficult questions that required to be considered.

Lord Justice Andrews stated that he was anxious not to exclude the defendants from appeal if they wished to do so. He would facilitate them in every way, but at the same time he could not allow the case to stand over a stay of execution pending an appeal in the English Court.

Mr. Murphy submitted that if a stay were granted, that as a condition of the stay, a substantial lodgement be made in court.

Lord Justice Andrews gave judgment for the plaintiffs in accordance with the jury’s awards, with the general costs of the actions, less any costs separately referable to the claim in respect of the loss of Mrs. Campbell, wife of the master of the Alder, which would have to be paid by the plaintiffs to the defendants to be set off the one against the other. He also directed a stay of execution in the ordinary course for one week without terms, and further directed that on the lodgement of £2,500 in court there should be a further stay until the last day of the term, which was on July 31st.

If notice went for a new trial or an appeal be served on or before that day, there should be a further stay of execution pending the hearing of the motions. His order for the lodgement of the money was not intended in any way to prejudice the defendants in any proceedings they might care to institute.





A collision in Carlingford Lough in April was recalled when the body of Robt. Campbell (42), captain of the steamer Alder, was washed ashore at Langness, Castletown, Isle of Man.

The Alder was rammed by the ss Lady Cavan and sank in a few minutes, six lives being lost.

Captain Campbell and his wife were amongst those who were drowned.

The body was discovered by Donald Hector Mackenzie, staying, with his brother, a keeper at Langness lighthouse. He was out for a walk and found the body in a gully in the rocks. It was in a badly decomposed state, but was identified by papers in the clothing.





An inquest was conducted by Mr. Robert Cowell, solicitor, deputy coroner, at Langness, Isle of Man, last evening, when a verdict of ‘found drowned’ was returned.

Deceased’s brother, Mr. W.J. Campbell, Kilkeel, gave evidence of identification.

Donald Mackenzie, a Scotsman, at present on holiday with his brother, the lighthouse keeper at Langness, stated that he found the body on the shore and informed the police.

Police and medical evidence was also given, Dr. John Stephen describing the condition of the body, and stating that in his opinion death was due to drowning.

The body left the Isle of Man by motorboat last evening at 4.45 and the funeral will, it is understood take place on Saturday at 2p.m.

The boat conveying the remains is the St. Patrick, skippered by the late Captain’s brother, Mr. W.J. Campbell


MASTER OF THE ALDER Born 10th February 1895- LAID TO REST IN KILKEEL 17th  July 1937

Capt. Campbell's funeral

Touching scenes were witnessed at the funeral in Kilkeel on Saturday of Captain Robert Campbell, master of the ill-fated Alder. The cortege, one of the largest and most representative ever seen in the district, comprised people from all over the Mournes and various parts of Northern Ireland.

In the course of a touching address based on the text ‘This is a grief and I must bear it’ (Jeremiah 10 v 19) the Rev. Martin said:-

 The large number at the funeral proclaimed the unabated sympathy that is extended to the Campbell family in their very tragic bereavement. I do not wish to say one word that might uncover the wounds that are slowly healing or make their grief any more fresh than it has been made by the recovery of the remains.

That had happened, continued the speaker, in the all-wise Providence of God, and now they knew that Robert Campbell lay, not out in those wild and wandering waters but under the peaceful shadows of the family burying ground. So that when they thought of their sad loss they would not turn their eyes to the expanse of sea, but there to that little plot.

There were words in the Old Testament which better than any others described the feelings of the mother and father. Jeremiah said’ This is my grief and I must bear it’ Those words were in the lives of a great many people. Sorrow and despair melted away and that was why Jeremiah was able to face his grief so manfully. Grief might seem for some just like a shadow of a cloud in the infinite sweeps of the sky, a patch of cloud in the blue.

The pleasures of life are marred, the joy of life passed out and the tears come. How often has that happened when it seemed as though the mist will never lift again? But then they knew that the sun shines brightly after the longest winter even when it seems that grief will come and occupy every other thing. Sorrow was just like a grey thread that had been woven into the life of every man and woman. Jeremiah had said ‘Woe is me’ but he also said’ This is my grief and I must bear it’. He had taken himself under control. There was an absence of panic and a sense of strength. There was quiet dignity and perfect patience. He recognised the grief, and submitted to it. That was part of God’s plan for man.

Jeremiah did not say ‘I must share it’. He said ‘I must bear it’. Then, how many grief bearers were there in the world, bearers like Jesus Christ Himself, walking princely to Jerusalem.

In the hour that He was going to die Jesus rejoiced in spirit.


There was something in that awful tragedy that made the Campbell family feel like Jesus – that was the faith of a Christian man, and that was where they differed from the worldling who gave away to grief, who saw no light, but only tragedy and misery.

Let them walk with Jesus Christ down that road leading to Jerusalem and through the streets of the city to the hill called Calvary. In that hour Jesus Christ rejoiced in spirit. Concluding, the speaker said might that be the faith of those whose grief they could not help sharing, but in whose gladness they could not help sharing also. Might God comfort and console them in that hour for His name’s sake.



 The chief mourners were;-
Mr. James Campbell (father); Messrs. Charles, William John, James and Harry Campbell (brothers); Masters Jim, Louis and Percy Campbell (sons)
Messrs. Joseph Fisher, Newry, owners of the Alder were represented at the funeral.
Wreaths were inscribed as follows:-
'To daddy' from his darlings Jim, May, Louis and Percy.
From his sorrowing parents, in loving memory- 'What I do thou knowest not now, but hereafter shalt thou know'
'To my beloved brother' from Harry.
'Father in thy precious keeping,
Leave we now our loved one sleeping'.
'A last tribute', from Isabella.
'Blessed Saviour then in love,
Fear and distress remove,
May we be anchored safe,
In the heaven above'.
'With loving sympathy' from Uncle John. Aunt Minnie and family.
From Libby and Alfie in affectionate remembrance.
'Until the day break and the shadows flee away'
'In loving remembrance' from William John and Gretta.
'In fond and loving memory' from James and Maggie.
'He was loved of all'
'With deepest sympathy' from all at the 'White House'
From Cissie and Robert, 'In loving memory'.
'On loving remembrance' from Charles and May
'We cannot Lord Thy purpose see,
But all is well that's done by thee'






(Down, Armagh and Louth Times)


The Carlingford Lough Tragedy


Not for many years has a shipping tragedy of such tragic dimensions occurred in Carlingford Lough, as that of Sunday 4th April 1937, when five members of the crew of a Newry steamer and the Captain’s wife lost their lives, their ship sinking immediately after a collision in a dense fog, with another vessel.

The news fell upon the ears of the horror stricken people of Newry, Kilkeel and the surrounding districts like a bomb shell, shattering the peace of a Sunday afternoon. Six lives were lost in the space of a few minutes. In war time such a calamity, although evoking the sorrow of a people prepared for the like, would not count for comparatively little, but in time of peace the loss of six lives is something which rends the very hearts of all. Homes have been rendered fatherless, and in one case parentless. A father and mother have been snatched away from their little children. And so we might go on reflecting on the aftermath of such a sad occurrence, Stark tragedy has the effect of compelling us to face facts, and once more the truth of man’s futility in the fight against nature is borne out. They say there is sorrow on the sea and too often has that saying been justified. Fogs, as well as tempests have a way of providing epics of the sea; of bringing sorrow to the heart of man. Sunday’s tragedy makes us sadder, when we realise that it was not at sea in the ocean sense that it occurred, but within sight of land. The Captain of the sunken vessel and his wife were drowned practically within sight of their own home. What an ironic prank fate has played here. Their four children living peacefully asleep in bed, while only a few miles away, across calm waters hushed under a blanket of dense fog, father and mother perish together. Although sympathy is but a poor enough comfort to those who have been bereaved, we know it is the desire of all our readers to express on their behalf the heartfelt condolence with the relatives, and this we do in the hope that it shall at least serve to bring some small measure of comfort to hearts wrought with anguish and despair.




Postscipt: Correspondemce between Capt. Robert Campbell & his wife

By Leslie Campbell