Part of the Acorn Archive
Hearts of Oak
Wreck of the SS EMBIRICOS
St Martinís, Isles of Scilly
Captain G Embiricos ( shown in registers until 1888)
Greek; Iron Screw steamer; Registered Andros
251.5 ft x 33 ft x 24.6 ft; 991 grt
Built July 1873; Short Bros, Sunderland
Owner : C Embiricos
Engines 5BH; 2Cyl 31/61x36; 150hp; Borrowdale
6th February 1892 (Saturday) Struck Brewer Rock, St Martin's, Isles of Scilly; broke in half; stern sank; bow drifted half a mile, before sinking.
The Times 10th February 1892
Loss of the EMBIRICOS (The Times has entered her as Empiricos)
The 15 survivors of the Greek steamer EMBIRICOS, which went ashore at St Martin's Scilly, in a fog early on Saturday morning, were landed at Penzance, yesterday from the steamship LYONESSE.
Since the wreck, stories of the most sensational character, founded, it is alleged, on the statements of members of the crew themselves, have been circulated and have given rise to considerable speculation as to their truth or falsity. the most serious allegation is to the effect that the captain and the other officers of the vessel were murdered by the survivors. The story is told with much circumstantiality, it is being stated that a mutiny broke out some time before the vessel struck, and that it was in the course of the mutiny, indeed whilst the fighting was going on, that the affair occurred. On the other hand, it is said that the bloodshed did not occur until after the accident, when a rush having been made for the boats, knives were drawn and a fight for life ensued, during which the captain and officers were murdered.
From statements made on Monday it was very evident that there were scenes of violence, for the three surviving Maltese alleged that the Greeks, who formed the large majority of the crew, used all endeavours to prevent their entering the boat. When questioned as to whether the knife was not used, they admitted that there was a call for "knives" but this, they say, was only to cut the boat adrift. Another story was that after the boat had been launched some of the men who have been drowned swam in the rear of the boat for some distance, but that they wee threatened with a knife, and one who was clinging to the stern was struck across the hands with an iron bar, which caused him immediately to lose his hold and sink.
John Balzan, one of the Maltese survivors, in an interview yesterday afternoon, said the vessel left Cardiff about 11 o'clock on Friday morning. She was a fine steamer, and made good speed during the day. Towards the close of the afternoon, a thick fog came on, and it was accompanied by a heavy sea, navigation became somewhat dangerous, and the engines were eased down to half speed. He and the other Maltese took no night watches, and consequently they went below during the evening. early in the morning he was awakened by a violent shock, which almost threw him from his berth. He went up on deck, and found that they had struck on a reef of rocks some little distance from an island. The rock had apparently torn the bottom of the vessel before the foremast, and, the bow being consequently slightly elevated, the water was pouring in and rushing down into the stern, so that the steamer was already beginning to settle down. The captain was on the bridge endeavouring to direct operation, but there was a general scramble on the deck for boats. He, himself with a number of Greeks and two of his fellow countrymen got alongside the lifeboat. The Greeks endeavoured to prevent the three Maltese from getting into the boat, but they scrambled in and refused to turn out. On being asked if any knives were used, Balzan replied that there was a call for "knives" and nearly everyone had a knife, but they did not use them, as far as he knew, except to cut the boat off from the stanchions. The lifeboat was lowered, and they began to pull away. Balzan alleges that the captain and officers and the men were, at the time they left, trying to launch the other boat. There would have been plenty of room in the lifeboat for them, because there were only 15 men in a boat which could hold about 50. When they had pulled some little distance they heard those who had been left on the ship shrieking out for help and imploring them to come back and save them. Balzan and the other Maltese immediately began to "back water" with the object of putting back to rescue them, but the Greeks turned on them, took the oar away from Balzan, and threatened what they would do with them if he did not do as he was told. Although the boat was only a few yards distant from the vessel, they refused to render any assistance whatever. They did not see the vessel go down, but when the boat had left about ten minutes they could see no light, and they supposed she must have sunk within that time.
When the men landed at St Martin's it was noticed that they each carried a knife. It was this fact that, in the first place, formed the extraordinary stories which have since floated about.
If the bodies of the officers are recovered, all doubts will be set at rest as to the alleged foul play.
I would be interested to hear from anyone
who can let me know what the final verdict was.