Mur­der by ship­wreck

Mouse Is­land is the scene of a largely for­got­ten mass mur­der

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - NEWS - BY ROSALYN ROY THE GULF NEWS WITH FILES FROM DON MCNEIL rosalyn.roy@gulfnews.ca Twit­ter: tyger­lylly

Ship­wrecks are noth­ing new to the res­i­dents of the south­west coast of New­found­land.

Sto­ries about them have been handed down in songs and folk tales. Ar­ti­facts are on dis­play at the rail­way her­itage cen­tre.

In 1981 and 1991 lo­cal diver Wayne Mushrow re­cov­ered two fully func­tional as­tro­labes, which has sparked an an­nual cel­e­bra­tion. The leg­end of Ann Har­vey and her New­found­land dog Hairy­man, who saved 163 from the founder­ing Des­patch, lives on to this day through an an­nual fes­ti­val in Isle aux Morts.

But some of the lesser-known ship­wrecks have darker ori­gins and have been largely for­got­ten as the decades have passed. The wreck of the Lady Sher­brooke is one of those leg­ends.

The 370+-ton pas­sen­ger ship had a crew of 20 and was fer­ry­ing 278 im­mi­grants, largely Ir­ish set­tlers bound for a fresh start in Que­bec. Some­time around mid­night on July 19, 1831 Cap­tain Gam­bles de­lib­er­ately drove his ship onto the rocks near the area of town known as Mouse Is­land.

In to­tal 268 peo­ple were killed, the ship break­ing up en­tirely in in less than 10 min­utes.

Men watched help­lessly as their wives and chil­dren were drowned, and then drowned them­selves. Some sur­vived by cling­ing to pieces of the wreck or were thrown onto the cliffs where fish­er­men found them the next day.

Court records would later re­veal in­surance money as the mo­tive be­hind the mass mur­der. It’s likely Gam­ble thought that run­ning the ves­sel into the rocks so close to shore would mean his pas­sen­gers could es­cape un­scathed, but the pound­ing surf swamped the lifeboats and swim­mers.

Many of the dead washed ashore near Cape Ray and it is thought that most were buried in Mouse Is­land on what lo­cals re­fer to to­day as the old base.

The base was a US Naval Coast Guard site that be­came op­er­a­tional in 1942 dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. It re­mained in op­er­a­tion un­til 1945.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF LORETTA AND HAR­RI­SON OS­MOND OF MOUSE IS­LAND

The op­er­a­tions hut of a USCG base, which was ac­tive from1942-45, and likely cov­ered the un­marked graves of an 1831 ship­wreck near Mouse Is­land.

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