Bravery of Mary who perished saving others after ships collided
In 1914, a maritime disaster occurred in the Puget Sound, Alaska, that greatly saddened the village of Corpach near Fort William.
Mary Campbell, born on 4th February 1879, was the second daughter and third child of John Campbell, a well-known local boat builder, and Annie Campbell, nee Kennedy to whom the late Charles Kennedy MP was related.
Mary. pictured right, left the family home at Rose Cottage, Corpach, to train as a nurse in Glasgow.
After qualifying in 1901, she travelled to America and settled in Seattle in Washington State, close to the Canadian Border at Vancouver. She worked for 18 months as head nurse at the Kenny, a nursing and retirement home before taking up another position at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Hotel.
In 1914, Mary left Seattle and signed on as a stewardess on the ‘ Admiral Samson’, a small 2,262 ton, steel and metal steamship carrying passengers and freight between San Francisco and the northern Alaskan ports.
On the 26th August 1914, the ‘Admiral Sampson’ sailed from Seattle for Juneau in Alaska with 160 passengers and crew.
This was Mary Campbell’s first voyage and she hoped to meet up with two of her brothers in Alaska.
Conditions were very foggy and the steamship crept along the Puget Sound at three knots sounding the ship’s whistle.
At the same time, another ship, the ‘ SS Princess Victoria’, travelling from Vancouver to Seattle was also making its way along the Puget Sound taking similar precautions.
Notwithstanding their slow speeds, the ‘Princess Victoria’ rammed the ‘Admiral Sampson’ broadside at 6.05 a.m.
The captain of the ‘Princess Victoria’ continued to run her engines ahead to keep his ship locked into the gaping hole caused by
The ‘Admiral Sampson’ broke in two and sank
the collision to allow the passengers and crew of the ‘Admiral Sampson’ to escape across onto her.
However, the ‘ Admiral Sampson’s’ fuel tanks had been ruptured on impact and soon her wooden superstructure caught fire forcing the captain of the ‘Princess Victoria’ to put his vessel astern.
Minutes later, the ‘Admiral Sampson’ broke in two and sank.
The majority of the 160 persons on board were rescued by the ‘Princess Victoria’, but eight crew and eight passengers were lost, including Mary Campbell. The ship sank in very deep water and no bodies were recovered.
At the subsequent enquiry, is was reported that Mary Campbell had been on duty most of the night looking after the passengers and helping to settle them down before retiring herself. She was seen after the collision trying to save passengers minutes before the ship sank and, in so doing, unselfishly sacrificed her own life.
Mary is remembered today by her grandnieces, Sarina J Beardsley, Havant, Hampshire, and Marina T MacDonnel, Nethy Bridge, Inverness-shire.
The Admiral Sampson