Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Shipwreck - Passengers and Survivors – Article VIII - Part C

Passengers and Survivors

The brig Rambler of Leith was shipwrecked on the 29th October 1807 in the Bay of Bulls, Newfoundland. The ship was travelling from Scrabster, Thurso in Caithness to Pictou in Canada. She had on board 130 immigrant passengers, fourteen seamen plus the Captain and Surgeon. The only survivors were three passengers, the second mate and four seamen. No passenger list has been located.

Bay of Bulls Lighthouse 2009

The Captain

The Captain did not survive. Reports say his name was James Morris Junior, a very promising young man only 21 years of age and his fate was to be greatly lamented. His father, Captain Norris Senior owned the Rambler. 21 years of age seems very young to have the Captaincy of an emigrant ship full of passengers for a far-off land. 

Bay of Bulls

The coast around the Bay of Bulls is remarkably similar to much of the rocky coastline around the north of Scotland. There are some fascinating photos on Google Earth.

Source: Newfoundland and Labrador by Gilpatrick & Gibson, Washington 1884

Jean Gunn Survivor

One of the survivors was Jean Gunn, daughter of Alex Gunn, Rumsdale, Strathmore.
The waves threw Jean Gunn up on the dry land. Noticing a man struggling in the water, she made strips of her dress and knotted them together and threw them to him and took him to land. This man was from Forsinard, Strathalladale. 

The third who saved his life was James, son of Donald Campbell, in Munsary, Watten.
Source: The History of the Clan Gunn Extracts 1896  29 July 1896 pgs 274 – 277

Three survivors

Alex Gunn of Rumsdale

Before Jean and her father  - Alex Gunn of Coilteal near Rumsdale - left Thurso, John Grant, one of “The Men”, told Alex Gunn that he would be drowned. A survivor said he heard Alex praying loudly in Gaelic just before the vessel was going to pieces, before his death. 

Another version of the story says that Alex Gunn, Rumsdale, Strathmore, a noted pious man, was singing the 46th Psalm when the ship was going down.
Source: History of the Clan Gunn, Supplement, Twelfth Instalment: Thomas Sinclair M.A. 
Note: The “Men” were a group of lay Christians in Caithness who were seen to be ‘most gifted and godly and who had enlarged views of God’s truth’ and often prophetic understandings. John Grant was regarded as the head of the “Men” of the far north and for him to suggest someone would be drowned would have been believed by many. 

PSALM 46  Vs. 1 & 2

God is our refuge and our strength,
in straits a present aid:
Therefore, although the earth remove,
we will not be afraid:

Though hills amidst the seas be cast:
Though waters roaring make,
And troubled be; yea, though the hills
by swelling seas do shake.

‘S e Dia as tèarmann dhuinn gu beachd,
ar spionnadh e ‘s ar treis:
An aimsir carraid agus teinn,
ar cobhair e ro-dheas.

Mar sin ged ghluast’ an talamh trom,
chan adhbhar eagail dhuinn:
Ged thilleadh fòs na slèibhtean
am buillsgean fairg’ is tuinn mòr’

Psalm 46. Verses I & 2, sung in Gaelic and recorded on the Isle of Lewis is on this link

Dannal M'Hearish

To recap, Dannal boarded the Rambler with his wife and children, then he got off for some reason and the ship sailed without him but took his wife and family. Was this a deliberate move by Dannal or just bad timimg? 

There are conflicted stories about Dannal M’Hearish. In the last blog we found that he loved to pick a fight.

“Donald was all fire, and seldom did he leave a market or marriage party without a fight.”

 Alexander Gunn suggested the possibility that Dannal’s marriage was not a happy one – not surprising if Dannal was so fond of a brawl. Maybe married life was not easy for Dannal’s wife and children. The article in the Scots magazine suggests Dannal had left a lot of money on board, in trust, with several other passengers. More than the regulations allowed. I wonder if Dannal’s planned intention was to desert his wife and children but at least to provide for their future in the new land.  Little is known about Dannal's wife and children except the Scots Magazine states there were several children, all natives of Caithness and they all perished in the shipwreck. 

Another possibility is suggested that Dannal had a premonition of the fate of the Rambler. That could well be if word had got around of John Grant’s prophecy to Alex Gunn of Rumsdale. But why would he leave the ship alone? 

The Scots Magazine reckons Dannal’s desertion of the ship was unintentional and he was ‘under the greatest agony’ when the ship went without him. I suppose it could be true that sitting in the crowded steerage for a few days waiting for a wind was too much for the ‘combative’ Dannal and he changed his mind. Too late. Captain Morris wasn’t cutting him any slack.  It was suggested that following his losses Dannal was begging from door to door for subsistence.

Alexander Gunn said that Dannal never set up housekeeping (nor presumably remarried) after this occurrence, but wandered over the country, and was made welcome wherever he went. He lived a wandering life for many years depending on friends and often visited the Gunns of Altnabreac where he told stories of the many desperate fights he used to have in days gone by.

Neither of these photos are Dannal but they both capture so well the characters of two old Highland men. They are both to be found with some comments on the am baile facebook page.
 'Davie Blow' from Tain, c1870s 

Fearchair a' Ghuna (Farquhar of the Gun),
The Ross-shire Wanderer in the early 1860s

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