The Linthouse Disaster
The late Victorian period saw Glasgow as the “Second City of the Empire” with a well deserved reputation for heavy engineering and ship building.
Ship launches were commonplace but, in spite of their familiarity, always attracted a crowd of spectators often relatives of the men who built the vessel.
The launch of the 500 ton “Daphnis” at Stephens of Linthouse in 3rd of July 1883 was just one of many along both sides of the river and nobody anticipated the tragedy that would unfold.
At the time it was custom and practice to have the workforce aboard a vessel as it was launched and around 200 men and boys were working throughout the ship.
As Da-home slipped into the water there was a problem with the drag chains which caused her to turn beam on to the current and to capsize so quickly that many of the unfortunate men aboard were trapped below. In total, around 120 lost their lives.
Recovery of all those who had perished took over two weeks to complete.
At the subsequent enquiry no one was considered to be at fault with the tragedy being regarded as an unfortunate combination of unusual circumstances. However, the practice of having workforce aboard during a launch was ceased with only a skeleton crew left aboard to secure the vessel once she was afloat.
A memorial to the tragedy was erected in 1885 at Craigton cemetery where around 50 of the victims are buried.
Two further monuments were erected much later in Elder Park Govan and Victoria Park Whiteinch to recognise that the victims were drawn from both side of the river.
There is a display concerning this event in the Riverside Museum if anyone wishes to explore further.
Ronnie Johnston – Lost Glasgow group. 18/11/2020
S.S. Daphne Disaster – 3rd July 1883
On the 3rd July 1883 the Clyde Shipyards suffered one of their worst disasters. The S.S.Daphne was a 450 ton steamer to be used in the Glasgow -Ireland run. The ship was launched from the shipbuilding yard of Messrs Alexander Stephen and Sons at Linthouse, Govan. Within three minutes she had capsized with over 200 workers finishing the internal fittings still onboard. 124 died as a result.
As was usual in the launching of ships two anchors and cables were employed to check the way on the vessel after she had entered the water. On this occasion the checking apparatus failed to function. The starboard anchor moved some six or seven yards, but the port anchor dragged for about sixty yards and the current of the river catching the ship at a critical moment turned her over on her port side.
A joiner who survived named Kinnaird wrote “I was busily engaged on the deck, and felt the vessel moving on the ways, and nothing occurred until she had taken the river. Then an extraordinary scene happened, and tremendous shouts arose from those onboard. I felt the vessel toppling over to the right and in a moment every person onboard was hurled into the water. The shrieks and cries were terrible. I, along with some others scrambled on to the bottom of the vessel, which was turned upside, and retained a hold. In a few moments a man came round in a small boat, and asked me to jump into the water. I did so, and was rescued. There would be about twenty persons beside myself who clung to the bottom of the vessel, and also succeeded in getting into the boat. Round about I could see a large number of people struggling and shouting in the water. Prior to the accident there were so many men and boys on deck that it was difficult to move about. I believe that over two hundred people were in the vessel. I cannot possibly describe the heart-breaking scenes that I witnessed.”
An enquiry was held and the yard owners were exonerated from any blame, leading to claims of a cover up. One of the outcomes of the disaster was the limiting of personal onboard to annoy those necessary for mooring the ship after the launch. The ship was raised and repaired at Govan Dry Docks and emerged as the ‘Rose’.