On Wednesday 2nd January 1884 Cosens & Co’s passenger carrying paddle tug Queen assisted by their slightly smaller Commodore led the attempt to salvage the paddle steamer South of Ireland which had run aground in Worbarrow Bay inward bound from Cherbourg to Weymouth on Christmas Eve.
Fortunately the captain and all the crew plus the one passenger aboard were all saved but South of Ireland was stuck fast. On Christmas Day, her marine superintendent Captain Lecky sent her running mate Aquila to the scene to assess the situation. She was followed after lunch by Cosens’s paddle steamer Prince (the bell of which was purchased by the PSPS for £1,500 a couple of years ago) with her eyes firmly fixed on any salvage work. So in the ensuing days cargo and other fixtures, fittings, furnishings and other portable property were lifted onto barges and brought back to Weymouth.
There was a glimmer of hope that whilst the bow section had detached itself from the rest of the ship there might just be a chance of towing off and saving the stern section. Large pumps were ordered to be sent by rail from Glasgow. They arrived in Weymouth on 30th December but there wasn’t a crane man enough to lift them aboard a salvage barge there so they were taken on by rail to Portland where the transfer was effected by a suitably large Naval Dockyard crane.
Then the weather turned against the project and it was not until 2nd January that the Queen and Commodore, could set off from Weymouth with their salvage barges in tow for Worbarrow Bay ten nautical miles east of Weymouth.
These large pumps proved to be effective. The engine and boiler rooms of the South of Ireland were pumped out. So with tow ropes attached the two tugs attempted to pull the stern section free. In this they had success but unfortunately when out in deeper water the remains of South of Ireland sank. So that was that. Any hope of a nice fat salvage claim had gone down to the bottom of the sea along with the remains of the ship.
The wreck of the South of Ireland is still marked on the Admiralty charts to this day. It is just to the south of a line joining Mupe Rocks and Worbarrow Tout about half a mile from the shoreline on a bearing pretty much due south from Arish Mell. The wreck straddles the 15m contour line and stands between 2m and 3m proud of the bottom. Large scale Admiralty charts show a depth over it of 13.2m at chart datum. Smaller scale charts give the figure as 12.2m. It is within a part of the sea marked on the chart as “Firing Practice Area” which is often closed to navigation at times when the army is practicing with its guns.
This article was first published on 2nd January 2021.