|For Official Use||Crown Copyright
S. S. "RUMORE"
THE MERCHANT SHIPPING ACT,
REPORT OF COURT
In the matter of a Formal Investigation held at the County
Buildings, Glasgow, on the 14th, 15th and 16th June, 1939, before
George Wilton Wilton, Esq., K.C., Sheriff-Substitute of
Lanarkshire, assisted by Captain Frederick John Thompson, O.B.E.,
R.D.; Captain Clarence Arthur Wilson, and Robert Buchanan Reith,
Esq., M.I.N.A., Marine Surveyor, as Nautical Assessors, into the
circumstances attending the loss of the s.s. "Rumore," a coasting
vessel, with all her crew, on or about the 28th January, 1938,
while on a voyage in ballast from Waterford to Barry.
Upon the evidence led at the Inquiry and for the reasons stated
herein and in the Annex to this Report, the Court finds that the
vessel was presumably lost somewhere in St. George's Channel, while
encountering very heavy weather some time after leaving Passage
East at about 11 p.m. on the 27th January, 1938; but the Court is
unable in the state of the evidence to determine the precise cause
of her disappearance.
The Court answers the Questions submitted by the Board of Trade
Q. 1. By whom was the s.s. "Rumore" owned at the time of her
loss? For how long had she been in such ownership?
A. The Point Steamship Company, Limited, having its registered
office at 31, St. Vincent Place, Glasgow, owned the vessel; her
registered manager was Mr. John Urquhart, now of 45, Renfield
Q. 2. Did the vessel suffer any damage while at Waterford?
A. The evidence indicates the negative.
Q. 3. On what day and at what time did the vessel leave
Waterford on her last voyage?
A. On Thursday, the 27th January, 1938, at about 10 p.m. she
left Waterford with a pilot on board, and reached Passage East at
the mouth of the river about an hour later. There the pilot, as
stated in his sworn declaration, left the vessel on the assumption
that the vessel was then proceeding to sea.
Q. 4. Was there a pilot on board? If so, when and where did he
leave the vessel?
A. Yes. At Passage East about 11 p.m. on the 27th January,
Q. 5. If a pilot was taken on board, did the vessel suffer any
damage while he was on board?
A. His declaration is negative.
Q. 6. On what day and at what time did the vessel put to
A. On the 27th January, 1938, about 11 p.m. from Passage
Q. 7. Had she on board any, and if so, what, cargo?
A. She carried no cargo.
Q. 8. How many crew were on board her?
A. Seven men. These were the master, William Heggen; the mate,
A. S. Hamilton; first engineer, Alexander Christie; second
engineer, J. Gaucie; two able seamen, James Curran and Samuel Boyd;
and a fireman, Said Ali, an Indian.
Q. 9. When the vessel left Waterford, had she a sufficient
margin of stability for the contemplated voyage?
Q. 10. When the vessel left Waterford was she in good and
Q. 11. When the vessel was at sea (a) were any, and if
so, what, messages received from her; (b) was she sighted
by any, and if so, what, other vessels?
A. (a) No messages were received from her; she carried
no wireless for such messages, and she was under no regulation to
carry such wireless; (b) She was sighted by no vessel.
Q. 12. Did the vessel reach her destination? If not, why
A. She never reached her destination. She disappeared; but when
and where the evidence gives no clue.
Q. 13. After she left Waterford on her last voyage was any, and
if so, what, wreckage discovered?
A. No wreckage was reported or discovered.
Q. 14. What was the probable cause of the vessel's loss?
A. The vessel's loss was probably due to her unexpectedly
encountering abnormal seas in St. George's Channel; but whether she
foundered by being overwhelmed in a heavy sea; running aground;
striking some rock or other obstruction in attempting to run
straight across to the Bristol Channel or to run for shelter in
some other direction; springing a serious leak; failure of her
steering-gear; or from some other cause, can only be
Dated this sixteenth day of June, 1939.
G. W. WILTON,
We concur in the above Report.
| ||FRED J. THOMPSON,|| |
| ||C. A. WILSON,||Assessors.|
| ||R. BUCHANAN REITH,|| |
Annex to Report.
In this Inquiry, Mr. Thomas Walter Donald, solicitor, of Messrs.
McGrigor, Donald & Company, Solicitors, Glasgow, appeared for
the Board of Trade. Mr. Hugh B. Spens, solicitor, of Messrs.
MacLay, Murray & Spens, Solicitors; Glasgow, appeared for the
Point Steamship Company, Limited, the owners of the vessel. At the
request of the owners, they were made parties to the investigation.
Mr. D. Wright Smith, solicitor, Glasgow, represented the Mercantile
Marine Service Association, and as such he attended in the
interests of the representatives of the late master and mate of the
The s.s. "Rumore" was registered at the port of Glasgow, her
official number being 145,447. Her gross tonnage was 325.12, and,
after deducting for propelling power and crew space, her net
tonnage was 123.45. She was a single-screw vessel, and fore and aft
schooner-rigged. The engines were aft. She was owned by the Point
Steamship Company, Limited, of Glasgow. The registered manager was
Mr. John Urquhart, 45, Renfield Street, Glasgow. The registered
office of the owners was at 31, St. Vincent Place, Glasgow. She was
built of steel at Leith.
The Board of Trade alone led evidence. The witnesses adduced
before the Court included Mr. John Urquhart, the registered
manager. No suggestion of any kind was made by the Board of Trade:
against the owners or their manager throughout the Inquiry. It was
agreed that the owners had complied with all Board of Trade and
other regulations and maintained the vessel in proper condition and
repair. The Court was well impressed by the straightforward
evidence of Mr. Urquhart, and by the facts, vouched by documents
and otherwise, to which he spoke, upon the value, management, and
insurance of the vessel, while owned by his company. The evidence,
documentary and otherwise, satisfied the Court that the owners
maintained the vessel in good, seaworthy condition. The market
value of the vessel at the time she was lost was about £5,500. She
had, by that time, passed Lloyd's survey after the most of the
expenditure had been made. Mr. Ernest George Perkins, ship
surveyor, of the Consultative Branch of the Mercantile Marine
Department of the Board of Trade, gave skilled evidence after
considering all plans, registers and documents available to him.
The Court accepted his evidence as in all respects correct. The
Waterford pilot and harbourmaster, respectively, were not brought
to Glasgow and could not, therefore, be examined by the Court. The
Court does not believe that the pilot, although he was the last
person in touch with the master, from the terms of his sworn
declaration, could have materially assisted the investigation by
his personal attendance.
At the time of her loss she was classed 100 ✗ A1 in
Lloyd's Shipping Register. There were no structural defects in her
design and construction. Her length was 130.2 feet, her breadth was
22.6 feet; and her depth was 9.6 feet. She was a small vessel of
the well-deck type, with her engine and boiler room aft, and
intended for coasting trade.
The vessel was divided into four compartments, a forepeak tank,
a hold, an engine and boiler room and an afterpeak tank, and had
three watertight bulkheads. There were no double-bottom tanks. Her
machinery consisted of a direct-acting compound engine, with
cylinders 15 inches and 32 inches in diameter, and a stroke of 24
inches. The boiler was coal-fired, and had a working pressure of
130 lb. per square inch. Her indicated horse-power was 400, said to
give the vessel a speed of 9 knots. There were bunkers at the fore
end of the machinery space, and a hatch on the level of the
casing-top leading down into the bunkers, and at the fore end of
the machinery casing. The steering gear was of the rod-and-chain
type, and was steam operated. She carried two lifeboats in davits,
one on each side of the vessel, each boat capable of carrying 12
people. In addition, she had seven standard cork lifejackets and
the requisite number of lifebuoys.
The builders having gone out of business, no plans have been
recovered throwing any light upon the stability of the vessel when
built. She was not lost until 1938. During most of the 17 years
since she was built, she was trading under different owners and
masters around the coasts of Britain, and had been periodically
surveyed by Lloyd's surveyors.
Her name was changed three times from "Brunton," as originally
registered. She became successively known and registered as
"Millocrat," and "Dhoon Glen." Her present owners at the beginning
of 1937 changed her name to "Rumore."
The vessel was bought by the Point Steamship Company, Limited,
in January, 1937, for £3,200. Between the date of that purchase and
the date of loss, the owners spent about £2,200 on her in
alterations and repairs. She was insured for £4,000 on hull and
machinery. There were also increased value policies amounting to
£1,200, and a policy of freight of £300. The owners received £5,148
under these policies in respect of the total loss of the
The machinery space of the vessel was 26 feet long. Her
machinery, being aft, her draught would vary according as she was
loaded or light. Her moulded depth was about 10 feet 6 inches. The
forecastle was about 21 feet long. The hold was 66 feet long. The
bridge proper was about 8 feet long. There was a raised quarterdeck
aft, about 48 feet long and about 3 feet 3 inches above the deck.
The cargo hatchway was divided into eight bays of 4 feet 3 inches
long each. There were alterations made upon the "Rumore" after she
was built, and, some time before the owners acquired her, an after
derrick and an after winch and samson-post were all removed, the
derrick post being cut to the deck at 5 feet 6 inches and was used
as a ventilator. Their removal was advantageous to the
seaworthiness of the vessel.
The vessel carried no wireless telegraphy set. She carried a
wireless receiving set.
William Heggen, the master, had been with the vessel for about
10 months. She made over thirty voyages, both loaded and light,
during the last six months of that time. The owners had complete
confidence in his seamanship. No complaints were ever made to the
owners by him about her stability or seaworthiness.
The vessel had been trading for the owners from January, 1937,
until January, 1938, continually, in a similar trade to what she
had previously been in for 17 odd years, mainly between Ayrshire
ports, the Mersey, the Bristol Channel, and to Ireland principally;
occasionally round the English Channel, as far east as London. Her
main freights were coal to Ireland. She carried 270 tons of
dead-weight cargo. She was accustomed to leave Free State of
Ireland ports in ballast condition. There were practically no
return cargoes from Ireland.
The last communication received by the owners from the master
was a telegram from Waterford on the 27th January, 1938, stating:
"'Rumore' sails Barry five this evening unless otherwise
instructed—shipbroker. Heggen." No other instructions were sent.
Her draught as she left Waterford was 10 feet. Although weather in
Glasgow was then very bad, no undue anxiety was felt by the owners
for a day or two on account of the rough weather reported at sea.
But, after January had passed, the owners got in touch with the
Waterford harbour office, and on the 3rd February, 1938, a harbour
official reported to the owners that the vessel had not been
sighted anywhere after leaving Passage East at 11 p.m. on the 27th
January—his telegram stating "28th" being obviously an error.
It was suggested in the course of the evidence from the Board of
Trade's brief that the "Rumore" had delayed sailing from Passage
East for some 24 hours. But this appears to have been solely based
upon the mistake made in the harbour office telegram of the 3rd
February, despatched a week after the pilot left her on the 27th
January, as he reported, proceeding to sea. No evidence of any kind
was led upon which any such prolonged standing-by could be
reasonably inferred or justified. The weather was much more
favourable for sailing at 11 p.m. on the 27th January than it was
at the same time on the 28th January. The pilot declared that the
weather at 11 p.m. on the 27th January was then rainy, with the
wind S.W. moderate. It seemed so obvious that the date of putting
to sea had been inadvertently misstated in the telegram that the
Court considered no further inquiries of the harbour officials or
pilot were necessary.
With regard to her light condition when she sailed from
Waterford, the position according to the owners was that at Barry
she had loaded 39 tons 14 cwt. of bunker coal, which was more than
necessary for her requirements back again to the Bristol Channel.
Her next cargo was not then arranged, and it might have been that
she would have been ordered to the Mersey, or even possibly to
Ayrshire, in which case provision had to be made for such a voyage.
At the time she left Passage East, she could have used only about
10 tons; she had ample reserve for all contingencies.
There was evidence by the experienced master of a coasting
vessel, s.s. "Thelma," of 374 gross tonnage, with regard to weather
conditions on the 27th January. She left Waterford at 6.45 p.m. on
the 27th January in light condition for Swansea, and reached there
safely on the 28th January. She was slightly larger than the
"Rumore." She had 60 tons of water ballast. After passing Hook
Light, the master experienced squally weather, with a heavy ground
swell and an increasing gale from W.S.W. Another vessel of a
similar type, s.s. "St. Aidan," was proved to have also left
Waterford on the 27th January at 3.35 p.m. in light condition. Her
master experienced a full gale, but kept right up the Irish coast
as far as Carnlough Bay, in County Antrim, where, at about 7 p.m.
on the 28th January, she was held for some time before crossing to
the Scottish coast on 29th January. The gale was blowing
practically all the 28th and 29th.
The Court had evidence submitted by the Board of Trade from
former masters of the "Rumore" under previous owners. These masters
found her satisfactory. One of these masters, and the last, had
been with the vessel for five-and-a-half years. He had no criticism
at all of her when loaded; but, when "light ship," she was apt to
list, and at his instigation the derricks, winch, and samson-post
were removed. That was in or about 1934. After that, stability
tests were made at Liverpool. These were satisfactory. That last
master left the vessel when she was sold to the owners. From 1934
to January, 1937, he had made no complaints to his owners in regard
to the behaviour of the vessel, loaded or light. He had particular
experience during that period of very heavy gales when sailing with
cargo, and also light. When light, he took the vessel on one
occasion back to port, as some rivets had loosened through strain.
Single-bottom vessels of the type of the "Rumore," if trimmed well
down by the stern, when steaming in ballast condition, head to high
wind and sea, are liable to excessive strain and tend to become
As the vessel with all her crew, logs, and papers, was lost, the
cause of her disappearance can be matter of surmise only. The
weather was so abnormal that something must have happened. The seas
in the St. George's Channel and the Irish Sea during the 28th and
29th January were tremendous. The vessel may have been overwhelmed
by a heavy sea. She might have struck some submerged rock or other
object, or been stranded.
Freeboard verification forms were duly completed in March, 1937,
and a certificate was granted for the period to August, 1938. The
last annual loadline report was made also in March, 1937, and it
was in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Safety and Load Line
Conventions Act, 1932. Hull and machinery had been duly inspected
and reported upon annually right up to a Glasgow report, No.
58,718, in August, 1937, on the hull.
Inclining experiments in the vessel were made at Liverpool
before the sale of the vessel to the owners, and these were found
satisfactory. Mr. Perkins made in Liverpool a similar experiment on
the 19th November, 1938, upon s.s. "Kyle Rhea," built at about the
same time as the "Rumore" and by the same builders. Allowing for
differences between that vessel and the s.s. "Rumore" at the time
of the loss, his experiments were satisfactory, and were made when
the vessel was in light condition.
In addressing the Court on the 15th June, 1939, Mr. Donald
expressed the view of the Board of Trade that, upon the evidence,
the vessel had a sufficient margin of stability for her last
voyage, and that she was in all respects seaworthy. The Court
agrees with these views. Mr. Spens, for the owners, suggested that
the loss of the vessel was due to the exceptional state of the
elements, which the master encountered after setting out to sea, as
shown by the "Thelma." The master seems to have had no reason to
expect such bad weather on the night of the 27th January, as the
wind rose to gale force only in the course of the 28th January.
There is no regulation made under the Merchant Shipping Act of
1894 or otherwise by the Board of Trade in regard to what ballast a
vessel must carry. Some owners may lay down rules, but at present
that is a matter solely lying within the discretion of the owners
and the master.
No blame is attached to or suggested against the master or the
mate in this case, in view of the long career of the s.s. "Rumore,"
sailing loaded and light, without apparently any serious
misadventure, and of their own experience with her in the service
of the owners.
In the opinion of the Court, the loss of this vessel suggests
that regulations or provisions should now be made for proper and
adequate ballast conditions to be observed by the owners of all
vessels, thus ensuring safe handling in all weather conditions.
The Court recommends that consideration should be given to the
question of fitting with wireless telephony, vessels not required
by law to be fitted with wireless telegraphy.
The Court sat on the 16th June, 1939, and gave its decision.
Dated at Glasgow this sixteenth day of June, 1939.
G. W. WILTON,
We concur in this Annex.
| ||FRED J. THOMPSON,|| |
| ||C. A. WILSON,||Assessors.|
| ||R. BUCHANAN REITH,|| |
(Issued by the Board of Trade in London
on Wednesday, the 19th day of July, 1939.)
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