The Wreck of the Tayleur

On Thursday 19th January 1854 the emigrant ship Tayleur set sail from Liverpool for Melbourne. There were more than 600 passengers on board and 71 crewmen.

Terribly rough weather was encountered, which resulted in the vessel being so much off course that two days out from Liverpool she was quite close to the Irish coast. By noon on Saturday the vessel was drifting out of control towards the bleak and rocky coast of Lambay. Frantic efforts were made to alter course but they failed. As a last resource two anchors were dropped, but the chains snapped.

The ship struck the rocks off the east coast of Lambay, between the Sea Hole and a point called the Nose. It was soon evident that the ship was sinking by the stern. Passengers rushed up the hatchways screaming for help.

Forced by the waves the ship drifted towards land. Several of the passengers prepared to jump ashore, but the first to do so struck his head against the rocks and sank back, cut and injured into the angry surf. The next passenger to jump succeeded and he was followed by many of the crew who scampered away without waiting to give any assistance to those on board. The rigging was crowded with hundreds, who in their terror and confusion, frustrated each other to get ashore. At length the whole ship, with a lurch, sank below water, and in a few moments the remainder of the passengers perished, with the exception of two in the rigging.

Soon afterwards the coastguards arrived and succeeded in rescuing one of the passengers from the rigging. The second had to wait until two o’clock the following morning to be rescued. By then the storm had abated and this terrified man had been clinging to the rigging for fourteen hours.

Of the total number on board, only 282 were saved. The losses were most numerous among the women and children, of whom only three survived. Many of the passengers were Irish emigrants who were hoping to embark on a new life in Australia.

The terrible news did not become known in Dublin until the following afternoon when the boat Prince was despatched to the scene of the disaster. The Prince anchored about a half a mile off the island and the captain despatched three boats ashore to take off the survivors, who were encamped in a grassy hollow near the coastguard station. A few had gone in the early morning by fishing boats to Malahide, from where they travelled to Dublin by train.

About 100 of the bodies were buried in the little churchyard on the island. The bay where the ship was wrecked has since been known as Tayleur Bay.