Paddle steamer Paris

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Paris at sea - it is by no means certain that this is the same paddle steamer referred to in this article

The passenger paddle steamer Paris was wrecked in July 1863 outside St Helier Harbour because of a pilot's error

28 July 1863: [1]

Owned by London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company, Paris was a 50-metre iron paddle steamer built in 1852.

She left Plymouth on Sunday night 26 July 1863 for Guernsey and Jersey and landed passengers and cargo on both islands on Monday, leaving Jersey for St Malo on the same day.

She started from St Malo at about 6.15 am today with 24 passengers and 12 tons of cargo, chiefly butter and eggs. She was under charge of a Jersey pilot of considerable experience named de la Cour. The day was beautiful and the sea was as smooth as a mill pond.

Smooth as a mill pond

Shortly before 9 am the steamer was observed just off Elizabeth Castle. The tide was just beginning to flow. Captain Hemmings asked the pilot which passage he was going to take: the Sillette or the middle passage. The Pilot replied that he would take which ever passage the Captain chose, to which the latter replied that it was not his province to interfere, adding that it was high time the pilot made up his mind.

The Captain again warned the pilot of the danger which was now clearly apparent. This warning was scarcely off his lips when the vessel struck on a rock known as Grunes Vaudin.

The engines were immediately stopped and set for astern. It was then the captain ordered the lifeboats to be lowered.

Ten minutes after the vessel struck she went down in five fathoms of water. The Paris was valued at £7,000 and was not insured. There was no loss of life.

She rested upright on a bed of shingle, in 40 feet of water, between the Grunot and Ruaudiere Rocks. Crowds rushed to the piers to witness the accident.

Stewardess Elvina Le Cocq was the last to leave the sinking vessel. She was rescued by a Frenchman Paul Boutillier, who jumped into the water and swam to her rescue. In 1864 Boutillier received a medal from the Humane society for bravery.

Jersey pilot De La Cour lost his licence. Captain Hemmings of the Paris retained his. Controversy continued for some time after the event, and on arrival of ship owner Henry Maples, Captain Hemmings denied it was he who employed that particular pilot.

Notes and references

  1. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
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