Marion Rogers: Lost with Crew


            Indications that a disastrous shipwreck had taken place became evident on the morning of November 28, 1938, when residents of Trinity, Trinity Bay, discovered debris in and around Trinity harbour.  On schooner, Marion Rogers, which was expected to arrive in Trinity that night had not shown up and on the following morning there was still no sign of the overdue ship.  A typical winter storm with high winds and snow squalls had blown up overnight, but nothing that a vessel like Marion Rogers could not handle.

            Relatives of Edward McGrath waiting in Trinity were expecting him to arrive for they knew he had obtained a passage to his Trinity home on Marion Rogers. To while away some time as they tried to guess why the schooner was so late, McGrath’s kin walked along the beach near Trinity, looking out to sea and waiting for her sails to appear around a familiar headland.  While standing on the shore, one of the groups spotted a suitcase that had drifted in on the beach.  When opened, the clothing and personal belongings identified the suitcase as that belonging to Edward McGrath – this was the first indication the schooner had come to grief.

            Much of the ship’s timbers and debris floated near the horn on Fort Point and other portions of the schooner were found for several miles along the shoreline.  Some cargo and wreckage drifted in Trinity Harbour, but there was no sign of the crew, no work or evidence they had rowed in or reached shore anywhere.

            From the position of wreckage and from wind direction that night, it was determined the accident had occurred a few feet from the Trinity horn on Fort Point.  According to local tradition she may have struck or been holed on a rock called Skirwink off Fort Point during a winter storm.  The wind and snow probably obliterated any lights along the coast or the crew may not have heard the Trinity horn although some wreckage drifted ashore practically in under it.  Other residents of the area discredit this theory of bad weather causing a problem since Marion Roger’s captain, William Hogarth, was very familiar with the coastline.  During any inclement weather, he would have kept well off Skirwink.

            Marion Rogers, a forty-one ton vessel, was owned by Stephen and Robert Miller of New Bonaventure, a community on the north side of Trinity Bay about seventeen kilometers southwest of Trinity.  Her crew hailed from the general vicinity:  Captain Hogarth and his son Lester of Trinity East; Alfred Pitcher, his son Simon and William J. Butler of New Bonaventure; Ellis Butler, Port Rexton and passenger McGrath, a resident of Trinity.

            The next evening, the first official word was sent to the Minister of Marine Affairs in St. John’s from Trinity’s Police constable.  He reported the schooner Marion Rogers had struck the rocks near Trinity lighthouse on the night of November 27-28 and that all aboard had perished.

            In a poem “Loss of the Marion Rogers”, written by William Dawe of Flatrock and made public by Levi Butler of Port Rexton who lost two brothers (editors note: Levi Butler lost his uncle and father, not two brothers) in the tragedy, the cause of the wreck – the age-old nemesis of wild weather – is exemplified.  These are the third to eighth stanzas which tell of wind, heavy seas and blinding snowstorm”

3.      The schooner Marion Rogers
She sailed from St. John’s town
Deep laden with provisions
To the Nor’ad she was bound.

6.      The rolling seas were mountains high
The ocean foaming white,
When those brave seamen net their doom
Upon that fateful night.

4.      Seven good seamen formed her crew
All noble and so brave
And little did they ever think
They’d meet a watery grave.

7.      The wind it blew most violently,
As in the ship did go,
The land was not visible
Through heavy squalls of snow.

5.      Aye, little did they ever think,
Goin’ down the shore that night,
The hour of death and tragedy
Was the end of a silent flight.

8.      No one was left to tell the tale,
So mournful and so drear,
Of that most awful shipwreck,
The worst one of the year.

            Stories of shipwreck and tragedy often contain elements of omens and tokens; often, these tales show the compassion and sharing of a race of people who knew well the dangers of “those who go down to the sea in ships”.  The events surrounding the loss of Marion Rogers is no exception.  Edward McGrath and George Hiscock of Trinity were old friends.  McGrath, who often wore a bow tie, had said that when he died he wanted Hiscock to put a certain black bow tie around his neck.

            On the night of November 27, 1837, Hiscock could not rest well for he fancied he could hear Edward McGrath calling him.  He tried to put his friend out of his mind and eventually fell into a troubled sleep.  At daybreak, George Hiscock was called to help search for the lost men in a shipwreck on Fort Point.  He soon learned his companion was among the crew.

            All bodies were found and laid out in the old Trinity Court House. The constable assigned men, including Hiscock, to dress and prepare the dead for burial or for transport to their home towns.  Hiscock noticed others were having difficulty securing a tie to the body of Edward McGrath and said to the constable, “I’ll do that.  I’ll put this tie on Edward.”  And he put the black bow tie on his friend and it stayed in place.  Such was the respect and love one man had for another, even in death.

Source: Robert Parsons

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