Report from the Superintendent of Lighthouses
Re the loss of schooner “Marion Rogers”
With reference to attached report from Magistrate Squarry and original depositions taken by him in connection with the Magisterial enquiry in the loss of the schooner “Marion Rogers”: I have read the report carefully and beg to report as follows:
It is clearly proven from all the evidence submitted that the alarm was in operation at 8:15 p.m. on the night of the accident. I find upon looking at the records that the Horse Chops alarm, situated about five miles S.E. of Fort Point, was put into operation at 8:30 p.m. on the same night and Green Island, Catalina, alarm was also started at 8:30 p.m.
William Bailey states in his evidence that he heard the first blast of the horn at 8:15 p.m. James Hayter swears that about 9:30 his wife and he went upstairs to bed and shortly after being in bed he heard a noise like human voices crying out which lasted perhaps half a minute. William George Hayter swears that he heard the Fog Alarm at Fort Point blowing from 8:15 p.m. until 10:15 p.m. Acting Sergt. Trickett swears that he heard from Fort Point alarm blowing between 8:15 and 8:20 p.m. and that he heard the fog alarm when he was on the street several times. Henry Ballet, who went onboard his schooner at 8 p.m., states that at that time there was no snow falling. The only evidence as to the time the schooner is supposed to have gone ashore is gathered from the statement of James Hayter, as before stated, so that it would seem probable that the schooner went ashore sometime between 9:30 p.m. and 9:40 p.m. on the night in question and that the alarm had been in operation at least one hour and fifteen minutes previous to that time.
I am of the opinion that the keeper put the alarm in operation when, in his opinion, the weather conditions called for the operation of the alarm as per Section 8, page 17 of “Rules and Instructions for the guidance of Light keepers and Keepers in charge of Fog Alarms”, copy of which is attached.
Re. Magistrate Squarry’s remarks with reference to the amount of air showing on air tank; the keeper was obeying the Rules by having 20 lbs of air on the tank (page 18, Section 9) and was perfectly justified in starting both engines and compressors to get his air pressure up to 40 lbs. so that he could start the alarm at the earliest possible moment.
Regarding the time the alarm was put into operation: I do not think that there could be any charge laid against the keeper for not having started the alarm earlier as from evidence submitted it does not appear to me that weather conditions warranted an earlier start.
I regret, however, that I have to report very strongly against the action of the keeper and assistant keeper in leaving the fog alarm during the operation of the alarm. I refer you to Section 11, Page 18 of “Rules” which states definitely that “the keeper on watch must remain in the Fog Alarm building, continuously, being relieved for meals, etc., by a man competent to handle the machinery.” The keeper or assistant keeper should not have left the fog alarm building at any time during the time the machinery was in operation.
The Department supplied a new fog alarm plant to this station during 1931 which cost approximately $5,000 and any person who would leave the building in which this machinery is operating is not, in my opinion, carrying out the duties required of him in a satisfactory manner as the keeper or his assistant does not know what will happen in their absence that will at least cause an accident and put the alarm out of commission. A belt may break and become entangled in the machinery, or dozens of such things as may cause accidents.
Henry James Rowe, Keeper, has been employed at this station since 1921 and during that time with the exception of the present complaint has given satisfaction.
Arthur William Rowe, Assistant Keeper, has been Assistant Keeper since 1930 and this is the first complaint received regarding his service.
I would recommend that such disciplinary action as the Department may think proper be applied in this case of neglect of duty to both the keeper and assistant keeper.
For your information Fort Point alarm is the only fog alarm station in Newfoundland where the dwelling does not belong to the Department. The dwelling is owned by the keeper and this Department does not make any repairs to the dwelling.
In the case of a change in keepership it would be necessary to erect a new double dwelling house for the keeper and assistant.
T. C. Devine
July 20, 1939
February 4, 1939
The Secretary for Justice
Acting on instructions received from the Assistant Secretary for Justice dated Dec 31st 1938, I proceeded to Trinity on Jan 9th and on Jan 10th began a Magisterial Enquiry into the Loss of the Schooner “Marion Rogers” and the drowning of seven persons being members of her crew and passengers on the night of Sunday Nov 27th on Fort Point, Trinity, near the Fog Alarm Station, and at the entrance to Trinity Harbour, said vessel was bound from St. John’s to Trinity with a general cargo, vessel was owned by William James Butler, of Old Bonaventure and commanded by William Hogarth, of Trinity East.
After examining eleven witnesses I find the following facts: that the Light & Fog Alarm Keeper at Fort Point, on the night of Nov 27th 1938 was Henry James Rowe, 41 years old, married with six children, the Keeper is also a Veteran of the “Great War”, that he was appointed Light House Keeper, at Fort Point in 1921,and Assistant Light & Fog Alarm Keeper in 1922, which position he held until Nov 1st 1930, from 1930 up to the present, he has been Light & Fog Alarm Keeper, which is at the entrance to Trinity Harbour. For his services as such he receives roughly $55.00 per month. I find there is no Keepers dwelling house on the point, except a small kitchen just off the alarm, also a small room off the kitchen which was intended for a sleeping room for the Keeper and his Assistant, which room had long been used to store tools, spare parts of machinery and supplies.
I find the Keeper Henry James Rowe has a dwelling house at Fort Point which he built himself, and where his family reside a few months in summer, and as soon as the stormy weather sets in, in the Fall, his wife and family go back to Trinity, where he owns another house, so that his children may go to school.
When the Keepers works is done and he is off watch he spends most of his time with his family at Trinity.
The Assistant Keeper Arthur William Rowe lives permanently at Fort Point in a house owned by his father the late Edgar Rowe, which is about 150 or 160 yards from the fog alarm. The Assistant Keeper receives as salary $33.00 and a few cents a month. He is married, has no children.
The “Watches” according to the Keepers Evidence are kept by himself and brother, each doing eight hours duty at a time.
I find the Keeper Henry James Rowe came off “Watch” on Sunday morning Nov the 27th 1938 at ten o’clock and left the station between that time and noon to go to his home at Trinity. The Assistant Keeper, Arthur Wm. Rowe was supposed to be on watch or in charge of the Station till his brother the Keeper returned at 6 p.m. The Keeper returned to Fort Point between 3 – 3:30 p.m. same day, for the purpose of visiting his father who was sick, accompanied by his wife and children, where they remained until about 5 or 5:30 p.m. when he took the family back to Trinity and to get his supper. The Keeper must have been dense, as he did not notice if the weather was dull or moonlight, then goes on to say, the evening looked as though there would be bad weather before the night was out.
The Keeper Wm. Henry Rowe admits he did not go back to the Station until 7 p.m. and that a breeze of wind was still blowing and a little harder than it was at 5:30 p.m. when he went home to his tea. The Keeper on arriving at his Station at 7 p.m. went out on a hill near by to see what the night was like. He found the night dark, sky over clouded with wind, and again more wind than there was at 5:30 p.m. and concluded there was no bad weather at hand. He then went to the Stable, and from Stable to fog alarm, as on every other occasion he did not notice the time, but judged it was a few minutes to eight, gauge on tank only showed 20 lbs of air, where 40 lbs is needed to operate the alarm.
The Keeper then started both engines to pump the air tank, as both engines would pump up the air tank much quicker than one, the circulating or cooling water was on the engines but no water on air compressor or pump, as he did not think it necessary to put water on them, as the time required to get 40 lbs pressure on air tank would be less than five minutes.
After getting air pressure up to 40 lbs the Keeper put the timer belt on the compressor and started the alarm.
Asked why he started the alarm, as he had just satisfied himself before going into the alarm house that there was no bad weather in sight, Keeper replied, I started it because of the darkness of the night, when he looked through the door which looks on the land towards Trinity. My opinion regarding the starting of the alarm because night was dark on the land, is that the Keeper did not go to the alarm at 7:55 p.m. as he states in his evidence, but went there between 8 & 8:15 p.m. and found a snow squall on, and he may have seen the light of a Schooner in the offing, and in his excitement did every thing possible to get air pressure on the tank in a hurry. The evidence of Charles Peddle who was on his way from Goose Cove to Lockston, leaving his sisters house, he could see by the lantern he carried that fine snow was falling and on getting to top of Bryans Hill about two third of a mile from his sisters house, then he heard the first blast of the fog alarm, and with the snow so thick he could not see 50 feet ahead, and only remembered hearing one blast of the alarm at that time, or during his way home as there was a gale of South East wind and he being dead to leeward, going towards Lockston he would be going away from the direct sound of the fog alarm.
Between 9 & 10 p.m. that night while a storm was raging the Keeper left his Station to go see how his father was, after leaving his father's house only about an hour ago or little more, staying away for half an hour. After 11 p.m. Keeper again left his station to go see how his father was and to attend to his boat, being away from Station as he says himself forty minutes, at 1:30 a.m. Nov 28th Keeper again went to his father’s house, and to make arrangements to call the Assistant Keeper.
The Assistant Keeper stated on oath that he was never called to go on “watch” but was awakened by an alarm clock, this is the third time the Keeper was absent from his station that night, that I know of. He also admits that he was at his father's house when the Assistant got out of bed and came downstairs, and began to get a cup of tea for some body but he don’t know who the tea was for. He also states while Assistant was getting the tea he lay down on the couch in his fathers house and went to sleep and the Assistant was in kitchen when he went to sleep.
I questioned Keeper as to who had charge of Station from 1:30 a.m. until Assistant went to “watch”. The Keeper afterwards stated he went to the Station between the time his brother was getting up and getting some tea in the kitchen. He also states he stopped the engine to screw down grease cup on the crank and then started the engine again, still the Keeper does not know what time the Assistant went on “watch”.
I believe this statement to be a down right lie, as he made it to clear himself after I got him into a corner.
The Keeper states that the engines, pumps and compressors were new in 1931, that the large and small operating valves which were installed at the same time, gave him little trouble at times, and gave trouble in 1938 but he had no record when this trouble occurred, and later states the larger valve gave him trouble on Dec 23.38 by sticking on the first blast, but never failed to blow, but not just right, but never failed to sound. He did not report the matter direct as I remedied it myself and made note of it on my monthly report.
The evidence of William Rowe states that the Keeper was not at the Station at 6 p.m. to go on “watch”, but came to the Station while Radio Station V.O.W.R. at St. John’s was broadcasting a Church Service between 6:30 & 7:30 p.m. Assistant did not know how long his brother was in his house, but that he was not there between 8:15 & 8:30 p.m.
After lighting the lamp in the Light House at 4:30 p.m. the Assistant Keeper did not go back to the Light House any more, as they never do unless something happens, on going out of doors after lighting his light some time later he found the night very dark and felt something like snow or rain strike his face which he called a drizzle, wind was still increasing, and going out of doors he heard the alarm blowing, and heard it blowing before going out of doors. Witness does not know if alarm stopped blowing that night, as he did not hear it after going to bed, or was not awakened by it. It seems strange that the alarm should be going and only about 150 or 200 yards away and he not to hear it, and with the sound blowing directly upon his house.
Assistant Keeper states on oath nobody called him to go on “watch” and that there was nobody at the alarm when he went on “watch” at a little after 2 a.m. or between 2 & 3 a.m. Nov 28th, which means that nobody was in charge between 1:30 a.m. and between 2 & 3 a.m..
The Assistant Keeper must have been asleep or not attending to his duty as when the Keeper came in at 7:15 a.m. the weather had cleared up and the alarm was still going, and the Assistant Keeper was in the kitchen on the couch, but did not admit that he was lying down, and only came to the engine room when he heard the engine racing. Witness also states when he got up to go on “watch” at 2 a.m. his brother the Keeper was on the couch in his kitchen. The Assistant also informs me that it is not their business to take a look out once in a while and see if everything is all right at night on the sea, or to listen if a steamers whistle or horn from a schooner is blowing in snowy or foggy weather.
Donald Pelly states on oath (of George’s Brook) that he left St. John’s between 2 & 4 a.m. Nov 27th, other schooners left port at same time or a little ahead of him and were further off the coast, just after daylight that morning he saw the “Marion Rogers” coming down the coast inside of him and towards Cape St. Francis, at dark or just about dark the “Marion Rogers” was about two miles ahead of him, as she had her engine going. I cannot say if she got to Baccalieu ahead of me, as by that time it was dark, witness left Grates Cove Rock about 7:30 p.m. going on North West by half West course for Bonaventure Head, wind South East, fresh breeze, clear. Hauled the log after one hour out from Grates Cove Rock and found the schooner had gone 6 ¼ miles up to 8:30 p.m. At that time weather was clear so that Trinity and Catalina lights could be seen, keeping on same course for 15 minutes longer when snow began to fall and the wind increased to a good strong breeze from South East, with the increasing wind I decided to take in my mainsail, by that time it was blowing and snowing hard, while crew were reefing the foresail I again hauled the log and found it had registered 9 ¾ miles since leaving Grates Rocks, this would be about 9 p.m. I should judge that when I was ten miles across Trinity Bay, the “Marion Rogers” should have been inside the Horse Chops, or about four or five miles from Fort Point the entrance to Trinity Harbour. My clock I should judge would be about quarter of an hour fast.
Bertram Miller of Champney’s states on oath on Sunday evening Nov 28th about quarter past eight, he and his lady friend were standing at a place called John Walters Shop, when it began to snow a little, five minutes later it became real rough so that he could only see 75 or 80 feet away, squall lasted for about ten minutes, then cleared again so that they could see the lights in houses at Champney’s East. Leaving to come home a second squall came on which lasted about a quarter of an hour, being then by the school, while there I looked towards sea and saw the “Green Light” of a schooner about a mile or perhaps a mile and half off Fox Head, and would judge the light to be about three and a half or four miles from Fort Point Lighthouse, at first seeing light I was not quite sure of it. This would be about 8:30 or 8:35 p.m. the weather was thick with snow again five minutes after I saw the schooner light, I went home at 10 p.m.
William Bailey, Master Mariner, states on oath I did not hear alarm at 8 p.m. whose house is situated to leeward of alarm and about half mile from it more of less. Mr. Bailey made his last visit out of doors at 8 p.m. Shortly afterwards one Arthur Morris came to Mr. Bailey's house and remarked “This is some fierce night outside” Bailey replied is it so bad as that the horn not going. While the men were speaking about the weather and horn not going the horn gave its first blast which would be about 8:15 p.m.
Mr. Bailey heard the alarm from about 8:15 p.m. to 12 midnight when he went to bed.
Henry Ballet, Port Rexton, who has been a Master Mariner for past 32 years states on oath that between 7 & 7:30 p.m. he left his home to go to see a Mr. Ryan while on Ryan’s verandah Mr. Ryan said to him there is a schooner, a red and green light. Witness judged lights would be about one and a half miles from where he was standing, bearing about South South East from him, and from where he could see Fox Head. The schooner at this time would be heading for Skerwink Head and in line with Fort Point Light House and from where witness saw the light she would be in the vicinity of three and half or four miles from Fort Point Light House. While there was no snow or bad weather the wind was still freshening, going on board his schooner at 8 p.m. there was still no snow falling.
Stanley Barbour who has been going to sea for 40 years, and a Master for 36 years, states on oath that on the night of Nov 27th there was a gale of wind with snow.
The distance from Grates Point to Fort Point, Trinity according to his chart is exactly 20 miles, and that a schooner on that night would cross the bay in about 2 ½ hours with wind South East by South and could run two booms that is foresail and starboard side and mainsail on port side. I heard Fort Point fog alarm that night, the first time I went out of doors would be some where around 8 p.m.
On Nov 30th Capt. Barbour went to scene of wreck again, saw part of rudder and two anchors on the bottom in two or three fathoms of water and roughly fifty yards from fog alarm and in Captain's opinion schooner struck rocks where anchors went down. Captain also secured schooners log from the bottom, the log had registered 20 and three eighths of a mile, one fin of log was gone altogether, the other two fins were bent together. Log had about two fathoms of rope on it, the end chafed off, and for about three feet back the rope was un-stranded.
Captain Barbour like other sea faring men, thinks the fog alarm is in the wrong position, instead of being in the bend on Fort Point, and between 600 & 700 yards west from extreme end of Point, where it now is, but should be on a Head the opposite side of the Harbour called “Skerwink” and about a half a mile further east of its present position, where it would be heard by schooners and steamers entering Trinity to a better advantage.
The evidence of William George Hayter and James Hayter who live about half a mile from Fort Point swear that they heard the fog alarm going at 8:15 p.m. night of Nov 27th. Wm. Geo. Hayter states he went to bed at 10 p.m. that night about five minutes after going up stairs and just settled away in bed he heard a loud scream which sounded to him like human voices, which only lasted a second or two, and that he only heard one scream.
James Hayter states that about 9:30 night Nov 27th he and his wife went to bed, shortly after going to bed they heard a noise like human voices crying out which only lasted perhaps half a minute, thinking someones house was on fire Mr. Hayter got out of bed and went to the window, seeing no people he went back to bed again, this man is convinced that the screams he heard were from the crew of the “Marion Rogers”
Acting Sergt. Trickett of Trinity was on the street that night, and as he left his home he could find snow falling and while stopped at “Grangers Corner” heard the fog alarm at Fort blowing which would be in vicinity of 8:15 & 8:20 p.m.
After having heard the evidence of Henry James Rowe, Keeper of the Light & Fog Alarm at Fort Point, and William Arthur Rowe, Assistant Keeper, I have come to the conclusion they were hostile witnesses, that their evidence was contradictory and confusing, and in most cases avoided the issue, by forgetting and not remembering what happened at certain times, simply to avoid telling the truth, especially as to time, but questions favourable to themselves were answered promptly.
According to their evidence and in my opinion the duties of both the Keeper and the Assistant Keeper have been performed in a slip shod manner and in a good many cases the alarm has been taking care of itself, they seem to have no sense of responsibility, or what their watchfulness means to those who down to the sea in ships. I think its about time these people and all those who have similar position, are given to understand what their duties really are, and that it amounts to far more than receiving a cheque at the end of the month. In this case on the night of Nov 27th a gale of wind and snow storm was raging, the Keeper must have spent over one third of his watch away from the fog alarm and during his absence anything is likely to go wrong with the machinery, and nobody knows when the Assistant Keeper went on watch the morning of Nov 28th, and was not attending to his duties on that morning when the Keeper went to the alarm and closed it down, long after the weather had abated.
I can find no evidence that the alarm was not going after 8:15 p.m. the night of Nov 27th, but I am fully convinced it was not going up to that time, as some body to leeward of it would have heard the horn, which in my opinion accounts for the Keeper starting two engines, two pumps and two compressors, with the pumps and compressors having no circulating water on them while the air tank was being pumped up, and after the air tank had 40 lbs of pressure on it, the Keeper started the alarm and kept it going, because he thought the night dark when he looked out of the door of the Whistle House, especially after he had just satisfied himself that there was no bad weather in sight.
If the lights seen off Fox Head by Henry Ballet and Bertram Miller from Champney’s & Port Rexton were the lights of the ill fated “Marion Rogers” I feel sure the Captain of the Schr. , Wm. Hogarth knew his position (I feel certain lights seen were from that schooner), and had shaped a true course for Fort Point Light House, and before reaching there a gale of wind and snow came on making it utterly impossible to see the light or to hear the sound of the fog alarm if it was going, which he expected to hear every minute, not hearing the alarm kept on his course till she struck the rocks a short distance from the alarm with the result that the seven men comprising the crew and passengers were drowned and the schooner broken up by the sea.
In conclusion I must admit that I cannot understand how a man with seafaring knowledge, even if he knew his position a short time previous to the accident, should continue to run on the land in such a gale when he could not hear the alarm, and knew that he was getting in close touch with the land. In my opinion I would call it bad seamanship.
All most respectfully submitted.
I have the Hon. To be ,
|Back to Documents|