10th November 1810

Paisley canal disaster kills 84

“A dreadful accident happened last week at Paisley,” reported the Morning Advertiser of 16 November 1810. “A truck boat from Paisley to Johnstone was lately launched, and had been filled daily with parties of pleasure for some time. On the 10th inst. she arrived in a basin opposite Mr Barclay’s, with nearly 100 persons on board. Many persons on the beach were anxious to replace them, and rushed on board in spite of all remonstrance. The consequence was the boat upset, and the whole, men, women, and children, were precipitated into the water. There were 51 persons taken up, but few were recovered, and others are missing.”

Passengers drowned

The following day’s General Evening Post had further details of the tragedy. A letter described how “the boat was lying at the quay, in the basin; the water about six feet deep; some [people] were below, but most part on the top of the cabins or the deck. The boat was raised pretty high out of the water, and the weight getting too great above, she suddenly swayed to one side, and all on deck fell over… a few swam out, and others were got out before they sunk; but the greater part, probably by clinging together, sunk to the bottom.”

The incident excited considerable comment around the country, with another letter, published in the Kentish Gazette of 20 November, explaining, “the confusion, you may conceive, was dreadful; the alarm spread through the town in an instant, and thousands rushed to the spot in quest of their relations; for this being our Fair, every family is consequently scattered… you cannot conceive the state into which this place has been thrown through the whole of this day; it is impossible to describe the distraction that prevailed on the fatal spot.”

Death toll unknown

It took some time for the full death toll to become known, as there was no register of passengers, and the number who had tried to board was so large. The boat, the Countess of Eglinton, had only been running pleasure trips for five days on the Androssan and Glasgow canal, so it was still quite a novelty. It was operated by a Mr Barclay, whose premises, close to the quay, received many of the dead and injured.

The death toll, of 84, was contained in another letter, this time reproduced in the Sanders’s News-Letter of 21 November, which also revealed that 18 of the victims were less than ten years old. “One painful aggravation of our distress is that the sufferers though mostly young were the chief supports of many families,” the correspondent explained.



Other events that occured in November

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