Author: Allan F. Murray
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“Quebec or the bottom!”
The captain shouted and he was a man of his word.
In late 1853, the ship Annie Jane set sail from Liverpool heading for Quebec in North America. On board were 450 men, women and children: Irish, Scottish and English emigrants fleeing poverty and famine.
They never made it.
At almost midnight on the 28th of September the ship was wrecked in a horrendous storm and driven ashore on the small island of Vatersay in the Outer Hebrides. With the loss of up to 350 of the passengers and crew.
In this deeply researched and powerfully told story, author Allan F. Murray tells the story of life aboard a typical 19th century emigrant ship. Vividly capturing the bravery and resilience of the neglected, impoverished steerage passengers and the extraordinary final journey of the Annie Jane.
The shipwreck left 102 survivors desperately looking for shelter and succor on an island with only one house and facing more hardship and danger as they made their way slowly home from one of the remotest, inaccessible areas of Scotland.
During research for the book, two surviving eye witness accounts were discovered. The first is a well crafted compassionate account from steerage written by a 'Ragged School' orphan, who was among a group of young men being sent to North America to start new lives. Only two survived the catastrophe.
The second is from the elitist perspective of a young Swiss/French gentleman in cabin class, burdened with all the social attitudes of his times. A member of a Protestant Christian missionary group heading across the Atlantic to evangelise the Catholic population of Quebec, his testimony dramatically describes the painful death throes of the ship and the last moments of his travelling companions. Both these descriptive accounts are reproduced in full.
The book is a fitting memorial to the brave emigrants who did not make it. For the first time the names of those who perished and survived one of the worst shipwrecks in British Maritime history is recorded for posterity.