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Miss Ada Rehan's Father: A Thrilling Shipwreck Experience |

Miss Ada Rehan’s Father: A Thrilling Shipwreck Experience

In response to a recent mention of Miss Ada Rehan’s name, Mr J. Hanrahan of Frederick Street, Limerick, shares a gripping story from her father’s life, which might intrigue many readers. Mr Hanrahan, who acquired the account from the last living actor involved in the harrowing tragedy, presents an account that he assures is true.

The tale dates back to approximately 1830 when the ill-fated ship Francis Spaight embarked on a voyage from Limerick to Quebec. The crew, comprising eighteen men and two boys, was led by Captain D. Gorman. Miss Rehan’s father, a young man at the time, served as the ship’s carpenter, while the two boys were named O’Brien and Murray, with the latter eventually becoming a Shannon pilot.

The journey proceeded to Quebec, where the ship loaded cargo destined for Limerick. However, on their return voyage, they encountered severe weather that persisted until they reached the mid-Atlantic. At this point, a ferocious hurricane struck, causing the ship’s masts to be torn away. With a leak springing and water rapidly filling the vessel, the crew’s efforts to pump out the water proved futile. The ship became waterlogged, and relentless waves crashing upon it forced the crew to seek refuge at the ship’s forward section, deemed the safest area.

As the situation worsened, a massive wave swept away the deck-loading and storerooms, along with provisions and fresh-water tanks. The remaining meagre supplies became saturated with salt water, rendering them inedible. Stranded in the vast ocean without any friendly ships in sight, their plight grew dire. For ten days, the crew subsisted on bits of stick and whatever they could find. Young Murray, given a piece of leather by Creaghan (Ada Rehan’s father), placed it in his mouth to keep it moist.

On the tenth day, starvation pushed them to contemplate drawing lots to determine who would sacrifice their life. The lot fell on young O’Brien, who, upon learning his fate, attempted to jump overboard but was stopped by a blow from a handspike. Creaghan, Murray, the captain, and a few others refused to partake in O’Brien’s fate. However, those who consumed O’Brien’s blood without eating any part of his body became deranged, with some leaping overboard to end their misery.

In their frenzied state, the remaining crew members contemplated killing young Murray. However, Creaghan, wielding an axe, swore to kill anyone who laid a hand on him. For a day and a night, Creaghan had to keep Murray motivated and alert. Gradually, others aboard the ship succumbed to unconsciousness. Finally, on the fourteenth day, a small brig appeared on the horizon. Unfortunately, due to their exhausted state, the crew could not signal for help.

The captain of the brig, noticing the distressed men on the wreck, manoeuvred closer and dispatched a boat’s crew to rescue the survivors. They were taken aboard the brig, marking the third crew saved by the captain within ten days. Fortunately, a doctor was present on the brig and provided the survivors with some wine. Murray recounted that the first drop he consumed caused such a sensation that he fainted.

After a few days, a larger ship bound for Plymouth encountered the brig and transferred the three crews to safety. Sadly, those who had consumed the boy’s blood, including those who interacted with him in Plymouth, fell ill and perished. Murray and Creaghan, however, lived to old age, with the former passing away in Limerick where Mr Hanrahan aided in his burial, and the latter dying in New York. The captain of the Francis Spaight is also interred in St. Mary’s, Limerick.

Dublin Evening Telegraph – Saturday 13 February 1904

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