Board of Trade Enquiry at Plymouth
The Rt. Worshipful, the Mayor, T. Stevens Esq,
and Sir. W.S. Harris.
PLYMOUTH AND STONEHOUSE JOURNAL
Thursday May 24th,1855
Several of the surviving passengers of the barque John attended the court this morning, for the purpose of seeking the advise of the bench, as to the course they should pursue in their endeavour to obtain the repayment of their passage money from the owners of the above vessel.
The owners not being present, the hearing of the case was adjourned until two o'clock, at which hour, Mr Rawle, who had in the meantime received an intimation of from the Mayor of the nature of the hearing, attended.
The passengers, on re-assembling, were addressed by the Mayor, who observed that while the feeling of sympathy excited on their behalf was universal, they must be perfectly aware that the owners themselves had done everything they could for the passengers before the vessel left Plymouth.
One of the passengers, named William Thornby, of Jersey, who acted as spokesman, on behalf of the applicants, stated that every arrangement for the comfort of the passengers had been made by the owners. Mr Rawle saw the ship under way, and did not leave the John until the steam-tug quitted her; in fact he exerted himself in the most praiseworthy manner in dispatching the vessel. But what he, in common with his fellow survivors complained of, was that a portion only of the passengers' money had been offered to be returned to them; and they thought it but right and just that the whole should be repaid them. Instead of this, in the case of those who had lost their wives and children, £1 only had been offered by the owners instead of £4 paid for the passage of the former, and 10s. for each child.
Mr. Rawle, after expressing his great sympathy for the sufferers of the wreck of the vessel, proceeded to observe that he had expended the sum of £3 for each statute adult, for whose passage he had received £4, leaving £1 towards the expenses incurred on account of the crew, &c. considering, therefore, that he was benefited only to the extent of £1 per statute adult, he had instructed his agent's clerk to pay the survivors that sum for each adult lost, and 10s. for each child.
Those terms, he thought, had been accepted; and until he received a communication from their worships that day, he fully believed the ,matter to have been settled. Mr. Rawle, after remarking in most feeling terms on the sufferings of the survivors, not only in a pecuniary point of view, but in the loss inflicted on them by the death of their nearest and dearest relatives, observed that he also would be a sufferer in the former sense, in a greater extent than the passengers; and although there was no claim on him to do so, he would be at the expense of sending the survivors to their homes..
Mr. Rawle, in reply to some further remarks from Mr. Thornby and the bench, said he was quite willing to re-pay every half-penny of profit that he had received. The passengers had had value received, and no more could be expected of the owners.
Mr. Thornby objected that they had not received the value, having been on board only a few hours.
Mr. Rawle offered to meet them with all that he had gained by the matter.
Mr. Phillips thought the owners ought to return the passengers all the money that had been obtained from them.
Mr. Thornby entertained similar views, especially under the circumstances of the disaster. They were saved chiefly by the exertions of the carpenter (Elliott)* who behaved most nobly; he was sorry he could not speak in similar terms of the captain and crew.
Mr. Rawle expressed his pleasure at hearing that there was another man who exerted himself, in addition to Elliot, whose name had already been mentioned as having acted in a becoming manner on the occasion. He complained of some of the public journals, on account of the remarks they had made on the subject of the conduct of the crew.
Some conversation ensued between the bench and Mr. Rawle on the subject of the insurance paid on the passage-money. Mr. Rawle assured their worships that he should be unable to obtain the full amount of insurance of the freight, viz., £600; if he could no one would be more ready to give the passengers the full benefit of that sum.
Sir W.S.Harris remarked on the absurdity of a shipowner insuring for a certain sum, and in the event of a calamity, not being enabled to recover the full amount.
After a few remarks by Mr. Thornby, on the sufferings endured by himself and fellow passengers, and a vain endeavour on the part of the bench to obtain further concessions on the part of the owners, the Mayor, addressing the unfortunate applicants, said it was evident that the owner was not inclined to go beyond the terms already offered them, namely £1 for each adult lost, and 10s. for each child. This being the case, the magistrates were unable to do anything further for them in this matter; but having received from some benevolent ladies connected with the Emigrant's Society at this port, the sum of £6 14s., which had been raised for their relief, he (the Mayor) had caused the names and addresses of the survivors now present be noted, and he should have much pleasure in distributing among them the amount thus generously placed at his disposal.
This was immediately done; and each recipient had for his quots, the sum of 10s. - an amount of assistance comparatively small, but which was gratefully acknowledged by the whole of the sufferers.
Mr. Thornby also addressed the bench, thanking them those who had so kindly interested themselves in their behalf for the assistance rendered them.; and after a few words of sympathy and commiseration from the Mayor, the applicants left the hall.
NB: Elliot was the boatswain - the Carpenter was Ellery. The letter of Miss Ellery in 1950 also suggests that it is Ellery who is referred to here