The Wreck Of The "John"
Resolution prior to Inquiry re Damages
PLYMOUTH AND STONEHOUSE JOURNAL
Thursday June 28th,1855
The proceedings, preliminary to the inquiry of damages to be held before the Sheriff of Cornwall, at Bodmin, on the 18th inst., appear to be prosecuted, on the part of the Board of Trade, with all the dispatch that the provisions of the new act admit of.
On Saturday last, the full list of 48 special jurors of the county, was struck by the under-sheriff, H.Trefusis Smith, Esq., Mr. O'Dowd, the newly appointed solicitor for Merchant Shipping, attending on behalf of the Board of Trade, and Mr.J.Kelly, solicitor, on the part of the owners of the John, who are eight in number.
The list of 48 jurors will, today, be reduced to 20, each party having the power of striking off 14 names. Concurrently with these proceedings, further notices have been served on the defendants, the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, requiring, in addition, to the original notices of the instruction to institute the suit, a ten days' notice to each of the defendants, of the time and place of the enquiry.
The Act gives the plaintiffs the option, instead of serving the defendants with the latter notice, of having the Master of the Ship served, who, were he at liberty, would, in that event, be competent to represent the owners in the trial. But he being in custody, under a charge of manslaughter,, it has not been thought proper to have any notice served on him. In the mean time, claims to a considerable amount continue to be in to the Board of Trade, by such survivors of the lost passengers, as are, due to the Clergy of the counties of Cornwall and Devon, to notice the commendable zeal with which they seem to aid those unhappy persons in communicating with the Board of Trade. But it cannot be too clearly or extensively communicated throughout the localities in which the claimants reside, that the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, under which the pending enquiry will take place, restrict the right to compensation to cases of death or injury; for example, that of a parent, who has lost a child - a child who has lost a parent - a husband who has lost a wife or child, and vice versa.
The Statute does not in this proceeding, recognise any claim on the part of remoter relatives.
In some instances, the claims will, no doubt, be comparatively clear and satisfactory, but in others they will not be equally so, foe example; where a whole family of the passengers were, to all appearance, sacrificed. It may turn out in this latter class of cases, that the families were proceeding to join their head, at the place of the ill-fated ship's destination. With respect to these we would suggest to the clergy and magistracy of the place whence the emigrants departed to communicate all the information in their power. This becomes the more necessary, as the list of passengers furnished by the Master to the Emigration Agent, and recorded by the latter at the Custom-house, does not state the residence of the passengers.
The owners of the late emigrant ship John, recently wrecked on the Manacles Rocks, on the Coast of Cornwall, accompanied by loss of life to a melancholy extent, and against the owners of which ship, the Board of Trade had instituted proceedings under the Merchant Shipping Act, for the recovery of damages for distribution among the relatives of those who were drowned - have made proposals to the Board of Trade for staying the proceedings, and the Board have come to an arrangement with the owners, in accordance with which, the latter have placed at the disposal of the Board of Trade a sum sufficient to meet all just claims within the terms and provisions of the Act. The owners consider that, after investigation into the circumstances of the wreck, which took place before the magistrates at Falmouth, that it would be inexpedient to incur the expense of an enquiry before the Sheriff of Cornwall and a special jury, which had been summonsed for the purpose. This arrangement renders the inquiry which had been fixed for the 18th inst. Unnecessary.