Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Third Day

 

QUEBEC,

Thursday, June 18, 1911


The Commissioners appointed by the Honourable John Douglas Hazen, the Minister of Marine and Fisheries of Canada, under Part X of the Canada Shipping Act as amended, to enquire into a casualty to the British Steamship Empress of Ireland, in which the said steamship belonging to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company was sunk in collision with the Norwegian Steamship Storstad, in the River St. Lawrence on the morning of Friday the 29th day of May, 1911, met at Quebec this morning, the eighteenth day of June, 1911.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Newcombe, inasmuch as part of our Report must consist of descriptions of the two ships, and more particularly of the Empress of Ireland, I should be glad if you could put in the plans and such evidence as you have with reference to the construction of these two vessels as soon as possible, so that the Naval Engineers may have them before them and be in a position to consider them. There is another matter that might be done I think very soon, and it is a matter that we shall also have to deal with in our Report. You might seek some evidence, not too much and not too long, dealing with the question of equipment of the vessels, and particularly, again, with reference to the equipment of the Empress of Ireland - lifeboats, rafts and life belts. Therefore, will you collect that evidence, and let us have it as soon as you can conveniently get it.

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord; in the meantime, I should like to call a passenger from the Empress of Ireland who is sailing this afternoon by the Calgarian.

Lord Mersey:
You know so much more about it than I do that you must follow the most convenient course, but I am suggesting that these are matters that we should like to have as soon as it is conveniently possible.

Mr. Newcombe:
We will attend to that, my Lord. Of course, there are several passengers here in attendance whose evidence, perhaps, is not very material to the inquiry, but at the same time I think it is well that the tribunal should be informed from the passengers' standpoint of the experience that they had.

Lord Mersey:
Of course, you know it will be largely an expression of opinion; I doubt very much whether the passengers can tell us very much about it.

Mr. Aspinall:
We have had over from the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company Mr. Hillhouse, Naval Architect, and also Mr. Gracie, Managing Director, and any information that they have to give will be, of course, at the disposal of Mr. Newcombe in order that he may inform himself with regard to this part of the case. We also have here our Marine Superintendent and other officials who can deal with matters of equipment, life-saving apparatus and so on.

Lord Mersey:
You can either let Mr. Newcombe call these witnesses, or, if you like, call them yourself.

Mr. Aspinall:
The more usual course, undoubtedly, certainly in England, is that counsel representing the Board of Trade puts that evidence before the tribunal. It seems to me that it would be better under the circumstances if Mr. Newcombe should do so.

Lord Mersey:
You place the evidence at his disposal and he produces it.

Mr. Aspinall:
We will give him every information that we can.

 

WITNESSES.

George Bogle Smart - 1st Cabin Passenger - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony.

John W. Black - 2nd Cabin Passenger - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony.

 

Mr. Newcombe:
Apparently Mr. Henderson is not here, but we will not delay; we will go on.

Lord Mersey:
If he comes later on you can call him.

 

WITNESSES.

Robert Henry Brennan - Junior Second Engineer - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony.

Robert Liddell - Senior Third Engineer - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony.

Percy Hillhouse - Naval Architect.
Testimony.

 

Lord Mersey:
Is there any one who can tell us whether these bunkers were being used as cargo space or as reserve bunker space on the occasion of this voyage?

Mr. Aspinall:
I think the chief engineer would know; he must know. We have him here and we propose to call him next.

Lord Mersey:
Be sure that he is asked the question.

 

WITNESS.

Robert Liddell - Senior Third Engineer - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony - Resumed.

 

2654. Lord Mersey: Now, who is the next witness?

Mr. Meredith:
I would like to ask some questions of the chief engineer.

Lord Mersey:
How many witnesses are there from the engine room?

Mr. Aspinall:
In addition to those that have been heard and the chief engineer, I have three officers. I do not think they will add anything to what has been already proved, but they are here at the disposal of the Court if any one wants them. I do not myself propose to call them.

Lord Mersey:
Well, Mr. Meredith, will you go ahead with the examination of the chief engineer.

 

WITNESS.

William Sampson - Chief Engineer - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony - Resumed.

 

Lord Mersey:
When did you first get that suggestion, Mr. Haight?

Mr. Haight:
About nine o'clock last night, my Lord, from the same witness.

Lord Mersey:
Because it is difficult to deal with this case if all the witnesses go out of the witness box without having these circumstances put to them. Captain Kendall was never asked a word about this. It may be that your information comes to you extremely late, but I wish you would take care to inform the other side of these facts, so they may be able to deal with them - if they be facts.

Mr. Haight:
Possibly, my lord, you would like me to make a statement of what I heard and from whom I heard it?

Lord Mersey:
Might I suggest to you not to pay too much attention to little bits of suggestions. I get by post every morning all sorts of suggestions, and if I wanted to attend to them all I should never come to the end of my business. So don't be misled. Now let us hear what you have to say, Mr. Haight.

Mr. Haight:
Does your Lordship desire that I should state how I happened to hear it?

Lord Mersey:
By all means.

Mr. Haight:
Last night about seven o'clock my telephone rang, and a man said 'I am a quartermaster on the Empress, can I see you?' I said 'Have you been called as a witness?' I thought it was our friend Murphy.

Lord Mersey:
But none of the quartermasters have been examined?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my lord, Murphy, the last witness examined yesterday afternoon, was one of the quartermasters. I thought it was possibly Murphy, and I asked him if he had been called, and he said 'No.' I asked him if he was to be called, and he said 'No.' I waited a moment and then I said to come up. I telephoned my partner, Mr. Griffin, to come in. The man came into the room and said: 'I was a quartermaster on the Empress, and I have been advised by some representative of my union to come and see you.'

Lord Mersey:
Do you know anything about this, Mr. Gibsone?

Mr. Gibsone:
Nothing whatsoever.

Mr. Haight:
I asked him if it was Mr. Gibsone who had advised him to come and see me, and he said no, it was one of the members of the union, a delegate or something.

Lord Mersey:
Did you ask the name of the delegate.

Mr. Haight:
I don't remember that I did, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Or where he was did you ask him that?

Mr. Haight:
No, my Lord, but I had much better information a moment later.

Lord Mersey:
Very well he said he had been advised by a delegate of his Union to come and see you, I understand?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, and he said that he had been requested by the C.P.R. officials to take a steamer back, that he had been told to go on one steamer and had declined. I was skeptical, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
You were quite right.

Mr. Haight:
I thought, my Lord, that when he said to me that the attorneys for the C.P.R. did not want him, and, therefore, he had been told that perhaps I would, that it was a direct bid for bribed testimony.

Lord Mersey:
Did he want some money from you?

Mr. Haight:
He did not, my Lord. I very nearly showed him the door. But when he made the statement that there was trouble with the steering-gear, I then did not open the door. He told me that for five minutes on the way down the river the steering-gear did not work, on the night of this accident. I immediately left my room . . . . .

Lord Mersey:
Had you found out his name by this time?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord, I had his name before he had been inside the room two minutes.

Lord Mersey:
What was his name?

Mr. Haight:
James F. Galway.

Lord Mersey:
Why isn't he here?

Mr. Haight:
He is to be here at two o'clock.

Lord Mersey:
Where is he now?

Mr. Haight:
At the Neptune Inn.

Lord Mersey:
I think it will be wise for you not to leave him too long in the Inn.

Mr. Haight:
I was exceedingly skeptical of the entire story, my Lord, until he showed me a letter, dated June 12th, 1914, reading as follows: 'Captain Griffith, ss. Montreal . . . .

Lord Mersey:
From whom is that letter?

Mr. Haight:
It is signed by John F. Walsh, Chief Marine Superintendent of the C. P.R., on the Canadian Pacific Railway Company's letter-head.

Lord Mersey:
Who is Mr. Walsh?

Mr. Aspinall:
He is the Marine Superintendent of the line.

Mr. Haight:
The letter read: 'Dear Sir, - . . . . this is to the Captain of the Montreal . . . . 'Please arrange to sign on the bearer, J. Galway, as supernumerary quartermaster for passage home. He is one of the crew who was saved from the Empress of Ireland' Then he said to me 'I didn't want to go on the Montreal . . .

Lord Mersey:
Is that all the letter?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
What is the significance of it?

Mr. Haight:
The significance is that he told us, my Lord, that he had been told by the C.P.R. people to start for the other side, and he further told us: 'I did not want to go; I did not take the Montreal, and I have now been told to sail to-morrow at four o'clock on the Calgarian.'

Lord Mersey:
Had he been applying to be taken on?

Mr. Haight:
No, my Lord, he told me he had seen a representative of the C.P.R. in Montreal, and had been told to keep his counsel.

Lord Mersey:
Then is it your suggestion, Mr. Haight, that somebody connected with the C.P.R. as you call it, was attempting to get this man out of the way?

Mr. Haight:
I regret to say, my Lord, I can think of no other explanation.

Lord Mersey:
Then that is your suggestion.

Mr. Haight:
It is my suggestion.

Lord Mersey:
It is a very serious suggestion to make, Mr. Haight.

Mr. Haight:
I fully realize it, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
It contains a very gross charge against somebody, and ought not to be made except on the very gravest suspicion. At present, you tell me of nothing which raises the least suspicion in my mind. You must get the man.

Mr. Haight:
The next thing I did, my Lord, after he had told me that he had told Mr. Walsh, and at least one other representative man, the story he had told me, I immediately left my room - and probably this transpired in fifteen minutes - I immediately left my room to find Mr. Newcombe and Mr. Johnson. I fully realized the gravity of the situation. I did not consider it proper that a man should go on the stand, making a charge of that kind, with any atmosphere surrounding him which would inevitably surround him if he was examined by a partisan attorney representing one of the steamers as against another. Nor did I consider it wise that I, as counsel for the Storstad, should make the definite decision as to whether his charge was grave enough to justify it being even mentioned in open court. I found Mr. Johnson, and I told him in the corridor of the hotel the precise statements that Galway had made, and asked him if he would come to my room, and if he would also communicate with Mr. Newcombe and bring him. I wished them to see the witness, and I wished them themselves to ask him questions in order that the responsibility of making the statement I am now making should not rest solely upon my shoulders. Shortly after, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Newcombe came to my room. They questioned the man. They applied to your Lordship for a subpoena and served the subpoena upon him in my room. They know every word that I know, and they felt that the situation was such as to justify his being subpoenaed.

Lord Mersey:
Now, if there is anything more that is material to tell me, by all means tell it to me, but what must be done is to get the man here. That is obvious, and the sooner he is brought here and the sooner this story is cleared up, the better.

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord.

Mr. Newcombe:
He was subpoenaed to be here at ten o'clock this morning.

Mr. Haight:
Mr. Newcombe has also subpoenaed the officers of the steamship Alden. Your Lordship will remember she was mentioned when the captain was on the stand.

Lord Mersey:
I don't remember that steamer. I remember the Lady Evelyn and another.

Mr. Haight:
The Alden was a cargo boat bound up the river about three hours ahead of the Storstad. I asked Captain Kendall if he remembered passing her, and he said he did not. We shall have her as well on the question of the steering.

Lord Mersey:
Let us bring it down to a point, the charge is that there was something wrong with the steering-gear . . . . is that correct?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
And this man Galway can tell us what it was?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord, and he can tell us that three hours before the Storstad and the Empress collided the Alden and the Empress very nearly collided up the river.

Lord Mersey:
That is what he is coming here to tell us.

Mr. Haight:
I have the pilot of the Alden and the navigating officer of the Alden on the train, to be here at two o'clock.

Lord Mersey:
Can you, in the meantime, get this gentleman from the Neptune Inn? How far away is the Neptune Inn?

Mr. Haight:
The Neptune Inn, my Lord, is where the C.P.R. members of the crew are generally quartered as guests of the company. He can certainly be here. .. . If your Lordship will adjourn for an hour and a half for lunch. .. .

Lord Mersey:
How soon can you get him here? In the meantime find him and finish with the witness in the box.

Mr. Haight:
I have no further cross-examination, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Have you any questions to ask, Mr. Newcombe?

Mr. Newcombe:
No, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Gibsone?

Mr. Gibsone:
No, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Very well, now, Captain Kendall, will you go back in the box please?

Mr. Gibsone:
May I state, my Lord, that I personally have no knowledge whatsoever about this man, Galway. I do not know whether the union I represent is the one referred to, but I should like to say that I myself know nothing whatever about it.

Lord Mersey:
You have heard nothing of this story?

Mr. Gibsone:
Nothing, my Lord.

Mr. Haight:
You represent the Liverpool Union?

Mr. Gibsone:
Yes. Of course, I do not contradict anything that Mr. Haight has said.

Lord Mersey:
Now, Captain Kendall, will you please step into the witness box.

Captain Kendall:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Now, Mr. Haight, will you please cross-examine the Captain with regard to these charges which you say Galway is prepared to substantiate.

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord.

 

WITNESS.

Henry George Kendall - Captain - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony - Recalled.

 

Lord Mersey:
Is Mr. Walsh here?

Mr. Holden:
Yes, your Lordship.

Lord Mersey:
Then let Mr. Walsh come forward.

 

WITNESS.

John F. Walsh - Chief Marine Superintendent - Canadian Pacific.
Testimony.

 

Lord Mersey:
Now, where is the last engineer that was in the box? I wish to ask him something.

Mr. Aspinall:
That was Mr. Sampson, the chief engineer. We will recall him.

 

WITNESS.

William Sampson - Chief Engineer - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony - Recalled.

 

Mr. Haight:
Before the court adjourns, might I ask if the duty of finding Galway and producing him at two o'clock might be entrusted to Mr. Newcombe of tha Canadian Government? I much prefer not to deal with the man, or to be obliged to produce him, but that the representative of the Canadian Government should see that he gets here and should examine him.

Mr. Newcombe:
I have no particular desire to examine him. I would prefer that Mr. Haight should examine him.

Lord Mersey:
Well, gentlemen, I tell you what we will do, subject of course to any objection that may be taken by any one here, we will leave Mr. Newcombe to find the gentleman if he can; we will let Mr. Newcombe put him into the witness box and Mr. Haight shall then examine him.

Mr. Haight:
I shall be glad to have Mr. Newcombe also examine him.

Lord Mersey:
Well, I do not want Mr. Newcombe to examine him; I wish you to examine him.

Mr. Haight:
Very well, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
As I see it is a few minutes after one o'clock we will now rise until two-thirty this afternoon.

The Commission resumed at 2.30 p.m.

Mr. Aspinall:
My Lord, may I make an explanation. This morning two passengers were called. We have three passengers here available if they are wanted; in view of what your Lordship said I did not propose to call them, but one of the gentlemen whom we have here is anxious to get away this afternoon.

Lord Mersey:
You had better ask Mr. Haight whether he desires to have him called. If he does, put him in the box.

Mr. Aspinall:
Mr. Haight has no objection.

Lord Mersey:
Then you can let him go on. Mr. Haight, you want him called?

Mr. Haight:
My Lord, I have no inclination of any kind about it; I have not heard his name.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Aspinall says that he has some passengers here and that one of them is anxious to get away. He wants to know whether you would like to put him in the box?

Mr. Haight:
I understood Mr. Aspinall to ask me if I had any objection to his going into the box now.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Aspinall does not want to put him in the box; I do not want him to go into the box.

Mr. Haight:
I have no reason for calling him; I have no reason to object to his departure.

Lord Mersey:
Then let him go.

Mr. Haight:
Quartermaster Galway is now in attendance.

Lord Mersey:
Very well, let him go into the box.

 

WITNESSES.

James Francis Galway - Quartermaster - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony.

John Murphy - Quartermaster - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony - Recalled.

Adelard Bernier - Licensed St. Lawrence pilot below Quebec.
Testimony.

 

Lord Mersey:
Now, Mr. Newcombe, where is the witness that you wanted to examine a little while ago?

Mr. Newcombe:
My Lord, there is a Mr. Henderson here, who was a passenger . . . I understand my learned friend wishes to examine him.

Lord Mersey:
I understood he did not want to examine him.

Mr. Haight:
My Lord, it is a different passenger now. They are asking about Mr. Henderson now. He is not the witness that I wish to examine.

Lord Mersey:
Then you want a different passenger?

Mr. Haight:
I would like at some time or other to examine Mr. Henderson, but may I not at some time or other put on the men of the Alden. I thought they were going to sail to-morrow morning, and that it was a case, of examine them to-day or never, but I find now that that is not so, and I am therefore at your Lordship's direction.

Lord Mersey:
Well, Quebec is a very fine place, and I have no doubt they will not object to staying until to-morrow morning.

Mr. Aspinall:
It has been suggested, my Lord, that I did not want Mr. Henderson called, but what I was proposing to do was this, I was going to call two sailors to say what they did with regard to getting out boats and saving lives.

Lord Mersey:
Well, that is Mr. Gibsone's part of the case. You had better call them.

Mr. Aspinall:
Then first I would call McEwen.

 

WITNESSES.

John McEwen - Able Seaman - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony.

Thomas Shaun Downey - Seaman - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony.

 

 

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