Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry




night watchman, Empress of Ireland,




By Mr. Newcombe:


5563. Were you one of the night watchmen of the middle watch on the Empress when she foundered?
- I was night watching that night.

5564. Were you on deck at the time of the collision?
- I was.

5565. Where?
- On the starboard side forward of the screen.

5566. On which deck?
- On the lower promenade deck.

5567. Did you get any orders at the time of the collision?
- No orders at all, sir.

5568. Do you mean to say that from the time the ship struck you received no orders afterwards?
- After the ship struck?

5569. Yes.
- Yes, I received orders after she struck.

5570. What orders did you get and from whom?
- I received orders from the chief steward to call passengers and order them to put on life-belts and go to the boat deck.

5571. Was that immediately after the collision?
- Immediately after I came in off the deck.

5572. Had the ships separated at that time?
- They had.

5573. Did you see the ships in collision when they were in contact?
- I did, sir.

5574. Tell me what you did now having received those orders?
- From what time?

5575. From the time the chief steward saw you.
- I went on the upper promenade deck, lit two emergency lamps, calling out at the same time, came down to the lower promenade deck, lit two more emergency lamps, went around on the port side knocking at the bulkheads, calling passengers, went through the library and back to the starboard side. At this time there was a heavy list on and I went up on the higher promenade deck and I went through the ladies’ lavatory from the starboard side, came out on the port side, went up on the deck and from there dropped into the water.

5576. Do you know anything about the closing of any water-tight doors on the ship?
- No, sir.

5577. Do you know anything about the condition of the port holes? Were all the ports closed?
- As far as my department was concerned, all ports were closed.

5578. Is it part of your duty to see that the ports are closed in case of fog?
- Some of the ports. They are distributed among the night watch and you do a certain section. I was on the forward section of the saloon deck.

5579. Do you know if these port holes were closed?
- I know that all the alley-way ports were closed.


By Lord Mersey:


5580. What about the ports in the passengers’ cabins?
- I cannot say anything about them; I do not know what cabins were occupied that night, sir.

5581. I suppose that people in the cabins could open their ports if they chose?
- They could if they were not screwed down very tightly, otherwise not.


By Chief Justice McLeod:


5582. You were on the starboard side of the ship?
- When?

5583. When you were on watch that night?
- Both port and starboard; we have three decks.


By Mr. Newcombe:


5584. Would you know in what condition these ports were when the ship left Quebec? Were they then closed or open?
- When she left Quebec they were all open.

5585. Who closed them afterwards?
- The bedroom stewards, sir.

5586. Were the bedroom stewards instructed to see that all these ports were closed?
- Not exactly instructed. It would be their orders.

5587. As a matter of fact do you know?
- I was not on duty; I cannot say.

5588. At what time would this closing take place?
- They were closed when I went on duty at 11 o’clock.

5589. They were closed? Do you mean to say that the windows in the cabins were closed?
- I do not know anything about those.

5590. You do not know how they were at 11 o’clock?
- No.

5591. But all those in the passageways or alleyways were closed?
- Yes.


By Lord Mersey:


5592. Are there any in the alleyways?
- One in each.

5593. You-mean one in each alleyway?
- One in each alleyway, one at the top of the long alleyway.

5594. Then, there is one, or two, in every cabin?
- One in each outside cabin.

5595. Are there more?
- Not on that deck.

5596. There is one in every cabin?
- One in every cabin.

5597. How many cabins?
- From 201 to 229.

559S. From 201 to 229?
- Odd numbers on the port side, even numbers on the starboard side?

5599. On the starboard side there would then be about 14 ports, would there not?
- 11 on each side.

5600. We are only concerned at present with the starboard side. There were 14 on the starboard side and about these you can give us no information?
- Not about the room ports.

5601. You do not know whether they were open or closed?
- I do not know.


By Mr. Newcombe:


5602. Were there two rows of ports on the starboard side, one above the other?
- I do not follow you.


By Lord Mersey:


5603. There were 14 on the deck on which you were watching on the starboard side?
- Yes.

5604. I think that what Mr. Newcombe wants to know is whether there is a corresponding number of ports on the deck below?
- The deck below has nothing to do with me; it is not in my department.

5605. I suppose you have been on it?
- I have.

5606. Were there cabins on the deck below?
- Immediately underneath is the saloon barber shop which has four portholes.

5607. Do you know whether these were open?
- I do not.

5608. Were there cabins besides the barber shop?
- Lavatories and cabins from 302 to 500 and something I forget the number.

5609. Can you tell me whether they were open?
- I cannot.


By Mr. Newcombe:


5610. Do you know whether there is any survivor from the ship who has knowledge as to whether these ports were open or shut?
- One of the second cabin night watchmen I believe had the knowledge but he was drowned.

5611. That does not help us very much.
- It would not help us.

5612. Can any of the survivors that you know anything of give us information about that?
- There is a man who is in Liverpool at the present time - McDonald.

Lord Mersey:
I beg respectfully to say, Mr. Newcombe, that this is not the occasion for us to make enquiry of that kind. That enquiry ought to have been made long before this court began to sit so that the evidence might have been here.

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord; we have done the best we could to get the evidence here.


By Lord Mersey:


5614. How do you receive orders to close water-tight doors in a case of emergency - who gives them?
- The order comes from the bridge to close water-tight doors, as I understand, blown by the siren, but water-tight doors I have nothing to do with.

5615. You have nothing to do with the water-tight doors but the order to close them comes by means of a blast from the siren?
- Quite right, my Lord.

5616. That is all?
- That is all.

5617. Did you close any doors; is it your duty at any time to close water-tight doors?
- Not water-tight doors but simply the doors out to the lower promenade on each side and the upper promenade on each side.

5618. Whose duty is it -
- The men that are told off for water-tight doors during inspection every day.

5619. Who are they; are they stewards?
- They are stewards.

5620. Is there any one of these stewards here?
- There is one in Quebec, but he is attending a funeral this afternoon - Hayes.


By Chief Justice McLeod:


5621. He was the only one who was saved?
- I believe so.

Lord Mersey:
Have you asked him about the matter?

Mr. Aspinall:
He was called and stated that he had tried to get to these doors.

Lord Mersey:
Why could he not do it?

Mr. Aspinall:
There was water in the alleyway which, he said, prevented him.


By Sir Adolphe Routhier:


5621½. Is there any one entrusted with the closing of water-tight doors?
- One man saved in Quebec.


By Lord Mersey:


5622. That is not the question you are asked. The question is: How many men on board the ship are there whose duty it is, when the siren blows the warning, to close the doors?
- I could not say; I have never been on the bulkhead doors.

5622J. You do not know?
- I do not know.


Cross-examined by Mr. Haight:


5623. How are orders given to close the port holes?
- No orders given at all, sir.

5624. Is there no order wrhich can be given under which stewards will enter cabins and close cabin port-holes in case of need?
- If passengers want them closed they ring their bell and the bedroom steward closes them.

5625. But is there no standing order which can be given in a case of emergency which, when given, instructs all night watchmen, all stewards on duty, to see that all port holes are closed?
- As soon as the whistle blows for fog all port holes are closed.

5626. In bedroom cabins?
- In bedroom cabins, and in alleyways.

5627. When the fog whistle began to blow on this occasion did you close any port holes in cabins?
- I did not, sir.


By Lord Mersey:


5628. Is that done as soon as the fog whistle blows?
- No, sir. I look outside and see if it is very foggy and the weather is anything like rough and if so we close all ports.

5629. It is for the comfort of the passengers, I suppose, not the safety of the ship? You do not close them because you think the ship is in danger of sinking, do you?
- We close the ports if it is foggy.

5630. For the comfort of the passengers or for some other reason?
- No other reason I can give you.

5631. Except what?
- Matter of form, - that is all I can say.

5632. Form? Is it done in order that the passengers may be more comfortable in their berths?
- Some passengers prefer their ports open; other passengers prefer their ports closed.

5633. Suppose you go into a cabin on a foggy night and begin to close the port hole and the passenger says: Leave it open; what do you do?
- Close it, sir.

5634. Then, alter you have closed it, you go out of the cabin?
- Sometimes I have to.

5635. Then, if the passenger opens it again, what happens?
- He cannot open it once I close it.

5636. You hermetically seal it?
- I screw it down with a key and he cannot open it.

5637. Then, I understand, when there is a fog you screw up the port holes in such a way that they cannot be opened except by means of your key?
- Not without the key.

5638. Did you do it on your deck on this night?
- I did not.

5639. Why not; there was a fog, you know.
- There was no card on the indicator telling me what rooms were occupied. The rooms that were not occupied, I should say their ports were screwed down.

5640. Why should you say so? There was nobody in these cabins, you know; they were not occupied?
- If a man had an empty cabin he would naturally have his porthole screwed up; otherwise it would be a lot of extra work, my Lord.

5641. At all events you have nothing to say as to whether the portholes were closed or open?
- I am sure that the alleyway ports were closed and screwed down.

5642. I am not talking about alleyway ports; I am talking about the ports in the cabins.
- Not the cabin ports, my Lord.

5643. There was nobody looked to that?
- Nobody looked to that.


By Sir Adolphe Routhier:


5644. You had no command to do it?
- (No answer).

5645. Had you received any order to do it?
- There was nobody to give me any order in regard to it.


By Lord Mersey:


5646. Except the siren?
- Except the siren.


By Mr. Haight:


5647. Did you hear the siren?
- I heard the blowing.


By Lord Mersey:


5648. What is the meaning of that answer?
- I heard the ship blowing.

5649. Is that the siren?
- That is the siren.


By Mr. Haight:


5650. Is it not true that fog whistles are blown on a whistle which has one continuous note and that the siren has a rising note, a wailing sound, quite different from the fog whistle.
- One is a drawn out note and the other a shrill one.


By Lord Mersey:


5651. One is a scream, is it not?
- One is a scream.


By Mr. Haight:


5652. Is it not your duty to immediately attend to the closing of the ports when you hear the siren’s scream?
- When I heard the siren’s scream, I was up on deck, sir.

5653. When you do hear the siren’s scream are there not standing orders as to what you should do?
- Yes.

5654. What are they?
- Light the emergency lamps.

5655. The siren then does not call upon you to close the port holes?
- No, sir.

5656. And there is then no standing order on the ship?
- No standing order.

5657. I understood you to say that you got orders from the chief steward to call the passengers, then you went to the upper deck and lit the emergency lamps; was it part of the chief steward’s orders that sent you up to light the emergency lamps?
- That was my first duty in case of fog.

5658. Light the emergency lamps?
- Yes.

5659. The siren is not a signal to light the lamps, but a fog whistle?
- That is it.

5660. Is it not true that you never heard the siren at all?
- I heard the siren blow when I was on the deck.

5661. Was that after the collision?
- That was after the collision.


By Lord Mersey:


5662. Were the ports in the first-class dining saloon closed?
- They were all closed.

5663. You can say that; you know that?
- I know that.


By Mr. Aspinall:


5664. Wast it a fine night?
- When we dropped the pilot it was very fine.

5665. No wind?
- I should say not.

5666. Smooth sea?
- Very calm.


Witness retired.