The Loss of the Warren M. Colp
My dad, Allan George Oliver, was born and raised in the small community of Burnt Point, Conception Bay North, Newfoundland. He never travelled far and always lived in the same home where he was born. He lived a simple life in simpler times and was a wealth of knowledge about the community. Dad loved to tell tales of the old days, as he referred to them. One of the most fascinating stories he told was that of the wreck of the Warren M. Colp. Dad, who was seven years old at the time of the disaster, always remembered that day like it was yesterday. I guess the horror of the tragedy and the days that followed were etched in his memory, and in the hearts and minds of the whole community.The Warren M. Colp was a 115-ton schooner built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia by the Newfoundland Lime Co. She left Green Bay for St. Johnâs with six crew aboard, including Captain Randolph Batstone. She carried 500 quintals of dry codfish in bulk and some fish packed in wooden casks, plus drums of cod oil and barrels of herring. She made stops in Herring Neck, Notre Dame Bay and Catalina, Trinity Bay en route to the city. On December 15, 1930, after passing Baccalieu Tickle off the northern Avalon Peninsula, the crew encountered strong southeasterly winds and heavy snow squalls. The schoonerâs engine was not sounding proper, so Capt. Batstone changed course and headed to Harbour Grace, Conception Bay. However, off Western Bay Head the engine failed and the ship began drifting back down the bay toward a rugged coastline. Attempts at hoisting the mainsail in the gale force wind met with failure. Scary SightPeople could see the distressed ship from the shoreline, watching in horror as the tragedy unfolded. Some ran up and down the banks waving their hands to alert the captain to steer away from the high shoals. At the mercy of the wind, the ship began drifting towards Murphyâs Island, a large rock just north of Burnt Point. The nearby cove of Mouse Hole looked like a safe haven, so two of the men decided to abandon ship. Launching a dory from the boat, 18-year-old Joseph Moores of Silverdale and William Atkinson, 40, of Herring Neck, left the doomed vessel. However, the high winds were no match for the small dory, which soon capsized.On shore, residents ran for ropes and extra help while Constable Thistle, a local policeman, organized a rescue mission. Burnt Point resident William John Bursey had no idea what was transpiring in the waters near his community until - while sitting at the table with his mother and stepfather - a young man burst in with news of the shipwreck and two men clinging to an overturned dory. Will John and others ran to offer what help they could; however, Joseph Moores and William Atkinson soon disappeared to their watery graves.Having lost two of his men, no doubt Capt. Batstone was desperate to save the rest of his crew. Sounding the shipâs horn, he veered the schooner toward land. At 2 p.m. the Warren M. Colp ran aground at a spot below Mouse Hole Beach on the north part of Burnt Point, where cliffs rose 200-250 feet high. The pounding surf and jagged rocks began their merciless destruction of the ship, and water soon poured into the hull through the broken planks. Capt. Batstone, 39, of Silverdale; Frederick A. Fudge, 28, of Round Harbour; and Pierce Moores, 23, of Silverdale, crawled onto the shipâs bowsprit and jumped for the rocks. Pierce reached a ledge on the cliff and clung to the slippery rocks, while Frederick and the captain were washed into the sea. Meanwhile, 18-year-old first mate Jordan Moores of Silverdale grabbed onto a piece of floating debris from the boat and washed towards the rugged coast. Rescue & RecoveryOn shore, ropes were tied together as Will John Bursey prepared to perform a risky rescue attempt. With a rope tied around himself, plus more ropes in hand, Will John was lowered over the edge of the towering cliffs to where Pierce and Jordan were stranded. Securing the two men with ropes, folks gathered atop the cliff finally hauled the three to safety. The two survivors were taken to the home of Adolphus and Mary Tucker of Burnt Point where they were cared for and comforted while waiting for the train that would take them home. Once the sea calmed, the men of Burnt Point (including my great-grandfather, Jasper Wicks) took on the sombre task of recovering the four bodies under Constable Thistleâs supervision.Dad had especially vivid memories of going to the Orange Lodge and seeing the four bodies wrapped in canvas tarpaulins. On December 20, a service was performed at the Orange Lodge. Following that, a caravan of horses and slides and townspeople escorted the bodies, along with the two survivors, to the Burnt Point Train Station for travel to their respective homes. My father said it was a heart-breaking sight.A few days later another schooner arrived, launching smaller boats that, along with the communityâs own boats and men, recovered the shipâs cargo. In the days following the tragic sea disaster, many Burnt Point residents took to their boats to help recover Warren M. Colp's cargo. (Courtesy Nellie Bursey)Dad spoke so often of the bravery of the men of Burnt Point to have performed such a valiant rescue in such harsh conditions. In particular, he constantly praised Will John Bursey, who certainly was Dadâs hero. Years later survivor Jordan Moores expressed his appreciation to the people of Burnt Point in the following letter, which appeared in The Evening Telegram: âI am one of the two survivors of the ill-fated schooner, Warren M. Colp, which ran ashore at Burnt Point. To those who never had such a hard and trying experience, the thought of being shipwrecked does not always appeal with any significance. But I have sailed quite a bit. I have seen the pyramids of Egypt. I have crossed the Atlantic and sailed the Mediterranean. It would take too much space to tell of the countries and great cities I have seen and of the blizzards and storms I have experienced at sea. But, never did I fully recognize the divine nature of humanity until December 15, when men were revealing man in the noblest character. I must first thank Constable J. Thistle, who was the first to the scene of the tragedy and spared no pains to rescue us from a watery grave. And then to all the other men who came to our assistance with ropes by which they pulled us to the top of the cliff. For their untiring efforts in searching for the bodies of those who lost their lives, and then for the superhuman respect they showed us by following us in procession to the railway station.âIt was several years later before the Warren M. Colp finally broke up and disappeared into the sea, leading many to the sad conclusion that all six crewmembers could have been rescued if only theyâd stayed with their ship. - By Cynthia OliverThe Loss of the Warren M. ColpBy Jacob Oliver & Simeon C. MilleyAttention Friends and Countrymen, a few lines Iâll relateAbout a schooner in distress and how she met her fateThe Warren M. Colp was her name from Herring Neck set sailCaptained by Randolph Batstone belong to SilverdaleShe was one hundred & fifteen tons, six was her total crewShe met a gale, likewise thick snow, as she passed the BaccalieuThe fifteenth of December it was an awful sightAt two oâclock she went ashore up here in Jobâs Cove Bight The people near around this place received a dreadful shockTo see a schooner and the crew dashed upon the rocksAnd soon the saddest news of all was quickly spread aroundOut of the crew of six brave lads four of them had gone downJames R. Chalker was the ownerâs name of that ill-fated shipThat went ashore at two oâclock while on the fatal tripHe, too, received a dreadful shock when that news came to handTo know his ship with all her crew in Jobâs Cove Bight had strandShe left the port of Herring Neck for St. Johnâs she was boundBut owing to the heavy storm Cape Francis did not roundCodfish and barrelled herring the cargo she did bearBut little did the Captain think his end it was so nearFour of the crew from Silverdale, one from Round Harbour, tooThe other lad from Herring Neck had lately joined the crewHis name was William Atkinson some fish he had in careThe loss of the four seamen left many in despairNo doubt the people of Burnt Point and all the places nearDid work all day with willing hands, their time they did not spareThe work, my friends, it was quite hard two only could they saveBut met success to get the four out of their watery graveThe twentieth of December they started out againThose bodies to the station took and shipped them on the trainThe burial service there was read before the corpses did goOut to the homes of their loved ones who felt the awful blowSo now my friends, I wish to close those lines of that affairSince that we all have stepped aside into another yearGod grant us grace to strive aright and help those in distressMay peace and comfort dwell with them whose friends are laid to rest.