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The Shipwreck of the St. John
Brig St. John of Galway, Ireland, Lost October 7, 1849 at Cohasset
List of Survivors and Drowned
Crew saved (9)
Crew lost (sailors (7) ):
Passengers saved (with ages)
Cabin passengers lost (5)
Steerage passengers lost (90)
From The Boston Post, October 12, 1849.
Although five weeks had elapsed since the tragedy, the list bears signs of hasty compilation. There are obvious errors in the names both of persons and of places, and in the numbers of people involved.
There is evidence that the list was compiled by a reporter from information supplied informants who were more familiar with the Clare contingent aboard the St. John than with the Galway emigrants. It is evident the reporter had some difficulty with the Clare accent. A second set of errors occurred when the printer set up the type from the longhand list.
Under the first heading come the placenames, which should read: Kilfenora (Kilnare, Kilanara), Ennistymon (Inistivan, Innistivan, Ississtivan), Kilmurry (Kilmary). The correct form of Dyant may have been Dysart. Anch may have been Inch on the Miltown Malbay-Ennis road but more likely to have been Lahinch, as it is pronounced locally, with a heavy stress on the first syllable.
A pointer to the second type of error is given by the names of the cabin passengers, three of whom were Flanagans. The longhand "Fl" was misread by the compositor as an "H". Similarly the first "h" in Lahinch was set up as "i" and the final "ch" as "en".
The inscription on the memorial in Cohasset put the number lost at a very precise ninety-nine even though there was some doubt as to the number of bodies interred there. The list given above has been duplicated again and again in spite of the very obvious mistakes: steerage passengers lost are put at ninety although there are only eighty names in that part of the list; Margaret Keenan's name is repeated under two variants of Ennistymon; the infant rescued by Mr. Lathrop is not included among the survivors.
And there is a further complication. Two of the survivors charged Captain Oliver with falsifying the count of the passengers. On the Saturday evening, they said, the passengers had been assembled on deck and the captain had entered the names of a hundred of them in a list; a line was then drawn on the deck and the names of the twenty to thirty people on the other side of the line were written in a little "memorandum book" kept by Oliver.
The available evidence suggests that there were only ninety-eight passengers and sixteen of a crew. Of the latter, nine men survived; five men and two boys died. Of the passengers, four men, eight women and one child reached the shore alive; twenty-three men, thirty-eight women and nineteen children were drowned. In all, ninety-two people lost their lives, not ninety-nine. But this calculation assumes that the figure 90 for "steerage passengers lost" is in error; if it is correct, then the names of ten drowned were omitted at some stage.
This article is compiled from material supplied by Brud Slattery, Lahinch, John Flanagan, Lahinch and Frank Flanagan, Massachusetts, U.S.A.