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Fate of the Ayrshire, Ireland to NY, 1899

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  • Cathy Joynt Labath
    Daily Iowa State Press Iowa City, Johnson, Iowa March 24, 1899 A LIFE -SAVING SHOT History of the First Ever Fired Here for that Purpose A twenty-four-pound
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2003
      Daily Iowa State Press
      Iowa City, Johnson, Iowa
      March 24, 1899

      History of the First Ever Fired Here for that Purpose
      A twenty-four-pound shot, with a short chain attached, now lying on the
      table of General Superintendent Kimball of the life-saving service, recalls a
      noted occurrence long since forgotten to many people. The Washington Star says
      that this ball is the first ever fired in the United States for the purpose of
      saving life. After performing its noble service it lay for more than twenty
      years at the bottom of the sea.
      On December 26, 1849, the British ship Ayrshire sailed from Ireland, bound
      for New York, with two hundred and two persons on board, mostly immigrants,
      seeking homes and fortunes in the States. In those days transatlantic steamers
      were not numerous, the first regular line, the Cunarders, having been
      established only nine years before, and thousands of immigrants were transported
      in sailing packets.
      Six week later the Ayrshire was off the port of destination in a northeast
      tempest, which rolled and pitched her about with great fury.
      About midnight of January 12, 1850, she struck bottom with terrific force,
      heeled over toward the beach and the sea began to sweep over her sides. Many of
      her passengers were women and children, who were either crowded into one of the
      small deck-houses, or lashed to the bulwarks and rigging to prevent their being
      swept away. The night was dark and bitter cold, and despair reigned on board.
      However, about two hours after she struck, the half-frantic company beheld
      a flash of light inshore. Then they heard a sound as of a muffled cannon, and a
      moment later a heavy iron ball came crashing on board. That was the ball above
      referred to. Attached to it was a life-line.
      A larger line was soon drawn to the ship by the sailor, and then came the
      life-car-at that time a new untried device. It was a small iron boat, covered
      over, so that it was very nearly alike on both sides and having in the top and
      opening through which persons to the number of six could crawl and shut
      themselves in.
      To some of the more timid the remedy seemed almost as bad as the disease,
      but all save one were taken to and without the smallest mishap. The person lost
      was a Mr. Bell, whose sisters and her daughters had been place in the car, when
      he insisted on accompanying them. As there was no room inside the car, he
      undertook to cling to the outside of it, and as a matter of course, was washed
      off and drowned.
      Soon after the storm was over the bulk of the wreck began to settle in the
      sand and was finally covered. There it lay for twenty-three years, till a heavy
      gale set up a strong current along the shore that dug away the sand and once
      more exposed the skeleton of the wreck. A party of wreckers were soon on board,
      and in searching the cabin, they came across the old mortar ball.
      There was no doubt of its identity, and it was returned to the
      companionship of the little mortar which had sent it whizzing seaward on its
      errand of humanity more than twenty years before. Since the recovery of the
      ball, it and the mortar have been on exhibition at all the great interstate and
      international exhibitions.

      Cathy Joynt Labath
      Iowa Old Press
      Ireland Old News
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