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The Francis A.


September 9, 1919

Run Right Over By Big Steamer
Details of Loss of Yarmouth Fishing Sch. Francis A.
Six Lost Men Formerly of Here Never Had a Chance for Their Lives

The accident occurred in latitude 43:30, longitude 61:44, and the steamer picked up 14 of the crew, while six others had been lost.  The saved are: Edmund Harris, Fred Jacquard, Murray Goodwin, Leo Clements, Leo Porter, Lem FitzGerald, Robert Doucette, George LeBlanc, and Jack Sams.  The lost are:

Capt. Percy Ross, 30, Yarmouth, leaves widow on Argyle street
Ainslie Ross, 27, his brother, of Digby, leaves widow and three children
Joseph Harris, 28, Comeau's Hill, leaves widow and three children
Fred FitzGerald, 25, Comeau's Hill, single
James Gardner, 50, widower, of Argyle Sound, adult family
Thomas Muise, 42, leaves widow and eight children in Belleville

The vessel had been in a thick fog all day and they had spent their time on deck cleaning and dressing their catch.  At six o'clock all her sails were up, flapping in a three-knot southwesterly breeze; and the vessel was bearing west.  Almost continuously her fog horn was kept going, and the fishermen sat contented at their work, little knowing the fate which in a few minutes was to overtake them.

Suddenly, out of the fog the men heard a steamer's whistle.  Several of the crew were down in the hold at this time, and hearing the whistle came on deck.  As they reached the open, the white foam from the bow of the steamer was visible.  The ship seemed to be heading directly toward the vessel on the port side.  Seeing that a collision was inevitable, the fishermen made an attempt to launch a dory, but as soon as the dory touched the water the steamer crashed into the Frances A.   Immediately the crew of the schooner rushed to the starboard side of the craft and leaped into the sea.

The steamer did not cut the schooner in two, but went in as far as the mainmast, and as the vessel rolled to starboard, sinking, the ship passed over her.  The schooner went down immediately, some of the men declaring that they did not see their vessel after she was hit.  As the Francis A. sank the waters in the immediate vicinity soon became scattered with wreckage -- dories, buoys, and gear which had been on deck.  It was due to the presence of this wreckage that fourteen of the crew were saved.

The steamer was stopped, and a boat was lowered in quick time, and picked up those who were in the water, who were kept afloat by their holding on the floating gear.  Soon they were all safely on board and the boat returning to the ship, transferred the survivors.  The rescued fishermen were given dry clothes and were fed and well cared for.

When all that could be seen on the surface were rescued, and the lifeboat began her journey back to the steamer, the fishermen called the roll, and six were found missing.   It was a sad trip for them, from the scene of the wreckage to where the steamer awaited them.  They discovered that their young skipper, Capt. Percy Ross, was not among them -- the man who had guided their fortunes for the past summer, and who was adored by every one of his 19 men.

The Francis A. left Yarmouth on her ill-fated trip on August 11 and had secured one of the largest fares taken this season, as it was estimated she had on board 18,000 pounds halibut and about 70,000 shack.  Capt. Ross planned for another day's fishing, which would give the vessel a record trip, after which he would return to this port.  The Francis A.  was built in Shelburne in 1906.  She measured 84 feet long, 22.5 wide, 9.3 deep and registered 93 tons.   

The disaster had cast a gloom over the whole county as those lost were widely known and leave beside their families, many relatives and friends.  Capt. Ross, as a fisherman and fish killer, was of exceptional ability and always held an enviable record as a master of fishing vessels.


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