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Colonial Cases

Burdett v. Rapson, 1858

[shipping, collision]

Burdett v. Rapson

Twizzel v. Rapson

Consular Court, Shanghai
December 1858
Source: The North-China Herald, 15 January 1859




28th December, 1858.


Before FREDERICK HARVEY, Esq., Officiating Consul.



This was a suit; brought by Edward Burdett, Master, and the Owners of the Donna Anita against Thomas Rapson, Master, and the Owners of the British ship Queen of the North for the recovery of the sum of taels 7772.8.2 for damage done by the Queen of the North driving athwart hawse of the Donna Anita.

EDMUND BURDETT, being sworn states: - On Saturday, the 6th Nov. at 11 a.m. the Donna Anita being anchored at Woosung, the British ship Queen of the North in dropping up the River hove athwart the hawse of my ship and carried away jib and flying jib boom, martingale and bowsprit, knocked the figure head to one side and a portion of the cut-water - starting the remainder of it and doing considerable damage to the hull of the ship.  On both bows, the anchors came home; in consequence of which, fell down upon the barque Lady Inglis and received other considerable damage, both to hull, running rigging, works, &c.  Put in carpenter's Bill for repairs amounting to Tls. 772.8.1

Examined by defendant.-

Had 60 fathoms of spare cable on deck.

Had two round turns to his hawser.

Had 13 hands on board at the time of the collision.

THOS. RAPSON, defendant, being sworn, states: - The accident was caused by my ship getting foul of the Donna Anita, the ship being at the time in charge of a Pilot.  The greatest amount of damage was caused by the Donna Anita not bring prepared with chain on her deck - and likewise had turns in her cable which made it impossible to veer one cable without the other, and in consequence of the Donna Anita not slipping her cable at the right time, when she might have been towed into safety by the steamer which defendant hired for the purpose.  In the opinion of defendant the Donna Anita was not anchored in the right place.

WM. DAVIS, chief officer, of the Donna Anita, being duly sworn states: - He saw the Queen of the North dropping up the river on the 6th of Nov. last at 11 a.m., and on her dropping up by her port anchor through the cabling fouling ion the windlass, they let go the starboard anchor.  At that time she was in our hawse, straight ahead of us.  We put our helm to starboard, the Queen of the North to port' that brought her clear of us on our starboard side.  They hove up their port anchor after clearing the cable that was foul, and then commenced to heave on the starboard cable.  The next thing deponent saw wass the Chinese pilot had left the helm, and Capt. Rapson shifted it the other way; immediately the ship came down on us, and did the damage mentioned in the Log Book.  Both our anchors came home with the shock of the ship striking us, and we dragged down until we fouled the Lady Inglis.  The Lady Inglis' anchors were dragged at the same time and we  all drifted up the river until the Queen of the North was brought up by talking ground, we remained in that way till evening until we slipped our cables, no probability of doing so before, for fear of going on shore.

By defendant.  Could see from the ship that the cable of the Queen of the North was foul underneath the windlass/

Had 40 fathoms of spare cable on deck on the port side.

H. P. BAYLIS, master mariner, being sworn states: - Considers the Donna Anita was lying at her proper anchorage at Woosung.

The Court having considered the above evidence, and being of opinion that the presence of a naval assessor might tend to elucidate the technical questions involved in the above case, hereby adjourns the final hearing of this suit to Thursday the 20th inst., at 11 o'clock, a.m.

30th Dec. 1858, adjourned from 28th Dec.


Before F. HARVEY, Esq., H.M.'s Offg. Consul.

A CUSHNY, Esq., and A. CAMPBELL, Esq., Assessors.

 The court met - Captain Shadwell was also present.

No further evidence of any weight was produced or anything elicited to alter the opinion of the Court, as expressed on Tuesday.


The Court having considered the above evidence are of opinion that the collision was caused by the fault of the Queen of the North and decree that she is liable for damages incurred.

30th December, 1858.


Before F. HARVEY, Esq., H.M.'s Offg. Consul.


Captain C. F. Shadwell, R.N., was also present in Court to lend his aid.

This was a suit arising out of the Collision case reported above, brought by Henry Twizzel Mater and the Owners of the British ship Lady Inglis, against Thomas Rapson, Master, and the Owners of the British ship Queen of the North for the recovery of the sum of Tls. 477.8.1 for damage done by the Queen of the North driving athwart hawse of the Lady Inglis on the 6th of November 1858.

HENRY TWIZZEL, Plaintiff said:- On the 6th day of Nov. last, about noon, the ship Queen of the North and the Barque Donna Anita drove upon me, when moored in the usual place at Woosung.  I veered away chain to avoid them if possible and put the helm a-port and sheered over.  After using every endeavour to avoid them, I found it impossible.  The Braque Donna Anita, I managed to clear, she fell alongside of me on the port side - but the ship Queen of the North drove athwart my hawse - and caused damage for which I hand in surveys.  Part of the damage was received from the Donna Anita, but the cause was by the Queen of the North being athwart both vessels hawse.  The master of the Donna Anita and I lashed together, to prevent the chafing of the two vessels, and used every effort to get the vessels clear as soon as we could do so with safety.  We laid out a stream anchor to cant the vessel.  We drifted up till the Queen of the North grounded on the middle bank, she drawing 19 feet 6 in. whereas the Donna Anita and my ship only drew 9 feet.  We two remained afloat.  The Queen of the North grounded on both ships' cables.  We had both anchors out at the time and 60 fathoms or more on each cable.  The tide being very strong at the time, I could not slip another anchor, not having a third anchor over the bow, it being not customary for merchant vessels to have a third anchor our. 

Remained there till high water, as we could not recover our cable.  The ebb tide made then and witrh the assistance of a kedge and hawse veered round the stern of the Queen of the North, trusting if possible to clearing the cables from the Queen of the North's bottom.  This brought the vessels round my starboard quarter; we found it impossible to recover the cable, and we were prepared to slip.  The steamer Meteor got a hawse from me to prevent doing further damage.  The steamer took hold it and I requested him to wait until we were prepared to slip both anchors and 120 fathoms of cable.  He refused to  wait and went away thinking it prudent to have his steamer to keep the vessels astern, to prevent the Lady Inglis and Donna Anita from surging with the eddy caused by the tide.  Sent for assistance to Lady Hayes and Ariel, which was rendered by boats and boats' crews; slipped cables, and got clear.

Examined by defendant.

About half an hour elapsed from the time the Queen of the North took away the Donna Anita from her anchor until getting foul of the Lady Inglis.

Had 40 or 50 fathoms of spare chain on both cables.  Cannot say how many round turns there were on his hawse.

Veered away and the cables rendered in spite of the turns and the ship veered over 2 or 3 times her own length.  Did not veer away all the cable he had on deck.

By the Court.

Greater part of damage was received before grounding and part subsequently.

By defendant.

Third anchor was on board on deck.

GEO. BUKETT, chief mate of the Lady Inglis, being sworn sates: - On the 6th November, in the morning, I saw the Queen of the North and Donna Anita driving down upon us.  When we saw they were coming down, we veered round both chains, putting the helm a-port.  Did out best to avoid them, but the ships were down upon us before we could veer round.  The Queen of the North fell athwart our hawse, the Donna Anita fell on our port side, and we veered our chains and used our best endeavours to get clear of her by which time she had done considerable damage to our ship.

THOS. RAPSON being called on for his defence and being sworn states:- I have to state that I don't think everything necessary was done that was possible by the Lady Inglis and the Donna Anita to save themselves, and likewise myself from further damages.  I think they ought to have slipped their chains at slack tide or high water.  They both refused to do so after my hiring the tug steamer for the purpose.  If they had done so, they would never have swung round my stern, and I should have saved the Queen of the North from the damage received on the starboard side.  I consider that both he, and the Donna Anita have done more damage to themselves during the ebb than on the flood on account of the Queen of the North being aground.  The ships sheered about more during the ebb and bumped against my ship.  After engaging the steamer, they refused to take hold of the hawser unless the tug towed them astern of my ship to draw their cables from, under the Queen of the North's bottom, which he refused to do, and he went away.  After the steamer left, three hours of ebb tide elapsed before they slipped their cables, during which period the greatest amount of damage was made to the three ships.

Examined by plaintiff.

The steamer was there about the time of slack water.  Did not refuse to allow the lanyards of the rigging to be cut.

Capt. BAYLIS being examined stated his opinion to be that then cables of the lady Inglis and Donna Anita should have been slipped at slack tide.

WM. H. MOORE, Pilot 19, being duly sworn states: - I heard the Capt. of the Queen of the North at about 3 p.m. make an arrangement with the master of the tug to tow the ships clear.  The steamer went within hailing distance, took in a hawser from one of the vessels, and the Capt. could not or would not slip.


The Court having examined the above evidence are of opinion  that the Collision was originally caused by the fault of the Queen of the North but that proper steps were not taken by the Lady Inglis to guard against the consequences of such Collision, after the vessel Queen of the North grounded on the middle bank.  The Court therefore decrees that two thirds only of the damage claimed by the Lady Inglis shall be paid by the Queen of the North, viz" Tls. 314.5.4.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School