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Colonial Cases

Day v. Manning, 1863

[shipping, salvage]

Day and others v. Manning

Consular Court, Shanghai
9 October 1863
Source: The North-China Herald, 17 October 1863



October 9th, 1863.

Before J. MARKHAM, Esq., H.B.M. Consul.

W. THORBURN, Esq., R. C. ANTROBUS, Esq., D. MUIRHEAD,, Esq., Assessors.


This action was brought by the Plaintiffs to recover Tls. 4,500 for salvage of the steamer William IV, on the 20th September last.  The defendants, on behalf of the owners, admitted that a claim existed, and offered $500, which the Plaintiffs refused to accept.

JOHN ROLLS, Chief Engineer of the Argus, said: - We were anchored near the William IV on the 20th September.  About 5 a.m. I noticed that she was very much down in the water, her white stripe being nearly awash. The stripe is nearly level with her deck; at 5.45, I noticed that she had settled deeper.  I called Captain Day and told him I thought there was something wrong with her.  I took a sampan, and went with the second mate to board her.  We found nearly seven feet of water in her.  I could touch it from the deck.  We searched the cabins, but found no one there.  I sent the second mate back for Captain Day and more assistance, and told him to bear a hand, or she would sink before he came back.  In about ten minutes Captain Day arrived with three men and a rope.  In passing to the shore with the anchor, he s aid "Look out that she does not sink under you."  The end of the rope was made fast on board the William IV.Captain Day then came on board with the men, and ordered the chains to be veered away, and ropes to be hauled upon.  There were 19 feet of water under her stern next the shore.  She was drawing 9 feet 9 inches at the rime.  At present she draws about 6 feet.  We hauled her on shore and then commenced baling and pumping.  We also sent for more assistance and got 20 coolies, making 29 persons including Captain Day and myself. 

There were about 7 feet of water in the hold when we commenced baling.  The traces left in the engine-room shew there has been so much.  We pumped for a long time and only succeeded in reducing the water about a foot.  We afterwards discovered an eddy in the engine-room.  We continued pumping till 3.30, when the water was over my knees in the stoke-hole.  The eddy appeared stronger than before.  I called Captain Day's attention to it, and put my hand on one of the mud-hole doors at the bottom of the boiler, when I felt a current of water rushing through my fingers.  I said to Captain Day that we had found the leak at last, and together with the second Engineer, continued the search.  He s aid there is a cock, this must be it.  The water could only have entered through the blown-off cock.  When I saw it, it was two-thirds open.  I called Captain Day to see it before I touched it.  I then tried to close it with my hands, but could not; and finding a hammer lying near, used that.  After we had shut it, there was no eddy.  After this, we reduced the water 4 ½ in. in 25 minutes.  By 4 p.m. she was dry. 

She is lighter than most ships.  A Chinaman, calling himself steward, came on board about an hour after I first boarded her, but nothing transpired then, nor till Captain Partridge asked him his business on board.  I saw Mr. Manning on the 22nd ulto in the cabin of the Argus.  He asked for pen and paper to leave hjis name, and looking round said, this is an old ship, nearly the age of William IV.  I said, we had some trouble with her on Sunday.  He said "Yes, a deal of trouble but not much risk."  I thought differently, as I was nearly drowned.  The cock of the  William IV was spoken of; he knew it well.  He said he wished the remuneration settled for the William IV. and would like to have the matter arranged.  I told him he had better see Captain Day about it.  I said that from what the Chinaman said, I believed he had opened the cock.  He made me an offer of money to induce me to leave Shanghai.  He named no particular sum.  I said my leaving the settlement would imply that I was guilty, and that no money would tempt me to that course.  His tone seemed to intimate that I had the greatest stake in the affair.  It was for that reason that I told him what the Chinaman had said.  One or two days after, the native steward disappeared and has not turned up since, although he left all his traps on board.

The day but one after, a man speaking broken English came alongside of the William 4th, in a sampan.  He asked for the steward.  I told him he was on board.  As he was coming alongside, he spoke to my sampan man and then sculled rapidly away.  The second engineer chased him to Astor House jetty, but lost sight of him there.  He has not appeared since then.  The number of the sampan was 513.  I don't know who engaged it.  It is know in custody.

To sink a vessel by the blow-off cock and mud-hole door would require a man accustomed to engines.  The mud hole doors were off.  Had they been in their places there would have been no danger.  There is a plate over the cock.  The second engineer found this plate.  Had the sea cock been turned, the noise made by the water rising would have been very great.  No one not conversant with engines would have found the blow-off cock.  According to Mr. Manning's own statement the boiler was nearly new.  It had only come from Sydney to Shanghai with a pressure of 12 lb to the square inch.  On board there were about 20 tons of Japanese coal.  We also found two suits of sails, and awnings.  She had no provisions on board.

TO THE COURT: - She is 77 tons register.  I am an old engineer.  I was in the P. & O. for nine years.  It would have been impossible to raise the vessel had she sunk.  My claim is for Taels 4,500.  The value of the ship in Sydney was, by Mr. Manning's account, about L. 3,000.  Her engines were 45 horse power.

TO MR. EAMES: - I had not been on the William IV before.  I don't know how far the pipe running to the blow-off cock, is from the forward end of the boiler.  We were about an hour putting her ashore.  It was high water at the rime.  We pumped for nine hours and a half before we got to the cock.  The ship was then on the mud.  I don't know how much water there was round her at low water.  There were seven feet of water in her.  I didn't sound the well.  I am astonished she didn't go down.  She couldn't have lasted fifteen minutes longer.

Besides Captain Day and myself, we had nine Europeans and twenty coolies.  I had had a month's notice to leave my situation.  The hatch was about 3 feet by 2 1/2 .  Any fireman who has been in a ship for three months would know where the cocks were.  My resignation of the P. & O. service was handed to the Superintendent of Machinery in Hongkong.  I tried to have him removed by writing home about him.  No charge was ever brought against me.

TO THE COURT: - I do not know how long the water had been ruining in, before I discovered it.

Capt. J. H. DAY: - Mr. Rolls' statements as to the William 4th's danger and the means used for saving the ship are correct.  I had 9 Europeans and 20 coolies to pump the ship.  I paid $5 to each European and $1 between every three Chinamen.  I believe from what Mr. Manning has told me, that the William IV is worth about L. 3,000 in the colonies.  I think she is worth here about Tls. 6,000.  Mr. Manning has offered to sell her for Tls. 10,000.  Mr. M. wanted to settle the matter by arbitration.  The amount of reward offered was $500.  That amount was offered me.  If allowed to sink, the vessel would have been worthless. She would have been the same as the Lord Lyndhurst.

TO MR. EAMES:- If I had not gone to save the William IV, possibly some of the other ships lying near might have done so.  We put her on shore about 20 minutes after discovering her danger.  She is a schooner, square-rigged forward.

TO MR. COOPER: - Mr. Rolls' character has been good since serving with me.  I never had any cause of complaint against him, as regards his truth.  I have heard some reports against him in Hongkong.

MR. ROLLS, recalled by Court: - I left London the 4th January 2 years ago, in company with the new Superintendent of Machinery.  I had L. 200 given me by the Directors at home, and at Hongkong Mr. Sutherland gave me L. 100 and my passage to Shanghai.  I had resigned my situation in England before leaving for China.

CAPT. PARTRIDGE: - I am a Marine Surveyor, and am in the employ of Jardine, Matheson & Co.  I received the letter dated 20th September, which has just been read, from Mr. Manning.  I received it on board the William IV.  It had been previously opened by my chief mate.  I had gone on board on receipt of a message from Captain Day.  When I arrived, he said he wanted my advice, and related some of the circumstances which had taken place.  I told him to haul the vessel up as quickly as he could.  She was then touching the ground.  He did so.  There are from 165 ft to 18 ft of water where the William IV was moored.  I measured the depth in consequence of an argument with the Harbour Master, and found 2 fathoms and a quarter there.  If she had sunk, it would have cost more than her value to raise her.  It might then have been thrown on the underwriters' hands.  There is no doubt she would have sunk, as the water was level with her decks.  I acted for Mr. Manning, in accordance with his instructions.  I talked to the ship-keeper, a Chinaman, in the Ningpo dialect.  He said he had been on board days.  At first he said only his master had been on board on Saturday; but afterwards admitted that a woman had come with the latter.  He said he had not left the ship, and would have known if people had come on board.  That his master was surveying, taking an account, and asking about different things.

He said his master went down the after-hold and engine-room.  On my asking the Chinaman where he himself was standing, he said, near the hatchway.  From the place he pointed out, I could see down.  When I went down in the engine room, Captains Day and Vincent came down with one of the Engineers of the Argus.  The Engineer began to explain about an iron cover, and took it off the cock which feeds the boilers.  I sung out to the Chinaman, who was looking down the hatchway, "Did your master touch that?"  he said, yes, I then knocked the cock, and  said, "did he touch that?"  He replied that he struck something.  Captain Day then took the hammer, and said "Did he do that?"  He said, yes.  We put the cover back, and he said he did that also.  I stopped on board till the William IV was dry and safe.  I do not value engine-work.  Some time since, I was negotiating with Mr. Manning for the purchase of the vessel.  I think he offered her for Tls. 8,000, but I tire up his note.  I offered him L. 1,000.  This was about 3 weeks ago.

TO MR. EAMES: - I simply asked the Chinaman who he was; and he replied, the ship-keeper.  I told Mr. Manning that I thought the steamer was worth about L. 1,000.  I afterwards told my principals in the matter that they might give Tls. 4,500.  The mud would naturally stop the pipe after she got on shore.  It did stop it in a measure.  It was nearly low water when I went on board.  I stepped from the gunwhale of my gig on to her deck.

TO COURT: - The Chinaman told me the ship was light.  He did not say his master had told him he had found a leak.  Mr. Manning rather praised the ship than otherwise.  If the cock had been turned on full power, she would have sunk by 12 at night, provided the cock had been turned at 6 p.m.

The case for the plaint here closed.

MR. EAMES having addressed the Court for the defence, called

J. E. MANNING, who said: - On the 19th Septr., my boy informed me certain things had been removed from the William IV, amongst others a cask of beef.  In consequence of this, I went on board and stayed about an hour.  I tried to find out from the ship-keeper what he had been saying to my boy, but could not, as he hardly understood any English.  I took the opportunity to thoroughly inspect the ship ands to see that nothing was missing.  I was in the engine-room for four or five minutes.  I did not touch a single cock save that of the gauge-glass.  I was surprised at the little water there was in the glass, and supposed the boiler must have been blown off.  I could not start it with my hand; it was too tight, so I took a small spanner which was near.  Having succeeded in moving it, I turned it back again.  The mud-hole doors were on the boiler, no accident could have occurred. 

I left the ship about ¾ hour after this, accompanied by the ship-keeper.  I took him, in order to find out through my boy what he had really told the latter.  He made some rambling statement about things having been removed, which I had observed were still there; and I ordered him at once to go back to the ship.  About 6 p.m., the following morning, I was awoke by my boy, who said the Chinese ship-keeper was below, and the William IV was sinking.  I laughed at him, knowing that I had left the ship perfectly tight the night before.  The boy came back and s aid the ship-peer insisted the ship was sinking, so I told him to bring him upstairs, that I might personally examine him.  I did not see my boy again for two hours, when he said that he had been off to the ship; that she was full of water, and that there were Europeans on board.  I could not go myself, as I was busy that day writing for the Australian mail; besides, hearing there were others on board, I thought I had better not interfere.  I wrote to Captain Partridge asking him to act for me, and, if there were any underwriters to call in Lloyd's surveyor, but I added that I believed the ship to be utterly unprotected, as my letters from the Colonies were to that effect.  (original letters from Defendant's father produced, and extracts read.) I have offered the William IV for sale at Tls. 6,000.  The highest offer I have received was $6000.  I should sell her for Tls. 6,000.  I have not seen the ship-keeper since the evening of the 19th September.  Capt. Day came to me on the morning of the 22nd, and I asked him what he would expect for services rendered.  He told me one-third of the vessel's value.  I laughed and said, either he must put a very high value on his services, or a low one on the ship.  I went with him on board the Lady Hayes, where he suggested that the matter should be left to Captains Partridge and Vincent to decide.  I objected, on the ground that they were all of the same cloth, but proposed that we should each name some mercantile gentleman, and refer the matter to them.  He said others were interested besides himself, especially the engineer; but that if I would meet him on board the Argus next day, he would let me know what had been decided.  I went on board, accordingly; but was told that Capt. Day had gone to see Capt. Partridge.  The engineer told me that he was the person who had boarded the William IV, and had discovered the cock open.  He added that, directly he found the vessel was sinking, he had remarked to one of his brother engineers that "Canty had evidently left one of his sea-cocks open."  He said that, on going on board, he found the leak was in the engine-room, although there were at the time eight feet of water in the ship, and although the sea-cock connects with the boiler some 2 feet from the stoke-hole beneath the boilers, the water from which would necessarily, from the position of the cock, strike against the return flue and not boil up to the surface as represented.  It would be almost impossible for any engineer going down into that particular stoke-hole, when even two or three feet of water were in it, to discover the position of that sea-cock, which is placed in an uncommon and out of the way position.  I mentioned this to the engineer of the Argus, and he did not seem much to like it.  His statement that I offered him any sum whatever, or that I even spoke to him relative to the settlement of the case, is false.  I did not know him in the matter, and moreover had a strong feeling that he himself had been implicated in the transaction.  I was led to this opinion, first from the peculiar circumstances of the sea-cock being open to such an extent as to allow the vessel to float till a little after day-light; and also from the singular fact of the vessel arriving at such a state just at high water, when she would be easily beached and the sea-cock would be choked with mud.  I had also heard most unfavourable accounts of Mr. Rolls' veracity.  I wrote to Capt. Day suggested that, as the circumstances of the case were clear, we should sign, jointly, a statement of them, and submit it to arbitrration.

TO COURT: - Canty is an Engineer in my employ.  My boy engaged the ship-keeper.  We had spent so much on the William IV that we thought one man sufficient to take charge of her.  She was partly owned by the "Illawarra Company."  I transferred her to myself last April.  I think there is a short bend between the cock and the boiler.  There was no water in the gauge-glass after I had closed it.

TO MR. COOPER: - I arrived here in April last.  I dare say I have enemies.  I did not see the ship-keeper, so could not enquire if he had been on board.  Captain Partridge said some one had been surveying on board.  Mr. Rolls told me he intended to calculate how long it would take to fill the hull of the vessel.  My suspicion of Mr. Rolls arises from the fact of his having himself informed me that the cocks had been turned,  Captain Day told me that he had heard that I had said there were peculiar circumstances connected with the case; but he did not say that, for that reason, he would not settle the affair by arbitration.  I am not in the habit of going on board the William IV daily.  I was on board attending my business.  I went down in the engine-room.  I had no light.  Ity was between 4 and 5 p.m. A light was not necessary.  A stranger might notice the cock easily, if the slide were off.  There was one Chinaman on board.  The Captain had left two days before.  I cannot say it was a conspiracy.  To the best of my knowledge, the vessel is not insured.  I did not say that I had countermanded her insurance.  I have urged my father to keep her insured.  I put in the letters from my father, in consequence of insinuations against me by the plaintiff.  I never said I had countermanded the insurance of the William IV.  Nothing was said to me by Mr. Rolls about remuneration.  I never knew him at all.  I have endeavoured to find the ship-keeper, but cannot.  I did not know he was kept in close confinement on board the ship.  I am a shareholder in the Company.  She was last insured in the office of Smyth's Sydney Marine Insurance Co. - I believe for L. 2,500.  My father is Managing Director.  Mr. Rolls told me the ship-keeper was dangerously ill; that he scarcely expected him to live from one hour to another, and consequently had given him several doses of opium.

MR. EAMES addressed the Court for the defence, and was replied to by Mr. COOPER in a very able speech.

After some deliberation, the Court delivered tie following judgment - That the Plaintiffs were entitled to the sum of Tls. 1,500 for services rendered to the William IV, in addition to the expenses incurred by them.  Defendant to pay costs.

We understand that Mr. Manning has announced his intention of appealing to the Supreme Court at Hongkong.

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