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Colonial Cases

Partridge v. James, 1859

[sailor, negligence]

Partridge v. James

Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North-China Herald, 2 July 1859.


27th June, 1859


Before D. B. ROBERTSON, Esq., H.M. Consul,

Com. BROOKER, R.N., Senior Naval Officer, JOHN MARKHAM, H.M. Vice-Consul.

JAMES PARTRIDGE master of the Queen of England being duly sworn, handed in written statement which he declared to be correct, as follows:-

May 25th, 1859, Queen of England, at anchor off the Yang-tze-kiang, in 7 fathoms.

At 10 a.m. weighed with a brisk gale at East, and proceeded towards the river under very easy sail, viz: fore and main top stay sails, weather at the time very thick and hazy.  From the time of starting, stationed the Boatswain at the anchor stopper, and James Archer, A.B., at the hand ,lead, about 11 the lead was relieved by William Smith, A.B., the latter was soon turned away on account of giving incorrect soundings.  John Walsh, A.B. then took the lead and carried regular soundings throughout of 5, 5 ½ and 6 fathoms.  About Noon or a little after, the gale took off a little I then set fore sail to keep ship going about 3 knots.  John James, A.B. then took the lead, I placed myself alongside of him as usual to see how he commenced; he at the time had 5 ½ fathoms. O then cautioned him that the moment he got anything under 5 fathoms to call out quickly, as it was my intention to anchor, I then stationed myself on the hencoops in front of the poop, not liking to trust altogether to the lookout, however about 1:15 or 1:30 p.m. thinking, I must be drawing well over towards the South Bank, I then went to the ship side to see the lead being hove, James at the time called out 5 fathoms but thinking by the appearance of the line there was less water, I ordered him to heave again quickly, then to my sorrow I saw there was little more than 3 fathoms.  I ordered the helm to be put hard a-port, James then called out 4 ½ fathoms, but as soon as the ship commenced to come to the wind she struck heavily abaft, as soon as I thought the anchor would clear the forefoot it was let go but ion account of the ship's heel being on the ground and the strong ebb taking her on the starboard bow, she was harsed a little further on the bank, the wind by this having changed to N.E. at the same time nearly high water and the tides taking off, during the time the ship lay aground, about 100 tons coal was thrown overboard, and on the 30th she was got off through the assistance of the Steam-tug Meteor, and proceeded to Shanghae under sail.  I have also to state that during the time the ship was aground, the crew were ever willing to do their best with the exception of James, he being the only man heard to grumble it was not until the ship was fast aground that James called out 3 fathoms.

The statement was read over by the Plaintiff on his oath, and duly signed by him.

The Chart was then examined and the position of the ship shown.

JOHN JAMES states - I acknowledge that I called out "a half five" when I only had 4 ½ fathoms - the Captain was standing by me and spoke to me about it.  I cast again and got 4 ½ and sounded three times and got the same - I called out the soundings each time; the last call I got was 3 fathoms and then the ship struck and the anchor was let go.  I once sounded and called out 4 fathoms and then the Captain was walking on the deck.

FREDERICK SMART, duly sworn states: - I was on deck when John James was sounding, I noticed he gave wrong soundings once or twice but did not tell the Captain.  The Captain shortly afterwards noticed that the soundings were incorrect and told James to sound again quickly which he did and instead of 5 ½ fathoms he had 4 ½.

James had been in the chains before several times, he always did very well - he has generally been well behaved and is a good seaman.  The marks on the line were distinct enough.  There was a deficiency on the line of 2 or 3 feet as the dip of the lead was not allowed for.  We were on the Port tack and he was on the leeside.  The ship was ogling about 2 ½ to 3 knots.


The COURT having duly considered the evidence are of opinion that John James either wilfully or by negligence, which is not very apparent, mis-called the soundings whereby the ship, cargo, and lives were jeopardized.  Considering however that the master was aware that he had mis-called the soundings a short time previously, the Court considers that it was his duty to remove the man, and the more so as the ship was on the edge of the South Bank, in dirty and blowing weather, and not having any leadsman in the opposite chain s to check the soundings and therefore requiring the utmost caution in navigation.  This does not however alter the fact as to the negligence or culpability of John James and the Court adjudges him to be imprisoned in H.M. Gaol for a term of 3 calendar months.


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