The Belfast Mercury
Saturday, 6 March, 1852
THE CASE OF THE EMIGRANT SHIP "MILLA".
BELFAST MANOR COURT - THURSDAY.
The painful details connected with the passengers who sailed
in the emigrant ship mills, in January, from Belfast, were
reproduced in the Belfast Manor Court, as Thursday, together
with additional particulars, which shewed that
besides the presence of disease and death, there was also the
grossest immorality prevailing on board - the captain and one
of the mates having Scotch mistresses with them, and the crew
indulging in every species of debauchery they could commit.
To such an extent was this carried on, that the ship might,
as in another well-known instance, be properly designated "a
It will be recollected that, in the Mercury of the 17th
February, we published a long report of the particulars, as
they transpired, on the leaving an application before the
Magistrates, at Petty Sessions, on the part of one of the
passengers, for a return of his passage money from the
charter - an application to which the Bench did not accede,
owing, as was stated, to want of authority by law. The Milla
was a foreign vessel, and was chartered by Mr. Quinn, to
convey passengers from Belfast to New York. She had
provisions, &c., for 139 adults; and sailed from Belfast on
he 18th January. She was inspected by Mr. Joynt, of the
Customs, in the absence of the Government inspector,
Lieutenant Starke, who, at the time, was labouring under
disposition; and Doctor Moore gave clean bills of health.
She was detained some ten days in the lough, owing to stress
of weather; and, in the meantime, disease broke out,
resulting in three deaths - two of them children - from
small-pox, whose bodies were thrown overboard, though the
vessel was at anchor; and the captain, who could not speak a
word of English, or understand it, was besought, by signals,
to allow a person to proceed to shore to bury them. He was
an Austrian, and all the crew laboured under the same
ignorance of the English language, except the second mate,
who could jabble a little, which was but imperfectly
understood, and he, it appeared, scarcely comprehended what
was said to him by the passengers. The ship, thus commanded
and manned, proceeded to sea, with disease on board, though
the attention of the clerk of the charter was, as was given
in evidnece at the Petty Sessions, called to it; and got as
far as Waterford, when the captain turned back to Belfast,
from what cause is not exactly known - some alleging that he
was incompetent to navigate the ship, and other stating that
it was from want of water and provisions. When the ship
arrived here, her condition was of a frightful character,
from the spread of disease and filth. About forty of the
passengers then left her, afraid to remain in the midst of
disease and pollution of every sort. It also appeared that,
during the short period when the vessel was out, the
passengers were supplied with only about half of the water
prescribed by the Act of Parliament and had only a half
supply of rice served to them. The passengers who left
demanded a return of their passage from the charterer, which
was refused. The diseased passengers were removed from the
ship, by directions of Dr. Moore, who again examined the
remainder; and these went to sea with the vessel again, the
captain being changed, and a fresh supply of provisions put
on board by the charterer.
The application before the magistrates for an order in the
charterer to refund the passage money to one of the
sufferers, named Adamson, being unsuccessful, Mr. Rea, at his
own motion, determined to try the question before another
tribunal, and he selected the local Manor Court, before its
seneschal, S. M'Dowell Elliot, and a jury of twelve men. He
now appeared on the part of Patrick and James Duffy, against
Mr. Thomas Quinn, charterer of the Milla, to recover from him
compensation for the loss and damage sustained, in
consequence of a non-fulfilment of his agreement to convey
them to America in a proper passenger ship.
Mr. Rea, in stating the case, described it as one of the
grossest on record. He referred to the hardships the poor
people suffered, and inveighed against the charterer for not
having placed a proper captain in the command of the ship.
There was an Austrian savage and a crew of fifteen, not one
of whom, except one, knew a word of English, placed over a
numbered of people who could speak nothing else. The captain
could not read the charts. He had actually to get one of the
passengers to read them for him, and the prson not being able
to communicate information to him except by signals, he held
up three fingers to denote that there were three lights off
Waterford. Mr Rea criticised the manner in which Dr. Moore
had performed the medical examination, and said that it was
perfectly impossible that he could have gone through the duty
of examing such a number of people in the admitted space of
two hours. He also said that the clerk of the charterer was
on board before the ship sailed, and he had been spoken to to
remove a boy sick with the small-pox, but he not only refused
to do so, but did not report the matter to the customs as he
was bound to. There were not brooms supplied to clean 'twixt
decks - there was only half the supply of water given. The
captain knew neither English nor how to navigate the vessel;
and after rambling about till he got as far as Waterford, he
turned back to Belfast again. Mr. Rea vehemently censured
the captain for his having refused permission for the burial
of the bodies of two children who died when the ship was at
anchor, and within a short distance of the land. He also
referred to the gross immoralities which were practised on
board; and said that there was just one female who had
escaped contamination at the hands of the captain and the
crew. It was fairly a floating brothel and plague ship. Mr.
Rea proceeded, at some length, to comment, in the strongest
terms of animadversion, on the general features of the case,
and then said, the question he would submit to the jury was
this - he would demand their verdict on behalf of his clients
for compensation of 10 pounds against the charterer, in
consequence of a breach of agreement on his part to convey
them to America, and they having been obliged to desert the
ship, in consequence of the incapacity of the captain, the
presence of disease in it, and the outrageous immorality of
the crew - all which were sufficient causes to deter them from
trusting their lives or their persons to such custody.
[We may here state that, during the entire progress of the
case, which lasted upwards of six hours, there were continual
"scenes" between Mr. Rea and the court, as to the mode of
conducting it; the latter calling on the solicitor to
restrain himself in the choice of his language, and otherwise
taking exception to questions proposed; while Mr. Rea
persisted in his course, one time observing that the judge
appeared rather as the attorney for the defendant than as the
judge of the court.]
Mr. Seeds appeared on behalf of the defendant. The evidence
given was mainly a repetition of that given on the former
court day; and as we have published that, we need not now
repeat more then the leading features on this trial.
Patrick Duffy, one of the complainants, swore that the vessel
lay in the lough 15 days before proceeding to sea; and she
was surveyed by Mr. Joynt. Dr. Moore was engaged about an
hour and a half or two hours in the medical examinations of
the passengers. The witness deposed to the fact that two
children, who had died of small-pox, had been thrown
overboard, while the ship lay in the Lough; one was tied up
in a bag; the other was put into a box.
Mr. Seeds was proceeding to cross-examine the witness as to
the length of time Dr. Moore was on board, when His Worship
said that Mr. Seeds might leave that matter altogether out
of consideration; as Dr. Moore's character was an answer to
the imputation sought to be put on him.
Mr. Rea told his Worship that such an observation, coupled
with others that had already fallen from him, was
incompatible with the impartiality which, as a judge, he was
bound to evince in the progress of a case. It was his
business to hear evidence, not to anticipate it, or form
opinions not fortified by evidence.
His Worship said he knew his own course, and would take it.
and if the solicitor did not conduct himself respectfully to
the Court, he would use his authority in committing him.
Mr. Rea. in reply, said if he did, he would do it at his
peril; and he (Mr. Rea) would take his remedy afterwards, as
he had successfully done in another case when he was
Mr. Seeds (ironically) - And you got large damages. (A
Another of the passengers, Margaret Duffy, was then
examined. She deposed to having paid 5 pounds for passages;
had to leave the ship from the state of filth, disease, and
pollution in which it was; demanded her money from Mr. Quinn,
who refused it.
Joseph Adamson, another of the passengers, and one who made
the application, unsuccessfully, to the magistrates, was next
examined - In speaking of the medical examination, he said he
was the seventeenth on the list; and he was "put through" by
Dr. Moore, and a sailor shoved him in, putting him down below.
The sixteen persons on the list had been passed in the like
manner. Not a single one of them were pronounced unhealthy.
The remainder of his evidence was - that in four days after,
a young man took ill of small-pox - that a number of
passengers who wished to land were refused permission - that
Mr. Quinn"s clerk was on board, and after his attention had
been called to the sick person, he refused to have him
removed - that he (Adamson) was, on Sabbath evening, taken
down to the cabin, by the captain, who signalled to him to
read the chart for him - that he did so, but the captain not
knowing what he said, he put up the three fingers, to signify
that here were three lights off Waterford - that the captain
stopped the vessel there, though he saw five of the regular
liners passing in the full sail - that the day the captain
turned was the best day of any they had been out - that they
complained of the matter every day- that "the ship was not
fit for a Christian to live in" - that "the smell was awful,
suffocating"- that the ship was very dirty - that brooms
could not be got to sweep her - that half of the passengers
were women - that here was gross immorality on the part of
the crew - that after the ship came back, he went to
Mr. Quinn's office, demanded his passage-money, and got as an
answer, that the charterer had no more to do with him.
Mr. Seeds cross-examined the witness, who, however, did not
vary the testimony given. He added, that some of the male
passengers conducted themselves improperly.
To a Juror - The crew were worse than the passengers. Was
not told before he shipped that the captain and crew could
not speak English.
Mr. Seeds - Didn't you know well they could not speak English?
The witness [A answered the question by saying he had nothing to
do with the crew.]
Rose Anne Kennedy, another of the passengers, took passages
for herslf and three children, and had to leave the ship.
She described it as "the next best thing" to one of the
former streets of Belfast, which was inhabited solely by
females of bad character; - it was a floating brothel.
A man with fever was in the next berth to her. He died. Her
child took a bowel complaint. The charterer refused her the
money she paid him.
Mr. Seeds cross-examined the witness, and it appeared that, in
order to secure for herself and her children a passage, she
had entered into collusion with a man who was to answer as
her husband. This, she said, was done under the arrangements
of the clerk of the charterer.
Wm. Knox, who had been hired as passengers' cook,
at 1 pound for the voyage, with the passage and the rations,
said that, in the medical examination, "the people were
shoved about like hogs, not Christians." For humanity"s
sake, he gave a young man in spotted fever share of his
berth. He afterwards died abreast of Carrick, and he "buried
him in his berth." (Sensation) There were no ventilators up -
they were in his store all the time. He was refused
permission to take him ashore before he died. He called
Smith's attention to a boy who was sick, and he said he had
no authority to remove him. Smith was all that night on
board, and he gave him a tin of whiskey. He frequently
complained to the captain, and mate, and crew, of the short
supplies to the passengers, without redress. They said the
water would soon be out, and could give no more, though they
were then at anchor, and near land. The witness gave a
similar account as the other witnesses of the morality of the
ship. He also said that, while lying in the Lough, he went
to Carrickfergus, by the directions of the captain, for some
provisions, and to bring whatever the crew would want. He
brought them whiskey and other things.
In cross-examination by Mr. Seeds, he denied that he
participated in any immorality; played cards or so, but that
Mr. Seeds then applied to the court to nonsuits the
complainants, under the 58th section of the Passengers' Act,
which required that no action should lie against any party
unless he had been served with ten days' notice of it in
writing; and this had not been served, in the present
Mr. Rea contended this applied only to the protection of
officers acting for the government.
His Worship ruled with Mr.Rea.
Mr. Seeds then addressed the jury for the defendant. He
vindicated Dr. Moore from the charge of a nasty examination
of the passengers, and said his duty was merely to see that
they had no infectious disease, such as small-pox, fever, &c.
Each person called by Mr. Joynt was examined by Dr. Moore
faithfully, and strictly according to his duty. A case had
been attempted to be made that Mr. Quinn would be a gainer by
the passengers not getting their full rations; but, whether
they got them or no, he would not be one whit better; and Mr.
Joynt would depose that the full complement had been put on
board. In fact, it would be proved that there was more water
on board than was required. He called on the jury to take
the opinion of Mr. Joynt as to the seaworthiness of the
vessel - the proper supply of provisions - the competency of
the captain - the adequacy of the space allotted to the
passengers; and, if they were satisfied on all these points,
they would not mulct? the defendant in damages, for the
misconduct of the people themselves in not having kept the
place clean, or for the unfortunate state of the weather,
which had been the cause of most of what had happened.
Dr. Moore was then about being sworn in the High Constable's
box, when Mr .Rea insisted that there should be no
distinction made as between him and any other witness, and
that he be sworn on the witness table. Dr. Moore repaired to
the witness table, and being sworn, he said that on the day
of the examination the passengers were all examined carefully,
and according to the usual method. He was so occupied at
least, or more than, ten hours. All were then particularly
healthy, and he gave a clean bill of health accordingly. On
the vessel coming back, she was filthy, that was the
passengers' fault; it was their business to keep the place
clean 'twixt decks. He frequently heard Lieutenant Starke
exhort the passengers to cleanly habits, and he usually
induced them to form a committee for that purpose. The
vessel seemed to him to be well ventilated, but that subject
did not come within the sphere of his duty.
In the cross-examination by Mr. Rea, Dr. Moore said he had
made medical examinations in about fifty ships. The
passengers were not taken down to the cabin to be examined,
because there was neither room, nor for other reasons was it
desirable to do so. They were all kept on the open deck.
Some of the women had children. The day was severe. There
was snow and sleet. The exposure to such weather might have
acted prejudicially to children's lives. Did not tell the
mothers to take their children to the cabin. All the
passengers were examined in the usual manner.- For
humanity's sake it would not be right to keep them long
exposed on the deck. He had inspected them only with
reference to contagious disease. The ship had the regular
medicine chest. It was in the cabin. Did not know in whose
charge it was when the ship came back he examined the sick,
and ordered off six.
Mr. Joynt was next examined; and he showed that the ship, in
going to sea, was in every respect according to the
Government regulations. With reference to the medical
examination, he said that Dr. Moore had performed it in the
most careful manner; there appeared to him to be nothing
wanting. When the ship returned, he said that the proper
supplies of water, &c., were provided; and he also said that
Mr. Quinn did everything in his power to make it comfortable.
He likewise said the ship was perfectly seaworthy - that a
wise man would not have gone to sea during the time the
captain lay in Garmoyle Pool - that he (the captain) was, in
his opinion, quite capable of navigating the ship - that he
himself saw the ventilators up - that he was quite surprised
at the evidence of Knox on this and other matters.
He was cross-examined by Mr. Rea at considerable length. He
then stated, that he himself would not think of sending a
vessel with British emigrants to sea with a foreign captain
and crew who could not speak in English; that in the second
examination 89 were tallied, and that it lasted four or five
hours - that he believed Dr. Moore acted as honourably and as
faithfully as any man could have done. He knew of passenger
ships returning with a quantity of unconsumed provisions,
which become the property of that charterer.
Mr. Joynt's evidence, throughout, was given with evident
anxiety that everything bearing on the transaction, one way
or other, of which he was cognisant, should be fully and
Smyth, clerk of Mr. Quinn, was next examined. He
impeached the evidence of Knox in some points - we denied
that Knox warned him of the presence of a sick person on
board, or that he had taken too much whiskey on board, but he
was sick, and had to go to bed - that the sick boy to whom
his father called his attention had apparently sore eyes -
that the ship was in every way properly supplied with
He was cross-examined by Mr. Rea, and said he saw no man ill
in a berth, only a child with sore eyes. His face had a few
marks on it. They were not, in his opinion, small pox marks;
they were like as of measles. He was then in a state of
convalescence, and he accordingly "passed" him.
To a Juror - None of the passengers went. There was a new
captain put into command.
This closed the case for the defence.
Mr. Rea then replied in a speech of more than an hour's
duration, after which His Worship charged the jury.
The jury retired, and after remaining an hour closeted,
returned to court, not having agreed. They were then
discharged. It was understood that ten were disposed to find
for the complainants, the remaining two against.
Mr. Rea intimated his intention to have the case again
submitted to a jury, as he was determined that there should
be a reform in the treatment of emigrants.
The case was only thus brought to a close at nearly eight
o'clock, and throughout the greatest interest seemed to be
felt in it.
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