Wreckage

 

breathed a few seconds the longer at the bottom of the sea

so as to come up again

the husband had his wife in his arms

hauled myself over on the weather quarter

he could not call asphyxia death

the two boys were holding on to the mother

little pieces of wood in the water

Captain Butterworth sung out, ‘For God’s sake look here’

in their nightclothes

grabbing for or trying to lay hold of one of her boys

when the water came up to my knees

being picked up, and having a decent burial

heavily over on her starboard beam ends

I do not think they were separated

westward of Beachy Head

standing together on the side of the ship

a pepper and salt shooting or morning coat

the husband with his wife in his arms

a man could not judge very well of time

and the two boys clinging to their mother, all clasped together

‘May God bless you and get you safe to land’

a sea swept them right off, and I saw them no more

East India Docks bound to Sydney

they all four went down together, instantly

the whirlpool made by the heave of the ship’s counter

beating of the sea against the ship

and never rose again

wrecked and lost

the last to leave her, and am the only

 

 

 

(From the judgment of the Court of Chancery in Underwood v Wing (1855), including the testimony of Joseph Reed, sole survivor of the wreck of the Dalhousie)

 

[Published in Danielle McLaughlin (ed) Counterparts: A Synergy of Law and Literature (Stinging Fly, 2019) and, in an earlier form, in The Rialto (No 59, 2005)]

© 2016 by John Mee