The RMS Tayleur, a full rigged iron clipper ship, sinks on January 21, 1854 while on her maiden voyage. Many people know the fate of the RMS Titanic but history forgets that she is not the first ship of the White Star Line to sink on its maiden voyage.
With a length of 230 feet and a 40-foot beam, the Tayleur is launched in Warrington, England on the River Mersey on October 4, 1853. She is named after Charles Tayleur, founder of the Vulcan Engineering Works, Bank Quay, Warrington. The ship is chartered by White Star Line to serve the booming Australian trade routes, as transport to and from the colony is in high demand due to the discovery of gold.
On January 19, 1854 the Tayleur leaves Liverpool bound for Australia with a cargo of Irish and English immigrants totaling 652 passengers and crew. Because of a faulty compass, the crew, thinking they are sailing south, actually turn the ship to the west and head toward Ireland by mistake.
The Tayleur finds herself in a storm on January 21 and being blown towards Lambay Island off Dublin. Despite dropping both anchors as soon as the rocks are sighted, she runs aground on the east coast of the island, about five miles from Dublin Bay. Initially, attempts are made to lower the ship’s lifeboats, but when the first one is smashed on the rocks, launching further boats is deemed unsafe. Tayleur is so close to land that the crew is able to collapse a mast onto the shore, and some people aboard are able to jump onto land by clambering along the collapsed mast.
With the storm and high seas continuing, the ship is then washed into deeper water and sinks to the bottom with only the tops of her masts above the surface of the sea. Tragically, of the more than 650 aboard, only 290 survive. Hundreds of poor Irish immigrants die within sight of their native home.
The ship has been described as the “First Titanic” but is largely overlooked by history perhaps due to the lack of “prominent” members of society onboard the doomed vessel.
During the inquiry that follows the tragedy, it is determined that her crew of 71 has only 37 trained seamen amongst them, and of these, ten could not speak English. It is reported in newspaper accounts that many of the crew were seeking free passage to Australia. Most of the crew survive.