Wave Shape
Wave Shape

S.S. Jasper

Wave Shape

The S.S. Jasper was one of Mr William Robertson’s Gem Line of coastal steam ships registered in Glasgow. She was on her way from Workington to Glasgow with a cargo of steal rails when, in stormy weather, she hit rocks near Cairn Head in Wigtown Bay supposedly ripping off her propeller and rudder. This is unlikely since she then somehow managed to back off only to founder a mile out in Port Yerrock with the loss of all hands.

A Photo of the Jasper’s sister ship the Opal

Photo Courtesy of www.photoship.co.uk



News has reached Ayr that the steam ship Jasper from Workington to Glasgow has foundered off the Wigtown coast. Captain McNicol and eleven men forming the crew were drowned. Mr Robertson, Glasgow, owner of the steamer has now no doubt that the vessel which was seen to founder off the Wigtown coast on Thursday last (13th) was his steamer, Jasper and he is inclined to believe that the crew have perished with the vessel. According to the information that has been received the Jasper had struck on the rocks during the fog, her rudder and propeller being torn off and still lying on the rocks. The vessel in her helpless condition had drifted out from the shore for nearly a mile and then sunk in about seven fathoms of water. The Jasper was an iron screw steamer of 188 tons nett and 287 ton gross register and was one of Mr Robertson’s ‘Gem’ line of coasters. She was built eight years ago by Messrs T. B. Seath & Co. of Rutherglen. Vessel and cargo are valued at about £8,000 and the loss will largely fall on Glasgow underwriters.


From The Greenock Telegraph and Advertiser of 18th Dec 1888


Further information came from William McCulloch of the Isle of Whithorn, aged 91 when he died. He recalled his father telling him about the Jasper. It was wrecked at Dinnans Head on the Dinnans coast and the only body to be washed ashore was that of Captain McNicol, minus his head. He was buried in Whithorn church yard. Nothing was ever heard of the other eleven members or of their bodies.

The only survivor of the wreck was the ship’s dog, a wee terrier, which swam ashore and exhausted found its way to the farm of the Dinnans and the McGowans, who had been in the farm for generations, took it in and cared for it. The dog lived for a number of years and was a great favourite with everybody.

Evidently the sunken Jasper was bought for salvage by a Mr McCulloch from Glasgow who managed to salvage the cargo of iron rails and ship’s fittings. He later attempted in October 1891 to salvage the complete vessel using the tidal lift method. Unhappily the endeavour failed when cables securing the two old hulks to the wreck repeatedly broke under the strain. The final straw came when one of the hulks broke away and was damaged during the gale. The failure of this attempt caused Mr McCulloch to go bankrupt.

The wreck was first discovered by the local postman. In these days all mail was delivered on foot. He had just delivered the post to Dinnans farm and was walking along the cliff top en route for Port Yerrock when he saw the masts sticking up out of the water and reported the wreck. The rudder and propeller were still visible on the rocks at low tide for a number of years until they eventually rotted away.

S.S. Jasper  
Ship type Steam coaster
Owner Wm. Robertson, Gem line
Registered Glasgow
Built by T.B.Sleath, Rutherglen
Launched 06/07/1880
Engines by Wm. King, Glasgow
Propulsion Triple expansion reciprocating, 60hp
Tonnage 279grt, 157nrt
Length 144.8ft
Beam 23.15ft
Draught 10.7ft
Status Foundered 11/12/1888
Information Courtesy of Clyde Built Ships Database
S.S. Robin (for comparison)
Ship type Steam coaster
Owner Ponsonby & Co
Registered Newport
Built by Bow, London
Launched 1890
Engines by Gourlay Bros., Dundee
Propulsion Triple expansion reciprocating, 60hp
Tonnage 366grt
Length 143ft
Beam 23ft
Draught 12.2ft
Status Floating museum, London
Information Courtesy of Clyde Built Ships Database
A Photo of the S.S. Robin (for Comparison) an almost identical ship to the Jasper which has been fully restored and now exists as a floating museum in London

Click here to visit the museum’s web site
Photo Courtesy of www.photoship.co.uk

To find out more about this wreck dive site, have a look at SS Jasper wreck dive tour.

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