The Wreck of the SV Countess of Ripon

The SV Countess of Ripon was a steel hulled, fully rigged sailing vessel.  She was built by Martin Samuelson & Co. in Hull, England and was one of four ships launched on the 29th October 1863.

 The first vessel launched was christened, by Miss A. A.Croome, the Countess of Ripon. She is a splendid ship, of above 200 tons register, and is intended to be an East Indiaman.

 The next in order was the Lightning, christened by Miss Bannister, and to be fitted precisely like the former ship, for the same trade.

The third vessel that left the stocks was christened, by Miss Moss, the Earl de Grey and Papon. She is a screw steamer, and will have engines of 90 horse power. Her tonnage, O.M., is 789.

The last vessel launched was a tug, one of eight, built for a French company, to trade between Eouen and Paris. She was christened by Miss M. Samuelson the Solferino.

All the vessels were launched by the new guillotine system, an ingenious and simple process used in the Portsmouth and other dockyards. The launches were perfect. The splendid vessels glided into their future element magnificently and majestically, amidst the cheers of the assembled thousands.

Quote from: General and Concise, History and Description of the Town and Port of Kingston-Upon-Hull.

In late 1865 the SV Countess of Ripon left Calcutta, India, with 502 passengers and crew.  The passengers were travelling to Grenada and St. Vincent to work as indentured servants on the sugar plantations following the abolition of slavery.  After crossing the Indian Ocean and rounding the Cape of Good Hope the SV Countess of Ripon sailed across the Southern Atlantic hoping to reach Grenada by the end of January 1866.  Unfortunately on the 21st of January 1866 she ran aground on a reef off the East Coast of Barbados.  The SV Countess of Ripon did not sink immediately but remained stuck on the reef.

HMS Wolverine
HMS Wolverine

Fortunately HMS Wolverine (also HMS Wolverene) a Jason-class  wooden three-masted  screw corvette, of the Royal Navy, was in Carlisle Bay at the time. She immediately left and sailed around to the South of the island and rescued all of the passengers and crew safely off the SV Countess of Ripon.

In addition to the passengers and crew a number of goats were also rescued.

The passengers were housed in Marshall Hall, located on Hinks Street in Bridgetown, while waiting on a ship to carry them on to Grenada and St Vincent.

While researching this article I was able to find two items that came from the SV Countess of Ripon.

Salvaged SV Countess of Ripon ship's bell.
Salvaged SV Countess of Ripon ship’s bell.

The ship’s bell was sitting in a store room for many years and the owners were either not aware or cared about its historical value. For many years it was mounted in the tackle room at the Barbados Turf Club and was rung  to summon the jockeys that a race was about to start.

Chris Thirkell remembers that it was kept polished and the engraved name was painted in red. His father was a jockey and trainer at the Barbados Turf Club.

The bell  is now in the care of Mr. Martin Ince.

The ship’s barometer was also removed and had been cared for.

Salvaged SV Countess of Ripon ship's barometer
Salvaged SV Countess of Ripon ship’s barometer.

Both of these items are now on display at the at Blackwoods Screw Dock museum in Bridgetown.

The SV Countess of Ripon now rests in a few meters of water. All that is left is a few ribs and bits of the engine and associated parts. The fishermen in the area regularly swim over her while spear fishing.  They told me that they never catch fish from around the wreck out of respect to the lady.  For many years the wreck was guarded by a large Ray. It had the habit of swimming over free divers preventing them from surfacing.

One day when the sea is calm I will accompany them and visit the SV Countess of Ripon.

While researching this article I’ve been unable to source a picture of the SV Countess of Ripon. If you have or know where I can source a picture of the SV Countess of Ripon please contact me by clicking on the Contact Burts link.

Coollie Goats
David Marshall tells me that in the 1950’s, when he grew up in St Philip there were some goats in the Crane and Belair areas that were referred to as “Coolie Goats”. Local history says that they were rescued from a boat that was wrecked in the area. These goats had floppy ears.

After months of searching for a “Coolie Goat” David Marshall found this specimen while walking at Bottom Bay. It is not a pure breed as the brown was a richer brown and the black was much darker. The ears were black. The local species have smaller ears and a different shaped head.

I asked him if it was possible that the boat was the Countess of Ripon? Here is his reply.

“If the Countess of Rippon had on indentured Indian servants or Coolie goats it did not sink off of Culpepper Island. There is no way that the people of Bayfield or Marley Vale would let the people of the Crane come and get the goats before them and then move them to the Crane or Sam Lord. So something doesn’t add up. The boat that had on the indentured Indian servants and the goats sank off of Sam Lords. Don’t mind what it was named or who said what.”


I agree. The Mason, Wiltshire, Fingall and Marshall families would not let anyone get their goats. So maybe another boat with goats wrecked off Sam Lords?

Responses to “The Wreck of the SV Countess of Ripon”

  1. Arnold! Thomas

    Very good article on the building/launch of the Countess of Ripon. Incidentally the Lightning, also from the same shipyard, was the last ship to bring Indians to St.Vincent in 1880…also brought my great grandparents Ramphul and Anopia.

  2. Dr. Arnold Thomas

    Great article. I have researched the wreck of the SV Countess of Ripon on which my maternal grandfather was born on 4 January 1866. The wreck is a chapter in my book (unpublished) which details the voyage from Calcutta November 1865, its contents, hitting the reef in Skeet’s Bay, and the rescue operations. There is a humanitarian story, also detailed in the book, about Sarah Maynard from Mapps Estate who breast-fed the infant and so saved his life. As the grandson of that infant (later Gangaram Emmanuel King) I would really like to meet Sarah Maynard’s descendants one day to show some appreciation.

    Dr Arnold Thomas, St.Vincent

    1. Dr. Arnold Thomas

      By the way half of the Indians were destined for estates in St.Vincent. The experience of the survivors in both St.Vincent and Grenada is not a pleasant one among the then indentured Indians. For more on the Indian Diaspora go to : SVG Indian Heritage website on FaceBook.

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