An Account of the Trial and Sentence of D. M'INNES, Master, and
P. M'BRIDE, pilot,of the Comet steam-Boat before the High Court
of Admiralty, on Wednesday the 2lst December 1825.
W EDNESDAY, December 21st, 1825, the Judge Admiaal Sin
John Connell, sat in the chamber of the Second Division
of the Court of Session, for the trial of Duncan M'Innes, late mas-
ter, and Peter M' Bride, late pilot, of the Comet steam boat, accused
of culpable homicide, and also of culpable, negligent, and reckless
command, charge, and steering of a steam boat, &c. The criminal
letters set forth that-
"The said Duncan M'Innes, and Peter M'Bride, having proceeded
from Inverness in the said steam boat, called the Comet, with the
intention of proceeding to Glasgow, and they having the direction,
guidance, and command of the said steam boat, the said Duncan
M'Innes being master thereof, and the said Peter M'Bride being pi-
lot, of the same: and having, late on the night of Thursday the
20th, or early on the morning of Friday the 21st of October, 1825,
arrived in the said steam-boat in the river or firth of Clyde, and at
a part thereof nearly opposite Kempock Point, in the shire of Ren-
frew ; and it being their particular duty to take care that the said
steam-boat should not come in collision with any other boat or ves-
sel, they did, nevertheless, both and each of them, or one or other
of them, culpably, and reckless of the consequences, and by their
extreme and culpable carelessness and inatention, and misconduct
in managing and directing the course of the said Comet steam-boat,
bring the said steam-boat in collision with the steam-boat called the
Ayr, whereby the said steam-boat was immediately sunk, and
whereby a great many persons, men, women, and children, to the
number of 62 or thereby, were drowned, and bereaved of life, and
were thus culpably killed by the said Duncan M'Innes and Peter
M' Bride," &c.
The criminal letters also charged them with having " culpably,
and reckless of the consequences, neglected to cause a light to be
affixed to the said steam-boat, and continuing to steer and direct
the said Comet steam-boat, without any such lights," &c. The
criminal letters were then read, and the parties called upon to plead,
when they both pleaded Not Guilty.
Defences were then put in for the pannels, in which they denies
the relevancy of the libel. They addmitted the loss of the Comet,
but not that it was caused by culpability or negligence on their
part. They might have erred in judgement, but they did not
admit that they had done so. In a case like that of the Comet and
Ayr, they said, the safety of the vessels did not depend upon the
attention of one of them in particular, but upon both; and if the
Ayr had taken its proper course, no collision could have taken place;
and if the master of that vessel had afterwards rendered what as-
sistance was in his power, the whole or most of those who were
lost, might have been saved.
Two objections were then stated on the part of the pannels, to
the relevancy of the indictment, but which were not sustained by
the Court, and an interlocutor, confining the charge to culpable
homicide, was then recorded.
A great number of witnesses were then examined for the prose-
cution, among whom were Thomas M'Clelland, master, Robert
Knox, pilot, and John M'Gregor, seaman, of the Ayr steam-boat, the
vessel that came in collision with the Comet, when that unfortunate
boat sunk. All of whose evidence tended to attach a good deal of
culpability to the conduct of Mr M'Innes, the master of the Comet,
in not having a light out at the time of the accident, nor a good
look-out a head, &c.
The pannels' declarations were then read, in which M'Innes
stated, that he was master of a steam boat on the Clyde for may
years, and detailed the progress of the voyage of the Comet from
Inverness till she met the Ayr- He stated that there was a scarcity
of candles on board the Comet at that time, which was the cause
there were no lights hung out, and he considered therc was no
danger after they passed the Cloch, which they did before he left
the deck that morning. M'Bride's was nearly similar.
After which, several respectable witnesses were examined in ex-
culpation, ono of whom the Judge complimented in strong terms.
The Jury were then addressed by the Lord Advocate for the
crown, and by Mr Cockburn for the pannels, when the Judge
Admiral summed up the evidence at great length, reprobating in
strong language the conduct of the Ayr, and urging the necessity of
an example being made, to prevent a recurrence of similar accidents
by carelessnes. After which the Jury were inclosed, and ordered
to return their verdict on Thursday at Two o'clock.
Accordingly M'Innes was found Guilty by the Jury, on Thurs-
day, and M'Bride Not Guilty; when the former was sentenced to
three months' imprisonment in Greenock Jail, and the latter dis-
missed from the bar, after a suitable admonition.
Edinburgh: Printed for Wm. Cameron?Price One Penny.
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1825 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(297)
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