This article discusses the shipwreck of the Tayleur. For its dimensions and construction: see Tayleur was lost at Lambay. For a review of the book see: “Bound for Australia”. For the Tayleur Medals, see Tayleur fund for the succour of shipwrecked strangers
The sailing ship Tayleur was lost at Lambay just north of Dublin on 21 January 1854. Of the 650 aboard only 290 survived, merely three of the hundred women survived and only three of fifty children reached shore. The loss was due to a combination of compass error, an untried ship, a small crew and a storm. After the wreck there were several inquiries which sought to explain the loss of a brand new ship. There are similarities with the Titanic which was also a White Star line ship on her maiden voyage carrying emigrants. The Tayleur was state of the art at the epitome of sailing ship design just at the time when steamers were coming into service. She was the largest merchant sailing ship in the British fleet though there were larger American ships. The demand for passage to Australia was driven by the gold rush at Ballarat. The Tayleur was not a chartered emigrant ship and those aboard had paid for their passage themselves; the compliment included many well to do people and most aboard were tradesmen.
Some sources mention the John Tayleur as the wreck on Lambay and it has been difficult to deduce why this systematic error has been perpetuated. The evidence of the Lloyds inspection and the bell inscription point unequivocally to the name having been simply Tayleur. In this contemporary newspaper accounts are not unanimous in that a couple refer to the incorrect name. The story may be explained by a painting by Samuel Walters dated 1827 showing the John Taylor on the Mersey. The painting is on display at Liverpool Maritime Museum. This ship was altogether different from the Tayleur. Her registration was in 1818 listing the owners as John Livingston, John Taylor and William Potter all of Liverpool. She was reregistered 27 May 1824 having been sold to Peter Chaloner 22/64th, Thomas Chaloner 11/64th Vincent Chaloner 11/64th and Thomas Bland 20/64th. The vessel was sold again in 1838 and broken up at Liverpool in September 1843. It would appear that the only Lloyds entry found when the wreck of the Tayleur occurred in 1854 was this older vessel and some newspaper reporters wrongly concluded that the Tayleur lost on Lambay in 1854 was the same vessel.
More rubbish has been written on the exact cause of the disaster than any thing else. The course plotted in Bound for Australia shows that if the compasses had been correct she would have struck the Arklow banks. Revelation is given in that a strong northerly tidal flow was investigated in the case of the grounding of the Great Britain in 1846 and it is clear that the Tayleur was driven North of her intended route. In addition in the last minutes of the Tayleur before she struck she was pushed toward the rocks on Lambay. She went ashore at the mid tide when the flow would have been strongest and in that direction. Tide on 21-1-1854 was 3.10 in the afternoon so was running strongly northward into Tayleur Bay.
Several families in Australia are descended from Tayleur survivors and though no boarding list has survived a comprehensive list of passengers has been prepared from contemporary newspaper accounts.
Many Tayleur artefacts have been recovered by divers and are in displays, museums or monuments in North County Dublin. Two Books have been written on the disaster:
- Iron Clipper by Bert Starkey
- Bound for Australia by Edward J Bourke