On Monday the 5th July 1841 the boat 'John and William' was to be launched at from the boatyard at Masbrough. Pupils and teachers from local schools were invited to attend the event and it was to be a gala day out for everybody. In consequence there were a lot of children on board the 'John and William' as she came sideways down the slipway into the canal.
The 'John & William' promptly capsized, throwing those on the upper deck into the water. Many were trapped under the upturned hull and eager to free them men took axes and staved holes in the side of the ship. The water rushed in and drowned those inside. Over fifty persons drowned, almost all of them young boys or teenagers.
There is a memorial to the dead in All Saints Parish Church now Rotherham Minster.
"In memory of the 50 young persons who's names are inscribed on this tablet who awfully perished at the launching of a vessel at Masbrough July 5th 1841. By the generous sympathy their fellow townsmen and others, a fund was raised to relieve the families bereaved by this bad calamity and to erect this monumental record in humble and reverent recognition of the divine will as an emotional warning to the living and a memorial condolence to those whose hearts and hopes were thereby suddenly bow'd to the dust."
"They sank not in the storm toss'd wave
Crested by oceans surge where billows murmuring o'er their grave
Would sound a ceaseless dirge imprisoned by the inverted bars beneath the wavelessstream
They drank deaths bitter cup lifes spark was quench'd dispell'd it's dream
Their tombs are clos'd the muffled peal has rung their funeral knell
What eye can see beyond the veil where now their spirits dwell
Mourners in faith flee to the cross thence living waters flow
A healing balm for every loss sure refuge from your woe."
These are names and ages of those who perished.
ARGOT, James (15) of Masbrough, son of John Argot, carter
BLACKBURN, St Stephen William (11), of Westgate, son of Thomas Blackburn
BOWLER, William (10), of New Holland, son of Joseph Bowler, flax dresser
BRADBURY, Thomas (15), of Old Holland, son of Eliza Bradbury, widow
BRADSHAW, William (11), son of Robert Bradshaw
BROWN, George or John (15) of Masbro, roller, son of Benjamin Brown, labourer
BUCKLEY, Alfred (6), of Oil Mill Fold, son of Joseph Buckley, joiner
BUCKLEY, Joseph (33), of Oil Mill Fold, joiner
CROWTHER, Henry (8), son of William Crowther
CUNDELL, David (13), of Pigeon Lane son of Robert Cundell, shoemaker
CURTIS, George (16), waterman, son of Isaac Curtis, porter
DALE, Thomas (7). son of Joseph Dale, potter
DOBB, Samuel (10), of Westgate Green, son of Samuel Dobb, publican
DOBSON, Andrew (9), son of George Dobson, fishmonger
EARNSHAW, George (7), son of William Earnshaw, moulder
EARNSHAW, Joseph (10), of Quarry Hill, son of John Earnshaw, mason
FOX, John (16), of Masbro', moulder
FREEMAN, Samuel (16), son of W. Freeman, waterman
FREEMAN, William (8), son of W. Freeman, waterman
FURNISS, Joseph (12), of Pool Green, son of Robert Furniss, miller
GILLOT, John (17). of Rawmarsh Lane son of Samuel Gillott, labourer
GOODALL, Henry (8), son of George Goodall, labourer
GREATORIX, John (21), of Furnival Street, joiner
GREENFIELD, Alfred (5), of Back Lane, Masbro' son of S. Greenfield, boat hauler
GREENFIELD, William (10), of Back Lane, Masbro' son of S. Greenfield, boat hauler
HALL, William (9), son of George Hall, labourer
HAMBY, Charles (12), of Masbrough son of Joseph Hamby, blacksmith
HAYWOOD, John Holroyd (13), of Glasshouse Yard, son of George Haywood
HEATHCOTE, Samuel (11), of the Crofts, son of Samuel Heathcote, joiner
JAQUES, John (11), of Jubbs Fold, son of Ann Green
LANCASTER, Robert (13), of Westgate, son of Joseph Lancaster, currier
MATTHEWMAN (or Matthews), Charles (11), of Wellgate, son of Geo Matthews, hauler
KENT, John (10), of Market Place, son of John Kent, wheelwright DIXON, George (7), son of George Nixon, labourer
PARROTT, John (19), waterman, son of Thomas Parrott
PATTISON, John (10), of Wellgate, son of John Pattison, sawyer
RAMSDEN, George (14), of Tinsley Lock son of W. Ramsden, shoe maker
ROBINSON, Charles (11), of Masbrough son of J Robinson, shaft maker
SHAW, Richard (17), of Masbrough, labourer
SHILLITTO, John (11), son of Jon Shillito, staymaker
SHILLITTO, Richard (9), son of Jon Shillito, staymaker
SMITH, Charles (8), son of John Smith
SMITH, Henry (5), son of John Smith
SMITH, John (40), Waterman
STRAW, Thomas (10), of Masbrough son of Ann Straw, widow
WOOD, William (11) of Masbrough, son of Joseph wood, waterman.
WOODGER, Thomas (13), son of Joseph Woodger, chainmaker
WOODGER, William (11), son of Joseph Woodger, chainmaker
WOOLHOUSE, Samuel (18, Labourer, son of Benjamin Woodhouse, moulder
YATES, James Pagdin (11), of the Crofts, son of Mr. James Yates
There were children from some of the most prominent families in Rotherham amongst them. The newspaper report also includes the name of Harriet Taylor, wife of Benjamin Taylor, mason, but her name does not appear on the memorial in All Saints Church. Also one or two other details vary so I have made the best sense of it that I can.
The inquest was summoned that afternoon by the Coroner, Mr Thomas Badger, but I have not yet found the verdict anywhere in my reading. I presume it was misadventure.
A subscription was taken up which raised £200.00 towards relief for the poorer families.