Near the end of the trip, the Princess Alice encountered the larger collier, Bywell Castle, Captain T. Harrison
at the helm, steaming upstream and without cargo for Newcastle to load coal.
log, Captain Harrison wrote that as the two vessels approached at about 7:30 p.m., they saw that the Princess Alice turned
to port. Harrison said he gave his helmsman the order to steer to port as well so the collier would be assured of passing
clear of the passenger vessel. But at the last moment, the Princess Alice turned to starboard and moved directly across the
bow of the Bywell Castle.
“we saw that she had starboarded her helm and was trying to cross our bows” Harrison said he ordered the engines
of his steamship stopped and then run full in reverse. But the collision could not be avoided.
said the bow of the Bywell Castle struck just behind the paddle wheel and sliced through the hull of the smaller wooden hulled
steamboat. The Princess Alice was not only cut in two, but it rolled on its side under the force of the larger ship and immediately
sank, carrying everybody trapped inside the vessel to the bottom of the river. Divers later told of finding bodies packed
into portions of the wreck like cordwood.
brought his ship to anchor, lowered boats, life buoys, ropes and ladders, doing all that could be done to launch an immediate
rescue of the many struggling bodies in the water. He said the Bywell Castle also sounded the ship’s steam whistle,
alerting everyone on shore of the disaster and summoning help from anybody with a small boat in the region to come and help.
100 survivors, and possibly more were rescued that evening. One count of the dead numbered 550, but some believe the real
number may have been closer to 590. The little steamer was crowded almost to capacity for that final trip.
by the Board of Trade concluded that Captain Grinstead, who perished in the accident, was solely to blame. The disaster was
so financially damaging to the owners, the London Steamship Company went out of business.
Alice was originally named the Brute when it was launched in Greenock in 1865 tor the Wemyss Bay Railway Company. The name
was changed when the vessel was sold in 1867.