THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Man dies after explosion on board a steamer in Belfast port

From the News Letter, April 16, 1889

Friday, 16th April 2021, 6:00 am
No 5 Ferry, Belfast Harbour. Ship workers crossing the Lagan at the docks in Belfast. NLI Ref.: L_ROY_02401. Picture: National Library of Ireland

A large explosion had occurred on board the SS Auric as it was engaged in discharging its cargo of coal at the Abercorn Basin, reported the News Letter on this day in 1889.

The paper’s correspondent reported: “After the explosion occurred the quay at the Abercorn Basin was the scene of the greatest excitement for some time. . It was first believed that the explosion was of a more disastrous nature than it was afterwards found to be, and that a number of people had been killed; but when the true state of affairs was made known the excitement subsided.”

The explosion resulted in the death of Mr James Dunne who lived on Union Street.

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Another man who was named as Henry Agnew was seriously injured in the accident.

Both men had been employed by Messrs Agnew and Company of Bridge End in Belfast.

It was understood that the pair had been making repairs to the vessel when the door of the “man hole” which was placed between the two boilers and under the fires was blown out.

The two men had been working within a few feet from the boilers and “it would have been almost a miracle” had both of them escaped with their lives.

As soon as the accident became known to Harbour-Constables Gordon and McMullan they did everything that they could to rescue the two men.

When it was found that Mr Agnew had survived the explosion he was immediately rushed to Royal Hospital where he was “attended by the medical staff”.

The News Letter reported that Agnew was “progressing as favourably as can be expected under the circumstances”.