No Fighting Chance, Ireland’s Lady of the Lake Disaster of 1833 retells the notable disaster that befell Irish emigrants by drawing from period correspondence, newspaper reports and advertisements, as well as other reference materials. The shipwreck is known as the “little Titanic” because of its similar demise with an April iceberg in the North Atlantic and where both ships rest to this day. Aside from the factual information related to the disaster, I also provide an analysis of its causes including the intoxication of the ship’s Scottish captain and his crew at the time of the collision. It appears the captain’s treatment of the survivors only worsened in the several days following the sinking of the Lady of the Lake. He sought to eliminate many of his survivors who bore witness to his actions by either abandoning them when convenient or bludgeoning them with an oar.
For over 180 years the names of the victims have been lost to time. However, through my research I was able to discover the names of all of the passengers and to merge this information with other accounts. In doing so, I believe I have created what likely may be the only accurate listing of the Irish families who were aboard the ship, information which would be invaluable to the larger Irish genealogical community.
Each chapter leads off with a one page excerpt from the namesake narrative poem, Lady of the Lake, which was written by Sir Walter Scott twenty years prior to the disaster. My choice of relevant passages from the namesake poem before each chapter foreshadows the tragedy at sea in 1833.
However, this book is not simply another maritime disaster but a story that is intertwined with another Irish tragedy that occurred in the same month in 1833. That tragedy resulted from the longest recorded professional prizefight in boxing history, lasting 99 rounds and stretching over 3 hours. In many ways this championship bare-fisted contest echoed the tragedy that was unfolding at sea thousands of miles away. The hopes of thousands of Irish would be dashed at the hands of a Scot and mar the collective Irish soul for decades later.
This bare-fisted contest matched the Irish champion against his Scottish counterpart battling for the championship of England. What makes this story most tragic is that not only did the Irish champion lose in the brutal fight but that he died from “mortification” two days later.