Tuesday 22 March 2022

The Loss of the Brig Rival - over 450 lives lost

On 22 November 1832 the brig Rival (350 tons) with a crew of 17 and over 450 passengers left Greenock en route to Oporto in Portugal.  The ship was under the command of Captain William Wallace of St Andrews  and was owned by his brother.  Just a few days later, at the end of November 1832, the ship was wrecked in a storm on the Skerd Rocks in Galway, west coast of Ireland.  There were no survivors.

A few bodies washed ashore and were given a decent burial.  Some items from the ship were found floating by ships sent to investigate the fate of the vessel.  Amongst these were letters to Captain Wallace from members of his family. William Wallace, about 40 years of age, was known to be an experienced mariner.  He had made several voyages to Europe and the West Indies.

Apart from the crew, the Rival had been carrying 450 volunteers to Oporto in Portugal where they were to join the forces of Dom Pedro in the fight against his brother, Dom Miguel.  The ship also carried supplies for Dom Pedro’s troops.  The volunteers had been recruited in Glasgow and other large towns in Scotland.

Dom Pedro

Dom Pedro (1798-1834) became King of Portugal in 1826 on the death of his father.  The country had been in a state of revolution for a number of years.  Although he lived in Brazil, Dom Pedro abdicated the Portuguese crown in favour of his eldest daughter – Queen Donna Maria II.  He acted as an absentee King.  His brother Dom Miguel who was declared Regent in 1828 was acclaimed King Dom Miguel I.  Several other members of Pedro’s family backed his brother Miguel.  With trouble brewing in Brazil, Dom Pedro left for Portugal to support his daughter.  Landing in France, he organised a small army of Portuguese liberals.  In 1832 they landed in Oporto.  His brother, Miguel’s troops besieged the city.  Short of money and troops, many foreign volunteers enlisted to aid Dom Pedro.  Eventually Dom Miguel was forced to abdicate and exiled.  Pedro’s daughter took her place as Queen.  Dom Pedro died in September 1834.

This was not the first batch of recruits from Scotand and the rest of Britain.  How bad must the economic situation have been in Scotland at that time when so many young men were willing to move away from homes and families to fight for a cause they probably knew nothing about.  Of course they were paid to enlist, but to take such a chance on the unknown – brave or foolhardy?

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