Tag Archives: Mark Riley

“Interest in the Race was Practically Lost Sight of”

Headlines for Yacht Race story  - Charlottetown Guardian - 9 August 1900

Headlines for Yacht Race story – Charlottetown Guardian – 9 August 1900

The style of Journalistic reportage has changed a good deal since the end of 19th century. Today  for example, one would never start a front-page story with “Yesterday was an ideal summer day and considerable interest was taken in the yacht race.”  This is especially so when in the reader learns halfway through the story that the events of the day included the tragic drowning of a member of the crew of one of the yachts!

The 8th of August 1900 was a fine day with strong winds – an excellent day for a yacht race. The Guardian detailed the position of the eleven yachts as they crossed the start line; Flirt, followed across the line by Freda, the Rescue, the Report and the Stranger with the remaining boats close behind. The course lead up the East River (the Hillsborough Bridge had not yet been constructed) to the Asylum Buoy off Falcon Point which was about a mile from the Railway Wharf. The wind was strong and suddenly one of the boats, called the Gentlemen, which was apparently carrying too much sail, overturned and sent the five members of the crew into the water. The yacht Jubilee which was sailing nearby picked up two of the crew members; Freeland Wood and J. Morrisey.  The steamer Southport with about 100 spectators raced to the scene of the accident and lowered a boat which recovered two others; William Brown and Theo. Brehaut.  These two had been hanging on to the spar along with a third man, Mark Riley. Riley was not a good swimmer and he panicked owing to the current and tried to hang on to Breahut taking them both down. At some point he let go and was not seen alive again. Men in another boat  had tried to grab him but in the strong wind their boat collided with the Southport, broke its jibboom, drifted away, and the opportunity was lost, although Riley’s hat was secured. Another man dived for Riley but could not find the body.The Jubilee and the Southport brought the four saved men to shore. Several attempts were made to take the overturned Gentlemen in tow but they were not successful owing  to the strong current.

The Guardian coverage then becomes somewhat absurd. It was reported that Brehault had lost his clothes and books (hardly significant in view of the fact that Riley had lost his life). Then the story provided a few lines identifying the deceased as the 25 year old son of Edward Riley of Miminigash, employed at James Judson’s lobster factory at St. Peters Island.

Having dispatched the unfortunate Riley the Guardian then returns to the coverage of the race.  While a few of the boats rounded up following the accident the race went on.  As the fleet passed Connolly’s wharf on the first circuit of the course Onward led with Flirt second and Freda third. At the end of the leg Freda had overtaken Onward and Flirt, Rescue and Report followed.  That order was maintained through the second circuit of the course  and the race finished with Flirt first in 2 hours and 43 minutes.

The story then gives details of the Freda (a new boat built by James Griffin) which took about as much space as the biographical details of the late (but apparently not too lamented) Mark Riley. Although boats dragged for Riley’s body that afternoon and the next day it was not found until five days after the accident when his corpse was discovered washed up on Rosebank Beach.