In October, 1829, the schooner “Mermaid” mastered by Captain Samuel Noibrow, left Sydney for Raffles Bay with eighteen men aboard. But the “Mermaid” struck a coral reef in Torres Strait and sank. The crew climbed on to a rock to await rescue and three days later they were taken aboard “Swifsure” which saw them as it was passing by. However, their joy was shortlived, for two days later this ship ran ashore and was wrecked, but eighteen man of “Mermaid” and fourteen crewmen of “Swifsure” swam ashore and were later rescued by the vessel “Grovenor Ready” which had thirty-two seamen aboard.
On the way to Papua, the “Grovenor Ready” was entirely destroyed by fire, and the three sets of survivors, sixty-four in number, took to the long boats, where they were found drifting in the Pacific by the government cutter “Comet”. The men were settling into life aboard the “Comet” when a sudden violent storm overturned the ship and the sixty-four men were again shipwrecked but this time they had twenty-one survivors swimming with the “Comet” and each clung eighteen hours to pieces of floating driftwood and wreckage until the “Jupiter,” bound for West Australia, took them aboard. They were getting themselves warm after being in the chilly waters and settling down to sleep, when the “Jupiter” stove a hole in her keel on a reef, and the eighty-five men and thirty-eight survivors of the “Jupiter” ——– one hundred and twenty-three castaways with their five captains wondered who was the Jonah among them.
They huddled on a rock until passengers aboard a passing schooner rescued them. The survivors were describing their harrowing experiences when the doctor of the ship called “The City of Leeds,” on hearing the Yorkshire accents interrupted and asked; ”I require a Yorkshireman about thirty-five years of age to prolong the life of a very sick old lady on board. She has prayed for weeks that she might see her wandering son again, and this morning lapsed into unconsciousness, but I have heard her call the name of that boy she has not seen for ten years; and I think if a Yorkshireman could hold her hand, tell her he is her son, and call her “mother” then she might rally until we can get further medical treatment for her.”
One of the deckhands who were on “Mermaid” spoke up, saying; “There are Yorkshiremen and Yorkshiremen, and each has a different accent. Unless you get the right tongue the old lady will know it is not her son. Whereabouts in Yorkshire is she from?”
“She is from Whitby.”
“Then I think I can be of service after all for I am thirty-four years old and from Whitby.”
“You’ll do perfectly,” said the doctor, as long as you get the name right. Peter Richardson. Now repeat it a few times before we go into her cabin, so that you will not forget it.”
There was a short silence and then the seaman said, with tears streaming down his face, “There is no need to repeat it, for I am Peter Richardson…”
When his ailing mother heard his voice her eyes fluttered open and with joy she looked upon the face she loved —– the boy she had prayed to see. Mrs. Richardson recovered and lived another eighteen years.
Consider how God moved in mysterious ways to answer her prayers. He arranged five shipwrecks to take place in succession without the loss of a single life, or any injury. He allowed this boat and no other to take the shipwrecked men on board at the very time her condition was critical.
Behind what seemed a continuing evil providence to the seamen of the “Mermaid” was the guiding hand of God’s Love, bent on answering the prayer of one who believed;”There shall be a performance of those things from the Lord, to her that believeth.”
The fact in this story can be verified in the archives of The Maritime Office of The Australian Commonwealth in Canberra.
Written by Ronda J. Scott
Acknowledgement: Reprint from”CHRISTIAN WOMAN — AUGUST 1983″