The people who perished in the Mountstewart boating disaster

Mount Stewart staff including Joseph Grainge pictured outside the house

Meet the staff who were on board the Mountstewart yacht when it sank in Strangford Lough on 11 April 1895

Joseph W. Grainge, aged 43, House Steward

Joseph was in service with the Londonderry family for approximately 12 years. He had previously worked as a footman in London, and subsequently as the house steward at Saltram House (the historical seat of the Earls of Morley).

Married to Kate, with five children, their home was in Battersea. He was well known in the area around Wynyard Park, sitting on the Parish Council of Thorpe Thewles and was a keen local cricketer. Highly thought of by the Londonderry family, Joseph was complimented by the Prince of Wales in a letter to Lord Londonderry after a visit to Wynyard. He was regarded as an excellent manager, running all the Londonderry’s houses, and was greatly respected by the other staff.

His body was found by the steamship ‘Walrus’ on its way to Kircubbin, near Gransha Point (between Kircubbin and Portaferry) on 26 May 1895. His keys, a gold hunting watch and a champagne knife identified him. He is buried in Hillingdon and Uxbridge Cemetery, near his birthplace.

Eliza Taunt, aged 46, Head Cook

Eliza’s father was a coachman employed by Lord Eglinton at Eglinton Castle, Ayrshire. In 1861 Eliza, her parents and siblings lived in Redburn Cottage on the estate, which still stands today. By the 1871 census, Eliza was working as a kitchen maid at Critchel House in Devon, and was in employment as cook to Lord and Lady Castlereagh (later the 6th Marquess and Marchioness) at their home at Langham Lodge, Rutland, possibly from the time of their marriage in 1875.

She became the head cook to the Londonderry family at their residences, a highly responsible and skilled role which will have enhanced Theresa’s reputation as the premier hostess in high society gatherings.

Eliza’s body was never found.

Elizabeth Dougal, aged 43, Housekeeper

Elizabeth Dougal the housekeeper, was employed by the Londonderry family just two weeks before the boating expedition. She was born in Leith in 1851. Her father, James, was a porter and she was the eldest of eight children. By 1881 she was working as a 29-year-old housemaid for an elderly vicar and his wife in a village in Yorkshire. By 1891 she was a housekeeper for the Duke of Athol in Eaton Place, Belgravia, and at Blair Castle. Her new job with the Marquess of Londonderry at Mount Stewart seems to have been one with excellent prospects. The invitation to join the picnic outing would have been a great opportunity to get to know the other senior staff.

Elizabeth’s body was never found.

William Rowe, aged 32, Valet to Lord Londonderry

William Rowe was married on 4 March 1895, five weeks prior to the accident, to Emily Anne Hearn, also aged 32, in the Parish of Upper Teddington, Middlesex. William’s address at the time is recorded as Park Lane (Londonderry House), but he was brought up in Huntspill, near the coast in north Somerset. Other sons in this family also went into service.

One of William Rowe’s notebooks is in Durham County Records Office. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of a valet and records all payments made by William on behalf of the Marquess - items such as buttonholes, train tickets and taxi cabs are noted and dated. William is described in newspaper accounts as “a gentleman who had made many friends by his urbanity and goodness”.

William’s body was never recovered. Emily Ann, his widow, married again in 1901.

William and Robert Hagan, aged 46 and 17, Boatmen

William and Robert Hagan, father and son, were the boatmen employed by Lady Londonderry. They were the only locals lost in the tragedy, living in Kircubbin. William was married to Charlotte for over 22 years. Robert was the third of seven children and the eldest boy.

Boatman William Hagan (right) in a boat on the jetty, Strangford Lough
Boatman William Hagan (right) in a boat on the jetty, Strangford Lough
Boatman William Hagan (right) in a boat on the jetty, Strangford Lough

On the morning of 11 April 1895, William and Robert would have taken the boat from the boathouse by the pier for the day trip on Strangford Lough. The boat, named the Mountstewart, belonged to Lady Londonderry, who was a very keen sailor herself. She was known to sail almost daily when the family were residing in County Down, accompanied by William. It is thought that the boat itself was two years old and was delivered from a boatyard in Cowes in 1893.

William was a highly capable and experienced boatman. The newspaper reports at the time placed great emphasis on his skill, and also commented on the excellent condition of the boat. William’s body was found on 3 June at Ringdufferin on the west side of Strangford Lough, and he is buried at Trinity Parish Church, Kircubbin.

Robert’s body was never recovered, although his cap was found on the shore near Kircubbin almost three weeks after the accident. His mother, Charlotte, was reported as being extremely distraught after the tragedy, and she died in 1902 at the age of 50, having received a regular pension from the Londonderry family.

Jane Cheshire, aged 19, Lady’s Maid to Lady Kathleen Cole

Jane Cheshire was visiting Mount Stewart, from Florence Court, with her mistress Lady Kathleen Cole. Very little information is confirmed about her, although the English census of 1891 records a Jane Cheshire of the right age, a dressmaker’s assistant, living in Paddington, London, daughter of a carman working at Paddington Station. This is probably the right Jane.

Her hat was found on the shore at Gransha Point shortly after the accident. Her body was found at Ringburr Point, Lower Priest Town, near Portaferry on 8 June, and was identified by her initials sewn into her clothing. Her grave is in Ballyphillip Parish Church graveyard and the Londonderry family paid the funeral expenses. Lady Kathleen is recorded as having been very upset at news of the loss of her personal maid. She was 22 years old, and though from very different backgrounds, she and Jane may have been good friends.

William Start, aged 26, Lord Enniskillen’s Valet

William Start was valet to the Earl of Enniskillen of Florence Court, who, with his daughter Lady Kathleen Cole, was a house guest at the Easter House Party in Mount Stewart. Very little is known of him. His body was recovered on 24 August at the barmouth of Strangford Lough by the crew of Lord Bangor’s yacht. The death certificate states that he was 26 years old but there is no other lead as to his family or where he came from. It has recently been discovered that he is buried in an unmarked grave, alongside his Florence Court colleague, Jane Cheshire, in Ballyphilip Parish Church graveyard, Portaferry.

The mountstewart yacht with Theresa, Lady Londonderry on board

Mystery of the Mountstewart

Learn about the tragic disappearance of the Mountstewart yacht on Strangford Lough on 11 April 1895 that resulted in the loss of eight lives, including six servants from Mount Stewart.

The volunteer group research the Londonderry papers at PRONI

Mystery of the Mountstewart – Research project timeline

Follow in the footsteps of the volunteer research team who have been delving into the archives to discover the truth behind what really happened to the Mountstewart yacht when it went missing on the 11 April 1895 on Strangford Lough.