which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell

Florence Nightingale and the Shipwreck

Thank you to Alan Howe for unearthing this letter.

Florence Nightingale, although her home was nearby at Lea Hurst, took a great interest in the church at Crich and corresponded with its vicar the Revd William Acraman. The following letter, sent to Revd Acraman in 1878 about the brave rescue of four of her nurses, is a fascinating one. The nurses were shipwrecked two days out of Montreal and marooned for a week on an island. They were rescued thanks to the heroic efforts of an officer who swam two icy rivers to reach a lighthouse and raise the alarm. They were taken aboard the ss Erl King, captained by Ed. Scott, and landed in Glasgow on August 9th 1878 some three weeks after originally setting out.
Florence wrote asking the vicar for a mention of her nurses at the church service. Below is a transcript of her letter.

Lea Hurst
Cromford Derby
Aug 16/78

Dear Sir
Four of our trained Nurses have been wrecked on their way home from Canada, where they had been nursing for us at the Montreal General Hospital & were returning for further Nursing employment under us.

The steamer was wrecked upon a reef two days out from Canada, on July 2. All night she was beaten about & in danger of going to pieces. At day break the Captain lowered the passengers into a life boat, but she drifted out to sea & again they were with difficulty saved. For a whole week till the 28th they were on an island, whence an officer made his way to the nearest light house, swimming two rivers, (which the crew would not cross) or battened down in the hold of a small fish schooner, without food or air, in a terrific storm. On July 28 they were rescued by the Erl King, Capt. Ed. Scott, whose kindness we can never forget, bound for Glasgow where they landed safe on Aug 9.

Would you allow me to return thanks for them our four Nurses in your church next Sunday?
Their names are:
Nurse Styring
Nurse Wilson
“ Cross
“ Webb

Might I say, in any terms you would be good enough to use:

Florence Nightingale desires to return the most humble & hearty thanks to Almighty God for four trained Nurses returning home (on duty) from Canada who were wrecked on July 21, were saved three times from a watery grave, & after severe sufferings for a week from exposure & hardship, were rescued on the 28th by a vessel bound for Glasgow & safely landed on August 9 thro’ a merciful Providence.

Pray believe me, Sir,
ever your faithful servt
Florence Nightingale

The Revd
W. Acraman

The rescue ship the ss Erl King was not a particularly “lucky” ship. She hit an iceberg on 5th August 1885 on the way from Montreal to London, limping into St. John’s with a hole in her starboard bow. Eventually she sank in heavy seas at Caesar’s Creek, Long Reef, Florida, in December 1891.

Text taken from "Parish life with a troubled vicar: Crich 1875-1900" Read more

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