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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

The Roman Catholic Reformatory Ship "Clarence."

page 21

The Roman Catholic Reformatory Ship "Clarence."

The strong hopes entertained by the Liverpool Roman Catholic Reformatory Committee of securing from the Admiralty a ship to replace the "Clarence" have not been realised. On the 17th of January, 1884, the "Clarence" Reformatory Ship, which had been lent twenty years before by the Government for the purpose of a Reformatory School, was set on fire by some of the boys on board and completely burned down. The "Clarence" was insured for such a sum of money as would enable the Committee to refit a ship in case of a fire such as that which actually occurred, and the Liverpool Reformatory Association forthwith applied for the loan of another of the old Admiralty hulks. The request, however, gave rise to much discussion, the Admiralty claiming that the insurance money should be paid to them. A correspondence was, in consequence, carried on throughout the summer, but no definite result was arrived at until July, when, at length, the Admiralty agreed to lend the Committee the "Royal William," a vessel which, for a great number of years, had been lying unused in Deveonport dockyard. The Committee gladly accepted this offer, but they met with great difficulty in getting a company to insure the ship against fire, a condition imposed as a sine qua non by the Admiralty. Then, for taking out the engines of the ship the Admiralty demanded the payment of the sum of £1,310, and the vessel itself being in a very unsatisfactory condition, a further sum of £500 was required for rendering the Royal William" fit to leave Devonport, and for the erection of masts later on. The Committee having intimated their acceptance of the offer made to them, orders were given that the work upon the "Royal William" should bo at once proceeded with. But at the last moment, it appears, the Admiralty received from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board a Bill for £1,509, the balance of the cost of blowing up the wreck of the "Clarence," after allowing for the sale of wreckage; and the Admiralty forthwith—on the 19th November last—intimated to the Reformatory Committee that the ship would not be lent to them unless they paid this further sum of £1,509. Such an amount as this being far in excess of what the Committee would receive from the insurance, was a burden of too serious a nature to become responsible for. The Committee therefore asked the M.P.'s for Liverpool—Lord Claud Hamilton, Mr. Samuel Smith, and Mr. Whitley—to urge the Admiralty to remit this charge. These gentlemen did everything in their power, making representations alike to the Chief Lord (Lord Northbrook), Mr. Brassey, and Mr. Caine, but all their efforts were fruitless, and at the end of December it became apparent that the ship could not bo obtained unless the sum of £1,509 were paid. The Committee, under the circumstances, are in a serious dilemma, inasmuch as they could not contemplate incurring so heavy a charge as this. When the "Clarence" was destroyed in January, 1884, there were on board 220 boys who were being trained for the sea service. Eager to keep up their old institution, which had been doing its useful work so effectively, the Committee turned in all directions for the means of carrying on the school. At first the boys were removed to the port sanitary hospital at Rock Ferry, which the Corporation of Liverpool kindly allowed them to occupy. Subsequently when Liverpool was threatened with an outbreak of cholera, the boys were removed to Mount St. Bernard's in Leicestershire. There, with such makeshift arrangements as can be resorted to, the Catholic Reformatory authorities have since been endeavouring to train the lads and to fit them for a life at sea. The removal of the boys from place to place, and the other incidental expenses have probably cost the Committee a thousand pounds in extraordinary payments. Besides this, the school has necessarily dwindled in size. It is feared that if speedy arrangements of a permanent character cannot be made, this institution is doomed to extinction.

The Home in the East Reformatory is about to be closed.

We are glad to hear that the Home Office circular of the 22nd November, 1884, (see page 2) is to be considerably modified and explained.