MONTMORENCY, ship : The immigrant ship Montmorency, which had arrived at Napier on March 24, 1867, was totally destroyed by fire at midnight on March 27. The passengers and luggage had been landed, but the cargo was intact. In less than an hour from the discovery of the fire the crew had to take to the boats. By 4 a.m. the ship’s masts were gone, and the vessel gutted. She smouldered all next day, and the following day was unshackled from her moorings and stranded. The fire was discovered about 11.45 p.m., the man on watch having detected smoke coming from the fore hatchway. He raised the alarm, and the hatch of the lower hold was removed, when the flames were seen, apparently on the port side. The chief officer and two of the crew made an attempt to extinguish the fire, but their efforts were futile owing to the density of the smoke and the spread of the flames. So rapidly did the fire spread that flames were soon issuing from the fore hatch to the upper deck. No great time elapsed from the time the alarm was given, yet the fire had already caught the spars on deck and spread through the hatchway to the forecastle. It was evident from the first that the flames were irresistible, and soon after a part of the crew were ordered to take to the boats. The carpenter was ordered to scuttle the ship, but he found this impossible to accomplish on account of the swell. Shortly after midnight the flames had reached right aft to the poop, and as the ship appeared to be doomed the remainder of the crew were ordered to the boats. The flames by this time were coming out of the hatch on the poop, and the rigging was on fire. The cargo included 100 casks of spirits and other goods of an inflammable character, and the volume of smoke and fire which shot up was immense. Soon after the chief officer and the few who remained on board were forced to drop over the stern into the boats. When the boats left, the fire was working out of the ship’s sides and bows. On March 29 the remains of a once fine ship stranded on the beach between the spit and the Bluff. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it was supposed that it had been smouldering in the hold for some time. It was providential that the fire did not break out while the Montmorency was at sea, when many lives must inevitably have been lost.
The Montmorency was probably the ship of that name, No. 13,596, of 668 tons, registered at Liverpool. She was built at Quebec in 1855 as a Black Ball liner, and, being remarkably roomy between decks, was a favourite vessel for the conveyance of immigrants. The ship, which was commanded by Captain Josiah Hudson MacKenzie, was said to have carried more immigrants in her day than any other British ship.