The Mary Anning was a iron cargo steamship launched from the yard of Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Company, Jarrow in January 1880, she had been built to the order of John Anning, Bute Docks, Cardiff. She measured 240.5′ x 30.7′ x 20’ and had a net tonnage of 797 tons and 1237 gross.
The Mary Anning left Glasgow on the afternoon of Friday 23rd January, 1885 under the command of Captain T Venables with a cargo of 1700 tons of coal for Odessa. She arrived at the Tail of the Bank, off Princes Pier, around 6pm and dropped anchor around 890’ NW of Prince’s Pier, intending to resume her voyage to the Black Sea the following morning.
In the early hours of the morning the coasting steamship Argus of Glasgow, under the charge of Captain Reid, passed Greenock on her regular run from Glasgow to Ayr. On clearing Prince’s Pier Captain Reid’s attention was attracted by two vessels inward bound from the west and it would appear that he did not see the anchor lights of the Mary Anning until it was too late. The Argus crashed into the anchored steamer, stem on, striking her on the starboard side just aft of the bridge, cutting her down to the water’s edge. With the exception of those on anchor watch, the crew of the Mary Annning were asleep. The violent collision instantly awoke them and as the realisation spread that their ship was sinking, panic ensued. Men in all states of dress spilled out onto the deck to escape from the sinking vessel. Fortunately, the two steamers remained locked together for some time and all twenty one crew members of the Mary Anning managed to scramble aboard the Argus. The Argus then backed away and the crews of both vessels watched as the Mary Anning slowly settled and disappeared from sight. The Argus then headed for Greenock where the survivors were landed and cared for at the Mariner’s Home.
The Mary Anning, insured with her cargo for £23,000, was written off as a total loss. However, in March 1885, a salvage contract was let to Mr Charles Gush of Greenock for the removal of the wreck, as it was considered a hazard to navigation despite the fact that it lay in thirteen fathoms of water.
The writers have been unable to establish the extent or success of this exercise, but it is believed that parts of the wreck still remain where she sank in position 55° 57.593’N, 04° 45.831’W.