At last, Captain Humble could make out a light – the lighthouse of the Inner Farne. He hoped to find some little shelter and anchor there until the storm passed. Keeping the lighthouse to his port bow he headed towards the Fairway, the stretch of water between Inner Farne and the coast, but he had miscalculated. The light he had seen had been that of Longstone, further out to sea and surrounded by many dangerous rocks – and the Forfarshire struck them. At 4.00am it hit the Big Harcar Rock, about one mile from the Longstone Light.
The crew frantically lowered the quarter boat and eight of them jumped in. One cabin passenger, Ruthven Ritchie, had managed to leap into the boat, carrying his trousers over his arm! Whatever the intentions of the crew in the boat, and whether or not they began to search for survivors, the strong current through the channel of Piper Gut carried their small boat away from the wreck and into the open sea, to safety.
The Forfarshire lurched and struck the rock again, splitting the vessel in two. The front half became wedged on the rock; the aft, with the cargo and all below deck was lost to the sea. The passengers would have drowned in their cabins, including Captain Humble and his wife. Most of the others were swept overboard.
A few had survived on the deck, clinging on to what remained of the Forfarshire. The storm continued but the tide was falling, exposing more rock and causing the battered remains of the ship to become unstable. At this point John Tulloch, the ship’s carpenter, and Daniel Donovan, a steerage passenger, decided to jump onto the rock itself and encouraged the few other survivors to join them, including Mrs Sarah Dawson, with her two children.
Anxiously, they helped each other onto the rock but not before they noticed another passenger, the Reverend Robb, crouched in the engine room, hands clasped in a final act of prayer. They approached him. He was dead. From his bodily position it appeared he had not tried to save himself; he had resigned himself to his fate. They decided to save his body from the sea and dragged him onto the rock.
Barely able to stand and facing the teeth of the gale, the few survivors saw the light of the nearby Longstone Lighthouse.