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s.y. VARUNA  

If ever a millionaire enjoyed spending his money it was Eugene Higgins.


Born 14 July 1860 in Manhattan  Eugene Higgins was the rich heir to a carpet-making business. Graduating from Columbia University in 1882 he went into banking but spent most of his life his spending money.

He was a devoted golfer, cross-country rider, fisherman, hunter, coach racer, yachtsman, fencer and amateur enthusiast in physics and mathematics. After  studying fencing in France he became, in 1890,  America’s first fencing (epee) champion. His luxurious steam yacht Varuna was named after the Hindu god of the ocean.

Higgins owned a townhouse at Fifth Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street (at the intersection that is now the Empire State Building) which was a magnet for high society, and a country home at Morristown, New Jersey.

Columns in the society pages of newspapers were devoted to his exploits, his horses, his dogs and his schemes for entertaining the idle rich . It was said that he had "sumptuous pleasure campaigns" for his friends mapped out by the season, with no refinement overlooked.

A description of Higgins states that "Mr. Higgins is not only the richest but the handsomest unmarried New Yorker,", and goes on to mention  "Sartorially, he is all that can be desired."

He willed the bulk of his $38,500,000 estate for "education in natural and physical sciences" before he died in the summer of 1948. Columbia, Yale, Princeton and Harvard share the income from one of the largest trust funds ever given to educational institutions to “promote the general advancement of science by investigation, research, and experiment."



Below - Eugene Higgins


THE DUNDEE COURIER - Wednesday 15 July 1896 - “LAUNCHES ON THE CLYDE - .... Messrs. A. & J. Inglis, Pointhouse, launched yesterday the Varuna, a twin-screw steel yacht of 1500 tons, built for Mr. Eugene Higgins, New York.....”


THE YACHTING WORLD -  October 1896 - Capt. Trayler (ex La Belle Sauvage) of Wivenhoe  has been appointed to s.y. Varuna. The same issue also notes that a crew of 40 men had left Rowhedge to join Varuna.


THE GLASGOW HERALD - 13 November 1896 - “THE STEAM YACHT VARUNA - The twin-screw yacht Varuna, which has been designed by Mr. G.L. Watson and built by Messrs. A. & J. Inglis, Pointhouse, for Mr. Eugene Higgins, New York, went on a trial trip yesterday in the Firth of Clyde. On the previous day she had completed her progressive trials very satisfactorily, and there was little doubt that she would go through the severer tests as easily. Her boats, which have been built by Mr. Peter McLean, Roseneath, were got on board in the morning, and she left the Tail of the Bank shortly after ten o’clock. Two runs each way were made between the Cloch and the Cumbrae, and with everything working splendidly for a new boat of the class, a mean speed of just on 17 knots was the result.

This morning she starts on a 24-hours coal consumption trial, and as soon as possible next week will proceed direct to New York. Mr. Jas. Gordon Bennett comes north on Saturday to look over the yacht, which will rank as one of the finest and most luxuriously fitted of the pleasure fleet at present under construction on the Clyde for America. The work is of the best, as everything is which comes from Pointhouse, and under the supervision of Mr. Watson nothing has been left undone to make the Varuna the ideal yacht her owner desires. Internally there is a lot yet to do, but even amidst the chaos which always precedes the finishing touches in the construction of a boat there is abundant evidence of the advance which the newer Watson steamers make. She is fitted and furnished magnificently, and in her completed state will provide the shipbuilders of the United States with a lesson rather difficult to follow. Captain Trayler, of Wivenhoe, is in command, and amongst the crew of 16 there are several well-known racing hands from the Colne.”


THE SHEFFIELD AND ROTHERHAM INDEPENDENT - Friday 20 November 1896 - “The yacht Varuna, which has been built by Messrs. A. and J. Inglis, Partick, for Mr. Eugene Higgins, New York, is the most sumptuous yacht that has ever left the Clyde. Of 1,520 tons Thames measurement, the Varuna is built of steel throughout. It is to the size of her bridge deck that the Varuna owes, in greatest measure, the exceptional character of her accomodations. Her deck is 168ft. in length. the dining room is about 18ft. by 34ft. It is fitted up in panelled oak. The library has an area of some 187 square feet, and a total wall length of 50ft., enough to allow of bookcases containing a plentiful supply of literature. This library is aft of a series of rooms for maids and valets and lavatories and bathrooms for guests, arranged along the casing on the starboard side, and alongside the after end of the dining room is a vestibule floored with rubber tiling. Passing abaft the engine room, you come to a drawing room 18ft square, and the fencing room, nearly as large, which is provided with cabinets, racks for foils, dumb-bells, clubs and other accessories for physical exercise. There are magnificent state rooms some in white, some in mahogany, a large bachelors’ room, bathrooms, a doctor’s room, and so on. The guests’ rooms will be upholstered in luxurious fashion.”


THE YACHTING WORLD - 20 November 1896 - “SEA BREEZES - The fine steam yacht Varuna, just built by Messrs. A. & J. Inglis, of Point House, to the design of Mr. G.L. Watson, for Mr. Eugene Higgins, a well-known member of the New York Yacht Club, underwent a series of severe trials last week on the Clyde. Mr. Watson and the builders were of course on board the boat during the trials, which turned out as satisfactory as anyone could wish. Eight runs on the measured mile at Skelmorlie resulted in a mean speed of 16¼ knots an hour being attained, the engines during the trial working with every satisfaction. Another trial between the Cloch and the Cumbrae light showed an even better result, close on 17 knots an hour being chronicled. The average speed of the official trial was 16.75 knots an hour, the contract speed being 16.5 knots. The engines ran smoothly, without a hitch, making 160 revolutions a minute at 160lb. per inch steam pressure and 37lb. vacuum.

The Varuna, as will be seen from the photograph reproduced in the present issue, has a fully curved clipper bow nicely set off by an artistically carved figurehead. The stern, which is elliptical, is quite in harmony with the stem, being considerably drawn out, therefore giving big overhangs. The dimensions of the Varuna are:- Length on load-water line, 260ft.; depth moulded, 18.3ft.; breadth, 35.1ft.; while the tonnage according to Thames measurement is 1,500 tons. The yacht was coaled on Tuesday, and was expected to leave the Clyde for New York to-day (Thursday). It is anticipated that the Varuna will average 14 knots an hour  on her journey across the Atlantic.”


THE GLASGOW HERALD - Thursday 5 December 1896 - “ARRIVAL OF THE VARUNA - (Telegram from Special Correspondent) - New York, December 1.- Mr. Eugene Higgins’s fine new steam yacht the Varuna arrived here to-day from Greenock, after a satisfactory first voyage.”


THE YACHTING WORLD - 11 December 1896 - “VARUNA’S VOYAGE - PARTICULARS OF THE LOG OF THE TRIP ACROSS THE ATLANTIC - The New York Herald gives the following particulars of the trip of the Varuna across the Atlantic:- The Varuna’s maiden voyage was made in stormy weather, but the yacht behaved splendidly. Not a screw or bolt was loosened.

Captain Taylor (sic) says:- “I never sailed a better boat. I could have come straight across, if necessary, but my instructions were to take things easy. We left Glasgow on the Saturday night. There was a great wind and the sea was so heavy we thought every minute we would stick our nose under, but the ship lifted to the waves like a cork, and practically no water got aboard. Having new engines and gear, we did not care to strain her. The weather grew thicker and heavier and finally we decided to put into Lough Swilly until it abated. It took us just eight days and twenty-one hours to make Sandy Hook from Lough Swilly, which is pretty good time. The storm did practically no damage. On the second day out the sea burst through the forward port, which is likely to happen to any ship. The wind drew so hard that we kept bearing off a trifle. In the evening of the same day the wind was north-west and blew great guns. The boat behaved nobly but we did not care to take chances, so we kept her off a few points.”

The Varuna anchored off Bay Ridge, and Mr. Eugene Higgins, who went aboard her, said:-

“I am highly satisfied with the Varuna’s excellent sea qualities and general appearance. There is no question but that the builders of Europe have more advanced ideas of the construction of ships than we. The Varuna reached port with not a bolt strained. There is no sign of repairs needed either to the boiler or the engines. The heavy weather gave an opportunity to show her seaworthiness. The log shows that she is not deficient in speed. My orders were not to try for speed but to ensure safety. I start on December 12th with ten or twelve friends, stopping at Bermuda, Madeira, Gibraltar and Marseilles, and will continue my cruise in the Mediterranean until Spring.”

The Varuna’s log shows her record as follows:-

Leaving the Irish coast on Monday noon, to Tuesday noon, 301 miles; moderate gale, heavy sea, wind south-west to west, sky overcast.

Wednesday, 296 miles; strong west-south-west wind; heavy sea.

Thursday, 313 miles; strong breeze south-west to north-east.

Friday, 371 miles, strong north-east gale, tremendous sea.

Saturday, 310 miles; moderate gale, north-east to north; very heavy sea.

Sunday, 357 miles; fresh north-west winds; thick weather.

Monday, 371 miles; strong wind, east-north-east; moderate sea.

Tuesday, 357 miles; moderate wind and sea.

Wednesday, 238 miles; arrived at Sandy Hook 4.30 a.m.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 11 December 1896 - “RECEPTION ON THE VARUNA - Eugene Higgins gave a reception on his new yacht Varuna yesterday afternoon. The yacht was anchored in the North River off Thirty-eighth Street. Among those who inspected the yacht were Commodore E.M. Brown, Gouverneur Kortright, F.W.J. Hurst, and J.V.S. Oddie. The Varuna will sail for Gibraltar to-morrow.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES - 13 December 1896 - “SOCIETY’S WINTER SEASON - .... Mr. Eugene Higgins gave a “stag” reception on his beautiful new steam yacht Varuna on Thursday afternoon, which was attended by all the prominent members of the New York and Seawanhaka Yacht Clubs and by a large number of Mr. Higgins’s personal men friends. The Varuna was greatly admired, and a handsome collation which followed the reception was enjoyed. Mr. Higgins sailed for Gibraltar on the Varuna yesterday.”


THE YACHTING WORLD -  1 Jan 1897 - “SEA BREEZES - The Varuna, Mr. Eugene Higgins’ steam yacht, just built on the Clyde, arrived at Madeira on Saturday from the Bermudas, having steamed the distance of 2,435 miles in seven days and sixteen hours.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES - 3 March 1897 - “FOREIGN NOTES OF INTEREST - La Valetta, Malta, March 2.- The steam yacht Varuna, owned by Mr. Eugene Higgins of New York, arrived here to-day. The Varuna sailed from New York Dec. 11, and called at Bermuda, Madeira, Gibraltar, and Marseilles.”


THE MORNING POST - Friday 23 April 1897 - “SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE - Home Arrivals - Greenock: April 21 - Varuna (steam yacht), Marseilles....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 24 April 1897 - “ PERSONAL - American merchantmen are lamentably scarce in the Mediterranean nowadays, but the owners of yachts are doing their best to prevent the Stars and Stripes from passing quite out of memory in those waters. The writer of a letter just received here says that when in Venice toward the end of last month, he saw our flag flying from three magnificent steam yachts that were anchored off the Piazza San Marco at the same time. They were the Varuna, owned by Anthony (sic) Higgins; Anthony J. Drexel’s Margarita, and the May, which belongs to Mrs. Sarah Drexel Fell. They are all floating palaces, well calculated to excite the awe and admiration of foreigners, and to fill with pride such chance observers from the United States as didn’t take the trouble to recall that every one of these bearers of his country’s banner was built on the Clyde. The Varuna was on her way to Marseilles, where she arrived on the 28th, after circling the inland sea in less than a month, and calling at Villefranche-sur-Mer, Monaco, Malta, Alexandria, several towns in Crete, Zante, and Paxos, and the Austrian naval station at Pola. Among Mr. Higgins’s guests were Major Glentworth, of the Austrian Army, Charles Le Goy of New York, and Mr. Wood of Morristown, N.J. The cruise, as can well be imagined, was an enjoyable one, for the Varuna’s passengers were able to get a close view of war as it is understood in Crete, and participated in many impressive social functions at the more peaceful ports in which they anchored.”


THE GLASGOW HERALD - Tuesday 4 May 1897 - “SAILINGS FROM FOREIGN PORTS - Varuna (s), Colne from Kiel, May 3.”


THE HAMPSHIRE ADVERTISER - 5 May 1897 - “YACHTING - The American-owned steam yachts Varuna and Margarita arrived in the Clyde last week from the Mediterranean and both will undergo extensive overhauls....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 23 May 1897 - [Yachting] - Besides the two steam yachts for Ogden and Robert Goelet there are at present in the Clyde two other leviathan steam yachts, owned by American millionaires. These are the Margarita, built last Autumn on the Clyde [Gourock] for Mr. [Colonel A.J.] Drexel of Philadelphia [to Troon Shipbuilding Company’s yard], and the Varuna, built during the past Winter by Messrs. Inglis of Glasgow [to Inglis’ yard]. These four steam yachts were designed by G.L. Watson, and their internal fittings by his cousin, Thomas Watson of Glasgow. The Margarita and the Varuna (built for Mr. Higgins of New York) have returned to the Clyde, after cruising in the Mediterranean, to have an overhaul and clean-up previous to another cruise to complete the season. It is not reported what the intentions of the owners may be, but it is surmised that some of these American yachts will attend the yacht race from Dover to Heligoland for the German Emperor’s Jubilee Cup and do honor to the occasion.”

Additions [  ] from The Belfast News-Letter 26 April 1897.


THE ESSEX COUNTY CHRONICLE (Chelmsford) - Friday 9 July 1897 - “How sweet must be the sleep of the owner of the great steam yacht Varuna, which has just left the Colne for Southampton, and thence for New York.

The Varuna is the largest yacht that ever entered the Colne, and it is one of the best appointed vessels known. Its elaborate furniture includes a silver-plated bedstead, where the owner passes his nights.

Only fancy - rocked by the silvery waves on a silver-plated bedstead!

The steam yacht Nerissa has returned to the Colne after a successful cruise to Norway. She is shortly to proceed on a coasting tour.”


THE HAMPSHIRE ADVERTISER - 17 July 1897 - “SOUTHAMPTON YACHTING NEWS - ...[Departures] ....the Varuna, s.s., Mr. Higgins, for New York....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 24 July 1897 - “MR. HIGGINS’S VARUNA IN PORT - Her Owner Home from a Long Voyage South and in Europe - The steam yacht Varuna arrived in port yesterday morning from an extended cruise in European waters. Eugene Higgins, her owner, and several guests returned home in the yacht.

The Varuna left New York Dec. 12 last, and visited numerous places of interest in the West Indies and in Southern Europe. She also visited ports in the British Isles. She left Southampton for the return July 10, calling at St. Michael’s for coal, and sailing from there July 16. Moderate and variable weather was experienced during the voyage.

Mr. Higgins’s guests were Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, Baron de Heckerer, Allan Arthur, son of the ex-President; L.F. Gregory, W. Wood, Dr. Domingoe, and Charles Le Goy.

The Varuna registers 1,166 tons, and carries a crew of fifty-nine men. She has twin screws, and was built in 1896 on the Clyde, by Inglis & Son. She proceeded to Bay Ridge, where the owner and his guests disembarked, coming thence to the city.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 6 August 1897 - “YACHTING - NAVAHOE BEATS VIGILANT - Royal Phelps Carroll Wins His Second Goelet Cup in an Exciting Contest.... Newport, Aug. 5.- .... defeating the Vigilant by 1 minute and 1 second elapsed time.... Among the yachts  out to see the race were.... Eugene Higgins’s Varuna....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 20 August 1897 - “NEWPORT, R.I., Aug. 19 - The following yachts arrived here to-day.... steamer Varuna, owned by Eugene Higgins.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 27 August 1897 - “NEWPORT, R.I., Aug. 26 - ....Yachts in the harbor: steamer Varuna, owned by Eugene Higgins....” Noted as being in port until 9th September.


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 5 September 1897 - “EVENTS OF THE WEEK - The most notable events of the past week at Newport were.... There were also receptions on Mr. Higgins’s steam yacht Varuna and numberless dinners and luncheons....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 10 September 1897 - “NEWPORT, R.I., Sept. 9.- The departures were as follows.... steamer Varuna, owned by Eugene Higgins....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 25 November 1897 - “Varuna to Start on a Long Cruise - E.S. Higgins, New York Yacht Club, has completed arrangements for a protracted cruise on his steam yacht Varuna. Mr. Higgins will be accompanied on his voyage by several friends, among them Chatfield Taylor, the golfer. The yacht is ready for sea, and will leave port to-morrow, and after a few weeks among the West Indies will cruise along the coast of South America, and thence to Africa and the Mediterranean.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 6 February 1898 - “Eugene Higgins is cruising in the Mediterranean with a party of friends on the steamer Varuna, and will go to Cannes in time for the regattas. Mr. and Mrs. John R. Drexel will be there on board the Sultana as will Mr. and Mrs. Anthony J. Drexel, on the steamer Margarita. Robert Goelet’s Nahma and Henry Walter’s Narada will also be there.”


THE GLASGOW HERALD - Monday 2 May 1898 - [The Spanish - American War] - “THE AMERICAN YACHTS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN - New York, May 1.- The reported chase of Mr. Gordon Bennett’s yacht makes it interesting to recall the names and owners of valuable yachts now in the Mediterranean, and therefore liable to chase and capture by the Spanish Government. They are:- .... the Valiant, Willie Vanderbilt; the Margarita, Mr. Anthony Drexel; the Varuna, Mr. Eugene Higgins; the Sultana, Mr. John Drexel, and the Namouna, Mr. Gordon Bennett....”

The Namouna was chased by a Spanish flotilla and took refuge at Cannes.

EVENING STAR (Ipswich) – Friday 16 September 1898 – “COLNE OYSTER FISHERY – THE OPENING CEREMONY." Varuna was in attendance for the event in the river Colne.


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 7 November 1898 - “Mr. Higgins, as already announced, is expected daily with his yacht, the Varuna, which sailed from Bordeaux last week.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 15 November 1898 - “EUGENE HIGGINS HOME - Eugene Higgins and a party of friends arrived from Europe yesterday on Mr. Higgins’s steam yacht Varuna. The Varuna left New York nearly a year ago for a cruise in European waters. She was at Venice when the [Spanish - American] war broke out, and a regard for the possibilities of an encounter with Spanish gunboats, known to be on the lookout for American yachts, led to her being laid up till the cessation of hostilities, when she went to Southampton. She left that port for the homeward trip Oct. 21, stopping at Bordeaux, whence she sailed Nov. 1. and Funchal, Madeira, Nov. 5.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 28 November 1898 - New York experienced the worst November snowstorm on record with 9.7 inches of snow falling. The storm which raged throughout Saturday night and into Sunday blocked streets, prevented travel, delayed passenger liners  and played havoc with sailing vessels.... “E.S. Higgins’s big yacht the Varuna was threatened with destruction during the night, as she began to drag her anchors and work in toward the Staten Island shore. An extra anchor was gotten over with thirty fathoms of chain, and this checked her, and she came out safely.”


NORTH-EASTERN DAILY GAZETTE - Tuesday 6 December 1898 - “NEWS IN BRIEF - At a dinner given by Mrs. Astor to Lord Strafford and his fiancée, the announcement was made that the wedding will take place on Tuesday morning next at the home of Mrs. Colegate’s sister. Bishop Potter will perform the ceremony, and only the immediate relatives of the family will attend. The Earl and Countess will make a honeymoon tour of the United States, sailing for home in January in the yacht Varuna, as the guests of its owner, Mr. Eugene Higgins.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 11 December 1898 - [Wedding of John R. Livermore and Miss. Josephine Whitney Brooks the following Wednesday] “Eugene Higgins, uncle of the bride, who came from Europe on his yacht Varuna to attend the wedding, will sail the same day on his return trip.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 19 December 1898 - “Eugene Higgins sailed last week just after the wedding of his niece, Miss. Brooks, to Mr. Livermore, in the Varuna, with a large stag party.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 20 March 1899 - “Eugene Higgins, before she sailed, gave a dinner on board his yacht, the Varuna, to Sir Thomas Lipton.”


THE BURY AND NORWICH POST - 23 May 1899 - “DANGERS OF SMALL SAILING BOATS - A sad boating accident occurred at Wyvenhoe, near Colchester, on Saturday evening. Two young men named Arthur Firmin and William Traylor, the latter being a son of Captain Traylor, of the steamship Varuna, left Wyvenhoe Quay for a sail down the river Colne in a fifteen feet drop keel sailing boat. When off Alresford Creek the craft was struck by a sudden squall, which caused her to heel to leeward. Owing to the shifting of the ballast she did not right herself, and the occupants jumped overboard and started to swim ashore. Traylor, finding that the boat did not sink, returned, and clung to the side, at the same time shouting to Firmin to do the same, and thrusting an oar towards him. Firmin, however, became quickly exhausted, and sank. Two lads named Pooley and Pleater, who witnessed the accident, put off in another boat and rescued Traylor, who was in a state of collapse. Firmin’s body was not recovered until low tide on Sunday morning. He was the only son of a widow.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 31 August 1899 - [Sir Thomas Lipton’s steam yacht Erin and Shamrock I were at New York for the America’s Cup challenge] “Visits were also exchanged between the Erin and Eugene Higgins’s steam yacht Varuna, which arrived with her owner and a party of friends after a ten-day voyage from Havre.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 2 September 1899 - “The steam yacht Varuna arrived from New York to-day with Eugene Higgins, the owner, and a party of guests on board.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 9 September 1899 - “Newport - Anchored in the harbor to-day are the steam yachts.... Varuna....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 21 September 1899 - [America’s Cup challenger Shamrock I takes an exhibition spin for the benefit of American worthies and many spectators witnessed the proceedings from yachts] “Other yachts in the fleet were the Varuna, Armorica, and Sultana.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 1 October 1899 - [Regarding the second America’s Cup race] Following a list of steam yachts which “will take out parties of guests, of whom the largest and most socially important will be on the Corsair, Narada, May, Vergana, Conqueror, Varuna, Atalanta, and Lorna.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 8 October 1899 - [America’s Cup races] “One of the most interesting features of the marine spectacle of Tuesday, Thursday and yesterday was the unprecedentedly large fleet of steam yachts which accompanied the cup contestants each day over the course.... The largest and most notable parties were carried every day by Mr. Pierpoint Morgan on Corsair, Mr. Eugene Higgins on Varuna...”  [And many others]


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 28 January 1900 - “The Varuna has also left Southampton for Nice, where she will be boarded by her owner, Mr. Eugene Higgins, who has arrangements made for a long cruise.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 30 January 1900 - “On the Riviera.... Eugene Higgins, who has been at Nice for some time, is experimenting with different kinds of electric and steam automobiles. His steam yacht Varuna is in port, and later he goes on a cruise. “


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 22 February 1900 - “In the harbor of Nice, last week, there were a number of English and American yachts, among them the Valiant and Varuna, on which last Mr. Higgins is entertaining.”


THE HAMPSHIRE ADVERTISER - 24 February 1900 - “YACHTING ITEMS - ....The Varuna, s.s., from Southampton, arrived at Palermo on Wednesday....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 27 February 1900 - “Eugene Higgins is on the Varuna, and from last cabled dispatches was at Naples.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 9 March 1900 - “Eugene Higgins. on the Varuna, has left Nice for Tunis.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 10 April 1900 - “Eugene Higgins, in the Varuna, has passed Gibraltar, westward bound.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 29 April 1900 - “Eugene Higgins is coming westward on the Varuna, and will be at Newport during the season.”


THE ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD - Saturday 12 May 1900 - “WYVENHOE - SMOKING CONCERT - On Wednesday evening, May 9, a capital smoking concert in connection with the arrival of the steam yachts Varuna and Rosabelle, and the departure of the yachts Surf and Gunilda was held at the Park Hotel, Wyvenhoe. A large company was present. Captain H. Harlow occupied the chair. Mr. F.J. Lax kindly presided at the piano, and Mr. A. Vinson, violin. During the evening the health of the Wyvenhoe Volunteers now at the front was drunk with musical honours. One of the chief features of the evening was the singing of Mr. Harry Dunstane, a humorous and descriptive vocalist of first-class talent, whose songs elicited loud applause, being rendered in great style. Below we give the programme. Song, “The Little Hero,” Mr. Owen; song, “I can’t change it,” Mr. Bewen; song, “It’s a pretty little place inside,” Mr. C. Harlow; “Extras,” Mr. H. Bird; song, “I’m a looking at yer,” Mr. Anderson; song, “That’s how he tells the lie,” Mr. Dunstane; encore, “When she goes to bye-bye,”; song, “Oh the khaki,” Mr. H.L. Wright; song, “Sons of the sea,” Mr. H. Chamberlain; song, “Sons of our Empire,” Mr. Mitchell; recitation, “Selected,” Dr. Smith; song, “The same house,” Captain W. Harlow; song, “My gal is a high born lady,” Mr. Small; Essex ballad, “Owd Bill,” Mr. H. Moore; song, “A life on the ocean wave,” Capt. H. Harlow; song, “Oh let it be soon,” Mr. J. Maskell; song, “Sweet Genevieve,” Mr. E.F. Heath; song, “The reason why,” Mr. J. Cole.- At the conclusion of the programme a vote of thanks to the accompanist was proposed by the Chairman, after which the evening was brought to a close with the National Anthem.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 13 May 1900 - “SOME HAPPENINGS IN GOOD SOCIETY - Nearly all the yachting parties are coming back. Eugene Higgins was near the English coast when last the Varuna was spoken. He may come over later to this side, but will wait for the races at Cowes.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 30 May 1900 - “Mr. Eugene Higgins has been at the Isle of Wight on Varuna.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 1 August 1900 - “CITY ISLAND YACHT NEWS -  ....Eugene Higgins’s steam yacht Varuna has been hauled out on the marine railway at the Jacob yard to be overhauled and repainted.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 2 August 1900 - “CITY ISLAND YACHT NEWS -  .... Eugene Higgins’s steam yacht Varuna has been launched from the marine railway at the Jacob yard after being repainted.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 7 August 1900 - “WHAT IS DOING IN SOCIETY - Mrs. Robert Goelet has arrived off Cowes, the Isle of Wight, in her yacht, the Nahma. She is entertaining a large party on board. The Sultana, Mr. and Mrs. John R. Drexel, and the Varuna, Eugene Higgins, have sailed from Cronstadt and are en route to St. Petersburg.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 17 September 1900 - “THE LOG OF THE NIAGARA. Incidents of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Gould’s Four Months’ Cruise.... [no dates given] About eighty miles from Bergen, while the Niagara was proceeding under full steam, her sailing master, Mr. Caws, landed her on the rocks with her bow out of the water. It was at first thought that the vessel was in great danger, but she did not leak, and word was sent to Bergen for tugs. Before they arrived, however, Eugene Higgins’s yacht, the Varuna, hove in sight. She took the Niagara off the rocks. this took twenty-four hours. The Niagara was towed to Bergen and there put into dry dock. It was found that her keel was flattened for almost the entire length of the vessel. two weeks of hard work by eighty men was necessary before she was again fit for service....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 25 September 1900 - “The friends of Mr. and Mrs. E. Rollins Morse of Boston and Mr. and Mrs. Chester Alan Arthur of this city are surprised at their bravery in accepting an invitation from Eugene Higgins to accompany him on his steam yacht Varuna on a trip from Havre to this port, in view of the recent terrific weather, which made even such big liners as the Deutschland and St. Paul a day late in reaching here. The Varuna left Havre on Saturday. Mr. Higgins has been cruising on her for many months in the Mediterranean and Norwegian waters.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 28 September 1900 - “Eugene Higgins’s steam yacht Varuna, with Mr. and Mrs. E. Rollins Morse on board, is expected here for a stay. Mrs. H. Mortimer Brooks, sister of Mr. Higgins, will give a large dinner on the arrival of the Varuna in her brother’s honor. Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish will also entertain in honor of Mr. Higgins.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 2 October 1900 - “The steam yacht Varuna, owned by Eugene Higgins, which is bringing her owner and a party of friends, including Mr. and Mrs. E. Rollins Morse of Boston and Mr. and Mrs. Alan Arthur, from Europe, was expected at Newport last evening. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur were married in Europe last Spring, soon after Mrs. Arthur procured a divorce from her first husband, Clarence Andrews of this city. She was Miss. Myra T. Fithian. Mr. Arthur is the son of the late President Arthur.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES - 4 October 1900 - “The steam yacht Varuna arrived via New York from an extended foreign cruise this afternoon, making an average speed of 15 knots. She is to remain here several days. Eugene Higgins, her owner, came on shore and was driven to the cottage of his sister, Mrs. H. Mortimer Brooks, who gave a dinner in his honor.

Several social functions will be given by the cottagers in honor of Mr. Higgins.” [A ‘cottage’ was a holiday mansion]

THE NEW YORK TIMES - 5 October 1900



THE NEW YORK TIMES - 5 October 1900 - “Eugene Higgins is the guest of his sister, Mrs. H. Mortimer Brooks. He will remain here until Sunday, when he will sail on the Varuna for New York.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 6 October 1900 - THE NEWS OF NEWPORT - Mr. and Mrs. H. Mortimer Brooks, who gave a dinner this evening, were entertained at luncheon to-day on board the Varuna as guests of Eugene Higgins.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 5 October 1900 - “THE NEWS OF NEWPORT - Eugene Higgins entertained at luncheon on the yacht Varuna this afternoon, having as guests Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer Brooks, Miss. Brooks, Lord and Lady Pauncefote, and Mrs. Baldwin. The Varuna sailed this evening for New York.”

Baron Pauncefote (d.1902) was the British Ambassador to the United States. His daughter Audrey was a close friend of Urban and Cara Broughton and sailed with them on their steam yacht Sapphire.


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 9 October 1900 - “Eugene Higgins’s steam yacht  Varuna, which returned to America last week from a year’s cruise abroad, arrived in port yesterday afternoon.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 16 October 1900 - “Eugene Higgins has been entertaining a party at Morristown. He now plans to sail early in November on his steam yacht Varuna for the West Indies, and from there will steam to the Mediterranean and spend the winter abroad.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 14 November 1900 - “Eugene Higgins expects to sail to-day for Bermuda on his steam yacht Varuna. From Bermuda the Varuna will steam to Gibraltar, and after a few days spent at Gibraltar Mr. Higgins will cruise in the Mediterranean. Mr. Higgins’s guests on the Varuna will be Mr. and Mrs. James Clinch Smith, Mrs. Theed, Dr. P. Mitchell and Mr. Johnson.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 15 November 1900 - “VARUNA SAILS FOR EUROPEAN CRUISE - After a stay of scarcely six weeks in port, Eugene Higgins’s steam yacht, with her owner and a party of guests aboard, sailed early yesterday morning for a second European cruise, which will last several months. Bermuda, Madeira, and Gibraltar are to be the Varuna’s first stopping places, and many Mediterranean ports will then be visited. Mr. Higgins’s guests are Mr. and Mrs. J. Clinch Smith, Mrs. Theed, Miss. Hoffman (a young Englishwoman who has been visiting here), John Duer, William Lawson, and Dr. Mitchell.”


THE ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD - 17 December 1904 - “FOOTBALL - S.Y. VARUNA v. MARSEILLES OLYMPIC.- The return match between these teams was played on Dec. 11. at “Parc Borelli,” and resulted in another victory for “Varuna,” the final scores being 4 goals to nil. There was a good gate, the match having been well advertised in the town. “Varuna” won the toss and kicked off against the wind, keeping the ball well amongst their own forwards. They worked well up the field, and after a piece of neat passing they netted the ball. After the next kick off the game was played very keenly by both sides, and it was not until close on half-time that the second goal was scored. After the change of ends the game was very fast and each goal was threatened on many occasions, the “Varuna” finally notching their third goal. The game was played in the same fast style , and the fourth goal for “Varuna” came off just before time expired. The “Varuna” was represented by the following members:- Goal, T. Cotterill; backs, Brussey and Bryant; half-backs, Winfield, Powell and Lockyer; forwards, Plane, Trayler, McLeod (Capt.), Lewis and French; referee, R. Heard; linesmen, W. Bewen and G. Lebaudy. Plane scored the first two goals, McLeod the third, and French the fourth. After the match the team was entertained to refreshments and dancing at the Cafe Borelli, a very pleasant evening being spent. Out of four matches (this year and last) the “Varuna” has beaten the Olympiques three times. The Olympiques are one of the finest teams in the South of France, holding several cups and trophies.”

THE NEW YORK HERALD - 6 November 1902

THE NEW YORK TIMES - 2 August 1908 - “SOCIETY - Eugene Higgins will arrive on his steam yacht Varuna from Europe in the course of a fortnight to pay his accustomed annual visit to his sister, Mrs. Henry Mortimer Brooks.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 4 September 1908 - “HIGGINS’S YACHT DAMAGED - Cherbourg, France, Sept.4.- The American steam yacht Varuna, owned by Eugene Higgins, N.Y.Y.C., has put in here badly battered by the storm that recently blew over the Channel.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 6 September 1908 - “Among those who have left Paris for New York are.... Eugene Higgins, who sailed on his yacht Varuna from Cherbourg....”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 20 September 1908 - “Eugene Higgins, who is now over here on his annual autumn visit to his native land, has, as usual, made the trip across the Atlantic on board his large steam yacht, the Varuna, and has brought with him a party of friends. He will remain until the middle of next month, and then return to Europe, where he lives most of the year....” Also - “Eugene Higgins has announced that he will give a dinner on board his yacht, the Varuna, on Sunday night.”


THE ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 13 March 1909 - “EAST DONYLAND – THE VARUNA – The steam yacht Varuna has returned to her anchorage in the Colne after a cruise of eight months to America and the Mediterranean. Her football team have played 11 matches, won 6, drawn 4, lost 1. Goals scored for 26, against 13. The last match was played at Cannes on February 20, against the team of the yacht Nahma, ending in a draw of two all.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 8 August 1909 - “Eugene Higgins is shortly expected from Europe on his steam yacht Varuna.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 16 October 1909 - “YACHT VARUNA BACK FROM CRUISE - The twin-screw steam yacht Varuna, (N.Y.Y.C.) Eugene Higgins, owner, arrived yesterday from Havre, via Cherbourg, having left the latter port Sept. 5. The yacht was favoured with fine weather and smooth seas. She left New York Oct. 23, 1908, and cruised in the Mediterranean last winter. Mr. Higgins and five guests were on board. The Varuna will anchor off Stapleton, Staten Island.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 7 November 1909 - “Mr. Eugene Higgins sailed last Tuesday on the Varuna bound for Marseilles. Mr. Higgins had a stag party on board.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 17 November 1909 - “ HIGGINS YACHT ASHORE - The Varuna Reported to Have Struck Madeira Coast - Weather Bad. Funchal, Madeira, Nov. 16.- The yacht Varuna owned by Eugene Higgins, of the New York Yacht Club, is reported ashore on the northwest coast.

Very bad weather prevails and two tugs have gone to the vessel’s assistance.”


THE EVENING TELEGRAPH (Angus) - 17 November 1909 - “AMERICAN YACHT LIKELY TO BREAK UP. A Lloyd’s Madeira message states that the American yacht Varuna is reported full of water in an upright position on the rocky shore at the west end of the island. All lives are accounted for with the exception, perhaps, of one. The vessel is likely to break up.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES - 17 & 18 November 1909

THE NEW YORK TIMES - 20 November 1909 - “VARUNA’S BOAT HELPLESS - Twelve Men from Wrecked Higgins Yacht Without Oars When Picked Up.- Lisbon, Nov. 19 - Twelve members of the party aboard Eugene Higgins’s yacht Varuna when it was wrecked on the coast of Madeira had a narrow escape, according to advices received here from Funchal. They were those in the small boat before reported as picked up by a steamer.

The rescuing steamer was the British vessel Hasperly, which sighted the small boat far from land and drifting helplessly. In their struggle with the high seas the survivors had broken their oars. The Hasperly landed the party at Funchal.

The total number saved from the Varuna was sixty-five. The yacht has been abandoned as lost.”


THE CORNISHMAN - Thursday 25 November 1909 - “THE MISSING MILLIONAIRE - SHIPWRECKED NEAR MADEIRA - Paris, Thursday.- The New York Herald (Paris edition) to-day confirms the report that the steam yacht Varuna belonging to Mr. Eugene Higgins, the well-known American millionaire, has been lost near Madeira.

The Varuna, with Mr. Higgins and a number of friends on board, was on a run from New York to France. During the night of Monday last she struck some rocks near Madeira with such damaging violence that it became necessary to abandon her immediately. The sea at the time was high, but it is believed that all on board, with the exception of one, whose fate is uncertain, were saved in the Varuna’s boats.

Mr. Higgins and some of his friends reached Ponta Delgada (Azores) on Tuesday evening, and are expected to arrive at Funchal, where the occupants of one of the other boats, who were picked up by a passenger steamer, have already been landed.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 28 November 1909 - “SOUTHAMPTON, England, Nov. 27.- The crew of Eugene Higgins’s yacht Varuna, which was recently wrecked off the island of Madeira, arrived here to-day, with the exception of the Captain, who is remaining in the vicinity of the wreck in the hope that some of the valuables aboard may be recovered.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 27 November 1909 - “HIGGINS REWARDS RESCUER - Owner of Wrecked Yacht Varuna Said to Have Given Man $5,000.- Paris, Nov. 26.- A special to the Figaro from Madrid says that Eugene Higgins, the New York yachtsman, has made a present of $5,000 to the man who rescued him when his yacht, the Varuna, was wrecked. It was on the northwest coast of the Island of Madeira that the Varuna came to grief. Mr. Higgins, his guests, and the crew of the vessel were all saved.”

THE TIMES - 29 November 1909



THE CHELMSFORD CHRONICLE - 3 December 1909 - “VARUNA SURVIVORS ARRIVE AT WIVENHOE - The crew of the steam yacht Varuna, which was lost off Madeira, arrived on Saturday at Wivenhoe with the exception of Charles Bird, who was drowned, and the captain and mate, who remained near the scene of the disaster until the vessel went to pieces. The crew hailed from Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea. The Varuna, owned by Mr. Eugene Higgins, a well-known New York banker, was a magnificent vessel. She left Brightlingsea last July with a crew of 60, commanded by Capt. Wm. Trayler, her chief officer being Mr. James Forsgate, both of Wivenhoe. There were also on board the owner, two ladies, and a Count. While on a run to France the Varuna encountered very heavy weather, and near Madeira struck a reef. The water poured into her at such a rate that the boats had immediately to be ordered out. In the ship’s gig were Chas. Bird (the cook), Geo. Schofield (a seaman), and two firemen. As they cast off from the doomed yacht a heavy sea overturned the gig. Schofield and the firemen managed to cling to the keel, but they saw nothing of Bird, though they heard someone groaning under the boat. Schofield was swept from his hold, but was picked up unconscious on the shore. Some hours afterwards the owner and a number of the crew, who were in the lifeboat, were picked up by a passing steamer, and the men in the other boats were also picked up, after nine hours’ exposure to the stormy elements. The crew came home on the Armadale Castle.

The cook, Mr. Charles Bird, whose sad death has caused great regret in Wivenhoe, was brother to Mr. Bird, licensee of the Anchor Hotel. He was 38 years of age, and last served on the s.y. Chrysalis, joining the ill-fated Varuna as Lord Middleton did not take out the Chrysalis this year. He had previously sailed in Lord Ashburton’s yacht, as well as in Sir Samuel Scott’s Golden Eagle. Deceased leaves a widow and three young children.”


THE EVENING TELEGRAPH (Angus) - 1 February 1910 - “AMERICA’S LUXURIOUS BACHELOR - Credited with the possession of a fortune of five millions sterling, largely inherited from his father, who was a carpet manufacturer in New York, Mr. Eugene Higgins, the New York banker, has been called “the most luxurious bachelor in America.” His unmarried state is attributed to a romantic disappointment in love in his younger days. It was at one time rumoured that he would marry Madame Calve, the prima donna. Fifteen years ago he was famous as a whip, and his stables at Morristown were said to be the best appointed in America. As an athlete he has been most successful. In 1890 he won the fencing championship of the United States, and as a tennis and polo player has exhibited much skill. Mr. Higgins is a great traveller, and his yacht, the Varuna, which was lost some time ago, off the coast of Madeira, has carried him half-way round the world. She was built on special lines, with a view to entertaining a large number of guests as luxuriously as if they were members of a house party.”


THE NEW YORK TIMES - 26 March 1910 - “VARUNA’S LIFEBOAT IS FOUND - A lifeboat from Eugene Higgins’s steam yacht Varuna, which was lost off Madeira several months ago, was brought here yesterday by the British freight steamer Portland. The lifeboat was picked up on Dec. 10 ninety miles south of Madeira.”


THE WESTERN MORNING NEWS - Saturday 7 August 1948 - “U.S. MILLIONAIRE DIES IN TORQUAY HOTEL - ‘Few Weeks’ Visit’ Became 9 Years - American millionaire, Mr. Eugene Higgins has died in Torquay at the age of 88 years. In 1939 he anchored his yacht in Torbay, intending to come ashore for a few weeks, but he remained to occupy a first-floor suite at Torquay’s Imperial Hotel for the remaining nine years of his life.

Yesterday his embalmed body left for Southampton, clad in full evening dress, with the insignia of Officer of the Legion of Honour and the Medaille de Sauvetage, decorations conferred on him many years ago by the French Government. Today it will be taken on board the Queen Mary for the journey to New York and interment in the family vault.

Mr. Higgins was a bachelor, and his heirs are understood to be a nephew and two nieces.

Fond of Yachting - He had a great love of yachting, and only a few weeks ago he was telling friends he was looking forward to seeing some of the Olympic yachting events in Torbay from the window of his drawing room.

From 1911 to 1939 he was well known on the South Coast of France, where he presented for competition two of the best-known yachting trophies - The Coupe de Varuna and the Coupe de Thalassa - named after his two yachts.

Soon after Mr. Higgins had anchored his yacht in Torbay, in 1939, war broke out, and his yacht was requisitioned by the Admiralty.”

Varuna sank at Achadas da Cruz, Porto Moniz and her bell hangs in the Capela de  São Lourenço, Faja da Ovelha.

Varuna by De Simone.jpg

THALASSA - Built in 1924 for Eugene Higgins

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