The "Saucy Nancy" was a paddle steamer that gave day trips down the river near Wolvercote. On one particular occasion something went wrong with the steering, and the steamer was caught in the current from the weir. Too crowded and too old, it broke up when it hit one of the posts that was supposed to stop people being swept away, and went piecemeal over the weir.
All the passengers were wearing constricting formal clothing, and there were very few survivors. Among the survivors were Gwendolen and Eric Chant; among those who did not survive were their parents, Francis and Caroline.
The paddle-boat company and the town of Wolvercote paid for the funerals between them, and a fund was set up for the survivors. Gwendolen and Eric, being minors with no known surviving family, were looked after by the town for about a year until Christopher Chant found out about them and took them to live with him.