Newry Reporter Saturday March 25th 1933

Welshmen’s Ordeal

Swept from Carnarvon Coast to Kilkeel.

Thirty-Six Hours in Open Rowing Boat.


A Welsh fisherman and a boy have had a miraculous escape from death in the Irish Sea. In a small open boat they were at the mercy of the sea for 35 hours. Finally their boat was washed ashore near Kilkeel, County Down, shortly before 10 o’clock on Thursday night. They were John E. Jones, aged 25, and Thomas Jones Roberts, 15, of Tudweiliog, Caernarvonshire.

At 11am on Wednesday they set out from Tudweiliog in a fourteen-foot open rowing boat to put down lobster creels off the coast. Before their task was completed the boy lost an oar, and they found themselves helpless in a rising sea. A strong east wind was blowing off the coast, and they were rapidly carried out into mid-Channel.

Realising the impossibility of returning to Tudweiliog they made every possible effort to guide the boat to Holyhead, but the wind and tide set them too far to the west, and before long it was evident that they could not hope to make the Welsh coast again.

Attempts to attract the attention of passing steamers proved abortive. Two vessels passed within a comparatively short distance, but they were unable to attract the attention of those on board.



Heavy seas repeatedly broke on board the boat, which at times appeared in imminent danger of being swamped, and the elder of the two was compelled to devote most of his time to baling out the water. For this purpose he possessed no instrument but his cap. It was not very effective, and the two were by this time wet through. There was no food on board and no fresh water.

All day the two drifted in a westerly direction, becoming ever more exhausted and hopeless. Evening came on with the lights of the Welsh coast discernible, but growing more distant.

At 5am the South Stack light off Holyhead Island was still visible, and a passing steamer heard and answered the men’s cries. It turned on its course and steamed round in search of them, but in the darkness failed to find them, and eventually proceeded on its course.

With daylight the Irish coast became visible, and they slowly drifted in its direction. By this time they were becoming exhausted for lack of food, and even the solace of tobacco was denied them. They possessed a solitary cigarette between them.



During the day they passed four or five boats, which apparently did not see them. They were kept continuously baling, and as nightfall came on once more they almost given up hope of ever reaching the shore.

About nine o’clock the boat drifted closer to the County Down coast, and they were able to distinguish the lights of the houses on shore. This put new life into the exhausted men, who, redoubling their efforts to keep the boat’s head pointing shoreward’s, succeeded at last in grounding a quarter of a mile from Kilkeel harbour.

As they came ashore they were greeted by villagers, who convoyed them to the Coastguard Station. Captain Mackintosh, the harbour master, who was immediately informed, took charge of the men. He provided them with warm, dry clothing, and a substantial meal, and made arrangements for their accommodation for the night at the house of Mr. M’Cullough.


Many thanks to Catherine Hudson, Kilkeel, for all her help.


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