Saturday March 25th 1933
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
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
SHIPS THAT PASS
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.
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.