Newry Reporter Tuesday March 28th 1933

Welshmen’s Ordeal

Thrilling Story of Their Experience.

Carnarvon to Kilkeel in Open Boat.

The Welsh fishermen, J. E. Jones (25), and a companion, Thomas J. Roberts a boy of fifteen, both of Tudweiliog, a village near Pwllheli, Caernarvonshire, who landed near Kilkeel, Co Down, on Thursday night, after thirty-five hours at sea in an open boat, crossed from Belfast to Liverpool on Friday night on their way home.

The thrilling story of their experiences during their ordeal was told to a “Northern Whig” representative before their departure. It was learned that Jones had received a severe bruise on his leg; but in his anxiety to get back to Wales had disobeyed medical advice that he should have a few days rest in Kilkeel.

Jones expressed the opinion that their most thrilling adventure was at Kilkeel, and is best described in his own words.

“About 9pm” he said. “We managed to get down towards Kilkeel. We kept going backward and forward in an effort to find the best place for landing. When we thought we had located the most suitable spot we ran the boat ashore”.

“There was a very heavy sea at the time, and as soon as we struck ground our craft capsized, throwing my companion and myself into the water”.



Roberts, who was thoroughly exhausted, attempted to struggle ashore, but his legs failed him, and he collapsed in a heap in the water.

“As the boat lurched over” continued Jones. “I was struck on the head and knocked almost senseless, but realising Robert’s danger I made a desperate effort and, freeing myself from the halyard ropes, in which my legs were caught. I succeeded in dragging him to the beach”.

“Having at last reached shore we summoned up what little strength we had left and tottering rather than walking, along the shore for about two hundred yards we came to Mr. John Donnan’s cottage. Mr. Donnan did what he could for us, and then took us to the coastguard station, where Captain P. J. Greene, station officer, took control of us. He got us some warm clothing and food, and we were put up for the night by Mrs. M’Culla”.

Asked to tell something of their experiences during their thirty-six hours on the water, Jones said they had to abandon hope of making Holyhead, for if they had turned the boat in that direction she would have been caught broadside by the heavy seas and swamped. There was only one thing to do, and that was to run the boat before the wind in an effort to reach the Irish coast.

“We only had two jibs and an oar to help us,” said Jones, “and as soon as we hoisted one sail it was torn in shreds.”

Waves commenced to sweep into the boat, and it seemed certain that she must go down, but taking it in turns Jones and Roberts baled the water out with a cap and managed to keep the craft afloat.

“You must surely have thought you would never reach land?” Jones was asked.

“I gave up hope many times” he replied. “But kept encouraging the boy by saying we were all right”.

When darkness overtook them they were drenched to the skin, and without food or fresh water they were well nigh exhausted.

Continuing Jones said, the first ray of hope came at 5am, on Thursday morning when they sighted the lights of a passing vessel. They cried for help, and they believe those on board heard them. The ship circled round, but unable to locate them proceeded on its course.

After dawn Jones and Roberts were able to see the Irish coast, but they spent many hours of anxiety before they eventually reached Kilkeel. During the day about six vessels passed, but their efforts to attract attention by hoisting pieces of the torn sail on the mast proved unavailing.

“We are very glad to be on land” said Roberts, and Jones joined with him in expressing their thankfulness to the people of Kilkeel, for the manner in which they had attended to their comforts.

Shortly after their arrival in Kilkeel the coastguard sent messages to the homes of Jones and Roberts, who received telegrams of joy from their parents on Friday morning.

The Earl of Kilmorey, who commands the Ulster Section of the R.N.V.R., was among those who visited the men during their sojourn in the County Down resort.

As they hurried off to catch the Liverpool boat, Jones jocularly remarked:- “Remember only good seamanship saved us”. He is of the opinion that it is the first time that two people have crossed the Irish Sea in a small craft.


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


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