on a dive at the ‘G.B wreck’ at
Freshwater Bay, Pembrokeshire
April 2000, a serrated edge of what I thought was a coin caught my
eye. There was only an inch exposed but on digging it out of the
sediment, I was very surprised to find it was much bigger than a
coin...it was an old silver pocket watch!
Story so far......
decided to terminate my dive and handed my buddy over to another
dive leader who was nearby and made for the boat.
de-kitted and was more relaxed, I began gently cleaning the watch
with my fingers. I discovered there was a cover on the back of the
watch, which was hinged. I gently opened this lid and to my
amazement there was an inscription, it was difficult to read but
after being passed round everyone on the boat the general conclusion
was that it read “Richard Richard”. (Ironic as my name is also
I got home, without even washing down any of my diving equipment I
was straight to the kitchen sink with a tooth pick and cloth to
clean up my treasure. It was pain staking process , the inscription
was clear to see, it read “Richard Prichard, Abersoch 1866, North
finally removed the brass mechanism, which is remarkably intact; it
also has an inscription, which reads “Richd B Thomas No 63826”. The
hinge is still functional which holds the rear cover plate to the
back of the watch.
is a crest on the rear cover lid of the watch.
watch mechanism is now held by wax.
is the remains of the reel, which housed the steel spring which was
wound daily to keep the watch running.
hall mark on the right is a hallmark for 1863.
visible is a fourth stamp in the approximate area of 6 o clock which
bares the initials ‘JM’ who was probably the case maker.
hole in the back plate lines up with the remains of the winding stud
on the mechanism, the decoration around the hole is two willow
right hand side of the back plate are the remains of the face cover
hinge which would have enabled the operator to open and adjust the
time by manually pushing the hands round. The mechanism type is
Richard Prichard ? What was he doing here?
first call of action was to try to find the name of Richard
Prichard's ship, until now it has been known to divers as the G.B
wreck due to it being located below a gorse bush which used to look
like a map of Great Britain. The wreck was found in the late 1970s
by Ivor Johnson a local dive charter and shop at the time and being
at only 8mtres depth it is an ideal training dive for novices.
now is the time to find the real name of the ship that is known as
the G.B wreck. The first step was a call into the Haverrfordwest
County records office, I gave all the information I had to the clerk
and he told me to wait whilst he went away to get some records.
ten minutes later he came back with a shoe box of microfiche slides
of birth marriages and deaths of people in Gwynedd, I was put in
front of a reader display, given a crash course on how to use it and
then he disappeared very quickly.
minutes later I found the slides with the Prichard surname; there
were hundreds of them! And only a third of the records of that time
are complete, I felt as if I wasn’t getting anywhere and my eyesight
was failing as a result of staring at micro fiche into a 60 watt
light bulb so I decided to return the box and leave. On the way
out, the clerk stopped me and wrote down an address for the Gwynedd
Archives museum. He told me to try them to see if they could throw
any light on the case. I telephoned them as soon as I got home and
gave them all the details.
name Richard Prichard is clear to see on the silver case but on
further study and cleaning I could just make out three hallmarks, a
bit more cleaning and the patterns became quite clear. I picked up
the yellow pages and started to look for professional watchmakers, I
was advised by a watchmaker in Swansea to take it to Munts the
jeweller on High Street Haverfordwest.
quarter hour wait to be served seemed to take forever but eventually
I managed to draw the owners attention and he was very interested,
he dated the hallmark 1863 on the case and identified it as solid
silver, Richard B Thomas was “Richard Bonner Thomas , Bank Place,
Porthmadog, North Wales” , He traded from 1865 to 1895 according to
an old book he had but he said dates of trading are often not
accurate from that era. The case would be made and placed on display
and bought as a case by a watchmaker who would build a mechanism to
go inside it. Once it was bought, the owners name could be inscribed
into the back plate under the lid, if it wasn’t for the lid
protecting the back plate, the inscription would have never of
later, whilst having a particularly bad day at work, Gwynedd
Archives telephoned me to say that Richard Prichard was a Master
Mariner in 1875 and his ship was called “SCOTTISH LAS”, it seemed
everything was now falling into place.
The G.B “SCOTTISH LAS”
Blast from the past
weeks later whilst slurping my coffee after a dive on the wreck, I
was disturbed by a distant voice. It was Nicky shouting” Richard
I've found the bell!” - I kitted up immediately and followed his
lead to the area where sure enough there lay the remains of a ships
bell. A few days later after much planning and precision the bell
was recovered from the wreck site. I was present on the dive eagerly
awaiting the moment it parted from its resting place. There was a
huge cloud of sediment as it came away from its resting place but
all my theories were shot to pieces in a second when Nicky turned it
over only to find it bore the name”GUANITO”.
Rich Hughes with watch and
Nick Hammond with Bell
that this wreck has still had the last laugh, if the bell had not
been discovered, I would still believe that it is the Scottish Las
from Porthmadog and everyone would be satisfied that the case had
been drawn to a close.
Archives have never heard of GUANITO
of London don’t have a record of GUANITO
Liverpool Shipping records don’t have any record of a GUANITO
is Spanish, it means “Silver Palm” there is a village in Cuba “Guanito”,
maybe they were in the wine trade and if so it may explain why the
sinking occurred in the first place. So what was Richard Prichard
from Abersoch North Wales doing in Milford haven on a Spanish ship
130 years ago?
been said that a person who would own a solid silver hand made
pocket watch at this period of time,1866 must have been very wealthy
and important or received it on retirement from a prestigious
irganisation. There is no record of a Richard Prichard in 1866 as a
Mariner at this time and it would be presumptuous to assume he was
born in 1866.
is no record of a sinking in the area or loss of life.
trail had crashed to a dead end and the club went onto other
2000 I decided to reopen the case. I telephoned the Cambrian News in
Porthmadog to ask the editor if he would be so kind as to place a
request to the general public of North Wales, to see if there was
anyone out there who was related to or knows of any family history
of a man called Richard Prichard.
don’t know much more....but there is now someone we can attribute to
the wreck which makes one realise that this was a disaster at sea
which has long been forgotten. All we know is that there was a man
named Richard Prichard and his watch is all that can tell us that he
existed. You tend to get a strange erey feeling after a while that
you know this person, as a pocket watch was a very individual
personal item, especially one with your name engraved on a solid
watch is now approximately 140 years old and far outside living
memory, to date we know of no records of Richard Prichard or his
Ship. If the watch hadn’t been found then there wouldn’t have been
the motivation to search the site more extensively and the bell
wouldn’t have been found either. The site would still be known
today as the old wreck under cliffs, under the gorse bush which
looks like Great Britain.
there were only 8 references to the word “Guanito” on internet
search engines but now almost ten years later there are multiple
pages, most refer to place names Guanito at various locations in the
Dominican Republic area.
Research has now been centred around the possibility of a ship
trading between Porthmadog and Dominican Republic Haiti.