One of the first
and probably the saddest accounts of a Rhiw seafarer to go on the website
was that of Isaac Thomas, Ael y Bryn. Through his father Griffith Thomasís
diaries we know that Isaac left school to work as
a farmhand, but on the 11th of January 1921 he went down to Swansea to
join the Afon Lledi as a fireman, and in March he came home on sick leave
before returning again on the 10th of July. 1921. He writes to his family
often and some of his letters have recently come to light. The letter
sent from Blyth on the 15th December, 1921, is particularily poigniant as
this was the last letter Isaac ever wrote, as his ship the SS Stevenstone
was lost without trace on passage from Blyth to Elsinor, Denmark, with a
cargo of coal. Through the 1922 diaries we see Griffith Thomasís hopes
and fears and the eventual reality that his son has been drowned in the
North Sea on that fateful voyage.
SS Afon Lledi,
C/O Harris Dry Dock,
Dear family, Just a little note to say I arrived
safely 10pm Tuesday night. I came through Mount Lane and Builth rd,
starting from Pwllheli at 1pm. Thereís a new Captain, Mate and 2nd
Engineer. Weíre going to Bordeaux, France, donít know whether sheíll sail
this week or not. Well nothing more to say so Iíll end by sending you all
my best wishes. PS I left my belt behind and can you have a look in the
back kitchen for my union book, I canít find it here at all.
SS Afon Lledi,
C/O W Coombs, Ship Owners,
As I send you this little
note I hope you are well as I am. I received your letter safely on
Thursday, Iím sorry to hear about grandmother still being poorly. Weíre
still in Llanelli and it looks like weíll be here next week as well.
Theyíve taken off a big piece from the front of the ship on the side where
the sailorís accommodation is situated, she had quite a collision on the
river in France whilst she was at anchor and thereís a lot of work to be
done on her yet. Weíre at it cleaning out the inside of the boilers, itís
a filthy job, but we get an extra £1 for doing it. Wages at sea are going
up next month by 30/-, so weíll be getting £5/17/6d a week. Tell Harry
itís time he came to sea.
Has Ismael sold the car yet, if he hasnít tell
Robin to go and get the tools, thereís a tool to fix the fan belt which
belongs to William Ty Croes Bach. The weather was really bad when I was in
France there was a high sea and fog. This coalís not very good for burning
and useless for getting fired up Ė itís very fine stuff, just like smithy
Iíve seen a handy little motorbike for Robin in a
shop here, ask him does he want me to buy it for him? Itís a 2 speed gear
just like the one Jack Croesfrynís got. Itís pretty miserable here this
Sunday, thereís only two of us left up front, the rest of the lads have
gone home. Itís difficult to understand the Southwalians speaking English,
especially the type of English spoken on this ship. One of lads here comes
from Anglesey. Well Iíve nothing more to say so Iíll finish by sending you
all my best wishes. Isaac.
Hope you are all well as I am
here. I got your letter as soon as we docked on Sunday morning. Weíve had
fine weather, I havenít heard anything about the parcel, I suppose I wonít
get it now. Theyíve put my account in to the office, the engineer will
have no choice now but pay the overtime. I had a look for silk in France,
but itís just as expensive as it is in this country. I got some tobacco
and a photograph of the ship, thereís one for Sion too. Iíll send the
underpants so you can mend them for me. Iíll look up the prices of the
stoves next time I get a chance. Well Iíve no other news so Iíll send my
best wishes to you all there. Yours Isaac. PS Ask Sion has he sent the
money for the engine?.
Hope you are well as I am here.
We went to Rotterdam and then on to Antwerp to load steel for Cardiff. I
was quite seasick coming over I couldnít eat a thing. Whereís Guto Four?
This shipís not much easier to fire up than the Afon Lledi and itís
heavier going clearing cinders from four fires. I heard Harry Ty Fry was
in Cardiff Iíll have to send him a wire. Weíll be leaving here about
Friday, theyíve damaged the mast today and it looks like weíll be going to
Cardiff for repairs. Iíll send a letter from Cardiff. I hope you received
the money and that Guto Four got his clothes. Well Iíll finish with this
and send you all my best wishes. Isaac.
I have pleasure in sending you a
word or two and hope you are well as I am at present. Weíre at Pauliag
loading pit wood, weíll be here until Tuesday, we came from Bordeaux, the
same place as I was with Guto Four. I donít know where weíre going next
Cardiff probably. We had a bit of a gale on Sunday. Two of the firemen got
the sack in Cardiff, they were replaced by two other men from Cardiff.
This shipís about 1000 tons, weíve got some very mucky coal this time, two
of us clearing about 30 buckets each watch. Thereís no overtime this trip,
we have time off each day and work 8 Ė 12 in port, instead of overtime. If
Iíd have been ten minutes earlier in Swansea Iíd have got a very handy
little ship and a new one at that. Well Iíll come to close and send you
all my best wishes. How are Morris and M Evans, let me know in your next
letter. Yours Isaac.
Dear Family, I received your letter today,
Wednesday weíre sailing tonight, somewhere near Rotterdam. I got Hugh
Tripís letter. Iím writing this in a hurry at the Post. Iíll write again
Itís with pleasure that I write
to you and hope that you are all well as I am at present. I received your
letter safely yesterday, Monday, and I was glad to see the photo of mum
and of the house and to get some news of Dick, it sounds pretty bad there
then. Weíve been in Newport discharging since Friday. It was very windy
when we were on passage fro Bordeaux. I donít feel much like coming home
this Christmas, itís a bit too soon. I hope youíll send me a Christmas
pudding wherever I am. Weíre off to France tomorrow evening. Iíve seen the
ĎChristianaí somewhere Iím sure. Do you fancy a job as a fireman I could
get you a job on this ship. Is Guto Four still driving the bus?, I bet he
likes that job. Send to the same address in Cardiff. I didnít get tobacco
this time, thank Sion for the photo. I went to the Baptist Chapel on
Sunday, we had a nice supper there. Send Kate Ty Fryís address to me
again., sheís not far from here. Isaac.
C/O Hanes Shipping co,
Itís with pleasure that I write
this to you and hope that you are all well as I am at present. I received
your letter safely and was so sorry to hear about the lads coming home
from Sarn, such a shame. Weíve been discharging in Cardiff since Saturday
morning, weíd been to Caen, I wasnít sure how to spell it. It looks likely
that weíll be going to Havre and then South Shields then to Norway. The
Captain had the sack on Saturday for being drunk for the whole trip, and
he was in bed when the owners came aboard to see him, the mateís been made
captain now. I donít think heíll be much better heís of the same ilk.
Harry Ty Fryís in Swansea since yesterday, but itís too far to go there.
The Afon Towy was at Caen with us and I saw Wil Sir Fonís brother. Iím
afraid weíll be at sea Christmas time. I was sorry to hear that Aunt
Penbryn Bachís still poorly. Well Iíll come to an end by sending you all
my best wishes. I got Robinís PO and Iíll send the mouth organ next time.
It would be well worth his seeing the American round, I went last night,
he should save 15/- and get down here to Cardiff tell him.
The wood goes to Bedwas.
Yours Isaac, ask Ted to send a letter.
Hansen Shipping co,
It is with pleasure that I write
to you and hope that you are well as I am at present. We arrived in Blyth
on Wednesday evening, weíre not loading today. Weíre off to Denmark but I
donít know the name of the place weíre going to. Weíll be about a week
before coming back, a trip of 1,100, the longest run yet. The weatherís
been good so far, I sent Ted a letter telling him that Iíd got him a job
here helping the cook, £2 a week. How did they get on at the Sarn fair,
Iím sending you tobacco for Christmas, they kept one plug I was over the
limit!! Iíll send the mouth organ again. Well Iíve no more for the time
being so Iíll come to a close by sending you all my best wishes. Yours
Isaac, Iíll send word from Denmark.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
This was Isaacís last letter before he was lost Ė
December 15 Ė 1921.