"Capt William Williams"


Captain William Williams was without doubt one of the most successful son that Rhiw ever had. In fact I would go as far as to say, one of the most successful men ever from Llyn. He was born on the 2nd of January 1825 at Rhiw, and was the son of a shopkeeper. And went away to sea on Porthmadog ships at an early age. He took command of his first vessel the "Mystery" a 140 ton brig on the 12 of January 1845, just ten days after his twentieth birthday. The owner of the "Mystery" wrote to Williams father "I have great pleasure in being able to inform you that he has hitherto given me the greatest possible satisfaction, and I have promoted him to the Command of the "Mystery" at the salary of 7.7.0 per month, He is a good honest young man and you have every reason to be justly proud of such a son". He made three successful trips to the West Indies, plus the Mediterranean and up the river Danube before taking command of the barque "Ann Grant" a Bangor owned vessel. He passed his extra Masters Certificate in November 1851, the youngest ever person to do this, he was just 26. But by then he had been Master on several other vessels.

One of the most colorful stories about him was his departure from the Davies brothers ships of Menai Bridge in the spring of 1858. It was traditional in the nineteenth century for ships captains to take their new brides with them on the first voyage after their  wedding, but the Davies brothers had other ideas, and duly refused him. He immediately packed his bag and walked off the "William Wright", leaving the Davies brothers short of a Master. This was unheard of in those days, as Captains were normally loyal to even the worst of ship owners, and the Davies brothers certainly fell into that category.

The next few years was spent with the Black Ball line of "Onedin Line" fame, but first he commanded the iron ship "Simla" 1444 tons, newly built at Birkenhead and owned by Moore of Liverpool, and made three voyages on her to India. Then the "William Carey". And in November 1861 he took command of the new 693 ton "Margaret Pugh" owned by Hugh Pugh a local banker, and the largest vessel ever to be built at Pwllheli, and he sailed her from Liverpool to San Francisco on her maiden voyage in January 1862. His first Black Ball command was the "Donald McKay" a 2604 ton clipper, which he bought in 1874 and paid 8750 in cash. In fact Captain Williams went on to own several vessels including the "Commodore Perry" "Queen of the Colonies" "Southern Ocean" "Landsborough" "Hindoo" "Higginson" "Pride of the Ganges" and the beautiful "Light Brigade" (pictured below). Five years earlier in 1869 his company was worth 30.500.

Light_Brigade.jpg (86162 bytes)             d_mckay.jpg (6781 bytes)

Light Brigade.                                                          Donald Mckay

Captain William Williams was a very respected and popular man, shrewd in business and highly intelligent, for example he was the first to discover the effect of compass deviations* depending on the ships cargo. And Admiral Robert Fitzroy, best known for his voyage on the "Beagle" with Charles Darwin, sent him a congratulatory letter for his tireless work "Your observations and remarks on the influence of magnetism is the most superior that have ever come before me"

Even though Captain Williams now lived in the splendor of London, with an office in Fenchurch street, he never forgot his roots and the self educated entrepreneur was a frequent visitor to Llyn and Rhiw. He sold his shipping interest in the 1880's, to concentrate on his work as a specialized insurance assessor, one of only three in the whole of London.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, they don't come much better than this great man, and it's been a pleasure to research and write this short biography. I hope I've done the man proud.


*Did Capt Williams have the "Bristol" in mind when he conducted this survey? after all she was full of iron, an ended up miles off course, and on to the rocks at Porth Ysgo.


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