Iron barque Stuart

 

  Built: 1877 at Alexander Stephen & Sons, Dundee Scotland
  Built for: J. Hay & Co. Liverpool
  Owner from 1883: Doward, Richardson & Co. Liverpool
  Port of Registry: Liverpool
  Official No: 76549
  Code letters:

RCDL

  Tonnage: 912GRT, 855 under deck, 881 net.
  Dimensions:

 

202.5 feet long, 34.2 foot beam and holds 19.1 feet deep; Raised Quarter Deck 33 feet;
Forecastle 24 feet
     

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April 6th 1901

 

One of the most colourful stories ever to come out of Llyn was the loss of the Iron Barque Stuart which came to grief on the north coast at Porth Ty Mawr (near Porth Colmon) on a foggy and drizzly morning, on the 6th of April 1901. She left Liverpool on Good Friday bound for New Zealand with a load of porcelain, Whisky, and a general cargo that included amongst other things, Pianos and Cotton bales. When she left the Mersey she had to be towed all the way to Holyhead because of a stiff westerly wind, then she had a long tack towards the Irish coast, followed by a second tack back towards Llyn. Ordinarily this would have taken the Stuart well to the south of Bardsey island and into the relative safety of Cardigan bay, but with the effects of a flood tide and a westerly wind she was still on the wrong side of the Peninsula (North) but with the poor visibility her crew couldnít of known this, as the only usable navigational aids they had at their disposal was a compass, log and lead lines, which only gave them the ships heading and distance travelled but not their position. Now there are two things that I would like to clear up about this mishap. (First) Some say the reason she was wrecked was that she ran over the Sorrento, a three masted American sailing vessel that foundered in a storm at the very same spot thirty one years earlier in October of 1870, this is utter nonsense, lets face it, if she ran over the Sorrento which was only in a few feet of water, and within a stoneís throw of the beach, she was doomed anyway!!!! (Secondly) Reports at the time suggested that another reason for the mishap was the inexperience of her crew, this I donít believe either, Insurance companies have always used this excuse, so that they can point the finger of blame at individuals rather than the shipping companies that lined their pockets. And newspapers are just as guilty, they always like to colour a story, even if it means destroying peopleís careers and livelihood in the process.

 

The_stewart.jpg (105720 bytes)     Stuart_bow.jpg (49072 bytes)

 

No, the real reason for the mishap was that seafaring in those days was very much reliant on fair weather and a lot of good luck, which the crew of the Stuart had neither on that day. With the navigational aids that people have now, radar, satellite navigation (g.p.s) and accurate weather forecasting, where even a school pupil with his atlas and a couple of well chosen toys, could quite happily take a motor vessel of any decent size around the globe without any problem at all.

The Stuart struck the rocks in the early hours of Easter Sunday, but luckily for her crew, this part of the Llyn Peninsula has a much gentler sloping coastline than further south towards Bardsey and around the corner towards Hells Mouth and Cilan. So Capt Robert Hichinson and his crew of 18 got ashore without any injury or loss of life. And at daybreak they even managed to re-board her, only to discover that she was hopelessly lodged and that the situation was totally irretrievable.

 

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From now on the story of the Stuart takes on a different tack so to speak, and with the passage of time, fact and fiction appear to fuse and the two become increasingly difficult to disentangle, but one thing is certain, when word got around about the wreck and especially her cargo (and I donít mean the cotton bales or piss pots) it changed this part of Llyn for a long time. To wake up one morning and find an Aladdinís cave full of goodies on your doorstep, especially with the poverty that people had to endured back then, it would of taken a lot of willpower and faith to stay on the right side of the law.

So hordes of local people descended on the Stuart like a swarm of Locust, and within no time at all they were helping themselves to her "cargo". Now there's one thing you must remember, this was before the 1904 Religious Revival that swept through Wales and alcohol was frowned upon for many years after that. The Customs & Excise arrived en mass from Caernarfon with a Mr Mason Cumberland in charge. But the locals were already away with a lot of the goodies. They even buried barrels, and shoved bottles down Rabbit holes. (And rumour has it that some are still being found to this day) because at the time they were so much under the influence they couldn't remember where they'd hidden them, and the party went on for months. One trick that is still talked about today is, when barrels were taken from the wreck they were left on the cliff top, so that they could go back for more, others would come along and take them, to stop this, the top of the barrels were taken off and they would dip their heads in the whiskey. Women would also carry bottles away in their bloomers so that the customs officers couldn't see them. And there was also an account of one man injuring his back while trying to carry a grand piano up the cliff!!!

As the wreck broke-up bales of cotton were carried away by the tide. One account describes how one such bale was washed ashore on Bardsey, and it is said that it had a rat clinging to it. The rodent had discovered an effective way of leaving the doomed vessel, but one of the islanders spotted him and he was promptly shot.

 

Stuarts_cargo.jpg (38733 bytes)

Stuart's cargo of cotton bales can clearly be seen in this enlargement

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Y Stewart

Aeth llestr fawreddog o Lerpwl

I drwbwl os coeliwch yn awr,

Yn raddol fe'i gwnaethpwyd yn 'sgyrion

Ar greigiau melynion Tymawr;

Barck hardd ydoedd Stewart, rhaid cyfarch

Yn edrych fel Alarch ar lyn,

Ond creigiau Llangwnadl er syndod

A wnaethant ei difrod pryd hyn.

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Many poems and ballads were written about the occasion, along with scathing sermons from chapel pulpits, condemning the behaviour of the masses for taking advantage of their free gifts that arrived by boat that Easter. To this day many local households have their dressers adorned with the porcelain, and some farmhouses have kitchen tables, and the odd bottle of whiskey still unopened. We have an original photograph of her and a nice milk jug. The keel of the Stuart is still visible on a very low spring tide. I have been to see it on a couple of occasions. But haven't found any "Sporran Juice" yet.

 

Stuart_plate.JPG (57670 bytes)

Steel plate off the Stuart

 

Stuart's Keel

Stuart's Keel

dead_eye_stuart.jpg (57422 bytes)

Dead Eye

bottles_stuart.jpg (51738 bytes)

Codds Bottles

"The Codds bottle is stamped 1901 on the bottom"

(Thanks to Pete Wilkinson for these photographs)

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The Welsh Whiskey Galore

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plat_stuart.jpg (15943 bytes) jug stewart=2.jpg (21281 bytes) stuart_whiskey_bottle.jpg (66797 bytes) jug stewart=1.jpg (25137 bytes) teapot_stuart.jpg (38103 bytes)

Full Whiskey Bottle off the Stuart, over 110 years old

         Plate, Jug and Teapot off the Stuart

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(We would like to thank everyone who let us photograph these priceless artifacts)

Other Shipwrecks

Sorrento    Newry    Twelve Apostles    Bristol    Ganda

Cyprian    Monk    Timbo    Amy Summerfield    Brig Ann    Farfield

 

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