The Brig "Ann" of Pwllheli

A quick glance at the lists of ships built on the Llyn over the last two or so hundred years, reveals one startling and disturbing fact, most of those vessels were lost, either by fire, collisions, or in the majority (we presume) foundered in bad weather. Or in the case of the 104 ton Brigantine “Waterloo” of Nefyn, that struck a Whale in the North Sea and sank on the 21st of March 1855. And many of them just sailed from various ports, and were never heard of again. Some of them were old vessels, but others nearly new, like the year old 106ton schooner “Margaret Parry” of Nefyn, which was lost with all hands while on passage from Chester to Ireland in 1849. So there isn’t a pattern as far as sea worthiness is concerned. I think it just shows what a hazardous and dangerous occupation seafaring was. (In those romantic days of sail!!!)

Another one of these ships was the Brig “Ann” of 194 tons, and built / owned by William Jones, Bryn Hyfryd, Pwllheli, in his new yard at Allt Fawr, in 1834. The vessel was designed specifically for the North American timber trade, just like many of the other vessels built at Pwllheli in the mid Nineteenth century. But unlike most of the other Llyn vessels that foundered, there is an account of her fate. Which graphically illustrates life at sea, and the hardship that seafarers endured at the time.


The four-year-old “Ann” sailed on the 7th of November 1838, from Quebec Canada, bound for Pwllheli with a cargo of prime quality timber. In command was Capt Evan Williams, Llanengan, plus a nine man crew, all from Pwllheli and the Llyn. The following reports appeared in the 'Herald' of February 2, 1839, and the strange fate of the “Ann” was to come to light a month later, on March the 1st 1839.



A two-masted vessel with both masts square rigged, there is also a gaff sail on the main mast”

Loss of the Brig Ann of Pwllheli.

Pwllheli, 26th Jan. 1839. There has been a great anxiety in this town and neighbourhood for many weeks respecting the brigs Ann and Northumbrian, both belonging to this port. The former sailed from Quebec on the 7th, and the latter from Mirimachi on the 18th of November, both bound here with timber cargoes for their respective owners. There is yet no tidings whatever of the Northumbrian, but Mr Jones, owner of the Ann, this day received the melancholy account of her fate, from Capt. Williams, her master, dated New York, Dec. 31st, 1838. The account is transcribed in the simple and sailor-like language of Capt. Williams.

Capt Evan Williams, Dec 31st 1838. (New York)

"Well, well! I do not know what to say first to you, however I will endeavor to state a sketch of our shipwreck, hardships, and loss of lives. We had a fine run down to the Gulf (St Lawrence), and middling to the Banks (Grand), then it came on gales upon gales, we scudded as long as the ship would suffer, at last I was obliged to heave her to, under close reefed main top-sail, but the gale increased and I was obliged to take in the main top-sail, and let her lay to under balanced reefed trysail, and some tarpaulin spread on the main rigging, under which canvas she acted famously for about 20 hours; then the gale increased tremendously, blowing a complete hurricane, but we weathered it middling well till the first of December, at 5h. 30m. a.m. to our sorrow, a violent sea like a lightning struck us, till both our masts went by the deck, boats, chains, galley, roundhouse, binnacle, wheel, water casks, and every article that was upon deck were swept away at one instantaneous blow, and the cabin filled with water, was all to pieces, and everything washed away in one minute. Oh! pity to say, Mr. Hugh Evans, mate, William Rowland, and Robert Richards, were never seen afterwards; then all hands that were left went on the poop to shake hands with each other to depart for ever, and likewise we went on our knees to pray for the Lord to take mercy on our souls, because we could not see anything but death on all sides, and I do believe that the Almighty answered our voices and sent us strength. We then immediately set to in good earnest to cut off the wreck to prevent injury to the vessel, after which we went to the pump, we had only one the other was gone, and we continued so till we pumped her out. 0, what a joyful voice it was to hear she was sucked and water tight. But dreadful to say, we were without anything to eat, nor one drop of fresh water to cool our tongues, which were in a deplorable state, we were nearly choked to death, and obliged to drink . . . (to drink their urine). Our tongues were in cuts and bleeding in a dreadful manner no light nor fire during the time we were five days and five nights without anything to eat, nor one drop to drink of fresh water. 0, hard time, hard time, no man can take it under his feeling except them that suffered it. On the fourth day after the accident we lost Richard Evans over board, and was drowned, on the same day also lost our rudder, then it was all over with us. But, on the fifth day, the Lord in his mercy sent us the prettiest thing that we ever saw, that was the Republic of New York, bound to New York, which picked us up, and every attention was paid to us by Capt. B. H. Williams, and his passengers; no one could do more to his own children; we had medicines, dry clothes, and good beds. We were in a pitiable state, covered with cuts and bruises, and much swollen after being so long wet, cold, and hungry. We were picked up in lat. 47° N. and long. 32° W. but we were dismasted more to the southward and westward. It is very odd that this ship shipped a sea the very hour as we were, which stove her boats, and bulwarks. Killed three other men upon the deck, and almost filled the cabin with water, although we were upwards of two hundred miles from each other at the time. We lost all our clothes and everything belonging to us except what is on our backs and these are all torn to pieces and now we are in a strange country without one farthing in our pockets, and hardly any clothes on our backs, and I do not know what will become of us in the end. We left the poor Ann without masts and rudder on the 6th of December, at 5 p.m. My heart is very low, as soon as I get ashore I am going to put ourselves in the hands of the English Consul. We were on board this vessel three weeks and five days. I hope and trust in the Almighty that I shall see you soon again.

"47° N by 32° W"

These additional details were communicated to the 'Herald' by William Jones of Bryn Hyfryd, who had received a letter from Mr. Humphrey Griffith of Liverpool, who in turn had received a letter from Mr. Henry Jenkins, whose son was a seaman on board the “Republic” of New York.

Pwllheli, Jan. 27th, 1839. Further particulars of the brig Ann, Liverpool. Jan. 26th 1839.

Mr. Humphrey Griffith.

Sir, The enclosed is an extract of a letter received from my son, who was on his passage out to New York in the ship “Republic”. I don't know who is the owner of the Ann, or whether he may possibly have the news by some other channel, but I thought best to send you the account, for fear of any delay in your getting the news. Yours Henry Jenkins. Extract of a letter from Mr. John Jenkins, New York, 1st Jan, 1839, to Mr. Henry Jenkins, Liverpool. 'Wednesday, 5th December. Light breeze but very heavy swell; 1 p.m. saw a wreck four miles to windward, with men on board, nothing but the hull left; 3 p.m. took them off the wreck with our boat, 6 men and the captain; it turned out to be the “Ann”, of Pwllheli, with timber, she sailed from Quebec on the 7th of Nov., and on the 1st Dec. in lat. 47, shipped a sea, which carried away all her masts and every thing on deck, washing three men overboard and all the provisions and water; on the 4th Dec. lost Richard Evans and their rudder; passed an American, close to, and she passed them without giving any assistance. Men saved, Evan Williams (Capt), David Richards, Thomas Morris, William Jones, Richard Evans, Henry Jones. Men lost, Hugh Evans (Mate) William Rowlands, Robert Evans and his father Richard Evans. We first made signals to them that they were seen, and as they were to windward of us, we had apparently to pass them to make a tack (the poor men then thought we were gone for good), when we got within a mile other, we lay to. And sent our gig (the long boat being good for nothing), and brought the captain and three men, then went back and brought the remaining three men; as soon as they were all on board (the captain of the Republic told me to look after the men as a squall was coming on, and he required all his hands to take in sail), so I gave them some wine and water; afterwards the captain came down into my cabin, and I undressed and gave him everything I had on my back, from the hairs on my head to the soles of my feet, for which he appeared very thankful. After I had rigged myself, I ordered some tea to be made, and gave them each a biscuit with a little salt beef, and a pint of tea. They wanted more, but I was advised not to give any. Afterwards I got some camphor and brandy, and washed their wounds with it, putting on afterwards some Marshall's Cerate, bound round with linen.

The same edition of the 'Herald' (February 2, 1839)

We the undersigned, late of the Welsh brig “Ann”, recently wrecked on her voyage from Quebec to Wales, beg leave to tender our warm and grateful acknowledgements to Capt Williams and crew of the ship “Republic” of New York, by whom we were taken from the wreck, after five days of extreme suffering, from destitution and exposure, during which four of our comrades found a watery grave. The promptness with which the requisite aid was afforded to the survivors, the sympathetic welcome which greeted us on board the Republic, and the kind and anxious solicitude of every individual to administer to the restoration of our exhausted strength, and to our subsequent comfort, during the voyage to this port, have impressed us with a deep and lasting sentiment of gratitude to our deliverers and benefactors, and impelled us to this public expression of our best wishes for their future health and prosperity. May they never be placed in circumstances to require, or requiring, may they be so fortunate as to experience similar and equal kindness from their fellow men.

(Signed) Evan Williams, Master.  

William Jones, Second Mate.

Thomas Morris.  
Henry Jones.  
Richard Owens.  
David Jones  


William Jones, the owner of the vessel drew attention to the fact that the brig “Ann” was well supplied with water and provisions when she left Quebec. Mr William Jones has had information that there was provision on board when the Ann left Quebec sufficient for ten weeks, and with regard to fresh water, there were two casks always stowed in the hold of the Ann, close to the foremast, each holding 100 gallons, and as these could not have been touched at the time, they must have been stoved during the dreadful concussion, otherwise the men could have got fresh water.

(C. & D.H. March 9, 1839) Pwllheli.

On Monday morning last, a letter was received by Mr William Jones, of this town, written by a friend at Milford Haven, South Wales, which said, that the brig Ann, his property, timber-laden, from Quebec, for Pwllheli, which was dismasted and abandoned three months since, about the middle of the Western Ocean, had been driven ashore, on Friday morning the 1st, near St. Anne's Light, Milford. On Tuesday, another letter was received, stating that the Ann was then a complete wreck, but much of the cargo was expected to be saved. And on April 6, the 'Herald' reported that part of the cargo of the brig Ann had been saved.

(C. & D.H. April 6, 1839) Brig “Ann” of Pwllheli.

There has been a quantity of timber saved from the brig Ann of Pwllheli, lately wrecked on or near St. Anne's Head from Quebec, and delivered in charge of the Customs officers at Milford.


It’s hard to believe that the hulk of the “Ann” came all the way back to Wales, but back she came, and to within 80 miles of her home port of Pwllheli, she ended up on St. Anne's Head, Milford Haven, on March 1, 1839. This was a strange sequel to a terrible incident, which had cost the lives of four seamen and endangered the lives of the master and the other five crew members of the ill-fated brig. On a happier note, William Jones appointed Captain Evan Williams again, this time master on his new 116ton schooner Quarry Maid in May of 1840.

Did the "Ann" and the "Republic" experience a "Hundred year wave" on the morning of December 1st 1838?


Other Shipwrecks

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