"Shipwrecks around the coast of Llyn"

(During the last century and the beginning of the present. (20th) Hugh Jones, Bryn Villa, Llangwnadl, (written in the 1920’s).

 

We’ll begin with the Newry she was on passage from Ireland with passengers on board, bound for Canada. It is said that many of these passengers were locked in their cabins by the captain of the ship.

If it were not for the bravery of Dafydd Morfa, many more souls would have perished that fateful night. One woman was waiting to be rescued when a large heavily built man pushed past her casting, her aside, but Dafydd managed to push past the man and brought the woman to safety. Dafydd was awarded a medal for his bravery, and his medal is still in Tirhobed, Bodferin and I have held the very same medal in my hand.

Another ship that suffered the same fate was the Dunahoe, she had on board a cargo of timber and came to grief on the rocks below Porthgolmon Farm’s land, at a place known as Porthwen Bach, quite near the spot where I used to fish for wrasse, it was known as William Sion’s stool. I heard Owen Sioni Sion say after his mother, that the captain of that ship was buried in the cliff top above, and that one of the crew passed the grave saying ‘It’s not for your goodness that you lay here’.

One old man I knew well told me that one evening late October 1859, he was on an errand the wind was blowing a gale from the east, and about a dozen or more schooners were seeking shelter in the lee of the land, when suddenly at midnight like a bolt out of the blue the wind changed direction to the north and this was the end for many of those schooners. Some went down at anchor, whilst others were blown onto the rocks. Only one managed to survive and get through Bardsey Sound and it’s destination of New Quay. The loss of life that night was very heavy. That same evening a Spanish ship came ashore at Porthcolmon, she was carrying a cargo of sugar, and the crew managed to come ashore on her poop, that had broken away from the rest of her. Only one crewmember lost his life. These men were a very cruel and fierce looking lot they carried knives on their person and were not averse to using them on each other. The old man I referred to previously told me about the funeral of the crewmember that died at Llangwnadl Church. The gravedigger had cut the grave too short, and consequently the coffin wouldn’t go down properly. One of the crew immediately jumped on the coffin, in a bid to get it to go down into the grave. This incensed the Vicar who got hold of the crewmember by the scruff of the neck and hurled him away from the graveside, before carrying on with the service in a dignified and respectful manner. Most people will remember this night as the night The Royal Charter was wrecked off the coast of Anglesey. The old people used to say that it was the worst storm they had ever experienced in their lives.

On a stormy night in October 1870 (at the time of the war between Prussia and France) a three masted ship had her masts broken and was blown ashore on the rocks at Porth Ty Mawr, Llangwnadl. She was the Sorrento and was on her way from New Orleans with a general cargo. One of the crew tied a rope around his waist and jumped into the stormy sea, in an attempt to reach the shore and safety, but unfortunately he got caught in the swell and was soon pulled under by the force of the current and drowned. The rest of the crew had to wait until low tide before attempting to get off the stricken vessel. Having succeeded in getting ashore they made their way up onto the cliffs and went in search of shelter, wending their way in the darkness they eventually came upon Ty Mawr farmhouse. My mother and her brother were staying there with their grandmother at the time.

At about this time there were rumours about that the Irish were preparing to invade the country. And when my grandmother heard the commotion, she shouted to my mother ‘Cadi the Irish have landed’!!! ‘We’ll get out of the back window, to get away from them’!!! At this my uncle got up and went down stairs, he found an old musket and propped it up against the wall, at this same time the Yanks walked in through the door soaking wet to the skin. My uncle couldn’t speak a word of English, and so one of the crew produced a matchbox, placed it on the table and placed three matches upright into it, and moved the box backwards and forwards, eventually hitting the box against the wall, the message was soon understood and the boy servant was sent to fetch an old sailor who lived close by and could speak English. Having given refuge to the seafarers, my uncle, the old sailor and a few neighbours went in search of the stricken vessel and when they found her the first thing Ellis Erw said was ‘Good God Sionyn, we’ll make our fortunes now lad’.

The next shipwreck was in 1881 a steamship belonging to Leyland Lime Co, known as the Cyprian, she was on passage from Liverpool to Genoa, again with a general cargo. As she passed Holyhead, she encountered problems with her steering and it soon became apparent that there was something wrong with her engines. They tried to put up a few sails as I recall, I stood there watching her coming closer and closer to the rocks, she eventually ended up on the rocks at Rhosgor (between Porth Ysgaden and Porthdinllaen) There were twenty seven crew aboard and one stowaway. Her Captain was John Strachan of  Liverpool, he gave his lifebelt to the stowaway, who soon lost it, but managed somehow to get to shore safely, nineteen of the crew including the captain were drowned. All apart from the captain were buried together at Edern churchyard, the captain’s body was taken back to Liverpool for burial.

In January 1884 a Scottish brig the Luther came ashore at Porth Iago, Bodferin, she had nine of a crew five were drowned and four saved. On board this ship were much of the fruits of Sir John Heidden’s labours, as well as statues and many other goods. The captain and his son were drowned, they were Scottish and one of the crewmembers was Portugese, he was a tall muscular man.

There were no other shipwrecks until 1901 when the Stuart of Liverpool, came to grief in exactly the same spot as the Sorrento, both keels crossed each other, the William and Jane from Porthmadog was also wrecked here, she was carrying a cargo of slate.

The Stuart began her voyage on Good Friday 1901 from Liverpool with a general cargo on board bound for Wellington and Dunedin, New Zealand. It’s always been a belief amongst seafarers that to sail on Good Friday was sure to bring bad luck. The Captain and the Mate were both young and inexperienced, and there’s no doubt that their inexperience caused the Stuart to come to grief where she did. At first it was thought that she could be re – floated, but within less than a week due to the wind getting up, her masts were broken and her hull came apart, and when this happened we could hardly believe the goods that came ashore along that coast that morning. Candles, matches, crockery every description, plenty of whiskey and stout. No one lost their lives with this wreck, and the most loss of life was suffered on the Newry, The Porthor ships, the Luther and the Cyprian. Nowadays there aren’t many shipwrecks, no doubt due to the fact that it is steamships that sail past our coast and they are far less likely to get into difficulty than the old sailing ships of yesteryear.

Hugh Williams Jones, Bryn, Llangwnadl.

 

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