PIONEER, of Dublin, wrecked Puffin Island
25 January 1878
The steamship Pioneer, owned by Palgrave & Murphy, was registered in Dublin and of 1,047 tons gross. She left Maryport on Tuesday 22 January 1878 bound for Antwerp with a cargo of pig iron.
That night the weather became boisterous and she began to ship heavy seas. At seven a.m. on Wednesday the tiller broke and she was then steered from an aft position until the wheel parted. The ship was then found to be leaking and early on Thursday some of the cargo was thrown overboard. By seven that morning she was close to the Skerries. As her fore hold took on a lot of water she became impossible to steer and a distress signal was made. The Liverpool tugs Knight Commander and Royal Saxon took her in tow to Moelfre Bay on the coast of Anglesey. Finding that the leak was still serious it was decided to take the ship to Beaumaris for repairs.
The wind was now blowing a gale from the north with heavy snow.
As the tugs entered the channel between Penmon and Puffin Island the tow to the Royal Saxon parted. A short time later the tow to the other tug also parted and the ship drifted onto the rocks off the north side of the island. The crew of the Pioneer took to the rigging.
John Ross, one of the firemen, used a lifebuoy and line to get ashore. The master, Henry J. Rodder, then hauled the line back and attempted to use it to get to the island but becoming exhausted he drowned. John Hamilton the 2nd mate of the Pioneer was also drowned.
Then three men appeared on the island cliffs. They were Robert and Owen Roberts, coxswain and second coxswain of Penmon lifeboat, and John Williams who had rowed out from the shore to a tug which landed them on Puffin island. They had taken two lines with them and used one to lower themselves to the shore and the other with a breeches buoy to bring the remaining members of the crew ashore after they had been able to grasp the line still attached to the ship.
Thomas Moss, the Pioneer's carpenter, was being drawn ashore when he came out of the buoy. Though got to the island he soon died.
The Penmon men were able to save the rest of the crew and all were then take ashore at Beaumaris.
For their action John Williams, Robert Roberts and Owen Roberts received awards from the Royal Humane Society, the RNLI and the Board of Trade.
The Pioneer parted midships and her fore section sank. What was left of the hull and cargo was put up for auction at the Bulkeley Arms Hotel, Beaumaris, on 22 July 1878.