FOUR MASTED BARQUE WRECKED NEAR HOLYHEAD
LOSS of the PRIMROSE HILL
THIRTY THREE MEN DROWN
Four masted barque PRIMROSE HILL
The memorial to the crew of the PRIMROSE HILL
at Maeshyfryd cemetery, Holyhead.
The barque PRIMROSE HILL, of Liverpool, was a large vessel being of 2,520 tons gross. Allowing for her crew space of about 187 tons she had a net registered tonnage of 2,332. She had an iron hull and was built in Liverpool in 1886. William Price was her managing owner.
The vessel loaded a general cargo for Victoria, British Columbia. Her master Capt Joseph Wilson began engaging a crew on 20 December 1900 and completed the process in four days. He was unable to find a second officer with a British certificate, so had to do with a boatswain, who he understood held a Norwegian ticket as master.
The vessel left the Mersey on 24 December 1900 with pilot Henry Roberts, and in the tow of the steam tug William Jolliffe.
The pilot left the ship at the BAR lightship. As the wind had got up from the south the ship and tug anchored in Moelfre roads off the north coast of Anglesey on the morning of the 25th. She remained there until a light wind from south-east allowed them to proceed on the morning of 27th. The barque passed Holyhead under tow in the early afternoon with a moderate breeze from SSW. The wind freshened during the afternoon and backed to SE. Bardsey was sighted at 6.30 p.m. At 9 the island bore E by S 11 miles distant. At about 10 p.m. a sudden squall hit the ship and took her aback and parted the tow. The tug came alongside and the tug skipper said that it would be impossible to re-connect. He advised Capt Wilson to make sail and steer a westerly course to get away.
At 1.30 a.m. on the 28th the tug lost sight of the vessel during a rain squall. Failing to find her the tug skipper thought that she had made sail and got away to the west. As a result the tug steamed for Holyhead arriving there at 8 a.m.
The hawser had parted near the tug so that almost the whole length hung from the bows of the ship and dragged behind it. This must have materially hampered the vessel. It was not got aboard the Primrose Hill until 8 in the morning. By midday the wind was blowing a whole gale from north west.
The vessel was sighted by the look out at South Stack Signal Station at 1 p.m. when she was just one mile to the north west. The tug Hannah Jolliffee got under way but failed to get past the breakwater at Holyhead due to the extreme sea conditions.
At 1.50 p.m. the master of the ferry Hibernia, on passage from Dublin to Holyhead, sighted the ship one mile to the north west of South Stack. The wind was from the NNW and blowing at force 11. The Hibernia steamed to the weather side of the ship which was now flying signals of distress. But she was unable to assist as she would have been in grave danger herself due to the shore being close. The Holyhead steam lifeboat was also unable to get out of the harbour. The Coastguard Life-Saving apparatus company (rocket crew) turned out ready to assist.
The Primrose Hill anchored at 2.15 but the starboard cable parted in five minutes and the ship began to drive towards the shore. She struck the rocks just to the north of Penrhos point at 2.45 - such was the violence of the sea that she was completely broken up by 3 p.m. The L.S.A. company arrived as the vessel broke up and were powerless to assist.
The only survivor was able seaman Johan Petersen who had been at the wheel. When the ship struck he was hanging onto the rails of the poop. When the vessel broke up he went down but then a huge sea lifted him and threw him onto the rocks from which he was rescued by a farmer's son. (Who was that I wonder?)
The crew of the barque:
Capt. Joseph Wilson aged 49 lived at Altrincham, Cheshire - he had been master of the Primrose Hill for twelve years.
H. Hughes aged 56 mate of Exeter; Kristian Ness 25 bo'sn Norway; John Lloyd 21 junior officer; Joseph Harwood 59 carpenter; G.A. Camperlee 37 steward from USA;C.L.Johansen 34 cook Sweden.
A.B. (Able Seaman):Edward Barnes 22;Furis Rosenthal 21 Russia;A.Pirkola 21 Finland;A. Muller 20 Germany;Firel Andersen 38 Finland;John Burns 40;Laurito Nilsen 31 Norway;Julius Carlsen 31 Finland;Saras Bungui 26 Phillipines;Estanislas Legaspi 21 USA;E.Cohn 19 Germany;H.Bowers 20.
O.S. (Ordinary Seaman):Alfred Partington 23;W.F.Burdett 21 of Manchester.
Apprentices:W.T.Freeze 17 Tipperary;Herbert Huggins 15 Exeter;Frank S. Wood 18 Sutton;Douglas Brown 15 Manchester;Stanley O. Cakebread 17; Cyril Edwards 17 Southsea;Endre R.J.Berg 17 son of Capt Berg of Exeter;John C.Crewe 16 Ramsey Isle of Man;John G.C.Richards 15 Lowestoft; Henry Kelson 19 Brighton;A.D. Harding 21 Exeter;C.F. Ashdown 18 London.
The survivor was A.B. Johan Petersen aged 37 from Sweden.
A Board of Trade Inquiry was held into the loss of the ship. The court considered that the crew was not adequate for the vessel's safe navigation, but there was no evidence to satisfy them that the loss was due to such inadequacy. They were strongly of the opinion that William Price the managing owner would have been better advised if he had insisted on having a more adequate crew, especially in view of the fact that no fewer than twelve apprentices had been shipped of whom six had never been to sea before. They also noted that none of the men signed as able seamen had proved their claim to that rating - that was an all too frequent occurrence.