The FRANKFIELD wrecked Cemaes, Anglesey
7 December 1847
Eight men get ashore but twenty are drowned
The Frankfield in Table Bay, Cape Town, by Samuel Walters.
The Frankfield was built in New Brunswick in 1840 and at first carried passengers from Britain to Canada. Her tonnage was 903 gross, 750 net. She was owned by Wilson & Co. of Liverpool.
On Thursday 2 December 1847 she left Liverpool in ballast bound for Callao, Peru to bring back a cargo of guano. She was towed out of the Mersey by a steam tug which left her at the Bell Buoy. The ship soon ran into a gale and made slow progress but on Sunday morning she rounded Holyhead. Then the sou'west gale drove her back to the north of Anglesey. On Monday evening the wind went to the north and blew a strong gale.
The ship was under close reefed topsails and reefed fore sails. The master, Capt John Robinson, thought that they could weather Holyhead and tried for it but at four a.m. on Tuesday sleet and rain accompanied the increasing gale which built up a tremendous sea. The ship neared the Skerries light which the master mistook for the Holyhead light. He had taken the light at Point Lynas for the Skerries. When near it he realised his mistake and ordered the crew to wear ship and hauled up the foresail and put the helm up. The fore top sail blew away from the yard, the main topsail sheet parted and fore topsail stay sail blew away.
The ship was now unmanageable and she went broadside onto the rocks to the east of Cemaes Bay inshore of the rocks known as the Middle Mouse (Ynys Badrig). The sea was breaking twenty feet onto the rocks. The master shouted "Run forward my lads, and try to save yourselves. Her bowsprit is on the rocks." Some ran forward while others stood in a cluster on the poop deck. She soon parted amidships and broke into a thousand pieces very quickly.
One of her spars fell, part on the deck and part on the rocks. Eight men got ashore along the spar.
Capt Robinson, who had broken his arm the night before, could not be persuaded to save himself and shouted "Never mind me. Save yourselves."
The men who got ashore were: Henry Ross the 2nd mate; John Corney apprentice; James Macdowall sailmaker; and seamen William Dunn, John Fegan, John Hutchinson, James M'Cathlin and Alexander Laing.
The crew who were drowned were: Capt John Robinson; 1st mate Robert Arkley; steward John Campbell; bos'n Alexander Young; apprentices John Stuart and William Dann; seamen George Johnson, William Scotland, John M'Carmmon, William Roberts, - Griffiths, Edward Fox and eight others whose names were not known to the survivors.
Some years ago Susan Davies, who lives in Anglesey, sent me the names of eleven men who are recorded in the parish register at Llanbadrig as having died in the Frankfield. They are: Robert Arkley, John Campbell, Joe Dischanes, William Duane, Edward Fox, Spencer Hill, William Roberts, John Robinson, James Scotland, John Stuart and William Woolcock.
A week or so after beginning this page I had an email from Fran Hollinrake, Custodian of St Magnus Cathedral at Kirkwall, in the Orkney Islands. She had been recording the inscriptions on the graves in the church yard at Warbeth, Stromness and took this photograph.
Fran then searched the internet for a ship wrecked on Anglesey on 7 December 1847 and found this site. She very kindly contacted me and has allowed me to use the photo and add John Hay, the carpenter of the Frankfield, to this page.
On 7 December 2016 I had an email from Mike Thompson who lives in Cemaes Bay near Llanbadrig where the Frankfield was wrecked. He very kindly sent this photo of the memorial to the crew which is at Saint Patrick's church. Each year prayers are said there on 7 December to remember those who died. He also tells me that the wreck is recalled in a folk song called "Wrecked on the Mouse".
It appears that a few newspapers carried a claim that Robert Arkley, the chief mate, had been drunk in his bunk at the time of the wreck. This claim had the effect of stopping, for a time, the subscriptions which were being collected for the relief of his widow and child.
Four of the survivors put an advert in the Liverpool Mercury of Friday 17 December 1847 repudiating the story. Here it is. As this scan is difficult to read I have put the text below.
STATEMENT of WILLIAM DUNN and others. At 11 p.m. 6 December blowing a whole gale, made the Calf Light, wore ship, stood in for the Welsh coast, made Point Lynas Light about 2 a.m. 7 December and took it to be the Skerry light, for which we steered. When we were abreast of it Capt Robinson ordered ship to wear, gale having increased to a hurricane from the north. The mate at this time 4 a.m. was on the forecastle on duty perfectly sober and rendering all assistance a man could do under such awful circumstances, which are too distressing to describe, and impossible to detail.
More to follow.