Wreck of the  STORM-AWAY  on Sarn-y-Bwch

20 September 1854


The ship STORM-AWAY 679 tons of Boston U.S.A. was bound from St John's, New Brunswick for Dublin with a cargo of timber under the command of Capt Jordan. She had put into Queenstown and sailed from there on 19 September. That evening she was caught in a force 7 WNW wind and stranded on Sarn-y-Bwch a reef which runs out from the coast about six miles to the north of Aberdyfi.

The vessel dragged her anchors about three cable lengths along the reef wrecking her keel and losing her rudder. At low water she was almost dry.

Her crew got ashore safely.

There was no chance of saving the ship but salvage of her cargo was begun immediately.

Then on the evening of 30 September one of the boats which was taking the ship's rigging and other materials ashore ran into the breakers to the north of the mouth of the river Dysynni near Tywyn. The boat capsized drowning five members of her crew. Another boat rescued the other nine members.

Some of the cargo was taken ashore in boats while many of the timbers were thrown over the side to drift ashore. Two officers of the customs at Aberdyfi built a hut of the deals and there made a record of everything salvaged. Local man Owen Owens was employed as watchman for 14 days at three shillings per day - the usual payment being half a crown per day. The Board of Customs told the Collector at Aberdyfi to surcharge himself the extra six pence per day! But he maintained that there was no alternative as no one else was available and if Owens had not been employed the timber would have been stolen.

The cargo was auctioned on 17 November.

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Freeman's Journal, Dublin 25 October 1854


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 The Welshman  10 November 1854








6 February 1850


The vessel Thetis, of Limerick, was of nearly 300 tons register. Some sources say she was a brig others a barque.

She loaded a cargo of coal and some wooden hoops at Newport, Monmouthshire and was bound for an Irish port though whether it was Limerick or not I do not know.

John Donahoe was the master and he had a crew of eleven.

A bad gale struck Britain on Tuesday 5 February 1850. The Thetis was in the Irish sea and by two o'clock on Wednesday morning she had lost every inch of her canvas. Masters of ships were of the opinion afterwards that the storm was the worst for six years.

At about nine o'clock that morning she was driven onto Cardigan bar. It was then low water but the sea condition was awful. A lifeboat had been stationed at Cardigan only the year before. It was manned by men from St Dogmaels which is on the Pembrokeshire side of the Teifi river - the town of Cardigan being up river from the sea and on the north side of the river.

The lifeboat was launched and got near the wreck of the Thetis but the sea was running with fearful violence and drove the boat back to the shore. Another crew took over and the same thing happened to them. A third crew now took over and as they got near to the Thetis a huge sea struck the wreck and swept every member of its crew into the sea. The master and two of his crew were driven onto the shore. The lifeboat and its crew came ashore exhausted but unhurt.

The men who were washed ashore were the master Capt John Donahoe, and seamen John Peter Gilbert and John Hayes. Capt Donahoe and seaman Gilbert soon recovered but John Hayes was injured and died. The other nine members of the crew were drowned. They were: Michael Hickey - the mate

                  Dennis O'Keefe  - cook

                 John Smith - seaman

                 Cornelius Dempsey - seaman

                Timothy O'Keefe - seaman

                John Fleming   - seaman

               Timothy Beard  - seaman

              John Stack  - apprentice

              Michael Garvey   - apprentice








S.S. GATESGARTH, of Liverpool, posted missing at Lloyd's


Penarth like Cardiff, Barry and Swansea was an exporter of coal. So why was the GATESGARTH regularly bringing coal to Penarth?  The answer is that she was bringing in GAS COAL whereas most of the coal exported from Penarth was STEAM COAL.

The GATESGARTH was built in 1900 so was a relatively modern ship. Her tonnage was 1,742 tons gross, 983 net. She was owned by Rea Shipping of Liverpool and registered in that port.

She regularly carried gas coal from Partington on the Manchester Ship Canal to Penarth and ports on the south coast of England.

She left Partington in the early hours of 3 December 1907 under the command of Capt Lloyd who led a crew of twenty one.

A Liverpool pilot boat reported seeing her off Point Lynas on the north coast of Anglesey and on 4 December she was reported heading south across Caernarfon Bay. The wind had got up and a south-west gale was soon blowing.

The ship usually completed the passage to Penarth in 36 hours but did not arrive.

Some days later a life-buoy bearing the name GATESGARTH was washed up at Porthmadog. That in itself was not significant as it could have been washed overboard.

But then the S.S. Demetian, also of Liverpool, arrived in Bristol on passage from Liverpool and her master Capt Jones reported sighting a spar standing 6 feet out of the water in position about 13 miles north-west of Cardigan Bay Lightship. He was of the opinion that the spar was the topmast of a ship. It was concluded that it indicated the position of the sunken GATESGARTH.

A good deal of wreckage was also washed up in St Bride's Bay though whether this was from the ship seems unlikely.

Rea shipping sent a tug to search and another was sent from a south Wales port but there was no sign of the vessel.

She was posted missing at Lloyds with the loss of all 22 hands.










WRECK of the barque WAPELLA, of BATH, Maine, U.S.A.

24 - 25 January 1868

This barque had been built at Bath in the American state of Maine in 1865 and was of 728 tons register.

The vessel sailed from New Orleans on 19 December 1867 bound for Liverpool with a cargo of up to two thousand bales of cotton, wooden staves and oil cake. She had a crew of 12 and 3 passengers - two women and a young boy.

It was not unusual for vessels sailing up the Irish Sea to end up in Cardigan Bay.

The Wapella may have struck St Patrick's Causeway on the evening of Friday 24 January 1868. A north west gale was blowing and her master had no idea where they were. At about 10 p.m. the barque ran aground about a mile from Dyffryn which is about five miles north of Barmouth. At eight on Saturday morning the crew launched her three lifeboats and all got aboard and lay near the stern of the boat to await daylight. At about 9 a.m. the craft left the ship and made their way ashore but all three were capsized by the surf. Three men from Dyffryn went into the surf and saved four people - two were members of the crew and the others were a woman passenger and the young boy.

Captain Isaac Lincoln Orr, the master of the Wapella, the mate, Edward A. Johnson, and eight members of the crew were drowned. One woman passenger, named as Eleanor Watkins a native of Beaumaris, was also lost.

Recently Dr Glen Jenkins was conducting family history research in the Burial Register of St Dwywe church at Llanddwywe which in 1868 was in the county of Merionethshire. He found the following which Rev William Jones, Rector of the parish had written, and very kindly sent it to me:

"On the night of 24th January 1868 a large barque called Wapella, of Bath in America, having missed her course struck on the causeway, and came on shore about 12 o'clock at night. She would have been nearly dry at 2 or 3 o'clock; but at 9 a.m. the crew of 15 in number attempted to land in the boats, but they were upset at once. Eleven in all were drowned and four were saved. The vessel held out a full week before she broke up and all might have been saved had they remained on board. The ship had come from New Orleans loaded with cotton.

Bodies were found on shore 2nd February and buried on 5 February 1868. Capt was Isaac Lincoln Orr. The body of the Capt was disinterred and sent to America on 25 January 1870."

When the woman passenger was brought ashore she was in a very poor condition. John Jones and Robert James of Dyffryn spent two hours with her by which time she had recovered.

The RNLI at its meeting held in London on 2 April 1868 voted £4 to the three men who went into the sea to rescue the four survivors.

The ship was sold by auction held on the beach at Dyffryn on 11 February and a number of sales of those bales of cotton which had been recovered were held at Liverpool in March.











At 12.30 a.m. on Tuesday 3 January 1899 William Owen of Garn Fawr, arrived on horse back at Goodwick with the news that he had seen a vessel off the small island of Pen Brush firing rockets. He told the chief officer of the coastguard, and James Thomas coxswain of Fishguard lifeboat.

Owen then hastened back home where he was told that a vessel had struck the rocks and had sunk at about 1 a.m.

Coxswain Thomas assembled his crew and the lifeboat left at 2 a.m. Enoch Lewis was second coxswain, and Shemuel Morgan the bowman. There were 12 oarsmen. As soon as they rounded the Cow and Calf they encountered the gale, and heavy seas rolling in from the south-west. The sails were reefed and the boat had to tack back and forth to make progress. As a result it did not reach the scene until 6 a.m. They searched the area but found no survivors.

The coastguard life-saving apparatus company set off for the scene via the high ground of Pencaer - not an easy task at night. They were met by another messenger who told them that the vessel had sunk so returned to Goodwick.

Men at Pen Brush had thrown lines hoping that survivors could be pulled ashore. But there were no survivors.

Capt D.M. Symmonds of Fishguard visited the scene of the wreck. He found one mast still standing and gear washing about. He noted that the spars were of pitch pine and bright varnished; the main gaff was cream coloured. He was of the opinion that it was a British schooner of about 150 tons and would have had a crew of four. 

Then broken pieces of the hull came ashore. One piece carried the name Ellen and another Agnes.  A third just the letter W followed by a full-stop. After enquiries it was concluded that the wreck was of the schooner AGNES ELLEN, of Padstow, which had been bound from Runcorn to Looe, Cornwall, with coal. Albert Peters of Devonport was the master.

Over the next few days four bodies were recovered and taken to Talygaer farm. They were identified as:

John Owen Peters the 15 year old son of the schooner's master

Sydney Porter said to be a native of Malta though living in Cornwall

Louis Smith a coloured man from Mauritius

Johan Hanson the mate a native of Copenhagen

The funeral of the four was held on the afternoon of Monday 9 January at Llanwnda church. Rev Mr Johns, of Manorowen, officiated.

Mrs Peters, widow of Capt Peters and mother of fifteen year old John Owen, had just arrived at Llanwnda, and asked for the lid of her son's coffin to be opened. As this was done she touched his face and exclaimed "O, ti machgen tlws i"   (Oh, my beautiful boy) and cut a lock of his hair.

The bodies of Capt Albert Peters master of the Agnes Ellen, and seaman David Thomas of Llanon, Cardiganshire were not given up by the sea.

Though Mrs Peters lived at Devonport she was obviously a native of Wales and spoke the language too. 







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