LOSS of the brig RICHARD, of Whitehaven

Storm of 12 October 1870


The steamship Prince Cadwgan was on passage from Aberaeron to Bristol on 15 October 1870 when her crew spotted a capsized boat off Worms Head on the Gower coast. The steamer hove to and her crew righted the boat and found the body of a man inside. The body had one leg over the thwart (cross seat) and the other under it. The boat was marked "RICHARD, of Whitehaven. Owen Murphy". Having drained the water from the boat it was hauled up to the davits of the Prince Cadwgan to recover the body, and for a closer inspection. Thomas Evans, the steamer's master, noted that the painter had been recently cut.

On arrival at Cumberland Basin, Bristol, the body was handed over to P.C. 206 Edwin Lyons who searched it and found only a clasp knife and some tacks in the trouser pocket..

The inquest on the body was opened at St Peter's Hospital but had to be adjourned and resumed on a number of occasions for identification and further evidence to be obtained.

John Coulthard, who lived at Newport, identified the body as that of his father David mate of the brig Richard, of Whitehaven, which had sailed from Newport with a cargo of coal for Dublin on 11 October under the command of Owen Murphy. The vessel had a crew of five.

Police Sgt. Harris had written to the harbour master at Dublin and was told that the Richard had not arrived.

A post mortem was carried out by Mr R.Fendick who was of the opinion that death was caused by drowning and that the bruises on the face and lacerations of the legs were inflicted by the body being thrown about when in the boat.

The coroner concluded that David Coulthard had drowned when the boat capsized after he had abandoned ship as the Richard sank in the storm of 12 October.  He thought it probable that Capt Murphy and the rest of the men had been washed away when the boat capsized. A verdict of "Found drowned" was returned.

Of course we do not know where the Richard sank. We would need to know the time of sinking, the state and time of the tide, the force and direction of the wind, and the time the Richard's boat was found. It may then be possible to make an estimate of the postion of the sinking. "Off Worms Head" is a rather vague position in any case. Was it to the west in Carmarthen Bay, to the south or to the south east? Who knows. The brig may have foundered in Carmarthen Bay and the boat carried back up channel by the tide. It may have been wrecked on the Scarweather and the boat drifted down on the tide. Some would call this "a mystery of the sea". I am not one for mysteries. Such events were all too common. Such was life for many who worked at sea. It is still, and always shall be, a dangerous environment. 

Some academics take a rather snooty view of those who are interested in shipwrecks. They say that the percentage of voyages which ended in shipwreck was very small - I recall seeing a figure of 0.5 to 1 % for the mid nineteenth century for British ships. That may well be so but for many families it was not an uncommon experience. 


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Capt Evans and the Prince Cadwgan  were again in action on 28 November 1870. The ship was off Aberporth when they saw a small boat and its occupants struggling to row against a fresh wind. The men were the master and crew of two of the smack PRIMROSE, of Aberystwyth. The smack had been leaking all night and, though the crew were pumping hard, the water was gaining on them. Forced to abandon, they took to the boat and watched as the PRIMROSE went down. Some time later the PRINCE CADWGAN found them, took them aboard, and landed them at New Quay.

At its meeting on 5 January 1871 the Royal National Lifeboat Institution awarded Thomas Evans and his crew of seven the Thanks of the Instituion.


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The PRINCE CADWGAN was herself wrecked six years later.

The 110 ton steamship had been built on the Clyde in 1864 and was owned by the Aberayron Steam Navigation Company. On passage from Bristol for Aberaeron with a general cargo, she made a call at Solva in St Bride's Bay from where she sailed in the early hours of 30 September 1876. Before reaching the entrance to Ramsey Sound, she struck a rock and lost her propellor blades. She then drifted and struck Carreg Fran "Crow Rock" off Porth Lysky (not to be confused with the far better known Crow Rock off Linney Head, South Pembrokeshire). She sank in four fathoms. Capt Thomas Evans and his crew got ashore in the boat.