PEMBROKESHIRE SHIPWRECKS

SNOWSTORM and SHIPWRECKS

28 FEBRUARY - 1 MARCH 1886

 

The steamship GLENISLA, of Leith, was bound from Glasgow to Savona, Italy with a cargo of coal. At 1.30 a.m. on 28 February 1886 a light was seen which the master Allan Wallace took to be on the Irish coast. Course was changed to south by east but soon after the ship struck Llechganol * a rock off Abereiddy Bay on the north coast of Pembrokeshire. Within twenty minutes the vessel was full of water and the crew abandoned. The master took charge of the starboard lifeboat and made sure that his wife and half the crew were aboard before pushing off. The port lifeboat contained the rest of the crew of 22 and was under the command of the mate John Watson. The boats remained by the wreck until daylight when they pulled ashore and the crew were taken to a farm numb with the cold, and wet with snow and sleet.

That evening they left for St Davids, and on Monday morning 1 March set off for Haverfordwest. Snow was now falling thickly and the horses pulling the cart had a difficult time. The men were now taken care of by the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society, given two shillings each and train tickets home. The mate arranged for each to have a good meal costing eight pence, which left them one shilling and fourpence for the journey home.

Captain Wallace appeared at a Board of Trade inquiry, held at North Shields, into the loss of the ship. He was found negligent on four counts:1) He had failed to notice that the compass courses were not being made good, 2) He had not satisfied himself of the the distictive character of the light seen at 1.30 on the 28th, 3)The lead was not used, and 4) he was not on deck when safe navigation required his personal supervision. Capt Wallace had his certificate suspended for three months but was granted a chief mate's ticket during the suspension. 

* Llechganol translates as "middle slate".  There are three rocks in the area - Llechuchaf, Llechganol and Llechisaf (Upper, Middle and Lower Slate). The rocks are frequently dived by members of sub-aqua clubs as there are a number of wrecks in the area and are known as the Upper, Middle and Lower Sledge.

 

The steamship MISSOURI was of 5,146 tons gross 3,331 net. She had left Boston USA on 17 February bound for Liverpool with 395 head of cattle and a large general cargo. She made the Fastnet rock on the Irish coast on the morning of 28th and as she entered St George's channel shaped a course to take her towards Holyhead. At 11 p.m. that day it began to snow. At 4.15 the next morning the loom of the coast was seen through the gloom and the engines were put full speed astern. The ship struck the rocks at Porth Dafarch to the south of Holyhead. The coastguard L.S.A. rocket company got the breeches buoy rigged and brought ashore the cattle men, the ship's doctor and three stowaways.

Tugs attempted to tow the ship off with no success. The Missouri developed a list to starboard. Some of the cattle were driven overboard and 156 head swam ashore. The rest were drowned when the ship capsized on the rocks as the tide ebbed. Capt Reuben Poland, the chief officer Ernest William Owens and the crew had abandoned in the boats shortly before.

At the Board of Trade inquiry into the loss the court found that the ship had continued at too high a speed in the poor visibility caused by the snow storm, and the lead had not been used often enough in approaching the coast particularly as the master was unsure of the ship's position. Capt Poland's certificate was suspended for six months, though he was granted a first mate's ticket for that time.

 

There was a third shipwreck on the evening of 28 February. The schooner Mere du Sauveur, of Fécamp, was bound from la Rochelle to Newport, Monmouthshire, with a cargo of potatoes when driven into Carmarthen Bay. She was wrecked at Pendine drowning her crew.

                               

 

 

S.S.  RHIWABON  WRECKED on THE SMALLS

 

SEVEN MEN GET AWAY but ELEVEN are LOST

 

 

A little to the north-west of the entrance to Milford Haven lie the islands known as Skokholm and Skomer. Further to the west lie a string of hazards - Grassholm, the Hats and Barrels, and finally The Smalls. The latter has been marked by a lighthouse for many years. All these islands or rocks have claimed ships, particularly in the days of sail. But here is the story of the loss of a steamship.

The RHIWABON, 883 tons register, was owned by the Cardiff firm of John Cory and Sons. In January 1884 she was on passage from Fleetwood to Cardiff in ballast. With a heavy south-westerly gale blowing she put into Holyhead for shelter. When the gale moderated she resumed the voyage at midnight on Monday 28 January. She was under the command of Capt George Nance who had a crew of seventeen.

Tuesday evening was dark and hazy with poor visibility and the gale had got up once more. The master's watch was on deck, and the mate's below. At about 8.30 p.m. William Morgan, the chief mate, felt the ship shudder. It had struck one of The Smalls (a group of three or more rocks which lie low in the water). Morgan felt the ship swing round and go broadside on to the rock against which it struck three or more times. He jumped from his berth and ran up on deck to find the crew abandoning ship as the vessel was obviously holed and beginning to sink. Some of the crew had already launched the port lifeboat and got into it. Morgan joined them. The boat broke away from the ship but then capsized throwing Morgan and six hands into the sea. Morgan clung to the thwarts (the cross seats) and the boat righted. The men were able to get back into the boat which was then swept against a rock and holed but remained afloat. The seas drove the lifeboat away from the rock and the sinking ship. They could see the rest of the crew trying to launch the starboard lifeboat.

The masthead light of the RHIWABON disappeared after about half an hour - they presumed that the vessel had sunk. William Morgan took the tiller while two of the crew rowed. The water was up to their waists so they were bailing fast. They failed to find any of their shipmates. At about 1 a.m. on Wednesday they saw the lights of a steamship and hailed her. They were heard and the S.S. BRITON, bound from Belfast to Bristol, hove to and picked them up. They were all more or less exhausted and had to be lifted aboard. The BRITON searched the area but found no other survivors. The seven saved were treated with great kindness. Arriving at Penarth Roads the men were transferred to the tug JOHN BULL which landed them at Cardiff.

The saved:  William Morgan chief mate; - Chalmers 2nd engineer; A.Bs. H.Penny and B.Nelson; Francis Kennedy fireman; David James steward; Osmond Richardson engineer's steward.

Lost:  Capt George Nance; M.Kroger 2nd mate; Joshua Williams chief engineer; J.Taylor cook; - Ekbom carpenter; Auguste Suleman seaman (this may not be the correct spelling of this man's name); A.Bs Frederick Frederickson and Neil Macfarlane; James Turpin fireman; James Bowie donkeyman; and a Spanish coal trimmer name unknown.

Joshua Williams, the chief engineer, was 30 years old and a native of Neath. He is remembered on a grave stone at St John's church, Skewen, near Neath. He was living at 38 Carlton Terrace, Swansea at the time of his death. This is from Dr Reg Davies'  Welsh Mariners  website  www.welshmariners.org.uk  I recommend taking a look at this fascinating site which is absolutely packed with detailed information.

Page 3 of 3