ORANGES for CHRISTMAS - A TRAGEDY
The end of November 1865 was a particularly stormy time. On the 22nd, with the sou'west wind blowing at force 9, a brig was seen to be in distress near the Tusker off Porthcawl. The lifeboat Good Deliverance was taken to a point to windward to launch but the crew failed in their first attempt to get near. On trying again they got alongside and some of the crew were able to board the abandoned vessel which proved to be the Argo, of Faial (in the Azores).
Weighing the anchors, the lifeboatmen got the brig into Porthcawl harbour. At low water it was found that her bottom was damaged, suggesting that she had struck the Tusker. Her cargo of oranges was intact.
The next day the brig's boat came in on the tide bottom up. Though they had not been seen from the shore it was obvious that the crew had abandoned and taken to the boat which then capsized. The whole crew of the Argo, possibly eleven men, had drowned.
The Argo was taken to Bristol where she docked at the Welsh Back on Thursday 30 November and her cargo unloaded: C.F. Ivens took delivery of 959 boxes of oranges and 17 baskets of eggs, Wait and James 587 boxes and 26 baskets of oranges.
By the end of December the Argo had been repaired and took on a cargo to return to Faial. She had traded to Bristol for many years.
In March the following year the Admiralty Court awarded the Porthcawl crew £550 for salvaging the vessel and cargo.
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In the same gale on 22 November a number of vessels were driven ashore in Swansea Bay: the schooner Claudine on Swansea beach, the barque Sarnia in the Neath estuary, and the ship Pride of Wales and barque White Squall at Aberavon. The lifeboat Martha & Anne put out from Swansea, towed by the tug Tweed, to aid the vessels at Aberavon, but failed to make contact due to the rain and darkness of the night. No lives were lost but, as a result of this failure, the lifeboat was moved from Swansea to Mumbles in January 1866 to begin that station's glorious history.
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The stormy weather continued and caused another wreck with serious loss of life on the 25th November. The brig Elpis, of Blyth (Nothumberland) sailed from Cardiff roads with coal for Bahia (Brazil) at 7 on the morning of 16 November. Having made good progress in the easterly wind she ran into a heavy sou'westerly gale on the 19th. Her master decided to run back for the Bristol Channel as the vessel was making water and had lost canvas. On 23rd with the wind at south they were off Ilfracombe at mid-day. The next day they let go the anchors off Nash Point and rode there until 1 p.m. on 25th. Seaman Riving Cotford was swept overboard and drowned as huge seas struck the vessel. The anchor chains parted and sail was made in an attempt to get away from the Nash sandbanks. The brig missed stays but they were then able to wear ship. With the storm rising the sails were torn to ribbons and the vessel driven onto the east Nash sandbank, not far from the shore, at 5 p.m. An hour later the brig beat over the bank and was driven ashore below the cliffs of Nash Point. The Elpis was now beating heavily on the ground. At 7 p.m. the mainmast went over the side carrying a man to his death, and an hour later the foremast also went carrying another man away. The remaining hands then took to the bowsprit but, at about 9.30, a particularly large sea rolled down on them and carried all but two away. Towards mid-night the tide had ebbed sufficiently for the two survivors, able-seaman John White and ordinary seaman Albert Milford, to get ashore. Captain Anderson and eight men had drowned and the Elpis broke up scattering her cargo along the shore.
In the days following a total of sixteen bodies were washed ashore from the Elpis and Argo.