20 August 1903


Three crew and two passengers drowned.




The schooner Rhondda was built in Newport in 1901 and was of 159 tons. She could carry a cargo of up to 300 tons.

She was owned by the Bristol Lighterage Company which, I believe, was a part of the Elder, Dempster shipping line. She was registered in Bristol where most of her crew lived.

At 1.30 on the afternoon of 20 August 1903 she left Penarth having been loaded with 287 tons of coal from the Albion Colliery near Pontypridd. The schooner had probably been loaded in the river Ely rather than in Penarth Dock.

The Rhondda was bound for Avonmouth and was towed by the steam barge Garth which was also owned by Bristol Lighterage.

The weather was moderate but at about 2.45 the wind increased and Henry Windows master of the Garth decided to head for Newport to seek shelter. The shackles of the steering wheel of the schooner then parted when the rudder kicked. It was now impossible to steer the schooner and she began to take water over her deck as the seas broke on her. It was a while before the crew of the Garth realised the problem.

Before the tow line was released the schooner began to sink. The Garth went astern and her crew did their best to save the crew of the Rhondda and the two passengers she carried. As the Garth reached the spot the only man they could find was Charles Field, of Stonehouse, the master of the schooner. His crew John Edward Jones aged 41 mate of the Rhondda, seaman William Henry Hole aged 41, and George Garraway, winchman, had drowned. The two passengers were also lost. Their names were unknown. They were believed to be going to Bristol in search of work. One was Irish and probably a labourer and about 40 years old. The other was about 25 years of age, 5ft 4in tall with light hair and a moustache.

The bodies of four of the men lost were recovered in the river Usk.

A Board of Trade Inquiry was held into the loss of the Rhondda. William Tremain, an inspector for the board, was of the opinion that tarpaulins placed over the schooner's hold were insufficient to keep the sea out of the vessel and the wooden hatchcovers should have been placed over first.