HEAVY GALE  of Monday 19 January 1863


Mary Jenkins wreck grave at St Donats

The stone at St Donats marking the grave of John Jenkins of the schooner Mary Jenkins.


The Porthcawl Lifeboat station was founded in 1860 when the Royal National Lifeboat Institution placed the lifeboat Good Deliverance at the port. The boat was the gift of Lady Cotton Sheppard of Uttoxeter.

This lifeboat's first service was performed in January 1861 when the St Ives schooner Mary Jane, which had been abandoned by her crew, was brought ashore from the Scarweather sandbank.

The second service was performed on 20 December 1862 when the crew of ten were rescued from the brigantine Champion, of Miramichi (New Brunswick) which was also on the Scarweather.

A very strong gale, which reached force ten, began on the evening of Sunday 18 January 1863 and caused a great deal of damage over the whole of England and Wales on land and at sea. Monday had just begun when the coastguard at Porthcawl saw what was believed to be a tar barrel alight near the Tusker rock which lies just a couple of miles from the station. The Good Deliverance was manned by her six oarsmen, bowman and coxswain and rowed through the storm to the Tusker. Though the night was very dark and the visibility poor a two mast vessel was seen and the lifeboat skirted as close to the rock as was safe with the bowman using the lead line to judge the depth of water. The lifeboat was anchored and veered towards the vessel which disappeared before the lifeboat got near. Heavy seas struck the lifeboat and extinguished the oil lamp held by one of the crew in an attempt to illuminate the scene. The lifeboat remained at anchor for two hours but with no further sign of the vessel they were forced to return to station.

In his book  Wreck and Rescue in the Bristol Channel - Volume 2 The Story of the Welsh Lifeboats,  published in 1967, Grahame Farr states "On the next day wreckage floated past Porthcawl, but the vessel was never identified."  Grahame, who was a good friend of mine, and with whom I corresponded for many years, was the archivist of the Lifeboat Enthusiasts' Society and his work has inspired many lifeboat historians including me. In many years of research I have been able to add just a little to this story.

The vessel wrecked was identified. A lifebuoy and wreckage of the schooner Mary Jenkins, of Caernarfon, were washed up along the coast from Dunraven Bay to Nash Point and the bodies of four members of the crew recovered. One was that of John Jenkins the 26 year old son of the vessel's master Capt David Jenkins. John lies buried at St Donat's church at Atlantic College. The slate stone marking the grave is still there. Though his father's body was not recovered from the sea Capt Jenkins is also mentioned on the stone.

The vessel, which had been built just a year earlier by Owen Barlow, had been bound from Boston, Lincolnshire to Cardiff with a cargo of wheat.



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