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Caithness Field Club


vol. 3 No. 5 April 1983

W. Bremner and D.G. Sinclair

A series of a chronological list of wrecks and mishaps to vessels in the Pentland Firth is being started in this issue. The list was compiled by W. Bremner of Stroma and added to by David Sinclair, Secretary of the Scrabster Lifeboat. The record commences from 1830 and in this issue the years covered are 1830-1890.

10.2.1830 Brig "MARY" of Stornoway wrecked near Thurso. The crew of 5 were rescued by John Morgan, a member of the Thurso Coastguard, who was awarded the Silver Medal of the RNLI for his courage.

Late 1834 Schooner "HUNTER" of Leith wrecked (Position?). The crew of 6 were rescued by Benjamin Sinclair of Thurso in a small boat. He was awarded the Silver Medal of the RIMI.

March 1840 In a violent storm, two local fishing vessels were driven ashore near Thurso. A local man, John Smith, waded into the pounding surf and helped 7 men to safety. For his courage he was awarded the Silver medal of the RNLI.

26.4.1840 "BEN" - Thurso to Longhope, went ashore. Crew saved.

16.9.1840 "QUEEN VICTORIA" of South Shields, stranded on Stroma and refloated with help of Stroma men.

26.10.1840 "CLEOFRD" St. Petersburg to Liverpool, stranded on Ness of Duncansby and refloated.

4.1.1841 "YOUNG ALBA" Thurso to Rosehearty, totally wrecked at Sandside. Crew saved.

21.8.1841 "ST. MARY" of Hull, from Quebee with timber, totally wrecked on Pentland Skerries. Crew saved but one local helper lost.

29.8.1841 "ACTIVE" South Uist for Newcastle, foundered off Handa. Crew saved.

12.9.1841 "SWIFT" Peterhead to Cork, struck on Stroma. Refloated and sent to Stromness for repairs.

20.9.1841 "WILLIAM" Stockholm for Brazil, totally wrecked in Gills Bay. Crew saved.

12.11.1841 "UNION" brig from Shields to Ireland, grounded on Huna. Refloated and proceeded on voyage.

10.4.1842 "RAPID" Newcastle to Montreal, struck on Stroma. Refloated and sent to Stromness for repair.

11.9.1842 "HARMONY" Shield to Dublin, totally wrecked on Stroma. Crew saved.

30.9.1842 "DAHLIA" Liverpool to St. Petersburg. Totally wrecked on Pentland Skerries. Crew saved.

24.11.1842 " " unknown barque struck on Stroma but refloated and proceeded on voyage.

1.12.1842 " " unknown schooner foundered off Cape Wrath, all hands lost.

17.12.1842 "CALEDONIA" barque of Greenock, Cleheur Bay to the Clyde. Totally wrecked in Rackwick Bay. Crew saved.

21. 3.1843 "THOMAS DRYDEN" Shields to Dublin, totally wrecked on Huna. Crew saved.

30. 3.1843 "EARL OF MARCH" Cromarty to Campbeltown, struck on Stroma. Refloated.

15. 8.1843 "MARGARET" Inverness to Thurso, sprang a leak while entering Thurso Harbour and drove ashore. Total wreck, crew saved.

2. 9.1843 "DAN COSSACK" of Leith, totally wrecked in Murkle Bay. Crew saved.

19. 9.1843 " " unknown schooner, St. Petersburg to Liverpool, struck on Duncansbay. Refloated and proceeded.

1. 1.1844 "MARY" Shields for Liverpool, lost 40 miles west of Thurso. Crew saved.

24. 4.1844 "STAR" Liverpool for Dingwall, totally wrecked in Scrabster Roads. Crew saved.

12. 5.1844 "ELIZA" of Kirkcudbright, totally wrecked on Lother Rock. Only one of crew saved.

17. 5.1844 "RED ROVER" Aberdeen for Tacohiboe, totally wrecked on Scrabster Sands. Crew saved.

25. 7.1844 "NAIAD" Sunderland for Quebec, struck on Stroma during dense fog. Refloated and sent to Stromness for repairs.

20. 7.1845 "ATALANTA" of Colchester, from Spey to Thurso, struck on Stroma. Refloated on following tide.

8.10.1845 "WATERLOO" of Hull, stranded on Cantick Head during heavy S.S.E. gale. Later refloated.

20.10.1845 "BRTTANNIA", Shetland to Belfast, totally wrecked in Thurso Bay. Mate lost.

20.10.1845 "HYLTON", brig of South Shields, from Liverpool, struck a rock in Cantick Sound. Considerably damaged but refloated later.

20.10.1845 "DAVID" of Belfast, Riga for Liverpool, totally wrecked in Rackwick Bay. Crew saved.

20.10.1845 "ELIZA JANET" of St. John's Newfoundland, Hamburg for St. John's, totally wrecked on Switha. Crew saved.

20.10.1845 "WEASEL", Inverness schooner, totally wrecked at Cape Wrath. Bound for Liverpool. The Master and a seaman lost.

1.12.1845 "GREENWELL" of Sunderland, struck on Hunda, but refloated.

17.12.1845 "HENRY" of Montrose, Riga for Londonderry, struck on Heckness. Discharged part of cargo and refloated.

22.12.1845 "ISABELLA", Lough Green for Sunderland, totally wrecked on Dunnet Sands. Crew saved.

17. 3.1846 "ADMIRAL" of Sunderland, totally wrecked at Armadale. All hands lost.

15. 4.1846 "RALPH WYLAN" South Shields for Quebec. Totally wrecked on Stroma during heavy fog. Crew saved.

13. 9.1846 "ALEX FORBES" of Dundee, Sunderland to Thurso, took fire in Aith Hope and was burned to the water's edge.

27.12.1846 'ITMON", Miramichi for Leith, totally wrecked on Dunnet Sands. Crew saved.

8. 4.1847 "SELINA" of Glasgow, Inverness to Islay, foundered off Dunnet Head. The Master saved, all others lost.

27. 4.1647,"JOHN AND ISABELLA" of Newcastle, Newcastle to Dublin, struck a rock in Santick Sound and had to be beached on Flotta.

22. 8.1847 "BRITANNIA", St. Petersburg for Belfast with rye-meal, totally wrecked on Holborn Read. Some of the crew lost.

22. 8.1847 TRIAD" of Dundee, Leith for Skye, totally wrecked at Thurso. Crew saved.

22. 8.1847 "CANTON", Hull barque, for America in ballast. Totally wrecked on Farout Head. All hands lost.

1. 9,1847 "NANCY" of Dundee, totally wrecked on West Rocks, Thurso. Crew saved.

1. 9.1847 "HOY" of Limerick, totally wrecked on Isauld Rocks. All hands lost.

1. 9.1847 "MARQUIS OF HUNTLY" of -illough, totally wrecked at Portskerra. Crew saved.

1. 9.1847 "PREMEIT" of Lubeck, struck on Stroma and was abandoned by crew. After her deck cargo of timber had been discharged she floated off on the 11th and drifted to Walls where Longhope pilot boarded her and brought her to anchor in Pan Bay.

9. 9.1847 "RETREAT", struck on Stroma and refloated. Taken into Burwick.

15.11.1847 "BROTHERS", Macduff sloop, Macduff to Stornoway, stranded near Thurso.

6. 4.1848 Robert Williamson, a fisherman from Thurso was awarded the RNLI's Silver Medal for the rescue by rope of 5 men from the sailing vessel BRITANNIA.

2. 9.1848 "SIR EDWARD" of Liverpool, Liverpool to Baltic, totally wrecked on Pentland Skerries. Crew saved.

2.10.1848 "LOWCA", iron schooner of Whitehaven, Hull for Liverpool, stranded on St. John's Point. Ultimately floated off and was seen drifting past north end of Stroma. Ultimate fate unknown. Crew saved.

16.12.1848 "ROSSANNA", barque, wrecked at Cape Wrath. Only the master, Captain Murray, saved.

22. 8.1849 "VICTORIA", Liverpool barque, Liverpool for Kronstadt, totally wrecked on Pentland Skerries. Sank in 20 fathoms. Crew saved.

22. 8.1849 "SWALLOW" of Carnarvon, for the Baltic in ballast, totally wrecked on Pentland Skerries. Crew saved.

17. 3.1850 "EXPORTER", Leith for St. John's, N.B. totally wrecked at Scrabster. Crew saved.

21. 3.1850 "SYLPHIDEN" of Krageroes, founDered in Pentland Firth. All hands lost. Later came ashore, bottom up, at Widewall.

1. 4.1850 "HERRINGS" of North Shields, thence to Quebec, totally wrecked at Durness. Crew saved.

26. 9.1856 Russian brig "AHTI" wrecked at Ham during a violent gale. Five local men put out in a small boat and saved two men from the wreck. One of the men, Donald Thompson, was awarded the Silver Medal of the RNLI for his outstanding courage.

1860 "_____", British vessel, name unknown, loaded with cannon balls, went ashore at Ramigoe, Stroma, and was pounded to pieces and sank. Crew brought ashore by Stroma fishermen.

1860 "EAGLE", American sailing vessel, ran ashore on Beacon Point, Stroma, with a cargo of wood. Crew saved by Stroma fishermen. Vessel bought by Stroma fishermen who salvaged part of cargo before the vessel broke in two and became a total wreck.

19.12.1862 The schooner SISTERS of Wick, lying in Scrabster Bay with a cargo of stone hoisted distress signals during a full NNE gale. The crew of 3 were rescued and brought ashore by Thurso's first lifeboat the "POLLY". The SISTERS later became a total wreck.

11.1863 The Prussian schooner "GLUCKAUF", Wick to Stettin with 900 barrels of herring, sprang a leak, with the water gaining rapidly, about 14 miles off Wick. The crew took to the smallboat, saving only their clothes and reached Wick. Next day the vessel was discovered in a creek at Ulbster on her beam ends with the sea washing over her.

12.12.1863 The barque GRACES of Shields dragged her anchors in violent seas during a full WNW gale in Thurso Bay. The crew of 15 were rescued by Thurso Lifeboat the "POLLY".

8.1865 "GRACE AND ANN", an Irish smack, ran for Wick harbour when a big sea was running. She went aground at the entrance and was in danger but was hauled off in time.

9.1865 The OPRII@CESS ROYAL" cutter. on duty at Wick during the herring- fishing season, rescued two men from a small boat with a cargo of wood which was foundering off Dunnet Head. When the cutter arrived the men were standing up to their knees in water.

10.1865 The schooner "WARL" of Stettin, carrying a cargo of over 1000 barrels of herring for Hamburg, left with the tide and anchored in Wick Bay. Shortly afterwards she went ashore on the north side of the bay but the harbour pilots managed to warp her off.
1865 "_____", ship name unknown, laden with Archangel tar, went ashore on west side of Stroma. Cargo partly salvaged before the vessel became a total wreck. Salvaged cargo reshipped. Crew saved by Stroma men.

10.1866 During dense fog the schooner "GAZELLE" of Bangor, bound thence to Aberdeen with a cargo of staves, ran aground on the shoal between the Pentland Skerries Lighthouse and the Little Skerries. She drifted off next morning and sank in deep water. The crew and the greater part of the cargo were taken off by Mr. William Smith, pilot, and others and landed at Wick.

11.1866 The steamer "BATTALION" Danzig to Dublin with a cargo of wheat, went ashore at the Ness of Huna. After jettisoning part of her cargo she was light enough to float off and proceeded on her voyage apparently undamaged.

11.1866 The brig "ADMIRAL" of Aberdeen entered Wick Bay, finding out too late that she could not get into the harbour, dropped both anchors off the pier. There was a heavy surge. A boat went out from the harbour and took off the crew. The ship rode out the night but next day she dragged both anchors and was smashed to pieces. She was carrying a cargo of timber from the Baltic to Wick.

11.1866 The schooner "ADELAIDE" of Thurso (Master, Capt. Swanson) was wrecked at Freswick during a gale while on her way from Sunderland with a cargo of coal. All the crew were saved.

11.1866 The Kirkwall fore-and-aft schooner "JUBILEE" was wrecked as she attempted to make Wick harbour during a severe gale. The anchor failed to hold and she drifted towards the old breakwater. The skipper and the two man crew were rescued by local fishermen.
11.1866 The Wick smack "TOWN" (Capt. Morrison, master) was driven ashore at Loch Eriboll on passage to Thurso. The crew were saved.

12.1866 The Liverpool brigantine "GULNORE" for Aberdeen with a cargo of salt, went aground at Scarfskerry. Local fishermen rescued the master and four of the crew by wading into the water and throwing a rope aboard. The mate was washed away and lost. His body was recovered a few days later and he was buried in Dunnet Churchyard.

8.11.1866 Five lives saved by Thurso Lifeboat "POLLY" from the schooner "ANACONDA" of Lerwick during very heavy seas in Thurso Bay.

1.1867 The sloop "SEA BIRD", laden with goods for various stations on the West Coast, went ashore near Loch Eriboll. No lives were lost. Some of the cargo was saved but the vessel became a total loss.

2.1867 The sloop "INDUSTRY", belonging to Wm. Gow, merchant, Wick was wrecked in Wick Bay after returning from Tongue. She missed stays near the new harbour and was driven ashore on the north side of the bay where heavy surf was breaking. Fortunately the pilots were out at another vessel and seeing the Industry's lights disappear, they made for her but could not approach from the sea. They landed at one of the harbours on the north side of the bay and proceeded on foot along the cliffs with ropes. They rescued the crew.

1867 "WILLTAM AND HARRY" ran ashore and sank in deep water after slipping off and wrecked at Treageo. Crew landed by Stroma men. This vessel carried a gun aft.

3. 2.1869 During fierce WNW gale, the schooner "WILLIAM THOMSON" of Dumfries dragged her anchors in heavy seas in Scrabster Roads. Her crew of 4 abandoned ship in the small ship's boat and succeeded in reaching the schooner "BLOSSOM" of Thurso which had a crew of 3. The "BLOSSOM"'s anchors also started to drag, a distress signal was hoisted, and all 7 men on board the "BLOSSOM" were rescued by Thurso Lifeboat the "POLLY".

26. 2.1869 The schooner "ELIZABETH MILLER" of Thurso with 4 on board and the schooner "MATIIDA CALDER" of Findhorn in distress in rough seas in Thurso Bay. Thurso Lifeboat "POLLY" rescued both crews.

26.10.1869 Stornoway brig "SUPPLY" exhibited distress signal in Thurso Bay during northerly gale. Crew of 7 rescued by Thurso Lifeboat "POLLY".

1871 "WILLIAM MITCHELL" with cargo of wood from America, stranded at John o' Groats in calm weather. Cargo all landed and reshipped and vessel sold and broken up. Salvage employed large number of local people and proved remunerative.

4.10.1872 Brigantine "MARY HOLLAND" of Liverpool in distress. Crew of 7 rescued by Thurso Lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD".

4.10.1872 Brig "ELIZA" of Belfast in distress. Crew of 5 plus a woman and child rescued by Thurso Lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD".

9. 3.1876 Barque "WALKER HALL" of Sunderland dragged anchor in Scrabster Roads and eventually became a total wreck. The crew of 11 were rescued by the Thurso Lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD"

1876 "RESCUE", with cargo of wood from Quebec, went ashore at John o' Groats, in calm weather. She was kept on the rocks under full sail in case she slipped off and capsized. Cargo saved by local men and later reshipped. Insurance Company presented the wreck to those who had saved the cargo and this was a boon to the locals as every bolt and the sheath of the Hull was of copper, a dear commodity.

1877 "EOS", a Norwegian brig, in ballast, was totally wrecked in the Bay of Sannick, in a fierce gale. All the crew were saved by lowering themselves from the bowsprit where they were caught by local men and dragged to safety.

? "HENRY", a brig with a cargo of wood, ran aground in Sannick Bay. Refloated and towed to Orkney for repairs.

? "_____", Welsh schooner, name unknown, with cargo of Welsh 81ates became a total wreck in Sannick Bay.

11.11.1877 Thurso Bay rescues by Thurso Lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD" in severe south-easterly gale: "VINE" - crew of 2 rescued; "BARROGILL CASTLE" of Wick - crew of 5 rescued; "GUIDING STAR" of Wick - crew of 4 rescued; "KATE" of Ramsey - crew of 4 rescued; "ALFRED AND EMMA" of Barrow - crew of 4 rescued.

1878 The "THETIS", laden with flax, went ashore on Stroma, at Langaton Point, The flax was salvaged.

16. 9.1878 During a very severe westerly gale, 19 sailing vessels and two steamers were anchored in Scrabster Roads. Many started to drag their anchors and Thurso lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD" launched several times with the following results: Rescued crew of 5 from brigantine "ST.HELEN" of Caernarvon; Rescued crew of 3 from the smack "MAGGIE" of Sunderland; Rescued crew of 2 from the smack "ANN" of Berwick. On another 4 trips the same day the lifeboat saved another 31 lives from the following vessels: "EVA" of Runcorn; "UNIONIST" of Berwick; "CAROLINE MARTON" of Dumfries; "JANE SHEARER" of Thurso; "ANN" of Runcorn; "PHOENICIAN" of Douglas; and "LARK" of Aberdeen.

5. 3.1883 The schooner "HEPHSIBAH" of Caernarvon with a crew of 5 and the smack "ANNIE" of Port Dinorwick with a crew of 3 at anchor OFF Thurso in a severe northerly gale showed distress signals, Thurso lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD" rescued all 8 men.

6. 3.1883 Distress signals sighted in Thurso Bay from three vessels in danger of being driven on to rocks. They were the schooners "BELLA" and "WILLIAM AND MARTHA", both of Wick and the "GOVERNOR LOCH" of Inverness. A total of 13 men were rescued from these vessels by the Thurso Lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD". Later that same day the lifeboat rescued the crew of 5 from the schooner "ENIGMA' of Port St. Mary, which was also in danger of being driven ashore.

1883 "CONCORD", a Norwegian schooner, foundered south of Duncansby Head with the loss of all hands. She was seen next day drifting, bottom up, westward through the Pentland Firth.

1884 "VICKSBURG" of Leith struck on Muckle Skerry. Full sail was set to keep her firmly ashore. Owing to the heavy seas 9 of the crew were swept overboard and drowned. The others scrambled ashore, helped by the Lighthouse keepers. The ship was seen pounded to pieces. 7 bodies were recovered and a stone was erected on the island to their memory.

8. 1.1886 During a fierce northerly gale the ketch "CREST" of Wick was seen to be in distress while at anchor in Scrabster Roads. Thurso lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD" was launched and rescued the crew of 2. Then the schooners "ALPHA" of Perth and "LIZZIE" of Wick signalled for help. The lifeboat rescued both crews, 7 men in all. Later in the day the steam trawler "TOILER" of Aberdeen flew distress" signals and the lifeboat this time rescued the crew of 7.

8.12.1886 The schooners "MARGARET GARTON" and "LYRA" both of Castletown, and the smack "HENRY FLORENCE" of Wick, anchored in a full easterly gale in Scrabster Roads were in danger of being driven ashore. Thurso lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD" launched and rescued the three crews, totalling 11 men.

1887 "SIR GAPORE" ran aground in fog near Castle Geo, Stroma, although she had pilots from Freswick taking her west through the Firth, The Captain, Captain Robertson, was a Stroma man. The pilots had to make a quick getaway. The mate also left the ship and lay hidden on Stroma until the ship was refloated.

1888 "COPELAND" of Leith ran ashore on Langaton Point, Stroma, homeward bound with a full cargo of Iceland ponies. Most of these were got ashore and fed. They were afterwards reshipped. The crew were all saved. The ship was hurled over the reef and sank in deep water. One of the passengers was Sir Rider Haggard, the writer, who had gone to Iceland to gather information for a book he was writing.

1888 "GEORGEINBUG", a Finnish vessel, went ashore on the Shaals of Rattar. The crew was saved by the Scarfskerry L.S.A. but the ship was a total loss.

1889 "CREMONA", loaded with sugar, struck the rocks near Quoys Ness. The cargo was salvaged and the vessel refloated by local fishermen.

1889 "COLUMBUS", a barquentine schooner, went ashore at Castle Geo, Stroma. Her cargo of wood was brought ashore and she was refloated. The cargo was later reshipped by Stroma fishermen.
26.11.1899 Thurso Lifeboat "CHARLEY LLOYD" rescued the crews, 9 men in all, of the schooners "WILLIAM JONES" of Caernarvon and "SYLPH" of Beaumaris.

1890 "NORE", a steam vessel with a cargo of wood went ashore at the North Geo, Stroma. The cargo was salvaged but the vessel became a total loss.

1890 "FLEETWING", a sailing vessel, struck the rocks at Tresgeo, Stroma. Her cargo was wood. She was refloated by Stroma fishermen without damage.

1890 "VICTORIA" went ashore, location unknown. Crew rescued by Longhope lifeboat.