Shipwrecks in the 1830s

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  • #20402
    William Lindsay
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    Hi

    Does anyone have an idea for how many shipwrecks there were in any given year in the 1830s or 1840s?

    I am writing a biography on my ancestor (William Schaw Lindsay), and I wish to highlight the dangers of being a sailor in those days.
    He was at sea for nine years commencing 1833 aged 16.

    He lived in Hartlepool after his retirement from the sea. He became a successful ships broker and ship-owner in London soon after.

    Here is his harrowing description of a shipwreck which prompted him to build a lighthouse at Hartlepool.

    “One of these disasters occurred shortly after I was married, in the following January. I was aroused from my bed about four o’clock one morning by the cry that a ship had struck on the reef of the rocks under the Heugh, and not further than two hundred yards from the spot where I lived.

    When I got out, it was blowing a fearful gale. The sea was breaking right over the cliffs, and the foam was washed right up to the door of my house. The moon was in her last quarter and, through the mist, I could see a barque of about 400 tons, with her foremast gone, rolling to and fro on the outside of the reef.

    A number of the townspeople had gathered, but they could do nothing to save the people on board. No boat could survive in such a sea, and, even if she could, it would have been impossible to reach the barque. Every successive wave dashed her farther and farther on the reef. She must have been a strong vessel, for she held together more than a couple of hours. At last her main and mizzen masts went over the sides, with a fearful crash, thereby lightening the ship, which drove nearer and nearer to the perpendicular cliffs as the tide rose.

    By seven o’clock her bows, as well as her bottom were stove in, and she fairly settled down upon the rocks, every wave dashing right over her. Piece by piece her hull then began to give way, and as daylight opened out we could see the crew clinging to the wreck. One by one they washed away, drowned or killed by being dashed against the rocks. One person in particular with a rope tied round his waist, and clasping a woman in his arms attracted our attention. We supposed that they were the Master and his wife. They also shortly after shared the fate of the others, and by nine o’clock the strong barque was broken in a thousand pieces.

    The spectacle was a most heartrending one. If there had been a lighthouse on the Heugh, it would not have happened. From that morning my resolution was fixed.”

    #20403
    David Hepper
    Participant
    #20404
    William Lindsay
    Participant

    Thanks David – very useful. Bill

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