The wooden paddle steamer City of Bristol (1827) departed Waterford in November 1840 for her home port in a tremendous storm. Anxious to keep to her schedule, her Captain made some difficult decisions, but ultimately she would sail into one of the worst storms that season. She would afterwards ground, break up and all but two aboard would die.
The City of Bristol was a familiar ship in the coastal trade of Ireland. On Tuesday 17th November she departed Waterford’s quays for her home port of Bristol and at 10am she passed down by Passage East. Her Captain, John Stacey was described as knowing the route well, having served man and boy on it, first on sailing ships. Rounding the Hook he decided to return, following was were described as “…a frightful sea…” He anchored in Duncannon Bay, where he awaited the storms abatement, setting off again at 11pm that same night.
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Aboard the City of Bristol was an estimated 23 crew and possibly 6 deck passengers. Of the passengers little is known, mostly described as stock men, to care for the livestock aboard. One was a Thomas Henderson of Patrick St. Waterford, his family were in clothing. Another was speculated to be named Walsh returning to England from a recent trip home. Two were said to be female. The ships manifest included; 575 barrels of Oats, 113 barrels of Barley, 2 trs of lard, 120 fls of bacon, 280 pigs stored in pens on deck and 15 head of cattle housed in the fore hold.
As she crossed to the Pembroke coast later in the afternoon of the 18th November the storm once more rose in strength and in near zero visibility due to snow Captain Stacey sought shelter behind Worm’s Head. However between Worm’s Head and Burry Holmes in Rhosilly Bay she grounded. Despite attempts to refloat she remained fast. After a sea washed several off the decks, many lashed themselves to the rigging, in the hopes of a rescue. Broadside to the pounding waves she was battered and beaten and eventually at about midnight the ship broke in three and all were tossed into the surf.
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Perhaps miraculously, two of the crew survived; William Poole was saved when a timber beam he grabbed in the water floated ashore. The ships carpenter Thomas Hamilton (elsewhere named Ansley or Anstice) managed to swim the distance. 72 pigs and 4 cattle also made the shoreline and walked off the beach to safety. Here’s a list of the crew that died.
Todays piece is taken from reportage at the time from an article in The Wexford Independent, 25th November 1840. P1. Other sources, where used, are linked in the piece.
I’d like to thank Frank Cheevers who originally shared the story with me on Facebook
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