Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Frolic Disaster - 180th Anniversary

It seems appropriate that as my last trip was to Nash Sands that I should do a post on the 180th anniversary of the Frolic steamer disaster of 1831.  After all it is because of this disaster, not one but two light houses were erected by Trinity House at Nash Point.

Many ships have been caught out by the shallow waters around the 6 mile sand bank, none more devastating than this one.   Not one passenger or crew survived to tell the tale, all 78-80 passengers were lost.  The steamer was on route from Haverfordwest to Bristol.  The Frolic was the first steamer to be based at Haverfordwest and regularly made the 10 hour run to and from West Wales to Bristol.  She quickly acquired a keen following, she was a pretty vessel and some what luxurious compared to the sailing vessels that have previously run these routes.  

The Frolic was scheduled to leave Haverfordwest at 7am March 15th,1831.  Due to bad sea conditions the steamer remained storm bound at Milford Haven.  Due to mounting pressure and the prospect of even more delays the captain made for Bristol on the evening of March 16th.  Unbeknown to the captain the sailing vessel Diligence had been blow ashore and wrecked further up the channel at Breaksea Point, Aberthaw.  The strong south west/westerly winds increased from gale force to storm force.  Sailing into the darkness in such conditions he somehow managed to avoid Helwick Sands, Mixon Shoal, Scarweather Sands and Tusker Rock. 

Families and friends awaited the expected arrival in Bristol.  Reports started to come in from vessels sent down the channel, a ships boiler on the sands and paddle box on the shore.  More reports came in of wreckage found all over the Nash passage.  A young woman was found on the beach with a child still clasped in her arms, the captain lashed to a spar with a young boy.  His watch stopped at 4am.  More bodies washed up along the Vale shore for months afterwards from Southerndown to Cadaxton, many beyond recognition. 

Records and graves can be found at many churches around the Vale and Pembrokeshire, some still unknown, their graves simply say 'washed up on shore, male, name unknown.  Memorials are being held at Nash Lighthouse as well as in Tenby. 

Standing on the sands last week I was completely unaware of the devastation that was caused 180 years ago.  A storey I only became aware of due to an article in my local paper.  A cold reminder that the sea is such an unforgiving place.

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