Friday, 18 August 2017

The Golden Wreck

This week I'm able to participate again as I have internet access...being at home.

It seems that I am often I'm going to tell you about a little trip away that I took many years ago. My late husband was  "into" shipwrecks, treasure and the stories, so the wreck of the " Royal Charter" really fired his imagination. So it was that we took tents and had a brief trip to Moelfre on Anglesey.

The " Royal Charter" was the fastest liner of her day and she was wrecked only a few miles from her destination at Liverpool on 25th.  October 1859. Only 40 men were saved out of a compliment of over 500 passengers and crew. She was not the only shipwreck that night as a hurricane rushed down the west coast of Britain causing havoc at all the ports.

After visiting the scene of the wreck, the bay, the churchyard and the village I bought the book entitled " The Golden Wreck " called as the passengers were returning from the goldfields of Australia and the ship itself had a cargo of gold on board. It was estimated that onboard was over £370,000 of gold. Since the people were about to alight at Liverpool they'd all dressed in their finery with money belts and nuggets on their person. No women or children survived, their clothes were heavy,(it was after all October) became waterlogged and dragged them down. Having , myself, seen the rocks where the ship foundered I can understand how the bodies were cut to pieces and dashed to pieces...for the perpendicular rocks face out towards the sea, with wicked, jagged edges. Villagers on the shore tried vainly to rescue but they were beaten by the force of the hurricane and lack of equipment. a lifeboat was sent out but that too could not reach the ship that broke in two.

When we visited there was still tension in the air as the villagers of the day were accused of removing gold and jewelry from the corpses and they still resent that implication. It's said that sometimes gold gets washed up on the shore to this day ...the wreck lies in relatively shallow water and is often dived upon. Many bodies are buried at Llanallgo church , where a monument was erected.

Meanwhile in Liverpool relatives and friends turned up to meet the ship ..they'd received telegrams from the port in Ireland where the ship had docked the day before. They were unaware of the tragedy that had befallen the "Royal Charter" fact when told they could not believe that such a catastrophe could have occurred so close to home.

The book makes for harrowing reading and also includes details of salvage dives that have taken place. It's not so much the gold that was recovered but more the poignant and personal items that were retrieved. For many of the men that survived they were left penniless, wifeless and childless and were bereft beyond comprehension as they'd striven so hard to keep their families together.

So that is very briefly the true story of the "Golden Wreck"........

                             26th October 1859 A Villagers Search

                             A child's body in the sand,
                             Minus a foot, minus a hand.
                             An elegant woman with wrap of fur-
                            The child's mother ? Who loved her ?

                             So I walked the ocean by the strand,
                             Searching rocks, searching sand-
                             Searching life, finding only death.
                             Lifeless souls, drawing no breath.

                            A golden sovereign- Sydney mint,
                            Unblemished, unused- never spent,
                            Lying in a rockpool, now so calm
                            After last night's fearful storm.

                           If there is a God ? Oh, pity them.
                           Give 40 survivors boundless strength.
                           Their lives shattered by the rocks,
                           By the hurricane that mocks
                           The mighty liner " Royal Charter"
                           Now known for evermore and after
                           As the " Golden Wreck" of Anglesey,
                           Now lying beneath the calm, cruel sea.

                          I spot an earring glistening here
                          That once adorned a maiden's ear -
                          She had laughed and tossed her hair-
                          Thinking of her family waiting there,
                          Keen to meet at Liverpool dock.
                          She'd coiffed her hair and donned a frock
                          Of rich red velvet warm and new,
                          And a nugget mounted good and true
                          Around her neck, so sleek and trim.
                          She knew no fear, she could not swim.
                          All that remains for me to find-
                          An earring, just one of it's kind.

                         So remember long, if you could
                         Those innocent folks, brave and good.
                         Resting now far from home,
                         To Australia they did roam.
                         Thinking they were homeward bound,
                         Buried in Llangollen church ground.

Thanks for reading, Kath


Steve Rowland said...

Welcome back Kath :-)