shipwreck in scilly genealogy.
SS Delaware Shipwreck & Rescue, Isles of Scilly, Ellis Trevellick genealogy.
  ellis scilly & cornwall family history.
Shipwreck & Rescue from Bryher, Scilly.

Shipwreck on the Isles of Scilly

The Wreck of the Delaware & rescue of survivors, 1871

Early on 20th December 1871, Bryher pilots sighted a large screw steamer close inshore struggling against a severe North Westerly Gale. By midday the wind strength had increased further and the vessel was in distress, being forced between Mincarlo and Seal Rock towards Tearing Ledges. Through their telescopes the Bryher pilots saw the crew hoist a jib, but it was torn away by the gale, followed quickly by a ripping staysail.

Beam on to the swell and rolling heavily, the steamer disappeared beneath a huge wave, surfacing in seconds but with all of her bridge structure torn away. A second great wave broke over her deck and she quickly went down. From a lookout point atop Samson Hill on Bryher five survivors were spotted in the sea, two in boat, two on a spar and one clinging to wreckage, realising they would likely be carried onto White Island a mile SSW. It was decided the Bryher pilot gig "Albion" should be used to try to rescue them, but because of the ferocity of the North Westerly gale the Albion would have to launch from the lee of Bryher island. The half-ton gig was carried by twelve men a full half mile from the boathouse at Great Par to Rushy Bay, using it's six oars lashed across it's beam as handles. Patrick Trevellick was chosen as Coxswain (an acknowledged leader in difficult situations) and the Albion set off for Samson Island crewed by William and Stephen Woodcock, Thomas Bickford, John Webber, Richard Ellis, James Jenkins, John Jacob Jenkins, William Jenkins and Samson Jenkins.
On reaching Samson soaked and exhausted they were in time to see the survivors' boat strike White Island and it's two occupants scramble ashore. The heavy pilot gig was again manhandled overland, this time across the 300 foot isthmus between Samson's East Par and West Par. Richard Ellis was left on North Hill to signal back to Bryher if more men were needed. The gig was relaunched and they struck out for White Island through the mountainous seas, six men rowing, the rest bailing.
Patrick Trevellick, scillonian pilot.
Patrick Trevellick 1816 - 1905
When they reached White Island, completely exhausted, they found that the two survivors had gathered up stones to throw at them. (They later told their rescuers that their Captain had told them the Scillonians were no better than savages.) After giving various items of their own clothing to the half-naked and frozen survivors, the gig's crew made a thorough search of the island before rowing back to Samson where they collapsed with exhaustion. But Richard Ellis had noted their state and had signaled from North Hill for a second gig, the "March" to come over from Bryher.

The two men rescued from White Island were chief mate McWinnie and third mate Jenkins (no relation to any of his saviours), they were the only survivors of the "SS Delaware" a 3,423 ton Liverpool steamer on it's way to Calcutta with a general cargo of silks, cottons, lead, tin and stationery.
There was some controversy about the safety of the steam ship "Delaware" as it had been lengthened from it's 1865 specification by 56 feet to 380 feet (with a subsequent increase in weight) but still retaining it's original engine. Maybe the engine could have driven a smaller, lighter vessel into the wind and away from rocks?

The Albion's crew received a reward of £15 from the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. Although Patrick Trevellick was an exceptional boatman and pilot, he was never an "official" Trinity House Licenced Pilot, it is believed only Richard Ellis and James Jenkins were licensed at this time, John Webber and John Jacob Jenkins not receiving their Trinity licences till 1873. The gig Albion's "company" earned their living partly by offering pilotage services, often in conjunction with a cutter (Patrick Trevellick and many of the Bryher Jenkins families part owned such a cutter, named the "AZ" ) other uses for the gigs were salvage work, inter-island transport and provisioning of ships anchored in the channels and pools. The point is, the gig Albion was a working boat, not a lifeboat, her crew were not a part of the RNLI, they had no "duty" to put their own lives at risk to save others - they were seafarers - they just did it!

Extract from N. R. P. Bonsor's "North Atlantic Seaway"  volume 2, page 682 reads :
DELAWARE 1866  2,200 gross tons, length 324ft x beam 36.3ft, clipper bows, one funnel, three masts, iron hull, single screw, speed 10 knots. Built by Isle of Man Shipbuilding Co, Launched in August 1865, chartered to Warren Line and started her first Liverpool - Queenstown - Boston - Philadelphia voyage on 15th Jan.1866. Her last Liverpool - Boston voyage started 28th May 1869 and the service was then withdrawn. The ship was then lengthened to 380ft and transferred to other routes. On 20th Dec.1871 while on passage from Liverpool to Calcutta, she was wrecked on the Scilly Isles.

A poem on the shipwreck of the SS Delaware - by the Scillonian Poet, Robert Maybee
the first is his original draft of this shipwreck, the second a later rewrite.


Come, listen to this mournful tale,
The tale it is too true,
It's about the loss of a fine steamship,
And a number of the crew.

This fine steamship had moved along,
From Liverpool had come,
And to Calcutta she was bound,
The Delaware by name.

lt was December twenty-one,
The raging seas did roar;
The Delaware was broken down
On a lee rocky shore.

Mancarlow lying on their lee,
And the Site Rock breaking too;
How sad and awful was the sight
To the captain and the crew.

The gale blew from the west-north-west,
They could not steam ahead;
When near Mancarlow's jagged rock,
Then all their courage fled.

It was half-past twelve o'clock that day
When the Delaware went down
With fifty men she had on board,
And forty-eight were drowned,

The captain with the crew went down,
They sank to rise no more;
And out of all that fine ship's crew
But two had reached the shore.

They floated on a broken boat,
And drifted to the shore,
And on White island saved their lives,
All mangled, bruised and sore.

The remainder of the crew went down,
And were buried in the deep,
Leaving their wives and families
And friends to mourn and weep

Those Bryher men stood on the hill
That dark and stormy day;
They manned their boat, and with great speed
For Sampson rowed away

Over Sampson they carried their boat,
Crossed lakes and bars of sand,
Determined quite to face it all
And bring them safe to land.

They launched their boat down in the sea,
While the foaming billows tossed;
Their friends stood weeping on the hills,
For fear they would be lost.

Quickly they rowed their boat along,
For staunch was every man,
They quickly got the shipwrecked men
And brought them safe to land.

On Bryher they were landed safe,
Both wet and cold, and pale;
The first and second mates were saved
That day to tell the tale.

Now, may God bless those Bryher men
For all that they have done;
Their deeds of daring shall be known
Wherever shines the sun.

Come listen to this mournful tale,
The tale it is too true,
About the loss of a fine Steam-ship,
And almost all the crew.

This great Steam-ship she moved along,
From Liverpool she came,
And to Calcutta she was bound,
The "Delaware" by name.

From the south-west the gale came on,
Nor sails, nor yards would stand;
The gale increased, the tempest raged,
And drove her towards the land.

Mighty seas came following on,
She could not steam ahead,
But neared Mincarlo's jagged rock,
And all their courage fled.

And on the bridge the captain stood,
He was a valiant man;
Although his leg was broke, and foot as well,
He still kept in the van.

But then an awful sea broke on the ship,
And snapt the bridge in two;
The captain then was swept away,
And near fifty sailors too.

Seething waves then followed on,
Until they crushed the deck;
And down, down went the "Delaware",
A total, helpless, wreck.

Full fifty men there were on board,
I'm sorry for to say;
There were but two escaped alive
On that most fatal day.

They floated in a broken boat,
And drifted to the shore
On White Island, they landed there
All mangled, bruised, and sore.

The rest of that ill-fated crew went down,
And were buried in the deep,
And left their wives and families
To shriek, and mourn, and weep.

The broken wreck and cargo too
Lay scattered on the shore;
And in memory of every Scilly man
The like was never seen before.

But Bryher men had watched the boat,
And volunteered so brave,
That to White Island they would go
The shipwreck'd men to save.

They rowed across a neck of sea
To land on Sampson's shore;
The tide ran strong, the wind blew hard,
And raging seas did roar.

O'er Sampson's hill they took their boat,
In spite of furious wind and sand,
Determined they to face it all,
And bring them safe to land.

They launched their boat down in the sea,
And on the foaming billows tost
Their friends and wives stood weeping at the scene
And thought they must be lost.

But quickly they rowed their boat along,
And staunch was every man,
And soon they reached those shipwrecked men,
And brought them safe to land.

Now may God bless those Bryher men
For all that they have done;
Their deed of daring shall be known
Wherever shines the sun,



Draft - Rewrite:

Robert Maybe our esteemed poet of the Isles of Scilly never did learn to read & write competently, using the terms draft & rewrite are merely an indication that he created the poem and had a friend write it down for him, then at a later time after he had modified the verse in his own mind, again had the poetry written down.
 (Robert earnt a living by selling groceries door to door on the islands and would also recite his poetry from memory for payment - a form of entertaining news cast? )
In later years he had some of his poems printed in booklets, but his earlier poems, many of them about shipwrecks, appear to have been lost in time.
If you have anything to add to this story or feel corrections are needed, please contact: vicClick here to send




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