Gower Shipwrecks - Whiteford Disaster

Name:  Mary Fanny (Llanelli)
            Water Lily (Llanelli)
            Onward (Llanelli)
            Jeune Celine (Jersey)
            Huntress (Workington)
            Amethyst (Dublin)
            Brothers (Llanelli)
Nationality: English, Welsh and Irish
Location: Whiteford Point to Rhossili
Date of Wreck: 22/01/1868
Cargo: Various
Visible Remains: None identified

On 22nd January 1868 a storm that had been keeping vessels moored in Llanelli finally let up. As the crews readied to set sail they could have had little idea of the terrors they were soon to face.

23819 - Whitford Point, Gower

Imagine if you will a late Sunday evening as a fleet of nineteen coastal sailing vessels leaves the port of Llanelli to head up the Burry Inlet and out to the open ocean. Each of the ships is carrying between 80 to 400 tonnes of coal and six are lined up on tow behind a single steam tug. The tugs task is to get the sailing vessels clear of Burry Holms, the point at which they can safely set sail under their own canvas. Despite bad weather the previous day this night is relatively still and the sailors are at ease, but suddenly the wind dies down to nothing and the the tide turns. The swell of the sea builds up to such a level that waves began travelling up the estuary without breaking. The result is simply catastrophic. The ships drop anchor but quickly find themselves being dragged along the sea bed, their sails useless to fight back with. As the waves rise and fall the boats are lifted up before being smashed onto sandbanks. Many boats lose their bottoms this way and simply sink in the middle of the estuary. Others are dashed onto the rocks or washed up along the beach.

The next day must have presented a shocking scene. The beach from Whiteford Point to Burry Holms was strewn with the detritus from the night before. In all nineteen lives were lost as well as four ships belonging to Llanelli; the Onward, Amethyst and Jennie Celine foundered with all hands, while the Brothers, the Huntress and Roscius were among those stranded on the sands. In all three ships made it out into the bay that night. Two ultimately reached their home ports, whilst the third was wrecked in Rhossili Bay.