The wreck of the Shakespeare
The loss of the Shakespeare in 1907 was well documented. A steam trawler from Hull, she went ashore near Stromness and it was not long before she began to sink.
The event was well documented at the time and the following two newspaper articles describe the event, first the Orkney Herald:
THE ORKNEY HERALD 18th December 1907
WRECK OF STEAM TRAWLER NEAR STROMNESS
FOUR MEN DROWNED.
Splendid service of lifeboat and Rocket brigade.
About seven o’clock on Wednesday morning the town of Stromness was thrown into a state of excitement by the tidings that a steamer had gone ashore between Breckness and the Black Craig. The information was brought to the town by Mr Clouston of Breckness, who stated that the steamer’s whistle was sounded to attract attention, and that he and others distinctly heard the cries of the shipwrecked crew for help. The lifeboat and Rocket Brigade were at once called out, and without a moment’s delay proceeded for Breckness. At the time the vessel sank it was the darkest hour of the night, just before the dawn – and there was a heavy land sea breaking on the beach. The rocket brigade was the first to arrive and at once set to work, as it was seen that not a moment was to be lost. The lifeboat arrived immediately thereafter, and with great courage set about effecting the rescue. At that time the vessel was completely submerged, with the exception of the tops of her masts and a small portion of the funnel. The rocket brigade fired a rocket for the mizzenmast, where three men were clinging, and in this were very successful as they placed the rocket line in the hands of the men they were trying to save. The lifeboat was also successful in getting hold of the vessel at the foremast rigging, and now the real work of rescue commenced. The lifeboat had the honour of taking the first men off and the rocket brigade the second. The lifeboat took a second man from the foremast, and the rocket brigade with great difficulty got another from the mizzen. To the lifeboat fell the task of rescuing the man who had clung so bravely to the funnel, and he was also got on board, but in a very exhausted condition. The rocket brigade were also successful in getting a third man from the mizzen and the rescue was thus complete. The vessel proved to be the steam trawler Shakespeare, of Hull, from fishing grounds off Noup Head, Westray, and bound for Hull with a full cargo of fish. She carried a crew of ten men, and as soon as she struck all hands were called to launch the boat. This was no easy work owing to the heavy seas and the position of the boat. While they were in the act of launching, a heavy sea broke on board, which must have carried two of the crew overboard as they were never seen again. The others took to the rigging, except one man who was washed to the funnel. In that position they remained for some time – two on the foremast and five in the mizzen mast, and one on the funnel – but the cold was too much for two of those on the mizzen and they let go their hold and were washed away. The vessel meanwhile settled down in deep water, the hull being entirely submerged.
The three survivors on board the lifeboat were treated with every kindness and consideration and the one rescued from the funnel in a very exhausted condition owing to his long exposure would have most likely have died had the lifeboat crew not done all in their powers to restore animation. In this they were very successful. With the rocket brigade matters were even worse. The three landed by them were very exhausted, especially the second man they got ashore. Indeed, he was more dead than alive when landed, and had to be carried by stretcher to the house of Breckness, where some members of the brigade along with Dr. Duncan, were successful in restoring animation, and with the aid of restoratives and warmth he slowly recovered, and was able to be removed to Stromness.
Great credit is due to every man in both the lifeboat and rocket company for the smart work performed by them on the present occasion. Capt. Freeland, Inspector-General of the Board of Trade, and Mr Rogers, divisional Officer of the Coastguard for Orkney and Shetland, who were in Kirkwall when the news of the wreck was received, at once drove to Stromness, and proceeded to the scene of the wreck. They think most highly of the work of the Lifeboat and the Rocket Brigade. But for the excellent work of the latter in establishing communications with the wreck, it is practically certain that all the men on the mizzenmast would have been drowned. We would in this connection mention the large number of people who had gathered on the shore, and who gave such willing and valuable help, especially the ladies who had throughout brought refreshments for the shipwrecked crew.
Those saved are: Arthur Patch, master, belonging to Hull: Harry Adison Fletcher, Mate, Hull: William Morris, B’son, London: Thos.Rickaby, chief engineer, Hull: John Hort, second engineer, Hull: Elias William Edwards, third hand, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire: and those drowned are: - Benjamin Powley, trimmer, Norwich: Harry Macdonald Sorrensen, deck hand, Hull: J.J. Watson, steward, Hull: and a man known as ‘’Ben,’’ his full name being unknown to the master or crew.
The bodies of those drowned have all been recovered, one ashore on Wednesday afternoon, and another on Thursday morning, both of which were buried on Friday. A large number of the townspeople attended the funeral, and on the road to the churchyard they met a lorry conveying the remains of another member of the crew, which had been recovered that morning. His remains were buried on Saturday: and on Sunday morning the remaining member of the crew was found on the beach and conveyed to Stromness, and buried on Monday. This sad occurrence has cast a deep gloom over the town, and several funerals have attracted large numbers of our fellow townsmen to witness the last ceremony over those who perished on our shores.
During their short stay in Stromness our correspondent had an interview with each member of the crew, and their statements would simply be repetition of the above. Until the vessel struck, they were all in the best of spirits, expecting to be home in a few hours, with a fine cargo of fish, which would be very remunerative to them all. Though he has been many years a master of a fishing vessel, Capt. Patch has never had an accident before. Like the remainder of the crew he lost everything, and the poor fellows were but thinly clad when rescued from their perilous position on the wrecked steamer.
The event was also covered by The Scotsman:
The Scotsman Thursday, December 12, 1907
TRAWLER WRECKED OFF THE ORKNEYS
FOUR MEN DROWNED
The Orkneys was yesterday morning the scene of another of those frequent disasters to fishing vessels which so often result in much loss of life. In this case, the trawler Shakespeare, of Hull, was wrecked and four of the crew of ten men were drowned. Their names are as follows – J. Watson, cook; Harry M’cDonald, deck hand; Benjamin Powloy, trimmer, and another whose name was unknown to the crew.
So far as the landsmen could make out, the atmosphere appeared quite clear on Tuesday night, though occasionally there were heavy showers of rain and sleet. The wind, too, was moderate, and there was no reason to apprehend any danger to shipping. At an early hour yesterday morning, however, cries of distress awakened a number of people living at Breckness, one of the wildest and most precipitous parts of the coast in the Orkneys, exposed to the full fury of the Atlantic. A number of men proceeded to the seashore, and near the famous Black Crags discovered a vessel on the rocks with the crew in great peril. An exceptionally heavy sea was running, and as each wave broke, the trawler was enveloped. A rescue with such appliances as were handy seemed hopeless, so with all haste a messenger was sent to Stromness to summon the lifeboat and rocket apparatus. Both were soon on the scene of the disaster. The rocket brigade shortly after arrival succeeded in establishing communication between the trawler and the shore, and three of the crew were taken off in a greatly exhausted condition. One man, in fact, was so prostrated that he could only be fixed to the cradle by one arm and dragged through the surf. He is now recovering. The lifeboat had meantime got close alongside and saved three men, but prior to this, the other four of the crew had been washed overboard and drowned. The Shakespeare was proceeding home from the fishing grounds off Noup Head, Orkney. The distance between Noup Head and Breckness is about thirty land miles, and it is understood that the Graemsay West Light was mistaken for that on Dunnet and the Black Crags for Rona Head, Hoy. Instead of turning into the Pentland Firth, Hoy Sound was entered, and the vessel stranded. One body has now been recovered. Those saved are: Arthur Patch, captain; Harry Adison Fletcher, mate, both of Hull; Boatswain William Marris, London; Chief Engineer Thomas Rickaoy, Hull; Second Engineer John Hort, Hull; Third Hand Elias William Edwards, Southorpe, Lincolnshire.