Guardian Angel 1867

Accounts from contemporary newspapers (North Wales Chronicle). See also Wrecks of Liverpool Bay, Volume 2 .

ABERGELE. SHIPWRECK AND LOSS OF EIGHT LIVES. The storm of Sunday [2 December 1867] visited Abergele Bay with very great severity and violence, resulting in the total wreck on the sands about six miles off the shore, of the barque Guardian Angel, Captain George Cormack (age 32), and the loss of eight out of fifteen of the crew.

The vessel was a barque, registered at 474 tons burthen, French built, and classed A 1.5 Lloyd's, 11 years old, and valued at £3,000. On Wednesday, 27th November 1867, at 11 a.m., she left Liverpool in good repair and in every respect ready for sea, with 636 tons of coal (would have carried 800 tons) for New York. On Friday, at 6 pm, she had proceeded on her voyage so far as Rook Bill [Rockabill Lighthouse on the Irish Coast], when a strong wind arose, and the sea ran very high. At 8 p.m., the ship sprung a leak, and the men were employed at the pump until Sunday morning, when they bore for a pilot station, but the gale increased, and defeated their object. It reached force 10, from a northerly direction.
  The vessel drifted along the shore, and passing the Orme's Head, she came to Abergele Bay, and at 3 a.m. on Monday [2nd December], she struck on Constable Bank. Two anchors were then lowered, and the crew resolved to enter the boats, that being the only course left, affording the slightest of hope of life. But whilst the brave fellows were clearing away the boats, the ship turned over, and broke into pieces in a few minutes. The captain was lost at this awfully critical time. The 14 other men managed to grasp a portion of the wreck, the poop, we believe, or the after part of the ship. Some of them succeeded in lashing themselves to it.
  Destruction as may be imagined stared them in the face, every moment. They were five miles off land, in utter darkness, and beaten by a terrible sea! The storm, cruel as it was, gradually pushed them towards the shore, but seven of their number became exhausted, perished, and were washed away! About 7 a.m., the surviving men came within close view of the beach, and they were observed by several parties, who immediately made preparations to relieve them from their heart-rending position. They were approached on horseback, and hauled to shore by ropes. A black man was among the eight who were now on the point of being rescued, but alas! a tremendous breaker snatched the poor fellow away, and he was seen no more!

The names of the men saved are - Mr Willis, (part owner of the ship); his son; Victor Nord, chief mate; John O' Brien, steward; Charles Hughes; George Fidler; and Thomas Fronghear, able seamen. They were conveyed to the Cambrian Hotel, Pensarn, where they were attended by Dr Jones, and every possible kindness was paid to them. Of course they were in a dying state, but we are glad to say that they recovered, and have since been able to depart homewards.

Sundry parts of the wreck have since been washed ashore, but nothing of material value. Mr Johns, chief officer of the coastguard stationed at Rhyl, and his crew were on the spot at an early hour on Monday, and fulfilled their duties ably. The ship was not insured. The cargo, however, was insured, to what amount we cannot say.

As bodies of those lost came ashore, inquests were held.
  ABERGELE. On Friday morning, 6th December, the body of the coloured man, named Malcolm Gambell, one of the drowned crew of the Guardian Angel, was found on the shore near the railway station, by a labouring man named Robert Lewis.
  An inquest was held on the body, the same day, at the Harp Inn, before Dr Pierce, coroner, and a respectable jury, of which Mr Watts was the foreman.
  The jury, having been sworn, proceeded to view the body, which was laid on a stretcher in the parish church. The deceased appeared to be a fine young man of about 21 years of age, and possessed, even in death, features of a peculiarly attractive character. We have heard it stated that he was greatly beloved by the crew, and when one of the survivors was told that Darkie (for he went by that appellation in the ship) was drowned, he sobbed and wept bitterly.
The jury returned to the Inn, and as there was no evidence to be taken, a verdict of "found Dead on the Beach" was recorded.
  In answer to the learned Coroner, Mr Watts stated that he had with the aid of several friends succeeded in raising a sum of £27 to relieve the seven men who were saved. Sir Hugh Williams had given them one sovereign each and they all left Abergele well clad and with money in their pockets. The Coroner said that Abergele people had behaved most humanely. Their conduct to the poor fellows deserved the most unqualified commendation. Mr Watts further said that great exertions had been bestowed, especially by Dr Jones, to recover the sufferers, all of whom were in a very bad state. In fact, two of them were thought to be in a hopeless condition, and the doctor had once given them up, but, undaunted and untiring in his diligence, he said "let us try again". The last effort, happily, was successful. The Coroner observed that, as a medical man, he felt it due to Dr Jones to say that he had acted in this case with an extraordinary degree of skill and attention. The restoration of the men, having been so long in the water at this period of the year, spoke very highly of his abilities as a medical man.

The body of the captain, George Cormack, and that of one named Townsend, were washed ashore on Monday, and an inquest was held on them before Dr Pierce, coroner, on Tuesday.
  A Mr Hughes, of Liverpool, attended the inquest to identify the bodies. He stated that he was the father of one of the seven men saved, and had been intimately acquainted with Captain Cormack. A verdict of "Accidentally Drowned" was returned by the jury. The Coroner thanked Mr Hughes for his kind services; and we may state as a further proof of his humane disposition that he provided a substantial coffin for the remains of his lost friend.

A fourth body of the eight drowned men, wrecked in the Guardian Angel, was washed ashore on the beach near this town[Abergele] on Saturday morning last [21st December]. An inquest was held the same day, at the Harp Inn, before Dr Price Williams, deputy coroner. The body was in a state of decomposition, the features being greatly distorted. No person appeared to attempt an identification. The jury returned a verdict of "Found drowned." As this paragraph may perchance gain perusal by some of the relatives, we may state that the deceased was apparently young, and wore on the little finger of his right hand a plain gold ring.

Postscript Since the Rhyl lifeboat was not able to reach the wreck in time, it was decided to site a lifeboat at Abergele.
The location of the wreck is not known - it was listed by MDHB as 2.5 miles north of the shore at Pensarn, near Abergele, in the region known as Rhyl Flats. Today (2019) parts of Rhyl Flats are only 2 metres deep at the lowest possible tide level. A fully laden vessel, such as the Guardian Angel, would draw as much as 5 metres.