A Register of Tragedy
by Bill Wynne-Woodhouse
(From Hel Achau, Issue 5, Winter 1981)
Some of our Clwyd parishes are situated in geographical positions which have always influenced their history and this is particularly true of Llanasa, in Flintshire - at the mouth of the Dee estuary as it becomes the turbulent sea. The parish's geology ensures a continuing history of coal, mineral and stone-working by mine and quarry. Up to the end of the 19th century the sea, mines and quarries, were equally hazardous places in which to earn a living and yet many a Clwyd family had members in these industries so that the family history will contain the gruesome testimony of the hazards. One of the burial registers of Llanasa contains many references to tragedies of interest to the historian.
The register, beginning in 1812, contains a small printed pamphlet, recording a sermon; preached on 14th August, 1845, by the Rev. Henry Parry, Vicar of Llanasa, at the consecration of an additional burying-ground at the churchyard. The Vicar makes it clear that the extension was partly due to the frequent burials of seaman cast away on the Point of Air by storms and he instances 21 men buried in one grave in 1779 and an annual average of three men needing to be buried in the 40 years before 1845. The Rev. Henry Parry was well able to testify to the figures as he testifies on one page of the register: "1849, May 6, I have been this day been Vicar of Llanasa fifty-one years, H.P.". He was a widower much of that time, for his wife, Martha, was buried 1st July, 1831, aged 44, when the Vicar of Whitford, Edward Roberts, recorded of her: "Multis illa bonis flebilus occidit". Henry Parry was buried 21st December, 1854, aged 88, having been Vicar for 56 years.
A poster was pasted in the front of the register by Henry Parry and annotated:
"Henry Parry placed this leaf here during the persistence of the cholera. This awful diseafe did not visit the parish of Llanasa. All the cottages were whitewashed and all dung removed to the Fields by order of the magistrates. Henry Parry".
If Llanasa escaped cholera on this occasion, it was not to escape its full share of other horrors and the following burial entries make a dismal catalogue :
|25 April 1813||Sailor unknown thrown up by the sea near the Point of Air|
|29 April 1814||A female unknown found drowned near the Point of Air.|
|11 May 1816||A sailor unknown washed ashore by the tide in the Township of Gronant.|
|30 May 1817||Sailor unknown cast up near the Ayr light house.|
|13 Nov 1820||Thomas Williams, Llangwyfan, killed by Capn. Liddles' cart.|
|24 Mar 1826||John Place, 37, and Peter Parry, 32, both of Picton, both fell down a Coal Pit|
|30 Aug 1829||Jane Simmons, Liverpool, aged 66, drowned near the Lighthouse on board the Liver. She was tied up in the Shrouds.|
|5 Jul 1835||John Jones, Aston, aged 4, supposed to be drowned by being held upon his head in a potfull of water by Elizabeth Parry, of Aston, who was insane. There was a Coroner's Inquest on him.|
|28 Sep 1832||Thomas Jones, Gwespyr, aged 64, Lightkeeper at the Air-Light, fell down when painting the Lighthouse on the outside and died in consequence of the Fall.
[This was presumably the first lighthouse at Point of Ayr, built 1777, on a rock out in mid-channel, which eventually became unsafe and was abandoned.]
|5 Feb 1833||David Moffatt, aged 39, Master of the Packet Ayr wrecked near the Point of Air.|
|25 Mar 1833||Edward Jones, Kelston, aged 38, killed by a Stone falling upon him in the quarry near Talacre.|
|13 May 1833||Thomas Parry, Gronant, aged 32, killed in the colliery by the Fire damp.|
|2 Sep 1833||Charles Hughes, aged 38, supposed to have died of the Cholera. A sailor who died very suddenly in the Wild Road near the Point of Ayr. A native of Northop parish.
[The 'Wild Road' indicates death on board ship. Earlier, in 1831, the crew of a ship wrecked at Talacre were not allowed ashore for some hours as a precaution against cholera and when they got ashore were kept in custody as quarantine for several days!]
|16 Dec 1833||William Darlington, aged 47, cast ashore. Engineer on the Lord Blayney.
[The 'Lord Blayney', home-port Newry, was wrecked on 11th December, 1833.]
|28 Jun 1840||Peter Parry, Picton, aged 15, killed in the Coal Pit.|
|29 Aug 1842||Joseph Jones, Mostyn, Whitford parish, aged 47, killed in the colliery at Mostyn.|
|15 Sep 1842||Thomas Brookes, Trelogan, aged 19, killed in the mine at Bryndigil, in the Parish of Whitford.|
|13 Jan 1843||William Parry, Axton, aged 49, killed in Trelogan Mine.|
|7 Jan 1843||Two men picked up by the Life Boat on Hoyle Bank. Expense of funerals paid by the County. Supposed to be Sailors.
[A lifeboat was stationed at Point of Air as early as 1803 but the early records of the Mersey Harbour Board were destroyed in the wartime bombing of Liverpool and the earliest record now surviving is the 1841 appointment of a mate. In 1845 there were two boats here.]
|19/20/22/25 May 1845||A total of 7 sailors "cast ashore", buried on "Coroner's Certificates".|
|5/8/13/15 Sep 1848||"A young woman unknown", a man, another woman and a man, "cast ashore, probably from the Ocean Monarch".
[The Ocean Monarch caught fire at noon on 24th August, 1848 on her way to Boston with 354 passengers - mostly Irish emigrants - and a crew of 42. Some were rescued by the ship's two boats, and passing boats, but 178 people died by fire or water.]
|12 Sep 1848||David Hughes, aged 12, found dead in the bottom of a shaft at Afon Goch, Trelogan.|
|10 Apr 1849||Moses Foulkes, Rhydlios, aged 69, drowned in Parlwr Du, under Coroner's Warrant.|
|27 Apr 1853||A man unknown picked up out at sea by Point of Air Life Boat.|
|13 Apr 1855||Two sailors found on the Hoyle Bank lashed to the Mast of
their Vessel which was wrecked there on the 11th inst.
|5 May - 19 Jun 1855||23 children buried, all under 10 years old, including the 3 Hughes' children, 4 Roberts' children, 3 Davies' children and 3 Ellis children, all of Scarlet Fever, with a note against the last-named: "Leaving their widowed mother childless".|
|7 Jan 1857||Robert Roberts, Glan y Morfa, Gronant, aged 38, a Lifeboat Man, lost 4th inst. in Abergele Bay by the upsetting of the Boat. All hands were lost, 13 in number.
[This catastrophe has been detailed in "Wreck and Rescue on the Coast of Wales", 1973, co-incidentally by another Henry Parry who calls it the worst disaster ever to happen to a north Wales' lifeboat. She went to the assistance of the schooner, 'Temperance' reported ashore near Abergele. The lifeboat, under sail (probably too much in her race to help) was struck by a squall and a heavy sea. She capsized and did not recover. Three of the crew were swept away but the ten others clung on to the keel till the cold and exhaustion made them let go. None were wearing lifejackets. The boat was washed ashore when the tide changed but the crew arrived at longer intervals.]
|7 Jan 1857||David Davies, Gwallod, Gronant, 44, Lifeboat Man.|
|8 Jan 1857||Thomas Roberts, Wrth yr Efail, Gronant, 46, Lifeboat Man.|
|8 Jan 1857||Edward Roberts, Siamber Wen, Gronant, 34, Lifeboat Man.|
|13 Jan1867||Thomas Owens, Wrth yr Efail, Gronant, 21, Lifeboat Man.|
|6 Mar 1857||Richard Davies, Colomendy, Gronant, 44, Lifeboat Man.|
|11 Mar 1857||Edward Phillips, Ffordd Las, Pentre Gronant, 41, Lifeboat Man.|
|12 Jun 1857||Joseph Davies, Canol y Dre, Gronant, 48, Lifeboat Man. "His remains picked up at Hoylake yesterday".
[The terrible last entries show just how reluctant the sea was to give up its victims. Nearly all the men left widows and families and a public fund raised over £3,000 for their dependents.]
|10 Jun 1859||Richard Jones, aged 4 years 9 months, fell into an old shaft at Afon Goch.|
|19 Nov 1861||A male unknown found in digging at Ffynnongroyw and supposed to have been washed ashore by the sea many years ago|
|8 Apr 1876||David Hughes, Gwespyr, 20, killed at Parlwr Du pit.|
|7 Jun 1877||Joseph Williams, Gwespyr, 43, killed at Parlwr Du colliery.|
Mercifully, the entries of sudden death; become infrequent as the register draws to a close in the 1870s and 80s, with the last "male unknown washed ashore near lighthouse" buried on 31st August, 1876. Improvements in safety legislation, equipment, and methods at sea, mine, quarry and in public health, helped to reduce the ghastly record of individual and group disaster in one Flintshire parish.