Please Let My Dear Wife Know

Found 14 November 1897, on the beach at Dartmouth Harbour, Devon.

In a white spirit bottle:

Going down now at Flamborough Head.
S.S Princess of Sunderland, Nov 13 1893.
Should any one pick this up please to let my dear wife know, lives at 25 Lawrence Street, Sunderland. Engines are broken down.
God help us. Going down every minute. Good bye all, my wife and little ones.
May God for give me all.
Signed
Mustard A.B.
Princes of Sunderland
Nov 13 1893

The “Gale of 1893” was a violent storm that wrecked numerous vessels and took around 200 lives over the course of 48 hours around the British Isles. The Princess was returning to its home port of Sunderland from Bilbao with a cargo of iron ore. By the time it reached the North Sea, the storm had reached hurricane force. According to one report, “the sea was running mountains high, and the hurricane was accompanied by blinding showers.” The ship was spotted in distress by the coastguard at Flamborough Head, a chalk cliff promontory on the Yorkshire coast. The coastguard attempted to fire a safety line using rocket apparatus, but the ship drifted north onto rocks and was smashed to pieces. A piece of the ship bearing its name was washed up on the rocks. All 19 crew members died. Three smaller ships were wrecked on the same rocks during the storm.

The Princess was Sunderland-built and was owned by John Sanderson, the Mayor of Sunderland. All of the crew were from the Sunderland area. Robert Mustard was an able seaman (A.B.). The message was found almost exactly four years to the day after the wreck, having drifted for more than 500 miles around the English coast, by Dartmouth bridge engineer George Humphrey. It was passed via Customs House authorities and the Board of Trade to Mustard’s widow.

[Sunderland Echo, 20 November 1893 and Shields Gazette, 16 December 1897]

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