Aquila shipwreck site 1861, Aberystwyth
The wreck of the schooner Aquila on 19 February 1861 is significant in Aberystwyth’s history because it prompted the formation of a local branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which still maintains a lifeboat station in the town today.
The schooner was sailing from Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, to Aberdyfi, Gwynedd, with a cargo of low-grade coal when its main sails were torn off by a storm as it passed St Davids Head. Many hours later, Captain Enoch James tried to bring his vessel to safety in Aberystwyth, but Aquila was clearly in trouble. It was a Tuesday afternoon and townspeople flocked to Marine Terrace, which the Aberystwyth Observer described as presenting “an anxious scene of no ordinary interest and excitement”.
Eight local men rowed out in a boat belonging to George Hughes to help the exhausted crew. One of the men, John Elias Evans, leapt onto the schooner and “clung like a cat to her side”. All crew members were rescued. One of the rescuers, an elderly sailor called David Edwards, broke his collar bone as the boat came to land. The local doctor treated the crew “with much care and tenderness”.
The newspaper also reported: “The incident led to the call for a lifeboat in the town, shortly after which a meeting was convened.” Aberystwyth’s first RNLI boat, Evelyn Wood, entered service the same year.
A collection for the Aquila rescuers raised the handsome sum of £23 7s, giving the lie to the stereotype that Cardis (Ceredigion residents) are miserly! John Elias Evans received 30s (shillings) “for his brave and daring conduct”. George Hughes received the same, for going out and the use of his boat. David Edwards received £4, in consideration of his injury. The other five boatmen received 30s each, while five men who went out in a second boat each received 16s. Another 16s were paid to Mrs Owen Rees “for having at imminent peril to herself gone into the sea and saved the life of one of the men when the boat capsized”.
With thanks to William Troughton, author of Ceredigion Shipwrecks, published by Ystwyth Press
Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
Aberdyfi lifeboat – shipwrecked Norwegian crew cheered by a crowd as they reached Aberdyfi in 1897
King Charles the Third – ran aground near Llanon in 1706 with a cargo of citrus fruit and wine