Captain Skinner monument, Holyhead

On the hill overlooking the harbour stands a memorial to a Holyhead character called Captain John Macgregor Skinner. If you’re at the ferry terminal, look east to see the obelisk.

He was born in New Jersey, USA, c.1760. He lost an arm while fighting with the Royal Navy in the American War of Independence, then lost an eye while serving in the Caribbean. On leaving the navy, he joined the Post Office service. Moving to Holyhead, he became master of packet ships crossing the Irish Sea and campaigned for improvements to the service and the ships’ condition.

In 1807, he astonished seasoned mariners by successfully bringing his ship into Holyhead harbour during an exceptionally severe gale. Little of the current harbour infrastructure – including the sheltering breakwater – existed back then, and Captain Skinner had to navigate rough waters past numerous rocks and small islands

He died in 1832 when he was washed overboard from his ship, called Escape, while sailing from Howth to Holyhead. His mate drowned in trying to rescue him. A public subscription raised the funds for the obelisk in his memory. The monument is testament to the townspeople’s affection and respect for his kindness, fearlessness and “unbounded charity”.

Holyhead Maritime Museum has a life-size model of Captain Skinner, in his Post Office uniform, and his pet raven. Also on display is a painting of his house in Holyhead which was painted by one of his friends, Customs officer James Sparrow. Many of the captain’s friends are depicted, and their names are inscribed on the picture frame. Museum volunteer Peter Scott Roberts has written a book about Captain Skinner which is available from the museum shop.

Near the monument is an unusually shaped Second World War pillbox.

About the place-nake 'Turkey Shore Road':

This is the road around the cliff below the monument. Land in the vicinity was owned by an Edward Starkey and known as Cors Starkey (“Starkey's marshland”), which had become Cors y Tyrci (as if “the turkey's marsh”) by the 18th century. Mariners were familiar with Turkey Shore on the Thames near Southwark, land which had a reputation for being as barbaric as Turkey itself (according to British attitudes at the time). Turkey Shore became a common name among sailors for any wild place. There’s a Turkey Shore in Porth Amlwch, for example. We don't know whether this part of Holyhead harbour had such a reputation, or whether the name was prompted by the similarity between Turkey and Starkey.

With thanks to Holyhead Maritime Museum, and to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen of the Welsh Place-Name Society

Postcode: LL65 2DF    View Location Map

Wales Coastal Path Label Navigation anticlockwise buttonNavigation clockwise button