1853 lifeboat tragedy memorial, Rhyl

Link to Welsh translation Link to French translation

1853 lifeboat tragedy memorial, Rhyl

This memorial on Rhyl promenade was created in 2013. It commemorates the six men who died after the Rhyl lifeboat capsized in 1853. Students from Rhyl College contributed ideas for the memorial, which was sculpted by Mike Owens.

Rhyl’s first lifeboat had only recently been established, by the Shipwrecked Fishermen & Mariners’ Society, when a distress signal was received at five o’clock one January evening in 1853. A vessel was in trouble at Hoyle Bank, off the Dee Estuary. Gwylan-y-Môr, the Rhyl lifeboat, set off from the Foryd harbour with Owen Jones, coxswain, and eight others. 

They travelled about 5km (three miles) towards the vessel but turned back after realising that the tide had covered the wreck. Within 400m (a quarter of a mile) of the Rhyl shore, in heavy seas and a near gale-force North-North-easterly wind, the lifeboat was struck side-on and “turned turtle”.  Three men – Peter Edwards, John Williams and the coxswain – scrambled onto the upturned boat. The rest had disappeared. 

The coxswain told the inquest: “The men were all perfectly sober, and no blame could be attached to any. I have been much disappointed in the boat due to its capsizing and righting powers … I don’t approve of her model, being too round at the bottom, it would not have been so liable to capsize if the bottom had a flatter floor.”

The lifeboat had been designed by James Beeching of Great Yarmouth, who won first prize in the Northumberland Prize Lifeboat Competition  of 1851 with a design for a self-righting lifeboat. Gwylan-y-Môr was slightly smaller than the prize winner. It measured 8m x 2m (26’ x 6’6”) and had eight double-banked oars and a lugsail.

The men who drowned were: David George, John Evans, Phillip Jones, Thomas Jones, John Edwards and William Parry. Their names were later engraved on the memorial at the RNLI Lifeboat College in Dorset. The RNLI’s Rhyl lifeboat took over in 1854, the year after their deaths.

For more information, see Rhyl History Club’s page on the tragedy

With thanks to Ruth Pritchard, of Rhyl History Club

Postcode: LL18 3AF    View Location Map

Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
American civil war wreck, near Prestatyn – Confederate “blockade runner” sank in 1865
Point of Ayr lifeboat memorial, Llanasa – 13 men drowned when aiding a Belfast schooner
Pioneer submarine wreck, near Rhyl – The Resurgam was en route for Portsmouth in 1880

Wales Coastal Path Label Navigation anticlockwise buttonNavigation clockwise button