Old marker buoy, Point of Ayr

Old marker buoy, Point of Ayr

talacre_marker_buoyHere the Wales Coast Path passes a large metal object – a buoy which once floated in the Dee estuary. It’s a reminder that cargo ships once came right up to the shore here.

The buoy was one of many that marked the safe shipping channel between the sea and the Port of Mostyn in the second half of the 20th century. This type of buoy is no longer used around the UK, having been replaced by navigational markers made from lighter materials for ease of handling. This example was donated by the Port of Mostyn to Flintshire County Council to form a landmark where the coast path skirts the site of Point of Ayr colliery.

A quay was built for the colliery’s opening in the 1880s. Today it may be hard to imagine ships tying up here as you look out over the coastline, where mudflats have built up over decades.

Ships took away virtually all of the colliery’s output until railway sidings were opened in 1909. Shipping was an efficient way to distribute the coal to ports around the Irish Sea, since it omitted the usual intermediate transport from pithead to dock.

The colliery company’s ships included the SS Clwyd, which accidentally sank north of Anglesey in December 1917 while returning from Dublin to Point of Ayr. Ships displayed minimal lighting during the First World War to reduce the risk of German submarine attacks. The Clwyd was showing side lights before colliding with the Dublin-registered SS Paragon, which showed no lights until just before the collision and failed to sound a warning whistle or stop to pick up survivors.

The Clwyd was captained by John Jones of Bangor. He and his six colleagues spent 34 hours in the ship’s lifeboat, with no water or food, before being rescued by a Fleetwood trawler and taken to the Isle of Man. Chief engineer William Owen Jones, 47, of Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic), died of exposure. The trawler captain said the others had almost frozen to death.

With thanks to Jim O’Toole

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