• Gwenan Griffith

The wrecking of The Stuart, April 6th 1901 at Porth Tŷ Mawr (Porth Wisgi)

On this day, April 6th 1901, exactly 120 years ago, the Iron Barque Stuart was shipwrecked on rocky shore at Porth Tŷ Mawr, near Porth Colmon on the northern coast of the Llŷn Peninsula.


The Stuart and her crew of 19 young sailors set sail from the port of Liverpool on the morning of Good Friday. The purpose of the voyage was to transport freight; crockery, cotton, pianos, candles and whiskey to Wellington in New Zealand.


Apparently, the weather wasn't too bad, slight drizzle of rain, some fog and westerly wind. The Stuart was towed to Holyhead and then set free to sail towards Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island). She proceeded at tremendous speed, first heading towards Ireland and then turning off course towards the north coast of Pen Llŷn. She hit the rocky shore of Porth Tŷ Mawr in the early hours of Easter Sunday. Luckily, all crew members onboard managed to get off safely.


Map of The Stuart's intended and actual course. Photo Credit - Rhiw.com

Reports at the time suggested that the wreckage was caused by the inexperience of the young sailors, but others believed that she had struck the remains of The Sorrento, a ship wrecked on the same site 31 years earlier in 1870.


News of the wreckage travelled around the Peninsula, and within hours, local residents flocked to the scene to ‘rescue’ the valuable cargo. A Caernarfon based customs officer, Mr Mason Cumberland and his crew were sent to try and recover the goods, but by the time they arrived, the goods were long gone. Some valuables had been buried and whiskey bottles hidden down rabbit holes!


There is talk of a Sunday school teacher and his whole class collecting whiskey bottles and crockery from the wreckage. It was a very common sight to see drunken men and women along the shoreline, some were smashing open the bottles on the rocks and drinking the liquor directly from the sharp edges of the bottles. Women were seen hiding bottles in their petticoats!


The wreckage of The Stuart. Look closely and you'll see a few locals on the rocks

Items from the Stuart can be seen on local household dressers to this day. If you want to see some of these items for yourself, head down to the Llŷn Maritime Museum in Nefyn when it reopens as they too have a collection on display. Their opening times can be seen on the Ecoamgueddfa website.



An unopened whiskey bottle and jug from the wreckage of The Stuart. Photo credit Rhiw.com


120 years on, the remains of the Stuart can still be seen at Porth Tŷ Mawr, or Porth Wisgi as it’s known locally. At low tide, pieces of metal tubes can be seen on the rocks that are now red with rust. At very low tide the skeletal remains are still visible.


Why not go there for a walk? Porth Tŷ Mawr can be accessed by following the coastal path for about a mile west from Porth Colmon, Llangwnnadl. You never know, you might even be lucky enough to find a whiskey bottle!


Map of beaches in the Tudweiliog and Llangwnnadl area