Felton and Swarland Local History Society

Felton and Swarland Local History Society welcomed back Jane Bowen, a local expert historian, from Belford.

She gave us a talk on The wreck of the Pegasus, July, 1843.

SS Pegasus was built in 1835 in Barclays Yard, Glasgow. She was a paddle steam passenger ship with rigged sails built for the Hull and Leith Steam Packet Company.

On July 19, she set off from Leith Quay. The captain was Alexander Miller and his second mate was his brother, Thomas Miller. As well as passengers the boat carried barrels, sacks and cargo crates.

It was a lovely summer’s evening, with light winds and good visibility. By 8pm the passengers and crew were settled into the ships routine and by 10.30pm the vessel was heading south towards the Farne Islands.

These islands lie close to Holy Island and the jagged rocks and fast flowing tides emphasise the need for sailors to be wary. The captain decided to take the Inner passage leaving the Goldstone Rock, north of the Farnes to port and pass between it and Plough Rock.

At 20 minutes past midnight, SS Pegasus struck the Goldstone Rock, the vessel has left the Goldstone buoy to starboard instead of port and struck her bow on a jagged rock. Captain Miller decided to reverse the ship off the rock and make for Holy Island just over a mile away. The turbulence upset the lifeboat and threw the passengers into the sea. As she steered towards the shore, the water flooded the vessel and extinguished the boiler fires and she went down shortly after 1am.

Out of 14 passengers (possibly more) and 16 crew there were only six survivors.

The night was clear and the water still. One of the survivors, Charles Bailey, ‘could perceive a number of persons struggling in the water their cries and groans most awful and inexpressive’

The Martello Steamer, belonging to the same company, on her voyage from Hull noticed the disaster as she made her way to Leith at 5am.

For several weeks, bodies and various items were washed up along the Northumbrian shore.

Attempts by the Hull and Leith Steam packet company to raise the wreck were abandoned.

All that remains of the tragedy in Northumberland is a tombstone memorial to Fanny and Field Flowers, two of the children who died. The memorial is outside the west door of Lindisfarne Priory.

In Bamburgh churchyard are the remains of Rev JM Mackenzie who prayed with the passengers as the Pegasus sank.

Chairman, Eileen Cameron thanked Jane Bowen for her informative and interesting talk.

After refreshments were served the meeting closed at 9.15pm.

Our next meeting is on Monday, May 19, at 7.30pm in the main hall in Felton Village Hall. Hilary East and Hazel Graham tell of the lives of the fishwives through song, drama and dance. It is our last indoor meeting. We will bring our own food, wine and soft drinks. Guests and visitors welcome, entry fee £2.50.

For further information contact chrisguthrie@btinternet.com