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This is the first and last page of a letter from Thomas Bowlby (brother of Charles Bowlby who was captain of the ship Charles Holmes) to their cousin Thomas Nichol in November 1859. The letter concerns the death of Charles, describes the coastline around Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, the search for Charles'sbody, and the wreck of the ship:

Commercial Hotel Fishguard Pembrokeshire
Tuesday Evening

My dear Nichol,

Tony and I reached this place today on a sad sad errand. Poor Charlie sailed from Liverpool on Monday 24th and during the frightful gale of Tuesday night the 25th, the ship was wrecked with every soul on board. She was so broken up that Lloyds agent who went to the spot could not at first discover her name, but yesterday morning only we learnt the news and came down here by the first train. The wreck occurred at a place called Aberback about 6 miles to the South between Fishguard and Milford Haven a large bay is formed, about 20 miles in width, bounded by St David's Point on the one side and by Strombol [Strumble] Head on the other. The coast is frightfully rugged, with cliffs rising sheer out of the sea 2 or 300 feet high.

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Disrupted manes of rock fringe these cliffs here and there, standing disjointed at 3 or 400 yards from the mainland. They are of a slatty substance and by the constant action of the sea have edges as smooth as a razor. On one of these rocks the ship struck and her destruction must have been immediate, no signal of distress was heard by the coastguard but fragments of wreck in the morning too well tell the sad tale. Soon afterwards the register of the ship 'Charles Holmes Captn Bowlby' was washed ashore and placed the identity of the vessel beyond doubt. From the appearance of the mainmast, which has floated ashore and is rift in two, the sailors imagine she must have been dismasted at sea and floated helplessly on the rocks for no anchors could hold such a gale. Between 20-30 sailors formed the crew and all have gone to their last account. On

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Thursday 3 bodies were washed ashore and buried next morning. They were exhumed for inspection yesterday but dear Charlie was not amongst them. A fourth body was found on Saturday and this morning we discovered another among the rocks at the foot of the cliffs. So tightly has it been jammed by the sea under a large mass of rock that 20 or 30 men could not extricate it during the half hour we could afford it at low water. It is one of the men. We have offered rewards for dear Charlie'body, and sent messengers 20 miles up and down the coast. Just where the wreck occurred, the base of the cliffs has been worn by the action of the sea into an immense cavern, some 60 or 70 yards in depth, nearly half a mile long. Into this the cargo has been swept and as I believe most of the bodies but we cannot approach

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it in consequence of the tremendous sea that is still running. We have engaged boats and when the weather moderates I have strong hopes we shall recover our dear brother's body and lay it in peace. We shall not leave this place while any hope remains. Never was destruction so complete. Our ship is literally and positively in thousands of fragments, and so has finished one of the finest manliest and truest men I have ever known or loved. He has met a sailor's fate and left us to grieve for a dear brother.

Good-bye dear friend.

Tony and with me in sincerest love.

Tom Bowlby [signed]

Reproduced by permission of Durham County Record Office.

Durham County Record Office D/X 1368/185

The CHARLES HOLMES was transferred to the Port of Liverpool Shipping Register in February 1854 when its association with a new consortium of owners and master began. These owners were Thomas Chilton the younger (and later his father, Thomas Chilton, senior), John Thomas Nickels and Robert Hutchinson, all merchants from Liverpool. The ship's new master was Charles Halket Bowlby of Austin Friars, London, master mariner.

The name Thomas Nichol, Bowlby's cousin, and John Thomas Nickels are very similar and perhaps there are one and the same? Perhaps there was a close family association between Charles Bowlby and J T Nickels? Can your own family history research prove or disprove the connection?

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