Saturday, 27 July 2013

Tale of a Cornish shipwreck

Taking a break from solving the UK's political problems, my ITC and I headed down west to meet up with some friends at Mylor Quay. One of them has a small yacht and we were treated to some sailing in the Carrick Roads stretch of the Fal Estuary. The weather was excellent and it was rather pleasant skimming gently over the nicely calm water.

Back on land we took the opportunity to visit the nearby parish church dedicated to St Melorus. An interesting Norman building, with its original door still in place, but we couldn't really get to grips with the inside because everywhere was bedecked with the products of the Falmouth Quilters' Group. They made for a very colourful interior and, whilst I can admire the undoubted skill that was on display, I was disappointed that what I really wanted to see was obscured. Fancy moaning about something like that: I really can be a miserable old git, can't I?
However, all was forgiven when, as we wandered amongst the headstones in the graveyard, we came across a fascinating memorial. Underneath a rather dramatic carving of a shipwreck is the inscription:
To the Memory of the
Women and Children
who on their return to England
from the Coast of Spain
unhappily perished
in the wreck of the
Queen Transport
on Trefusis Point Jan 14 1814
This stone is erected as a Testimony
of regret for their fate
by the inhabitants of this Parish

We immediately thought "What was the story behind this memorial?" Back home and after a little Googling, all was revealed. The Queen was one of the many transport ships bringing home Wellington's troops (and camp followers) as the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal was coming to an end. She had been moored off Mylor for several days when an atrocious storm blew up and she sunk off Trefusis Point in the resultant high seas. About 360 men (principally invalids of the Artillery), women and children were on board and only 100 were saved. The disaster was widely reported in 1814 and has, apparently, been regularly retold ever since with varying degrees of accuracy and embellishment. There are tales of the looting of corpses and suspicions of incompetence counterbalanced by tales of the compassion of the local community.  It's a story well worth reading about and a detailed investigation has been recently published by the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall. It's entitled "In Search of the Queen Transport" and was written by Sue Kruk.  It can be downloaded from this link. 
It's amazing what you can come across when you wander around the land of the dead.

1 comment:

sue kruk said...

Thank you for the mention.

Today is the 200th anniversary.