duke of sussex wreck

Duke of Sussex

The Duke of Sussex was sailing from Sunderland to the Cape of Good Hope on 25 December 1839 when she was driven ashore at Hoy Sound during a gale. The ship went to pieces with 16 people on board; only seven were saved. The master, his wife, the first and second mates and five crew were drowned.

John O’ Groats Journal - 31 January 1840 - Loss of the Duke of Sussex of Sunderland

On Saturday the 25th instant at 8 PM, the barque Duke of Sussex of Sunderland, Booth or Johnstone master, of and from that place to the Cape of Good Hope with a cargo of coals and glass, was totally lost on the Black Rocks, 2 miles from Stromness, on the north side of Hoy Sound, and 8 of the crew, including the captain drowned. The wife of the latter, who was on board, we lament to state, also shared a similar fate. The rest of the crew, 7 in number, were saved, and received every attention from the Islanders which it was possible to bestow. It would appear that the ill fated vessel sailed from Widewall (Orkney) on the Thursday previous, and while off Cape Wrath shipped a heavy sea which carried away her companion, binacles and compasses, and otherwise so disabled her as to necessitate her return to Orkney. In bearing up for Stromness she was, in consequence of the violence of the gale, which was variable, blowing furiously from SW to NW, driven on the rocks above mentioned, and soon become a complete wreck. Eight of the bodies of the hapless seamen have been found, and decently interred. The Duke of Sussex was a beautiful new vessel.

Our Stromness correspondent, under date 28th instant, gives us the following additional particulars respecting the loss of the above vessel:

The helmsman was severely hurt on the sea having struck the vessel off Cape Wrath; and in consequence of carpenter’s chips having choked her pumps, she being a new vessel she became so leaky as to necessitate her immediate return to Orkney. It would appear that she struck during a thick snow storm on the north side of the point of Breckness. It would seem that the captain (John Booth), his wife, and a boy of the name Everard were drowned in the cabin.

The names of the other sufferers are: John A Morrison, Chief Mate, a native of Peterhead; William Fetherson, second mate; James Blaikie, Carpenter; Charles Ferguson, seaman, a native of Aberdeen; and James Monday and John Merriman, apprentices, natives of Sunderland. The survivors who saved themselves by clinging to the rigging, are as follows: William Pig, cook and steward; John Brown and Joseph Elsey, seamen; George Wilson, Thomas Proctor, Charles Evan, & Frederick Potts, apprentices. The survivors succeeded on getting ashore with great difficulty at low water on the morning of the 26th, and fortunately got to a house near the spot, where they met with every attention. The men, though much exhausted at the time, are now doing well. The body of the master, that of his wife, and those of the first and second mate, and three of the crew have been found and were decently interred at Stromness on the 28th instant.

Headstone in Stromness Kirkyard

In memory John Booth, master mariner of Monkwearmouth, and of Mary Booth
his wife who both perished by the wreck of the barque Duke of Sussex on these shores
in making for Stromness harbour January 25th 1840. Also in memory of John Merriman and John Blakely who with five more of the crew were drowned
on this melancholy occasion and all of whose bodies lie near this spot.

  • Date lost: 25 January 1840
  • Location: Breckness