The Primrose Hill – a poem

This is a poem about a well-known shipwreck off Anglesey which led to the tragic loss of 33 lives in a December 1900 storm. You can learn more here and also searching the terms on the Daily Post website and elsewhere. Holyhead Maritime Museum is also a great source of information and well worth a visit. Finally, there is a detailed account of the shipwreck from J Thomas of West Kirby, who was the signaller at South Stack that dreadful day. His account is quoted in Holyhead: The Story of a Port by D. Lloyd Hughes and Dorothy M. Williams.

There is conflicting information in the sources – for example it is noted she was set for New South Wales, but most records are clear her destination was Vancouver. However, I apologise for any errors, but hope I’ve captured the plight of those poor men and those who witnessed – and with the exception of brave John Owen – could do little for them.

‘Somebody’s Darling’ is written in stone

For the sea took them down and swallowed their bones

They set sail Christmas Eve. Conditions: fine

Bound for Vancouver with a cargo of wine

A signalman noted the glass falling

‘Good God, lad. It’ll blow hard before morning.’

The Primrose Hill was swept, south by south west

Her sails were in ribbons. She signalled distress

Caught in a flood tide. A mile off South Stack

Thirty-four set sail. Only one would come back

Somehow Hibernia got alongside

She threw a line. But trapped between wind, tide

The line failed. And she left those desperate few

Forced to protect her own passengers and crew

Three masts were smashed in the first crash of waves

If the rocket line failed no souls would be saved

She pitched, struck rock, her steel hull was shattered

Her crew washed away and her timbers scattered

Douglas Brown, fifteen, was the youngest drowned

Twelve couldn’t be ID’d. Six were never found

She sank as the lookout clung to the mast

A Swede called Pedersen was doomed to be last

A swell took him. Though forlorn of all hope

He was held by a farmer, tethered with rope

He’d have heard them in his hospital bed

Been tormented by the faces of the dead

Farmer John Owen got a street parade

I wonder what kind of life Pedersen made

Did he make a fortune, travel afar?

Was he riddled with guilt, alone in a bar?

The town raised funds for the men that they found

Memorial stones and plaques on sacred ground

‘Somebody’s Darling’ is written in those stones

For the sea took them down and swallowed their bones

Cave on the beach

12 thoughts on “The Primrose Hill – a poem

  1. There are times that I think twice about clicking the “Like” button. Your writing–the meter and rhyme–as well as your recitation (listened to it on YouTube) were all excellent. But wow, what a sad story. It is the sadness that made me think twice. Do you find that it is easier to write poems about sad events?
    “Somebody’s Darling,” how thoughtful of the townspeople to recognize that.

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