The Brig Resolven - The Marie Celeste of Wales
In the year 2000 the Society produced a book of reminiscences named Resolfen Recalled. However, two founder members of the Society, namely John Mc Mahon and the late John Evans had produced an earlier tome, titled simply “Resolven”in 1991. Recently Mrs Rose James of New Inn Place lent me a copy of the book. It is not really surprising that I have not seen it before, since its print run was limited to a thousand copies only ( Resolfen Recalled, has only 800 copies and will eventually become even rarer) . The short book is a treasure trove of local history and one story leapt off the pages “The Brig Resolven – The Marie Celeste of Wales”. The tragic tale is accompanied by a pencil drawing of the ship by former and much missed Chairman of the Society, the late Mr Phillip Cockwell.
The eerie tale begins (Alun Evans also published a later book on local ghost stories),
“She was completely deserted. There was not a living soul on board and but her sails were set and the most eerie thing of all was that there was a fire still burning in the grate of the galley, something had made the captain and crew to abandon that ship in a hell of a hurry .........”.
The ship was the Resolven, a brig of some 143 tons and she was discovered drifting and derelict in Trinity Bay, Canada at the end of August 1885. She had been built thirteen years earlier in Prince Edward Island, but had been owned by shareholders from New Quay (West Wales) . Timber was plentiful in Canada and it was cheaper to build there than in deforested Wales or Britain. William Richards of Swansea was the Welsh agent and through him the New Quay shareholders had purchased a number of ships.
In the summer of 1885, Captain J James of New Quay was the master of the Resolven. The vessel had carried 143 tons of salt from Cadiz to Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. On August 27th after discharging the cargo the brig sailed for Snug Harbour, Labrador to load salt for the Mediterranean. Three passengers had also boarded the Resolven for the journey to Labrador.
However, they never reached port. On August 29th the ship was discovered drifting at the mouth of Trinity Bay, with no sign of life on board. Her yard arms were broken and the running tackle hung from the yards, the ship’s lifeboat was also missing. The Master of the Mallard who found the Resolven, had sighted icebergs in the area and it was assumed that she had collided with one of them. Captain Jones, who was inexperienced in such waters must have decided to abandon ship and as the small boat pulled away it may have been swamped by the swell generated by the iceberg. Captain Jones and his crew were never seen again.
The Resolven was recovered and continued to sail in Canadian waters, however following a series of accidents she was finally lost at sea near Newport, Nova Scotia on July 27th 1888.
Adapted form the original by Trefor Jones.