Twin Tragedies - The Prince of Wales and Rochdale part I

On the evening of the 18th November 1807 a small fleet of transport ships left the Pidgeon House dock in Dublin to sail to Wales. On board were militia and their families who had volunteered for oversees duty with the British Army. As they headed out into the bay they were almost immediately hit by a freezing easterly gale.All but two managed to make it out to sea and across to Wales. The Prince of Wales and the Rochdale were forced back towards land and southwards along a rocky shore.

Very little is known of how they fared that night, but by the second evening the Prince of Wales was sighted just before dark heading northwards. Some time later, in pitch dark conditions, it struck some rocks just behind Blackrock House.

The captain, some sailors and soldiers, the steward’s wife and two children jumped into a small rowing boat. It was so dark that they rowed for a considerable distance parallel to the shore before one of the soldiers fell overboard and found that he was in shallow water. They were able to land but they made no effort to send for help.

Meanwhile the Rochdale was also seen farther out and struggling. Night came and some soldiers on board started to fire their guns to attract attention. There were some helpers on shore but they had to shelter to avoid being shot.

The Rochdale struck the rocks at Seapoint about half a mile from the Prince of Wales. It was so dark nobody could see anything and all 265 people on board perished. In daylight the following day it was found that a 12 ft long plank would have been enough to reach to the shore.

Everybody abandoned on the Prince of Wales also perished, a total of 120 people. The captain was later accused of murder, but the charges were withdrawn due to lack of evidence.  

In the following days the ships started to break up and bodies were found all along the shoreline. Most are buried in churchyards in Monkstown, Dalkey and Merrion. 

Text kindly supplied by the National Maritime Museum.

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