From the Toxteth Dock yard of William C Miller and Company, came the steel paddle steamer Lelia.
She was 640 tons gross and had dimensions of 252' x 30' x 12'6". Engines, by Fawcett Preston & Company were rated at a
nominal 300 h.p. and following successful completion plans were made before Christmas for her maiden cargo and voyage.
With owners no doubt relishing the prospects of large profits - remembering the famous Liverpool built Banshee who, before
capture on 21st November 1863, had realised a 700% profit for her owners - Mr William Gladstone and the Duke of
Westminster among them.
On 5th January 1865 she sailed from the Mersey, heavily laden with a 700 ton cargo of coal, iron and general merchandise
and according to the Illustrated London News of 28th January 1865, "would have taken a much more valuable cargo in Bermuda
to attempt to run the blockade into Wilmington."
Her crew totalled 49 - 20 of whom were engine room crew and several passengers which included Thomas Miller, a son of the
builder and J B Cropper, a Liverpool merchant. Also listed as passengers where a Mr Robson and Arthur Sinclair - a
Commander in the Confederate Navy and a native of Virginia.
The Lelia was commanded, nominally, by Captain Thomas Buxton Skinner - Sinclair would have taken over on the run from
Bermuda to Wilmington when the 'protection' of the British ensign would not have made her immune from the attentions of
Federal Navy warships patrolling the Confederate coast.
Soon after leaving the Mersey, the winter weather turned nasty and as she headed towards the Welsh coast, heavy seas
encountered. Already low lying due to her heavy cargo, the Lelia was soon in difficulties and the account of her last
few hours has been reconstructed using evidence from the few survivors. When the Lelia arrived off the Great Orme at 2
pm she had been paddling into the teeth of the storm for some 4 hours.
Captain Skinner, fearing even further deterioration in the weather and the more exposed run to Port Lynas the immediate
prospect, decided to slow the ship and hoist anchors inboard. As his crew struggled to carry out his orders in the heaving
seas, a huge wave caused the pea of one of the anchors to smash through the deck. While Skinner and his officers were
inspecting the damage another huge wave washed away the iron covering of a nearby scuttle. With more waves crashing over
her bow the Lelia started to fill with water and soon the vessel was stricken - unable to answer her helm. Worse was to come.
Whilst inspecting damage and no doubt trying to instigate repairs, the Lelia's crew were helpless as a series of waves
smashed her forward hatches. By now the Lelia was drifting helplessly in the storm and started to sink as she reached
North of Prestatyn. Her 4 boats were ordered to be lowered, but, as so often happens, confusion and panic set in at this
point. Commander Sinclair and the ship's pilot were lowered in the first boat which was swamped as soon as it reached the
The second and third boats did manage to get away carrying about 30 men, but it is not known whether the fourth boat got
away before Captain Skinner was seen to go down with his ship.
The 2 boats made for the North West lightship - Prince - some 6 miles away, but one boat sunk when she struck the larger
vessel. Only 12 survivors got aboard the lightship from the two boats, but managed in time to signal news of the tragedy
to the tug Blazer, who next morning, upon arrival at the Prince's landing stage, alerted life boat crews. The tug set off
to return to the scene, towing lifeboat no 1 in its wake, but after passing Rock Channel, the lifeboat was swamped as it
approached buoy 79, a short distance from East Hoyle and only 4 of her crew managed to swim to the Blazer, the other 7
Another day was to be lost before the Lelia's survivors could be rescued from the lightship.
On 31st May 1865, James Wilson, Skipper of the Fleetwood fishing vessel 'Elizabeth & Emma' found Commander Arthur
Sinclair's body in his nets some 10 miles out to sea. "His skeletal remains were still dothed, even to his cravat held in
place by a gold and agate pin. His overcoat was still buttoned up and he had retained his watch in his breast pocket",
reported the Fleetwood Chronicle of 9th June 1865. Ironically, his pocket watch had stopped at 4:10 -approximately the time
the Lelia sunk off Prestatyn, and led to the identification of the body by Liverpool police as the one which he had bought
in Liverpool for the considerable sum of £40.00. The watch chain and ornaments were a gift to Sinclair from Mr Robson who
also lost his life on the Lelia.
An inquest was called at Fleetwood on 2nd June 1865 at the Steamer Hotel. In attendance was Richard Taylor, formerly
Paymaster of the C S S Florida, the Confederate warship also built at Millers yard. Taylor was living in Liverpool at the
time, following his release by Federal authorities after being captured on board the Florida when she was rammed in the
port of Bahia, Brazil - a violation of International Law. He informed the committee that he identified the body for the
police from the watch, dothing and accompanying documents that related to a £1300 deposit with Crenshaw and Company of
Liverpool. In a subsequent interview with a reporter of the Fleetwood Chronide, Taylor said that Sinclair had left
instructions, in the event of death or capture, that £100 be paid from this sum, to each of his sons, the remainder to his
wife. According to Taylor, Sindair had run the blockade successfully from Bermuda to Wilmington on several occasions and
this deposit was presumably profits from his exploits.
Taylor added that Federal forces had since occupied Norfolk, Virginia and had 'ejected Mrs Sindair and her family from
their home with great barbarity.'
Captain Sindair had lost his previous ship near Bermuda in 1864 before his voyage on the ill-fated Lelia and was said by
Taylor to have been at the seige of Vicksburg. His funeral took place on 3rd June 1865 in Fleetwood and was attended by
his two sons, Arthur Jnr and Terry. His gravestone bears the inscription "Sacred to the memory of Captain Arthur Sinclair
of Norfolk Virginia who perished in the wreck of the Lelia - January 14th 1865. Not lost but gone before."
In addition to Sinclair, Thomas Miller, Captain Skinner, Mr Robson, J B Cropper and all the officers of the Lelia
drowned - only 12 were saved.
At the subsequent enquiry, it was recorded that the Lelia was a well found ship but the fact that her four boats were
without rowlocks contributed to the large loss of life.********
An artcle concerning the loss, from the London Illustrated News.
The cutter-rigged Lelia left her moorings at half past nine on Saturday morning, but soon a furious gale blew up. When,
at about two o'clock.the Lelia passed the Great Orme's Head, the ship slowed to bring in its anchors, in case they were
lost. As this order was being carried out,the heavy sea knocked the pea of one of the arms of the anchors through the deck.
The iron covering of a small scuttle in the fore of the ship was washed away and through this hole the Lelia shipped a
succession of seas which soon filled the fore part of the vessel.
Two men, Brodie and Currey were steering at the time, and soon discovered that the steamer would not answer her helm. They
told the Pilot that they thought the vessel was filling with water, so orders were given to reduce speed further, with the
aim of discovering where the water was getting in. This they were unable to do as the decks were flooded and soon another
huge wave broke over her, smashing the forward hatches. Another sea lifted the anchor from the deck in which it was embedded
and again sent the pea through with tremendous force.
Attempts were then made to alter the position of the ship with a view to running her back but as she refused to answer her
helm she was helpless. Positioned about six miles west of the north west light ship she soon filled with water and in a
few minutes her stem was raised high out of the water. Orders were given for her four boats to be lowered, but in doing so
two were smashed leaving the other two to get away. Several persons were still left on the Lelia and it is known that the
Captain was one of these, left clinging to some tackle aboard.
The two boats one with eighteen people and the other with twelve people on board succeeded in reaching the light ship. The
boat with the eighteen, included the passengers and arrived first but was driven athwart the bows of the light ship and
swamped. Four men went down with her. Ropes were thrown from the light ship and four men were rescued. Thomas Miller,
seized a rope and was drawn dose alongside, but being exhausted and on being seized by the leg by a drowning man, let go
his hold and was lost.
The two Pilots were also lost. This so alarmed the occupants of the second boat that four of the twelve jumped overboard
in the hope of being picked up. They were however all swept away and drowned, only the remaining eight were rescued.
The news of the wreck was brought to Liverpool about noon the following day by Captain Parry, of the steam tug Blazer. He
had passed the light ship at an early hour and was hailed by the Master to come alongside and take off the survivors. The
gale had yet to blow itself out and the consequent cross sea stopped the Blazer from doing this, so Captain Parry proceeded with all speed to the Princes landing stage. Here he informed Captain Thawe and the number one lifeboat left the stage at about 1.30 in tow of the Blazer. The lifeboat was towed down the Rock Channel until it arrived near the mouth of the Horse Channel at a point marked 79 on the chart, a short distance from the East Hoyle Bank. Here, the boat was suddenly struck by a heavy sea on the port bow. She was instantly capsized but, unfortunately for her crew, the eleven occupants had not donned their life jackets. The men were for some time struggling in the water but only four of them were able to be rescued by the Blazer. Two of the seven drowned, seized ropes and were drawn to the side of the tug but were so exhausted that they let go their hold and sank. After this dreadful accident the tug proceeded to the light ship but the sea was still so rough that she could not approach with safety and, after lying by her for over an hour, she gave up the attempt and returned to the Princes Stage with her sad tale.
The survivors of the Lelia were taken off the light ship the following day.********
CREW LIST OF THE LELIA
Thomas Buxton Skinner - Master
Lauritz Jonas Peterson - First Mate, Daulby Street
George De Lacy - Second Mate, Parliament Street
James Baxter Harrison - Third Mate, Greenfield Street, Old Swan
John McKinnon - Carpenter, Gren[e]land Street
William Smith - Boatswain - Spring Street, Toxteth Park, Married
John Clarke - Steward, Bury Street
James Tinker- Steward, Derby Road, Married
William Taylor - Steward, Rosscommon Street
Patrick Kennedy - Cook, Paget Street. (First Cook on Lelia and employed for many years by
Cunard Line. Was Cook for six years on S.S. Great Britain. He left a widowed mother.)
Daniel McLoughlin - Cook, Stone Street
John Miller - Cook, Jones' Court, Redcross Street
Henry Morris - Able Seaman, Clarence Grove
Michael Curry - Able Seaman, Waterloo Road
Andrew Brodey - Able Seaman, Earle Street, Married
James McCallum - Able Seaman, Gre[e]nland Street
William Everetts - Able Seaman, Simpson Street
Tynan Danford Oby - Ordinary Seaman, Jordan Street, Single (Canadian)
John Lindstrom - Ordinary Seaman, Lander Street, Single (Stockholm)
James Kewin - Able Seaman, Cemaes Street
Edward Smith - Able Seaman, Mitford Street
Henry Scott - Able Seaman, Mifford Street, Married
John Hughes - Watchman, Epsom Street (Coroners inquest on his body 32 years, 31 ???
Thomas Grammall - Boy, Duke Street
Thomas Herriott - Boy, Roscommon Street
James France - First Engineer, Walmsley Street
James McClymm - Second Engineer, Flinders Street
Charles Francis Middleton - Engineer, Islington Place
John Frederick Lyons - Engineer, Canning Place
Joseph Keating - Boy, Cranmer Street
John Kempton - Fireman, Slade Street
William Kelly - Fireman, Westmoreland Street
Hugh Magee - Fireman, Ascot Street, Single (County Down, Ireland)
Timothy O'Brien - Fireman, Burlington Street, Married (Queenstown, Ireland. Had been
employed as Store Keeper in Engineers Department)
Thomas Wilson - Fireman, SaRney Street
Robert Kenney - Fireman, Athol Street, Single
Samuel Cormick - Fireman, Raymond Street, Single (Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland.)
John Casey - Fireman, Regent Street
Thomas Kinsel - Fireman, Barlow Street
George Murray - Fireman, Blake Street
John Burke - Fireman, Tatlock Street
Peter Devlin - Fireman, Darwin Street, Married (Glasgow)
Bartholomew Shaw - Fireman, Bentinck Street
John Jackson - Fireman, Newsport Street, Single (Manchester)
Thomas Seddon - Fireman, Blackstone Street
John Cunningham - Fireman, Russell Street
John Kelly - Fireman, New Hedley Street
William Halkin - Fireman, Slade Street
Peter Laverty - Fireman, Dryden Street (Late of Alabama)
William Williams - Liverpool Pilot, Chatsworth Street (Buried at St. James Cemetery, 10/4/1865
and recently appointed third officer of No 1 Liverpool Pilot Boat)
Theophilius Cuddy - (Late of Alabama)
"Listed as Passengers*
Thomas Miller - Son of the Builder
John B. Cropper
James W. Clarke
Captain Arthur Sinclair
Magnus Park - Pilot (Cork, Ireland)
"Missing Lifeboat Men*
George Hanson Miller
"Rescued Lifeboat Men"
Thomas John Hamill
LNRS Box 6, 39 & 40 - A C Wardle
Americas Secret War in Welsh Waters - J W Jones
Illustrated London News
© lan Cook 1994
All the information on this page is reprduced here by kind permission of Mr Ian Cook of England.
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