Disasters at sea were all too commonplace when Edward Weddall was a mariner. Before modern technology it was more difficult to predict weather patterns and communications with shore were limited as Emily’s husband Edward Weddall recounts in his letter to a newspaper below. The event of the night of 12th December 1869 resulted in the loss of The Lady Flora, on which Edward Weddall first mate off the Island of Heligoland, in the North Sea. This may have been his first brush with death in his ten years at sea. He survived to tell the tale and to express his gratitude for the kind treatment he and his fellow shipmates extended by the islanders. His letter to the Hull and Eastern Counties Herald of December 30th 1869;
The Loss of the Lady Flora
To the Editor of the Herald
Sir- During the fall of 1868 I remember seeing in your paper a story of the unkind treatment received by the crews of some Hull fishing smacks that were lost on the island of Heligoland at that time. I wish now, on the part of myself and the remainder of the crew of the Lady Flora, steamer, to state my experiences of the conduct observed towards use and the reception given us by the governor and the inhabitants, when we landed there from the wreck of the steamer, on the 16th instant.
Our second boat, after leaving the wreck, was unable to reach the island, on account of the terrible sea which was running and being in addition stove in in two places, our escape sensed almost hopeless; yet in the face of the awfully heavy gale and tumultuous sea, the islander out in there or four boats to our assistance, and eventually landed us safe on the island, which, but for their help, we should never have reached. On landing we were in a naked condition, and half dead from cold and exposure. They took us up to the houses, where the had already for us hot water for baths coffee and other restoratives and immediately provided us with new dry clothing which the had the greatest difficulty in obtaining having to send the bellman round the island asking who had a coat or other article of clothing for sale.
Owing to the stress of weather there was no communication with the main land, and we were detained on the island three days. during this time the governor (the Hon. Mr Masse) seconded by the port captain, Mr, Mains, showed us every kindness and attention in their power, visiting us three or four times a day to see if we were comfortable and had all our wants supplied. As an instance of their extreme kindness to all of us, I may mention that they even supplied the whole with pocket-handkerchiefs and other small articles of comfort, and the governor sent us a complete suit of his own clothing, even the studs for the shirt. He himself was the very first to volunteer to come off to our aid the they from the island observed the ship to be sinking.
I am requested by the whole of the crew (as well as obeying my own feelings) to endeavor to express out sincere gratitude to the governor, to Mr Mains and to the whole of the inhabitants generally for the unceasing kindness and attention shown to us while on the Island.
The death of Captain Borstal who was drowned while endeavoring to clear away the boats, and thus div a chance of escape to the crew, was mainly owing to his exhausted condition, he having had no rest since the Sunday previous (four whole days and nights), and when in the water was totally unable to help himself, and we were utterly unable to reach him. The other two poor fellows were lost as the vessel settled down and the boats were washed off the deck. With these three unfortunate exceptions, the whole of the crew have this day arrived safely in Hull by the s.s. Leopard, Captain Hedgecock, to whom I, in the name of the whole crew, wish to express our heartiest thanks for the kind and generous treatment accorded to us on board his ship. – I am, sir, yours respectfully, Edward Weddall,
Late Chief Mate of the s.s. Lady Flora.
Hull, 23rd December, 1869