The Wreck of the “Thomas Dryden”

in Pentland Firth

As I stood upon the sandy beach
One morn near Pentland Ferry,
I saw a beautiful brigantine,
And all her crew seem’d merry.

When lo! the wind began to howl,
And the clouds began to frown,
And in the twinkling of an eye
The rain came pouring down.

Then the sea began to swell,
And seem’d like mountains high,
And the sailors on board that brigantine
To God for help did loudly cry.

Oh! it was an awful sight
To see them struggling with all their might,
And Imploring God their lives to save
From a merciless watery grave.

Their cargo consisted of window-glass,
Also coal and linseed-oil,
Which helped to calm the raging sea
That loud and angry did boil.

Because when the bottoms of the barrels
Were with the raging billows stove in,
The oil spread o’er the water,
And smoothed the stormy billows’ din!

Then she began to duck in the trough of the sea,
Which was fearful to behold;
And her crossyards dipped in the big billows
As from side to side she rolled.

She was tossed about on the merciless sea,
And received some terrible shocks,
Until at last she ran against
A jagged reef of rocks.

’Twas then she was rent asunder,
And the water did rush in —
It was most dreadful to hear it,
It made such a terrific din.

Then the crew jumped into the small boats
While the Storm-fiend did roar,
And were very near being drowned
Before they got ashore.

Then the coal-dust blackened the water
Around her where she lay,
And the barrels of linseed-oil
They floated far away.

And when the crew did get ashore,
They were shaking with cold and fright,
And they went away to Huna inn,
And got lodgings for the night!

Wreck Of The Thomas Dryden Of North Shields

On the afternoon of Tuesday last, the brig Thomas Dryden, Captain Stanners, of and from Shields, laden with a general cargo, and bound for Dublin, was wrecked at Duncansbay, Caithness. The vessel on taking the Pentland Firth was met by the tide, and a heavy sea running, which sheered her round, and she struck on a ledge of rock, but got off again. It was found, however, that the water was making so rapidly in the hold that the Captain was obliged to run the ship ashore on the nearest land. The whole crew narrowly escaped with their lives, as the water was flush with the deck by the time she grounded. The ship and cargo will be almost a total loss. Only one cask of oil had come on shore when the latest report left.

Caledonian Mercury, 18th March 1843

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Comments (2) »

  1. Duncan MacColl
    In the year 2018, on the 2nd day of November at 6:55 pm

    Discovered this site by accident when I was searching for a note on the funeral of my friend Thomas Dryden who would have been very interested to know if and read the poem. A further interest is that my daughter lives in Caithness not far from the shipwreck site.

  2. Dan E
    In the year 2018, on the 3rd day of November at 2:40 pm

    William wrote of many ship disasters which puzzles me as why he never wrote of the HMS Birkenhead, this was a classic at that time The HMS Birkenhead was wrecked in 1852 off Gangs Bay Western South Africa. It would have been interesting to hear what he would have made of that disaster! I can just see some wonderful phrase like “To Stand and be still to the Birkenhead drill”, could he have possibly missed out on this gem?

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