Albion Sands Beach
At low-water at Albion Sands, near Marloes Beach on the southern tip of St Bride’s Bay, a head-high piece of metal stand like a statue in the golden sand.
Other lower pieces of wreckage protrude from the beach, for this was the spot where the packet paddle steamer after which the beach was named came to a sticky end.
The paddle steamer Albion was the pride of the Cork to Bristol Service, famed for her speedy passages across the Irish Sea. Passengers enjoyed a fine programme of entertainment from a resident band on the swift voyage, the vessel having broken all previous records for speed. In 1833, two years after she was launched, it was boasted that she had completed the 700 mile double Waterford - Bristol - Cork - Bristol sailing in 70 hours. But her reputation for speed must have gone to her Master’s head, for in April 1837, in his quest for further records, he took a short cut through the notoriously treacherous Jack Sound, between Skomer Island and the mainland. And, like other vessels before and since, he came to grief when the vessel struck a submerged rock and she was run on to the sands which ever since have borne her name.
Happily, the Spring weather was relatively calm and her fifty passengers and crew, together with five horses and 180 pigs were saved. After most of her moveable equipment had been salvaged, she was left to break up on the beach and has remained there, buried in the sand, for the last 176 years. Two long iron shafts are her only memorial, apart, of course, from the name of the Sands.
In October 1881 another paddle ship, a wooden vessel named The Lass of Gowrie foundered nearby on Marloes Sands. In October1938 the 500-ton steamship Lonsdale fell victim to the sound, and nIne years earlier a ship called the Molesey struck. And in February 1967, the Dutch coaster Lucy came to grief when her stern struck the Blackstone Rock in the Sound and stuck fast. She was carrying a cargo of calcium carbide, which it was feared would cause a gigantic explosion when wet. The Master and crew took to the liferaft and were rescued together with the ship’s mascot, a collie dog, and when the tide rose, the ship floated off into St Bride’s Bay in a snow storm, where she evidently sank without a murmur. To those victims of these treacherous waters can be added the Holme Line steamer Thomas Vaughan in 1882, The sailing vessel Mayflower with a cargo of salt during the 18th century, the Llanelli-built two-masted trading schooner Alice Williams in February 1928, and the Bristol Packet steamer Queen in September 1843. There is an interesting story about the Alice Williams, which was bought for £5 by the naturalist, Ronald Lockley, then living on Skokholm Island, who salvaged her cargo of coal and other useful items. Her figurehead welcomes visitors ashore to this day.