Black Scar Island

Black Scar - the name sounds as if it belongs to a smuggler or a pirate, and no doubt there were plenty of those around St Brides Bay in the past.

But Black Scar is the name of a small rock in a group half a mile off the entrance to Solva Harbour, the others being Green Scar and The Mare.

The notorious privateer Paul Jones is known to have operated round these shores, and had a secret hideout on Caldey Island, where Paul Jones Bay commemorates his connection there. Indeed, Fishguard Fort, at the northern entrance to Lower Town Harbour, was erected as a result of his and other brigands’ piratical activities. Scottish-born Paul Jones was the founder of the American Navy. But St Brides Bay and the area around Black Scar is more associated with the nefarious activities of wreckers and plunderers in the days when sailing ships and steamers came to grief there.

With no evidence of actual wrecking - luring vessels to their doom with lights purporting to be lighthouses or beacons - the opportunist plunderers were described as ‘beachcombers’ in old books and newspapers recording their cruel crimes. One of those incidents concerned the sailing vessel Amity in December 1668, which foundered at the northern end of the bay, spilling its cargo of wine and fruit from Malaga. The Revenue men found no sign of any wine, but only broken casks when they searched the shore, for the ‘beachcombers’ had been there before them. Some pretty gruesome crimes were committed after the sailing ship Phoebe and Peggy was wrecked near the Black Scar in January 1773. More than 60 people were drowned in the disaster and callous plunderers stole the rings and earrings of a woman named as Madam Elliott, and her nephew, who survived, was able to recover only a few of his aunt’s possessions. A McGonnagal-style ballad was written about the wreck by a local man, a few lines from which read: “Madam Elliott, she was drowned, five hundred guineas in her pocket, and old Luke Davy and John Phillip, they robbed the lady in a minute. And for her rings they cut her fingers, and split her ears all for her jewels. These country mobs they be like villains.” The bodies that were recovered were buried at Brawdy church. 

In 1874, the Liverpool ship Alaric foundered in St Bride’s Bay in a dreadful storm. She was sighted bottom up a mile west of the Black Scar, and later sank with the loss of all hands.

The Black Scar would seem to be well-named in view of all those horrendous occurrences so many years ago. Now it is a sinister memorial to those unfortunate souls.

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