For nine months all he found were mud and stones. He was beginning to think that he had made a huge mistake. He dreamt of his home on the Isle of Anglesey and his sweetheart's long black hair and pretty blue eyes. He was so homesick it hurt.
Then one morning it was there, winking at him in the early sunlight.
* * *
On the steam clipper ‘Royal Charter’, voyaging from
Melbourne to Liverpool, William had met a number of fellow
lucky prospectors, heading home to share news of their
riches with their families. Like
William, they were carrying large sums of gold, tied to their bodies or
stitched into their clothing. In the
evenings they drank beer and danced, thanking God for blessing them with his
bounty. They slapped each other's backs
in mutual celebration and raised the roof in song. They were the chosen ones.
Up on deck, earlier that day, William had battled his way through the unusually strong winds to stand at the brow of the great ship. He had watched the north-western tip of his beloved
That night, below deck in the third class lounge, the howling of the high wind was drowning out the singing. Chairs and tables had begun to lurch from side to side as the storm took hold. Knowing that he was only days from home, William held tight to his tankard and allowed himself to fantasise about his future. He would buy a large stone cottage at the edge of the village and start a haulage business that would also employ his father and brothers. Marianne’s father would have to let him marry her now. He reached inside his waistcoat and felt once again for the precious nuggets sewn into the lining. They weighed him down but he felt as light as a feather. A grin spread wide across his handsome, sunburnt face and he couldn’t quite believe his luck had finally changed.
As he drained his glass he caught sight of Charlie, a member of the crew, coming towards him. A fellow Welshman and of a similar age, they had struck up a friendship during the last two months on board. He offered to buy his pal a drink but Charlie shook his head and looking agitated, pulled William to one side, to share some news with him.
Charlie told him that the ship’s captain had been advised to shelter in Holyhead harbour until the storm blew over, but that Captain Taylor was insisting on continuing on to
At some point in the night William’s dreams turned to nightmares. Charlie was reaching out to him, white-faced, his mouth open in terror and his eyes wide with fear as a giant wave smashed his thin body against a massive rock. William was flailing through the choppy water, trying to get to his friend, but aware that despite being a strong swimmer, he was being pulled down, the gold in his waistcoat dragging him towards the depths.
Then there was a floating sensation and a tunnel of bright light…could this be the surface above? But at the end of the tunnel he saw Marianne waiting for him. She was standing outside a large, stone house, two dark haired little boys on either side of her, and they were smiling and waving to him in welcome.
* * *
Arthur pulled back the shabby curtains of his fisherman’s cottage, in the village of Moelfre and peered out through the gloom at the familiar view of rocks and sea. Something was different today. At this early hour there were not usually many people around, but a steady stream of villagers were hurrying down the lane past his window, in the direction of the beach. It could only mean one thing; a wreck.
He quickly pulled his clothes on and began to run through the strong winds, arriving a five minutes later at the beach, where a small group of villagers were combing the sands for anything that they could lay their hands on. Just twenty-five yards from the shore, bashing against the huge rocks, were the remains of a great ship.
Arthur knew every inch of that beach. As a child he had collected shells and pebbles and kept the nicest ones in a tin box under his bed. He had called them his treasures but he never thought he’d own anything of real value.
But that morning it was there winking at him in the early sunlight.
On 26th October 1859 the steam clipper ‘Royal Charter’ was wrecked in a strong storm off the