The Lifeboats of Holyhead and Anglesey

On 26th March 1823, a shipping packet, 'Alert,' wrecked off the northwest coast of Anglesey. Despite calm conditions 140 lives were lost at sea. The Reverend James Williams and his wife Frances were amongst onlookers watching helplessly from the shore. Keen to avoid a similar tragedy, they spent the next five years raising funds and galvanising public opinion. In late 1828, they helped to form the Anglesey Association for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, a society dedicated to saving lives at sea.

The Reverend James served as coxswain aboard the earliest lifeboats from Cemlyn and Holyhead. Frances frequently joined her husband at sea and, as a talented artist, she also captured the lifeboat’s exploits in sketches and dramatic paintings. The couple worked tirelessly over the next three decades. By the time the RNLI assumed responsibility for local sea rescue in 1855, Anglesey lifeboats had saved over 400 lives along the coastline of the island.

The legacy of dedicated enthusiasts like the Reverend James and Frances Williams endures into the 21st century. Volunteers save lives at sea through lifeboat search and rescue and an all-weather lifeboat, 'Christopher Pearce,' continues to launch from the Port of Holyhead's inner harbour.

Cover image: Frances Williams c.1836 'Sarah' (Oriel Mon)

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