4th December 1897
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall
When Onesimus Dorey bought the 365-ton Rose of Devon in late November 1897, he dispatched a crew of eight from Guernsey to bring it home. They took on another crew member once they reached Plymouth, bringing the total to nine, intending to sail it to Dorey’s mooring at North Pier. But they never arrived.
They had set out on 26 November, when the Channel Islands, much of the mainland’s south coast, and the channel itself, were being lashed by high winds. It was too much for the crew to cope with, and the Rose of Devon was driven onto the rocks at Port Reath, Cornwall. Everyone onboard was drowned.
The first Dorey knew of it was on the 29th November when he received two telegrams. The first told of bodies washed up on the shore, and a suspicion that they might have come from his ship. The second was the confirmation he no doubt hoped would never arrive.
Six bodies washed ashore at St Agnes and Illogan, but seemingly nobody knew what to do with them. They were stored in sheds without being chilled, so by the time of the funeral on 4 December, nine days after they’d died, they would have been in a poor state.
One of the bodies, William Loveridge, was returned to Guernsey for burial, but the other five were interred in Cornwall. The service took place at Mount Hawke, a village that stands just over two and a half miles from where two of the bodies had washed ashore at St Agnes.
Two hundred mourners attended and sang O God, Our Help in Ages Past as the five coffins were lowered into the ground. The fact that the church was on high ground and gave everyone a clear view of the sea would no doubt have focused their minds on the mens’ fate. The other three crew members’ bodies were never recovered.
However, there was good news for two Guernsey families – or partial good news, at least. Two of the Guernsey crew had absconded before the Rose of Devon had set sail and been replaced by two men hired locally. Thus, they survived its sinking, although only one chose to return to Guernsey following his lucky escape.
Dorey, the owner of the Rose of Devon, also owned SS Rossgull, a steamship that sank exactly three years and one day later.