Llandudno Lifeboat looks back on the bravery of the volunteers of March 1919

Lifeboats News Release

Gale and gallantry, Llandudno Lifeboat looks back on the bravery of the volunteers of March 1919.

Coxswain John Owen, the volunteer crew and Theodore Price


Llandudno lifeboat crew of 1919

On Thursday 27 March 1919 there was a Force 8 storm across the Irish Sea and beyond. It resulted in a dramatic rescue at sea near Colwyn Bay by Llandudno lifeboat, which the RNLI subsequently recognised for gallantry by awarding a Bronze Medal to Coxswain John Owen.

The Ada Mary, a ketch rigged coastal trading ship of a design known as a Mersey ‘Jigger’ Flat was on passage from Wicklow to Widnes with a cargo of timber. She was manned by a crew of only two. Within a few hours, she had lost sails and rigging and was drifting before the gale towards the north Wales shoreline. However, before they got too close to shore, the crew managed to let go both of the ship’s anchors not far from Rhos-on-Sea. One of the anchor cables parted soon after. The crew’s distress signals were seen by the lifeboat station at Llanddulas, but the conditions were so bad that a launch of their lifeboat would have been impossible, so a launch message was quickly sent to Llandudno lifeboat station instead.

Llandudno’s lifeboat Theodore Price was launched at 1pm around the time of low water. Once launched, the lifeboat made its way under sail to clear the Little Orme’s Head, but it was seen to be swamped by the seas three times before continuing on its way. On one occasion, the crew were only prevented from being washed out of the boat by clinging on to their lifelines. Eventually they managed to get alongside the Ada Mary long enough to rescue her exhausted crew. The Ada Mary later broke from her remaining anchor and was wrecked near Pensarn.

The Theodore Price tried to sail back to Llandudno for two hours but the wind and now strongly flooding tide meant they could make little progress. Concerned about all on board, Coxswain John Owen turned the boat to make for Colwyn Bay and successfully beached her, an extremely hazardous operation to achieve safely.

The gale persisted so the following day it was decided to return the lifeboat by road. This involved a team of ten horses along with 47 shore helpers, hauling the lifeboat back on to its carriage via Llandudno Junction and Deganwy. One can imagine it being very late before the exhausted and very relieved volunteers finally reached the safety of their Llandudno Boat house to conclude this dramatic rescue.

Notes to editors

Please see attached historic photos taken from Llandudno RNLI's station archives. Credit: Llandudno RNLI

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Jonathan Coe, Llandudno Lifeboat Press Officer on 07910 861193. Alternatively contact Eleri Roberts, RNLI Media Officer on 01745 585162 / 07771 941390 or email Eleri_Roberts@rnli.org.uk.

The Royal Nation Lifeboat Institution Bronze Medal for Gallantry


RNLI Bronze Gallantry Medal
A Mersey Jigger Flat of the time


Gale and gallantry, Llandudno Lifeboat looks back on the bravery of the volunteers of March 1919
Coxswain John Owen pictured on the right


Gale and gallantry, Llandudno Lifeboat looks back on the bravery of the volunteers of March 1919

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