The desperate Christmas Voyage of the Bon Accord
by RB
Late in the season in 1808 the 131 ton sailing ship Bon Accord set sail from Aberdeen to Nova Scotia. On the Voyage a crew member was washed over board. On 14th December 1808, the ship set off back home.

The return voyage was to be  a disaster. Freezing gale force winds tore the ship’s sails to shreds. As the days past, the ship ran before the storm with little or no control and missed  Aberdeen as it careered down the North Sea. The crew of six  ate all the remaining food and then killed and consumed  ship’s dog, which lasted a couple of days. Using the dog’s skin as a bait they caught two of the mice, which infested the ship.


Mate William Thompson caught the mice and roasted two of them, giving one to the skipper and keeping one for himself. Finally they ran out of water and resorted to drinking seawater. On 27th February 1809 the ship’s carpenter died of starvation. On the same day they came across a Filey Coble and were guided into Filey Bay where the ship was anchored. The Surviving crew  were taken ashore and probably took lodgings at the T’awd ship Inn on Queen  Street (the traditional place of refuge for shipwrecked  mariners). A third crewman died and a fourth had frostbite in one of his feet and had to have it amputated.

The carpenter and other crewman were buried in St Oswald’s Cemetery. The ‘Bon Accord’ was take into Scarborough and refitted, setting sail on 16th March 1809 after her cargo of timber had been sold. Filey Fishermen later received 200 guineas as reward for their rescue.

Parish Records show the burial of her two sailors, both from Aberdeen. John Anderson on 28th February and James Rothwell on 2nd March 1809.

Kath Wilkie

The desperate Christmas Voyage of the Bon Accord