The tragic events surrounding the loss of the vessel Resolute provides one small window into Borth's seafaring ethos during the 19th century which involved the James and Jones maritime dynasties. Later there was to be a twist in the aftermath of the sinking.


The topsail schooner Resolute was commissioned by master mariners Enoch James and his son Richard to be built at the Leri Bridge Yard, Ynyslas in 1849. The progenitors of this family were Richard James 1750-1817, a tenant farmer at Ty Gwyn Ynyslas and Margaret Richards 1748-1836 who married in Llandre Church in 1772. Their son Enoch 1787-1856 was a master mariner, shipping entrepreneur and inn keeper of the White Lion at Borth, today's Mayfield. He created the wealth that underpinned the James maritime dynasty for over a century. In 1809 Enoch married Mary Hughes 1789-1866. They had 9 children, of whom 4 of their sons David b.1811, Richard b.1815, John b.1819 and Enoch b.1822; all became master mariners and ship owners. Houses in Borth still carry their ships names such as Gleanor, Resolute, Dovey Belle and Beatrice. Enoch and Mary's eldest daughter, Margaret 1818-94, married Captain Richard Jones 1808-1845 in 1834.


The earliest member of the Jones family we can trace is David Jones 1779-1843, a miller at Felyn-Y-Gwaun Dolybont who married Anne Edwards. They had 5 children, Mary b.1802, John b.1806, Catherine b.1808, Richard also b1808 and Elizabeth b1811, Richard who had married Margaret James was only 37 when he lost his life whilst commanding the sloop Margaret and Mary which had been named after his wife and her mother. Richard shared ownership of this vessel with his wife's father Enoch James.


This sloop traded around the Irish Sea for a number of years until she ran into a fierce storm in December 1845 that stripped her of her sails and drove her ashore near Aberporth. Captain Richard Jones and a deck hand were manning her as the other crew member had already left her in Drogheda. The huge seas lifted the stricken vessel onto a rock shelf which gave the deckhand a chance to clamber along the almost horizontal mast and from there he climbed the cliff to seek help. A number of local Aberporth men led by mariner John Owens responded to the crew member's dilemma and guided the party back to the wreck site.


 Captain Jones had delayed his escape to gather certain items to take with him. Whilst in the middle of that task a huge wave lifted the stricken sloop off the rock shelf and as she was being sucked seaward, he decided to jump into the sea and make his way to the shore in the terrible conditions. Unfortunately, the rescue party found his body washed up on the beach, obviously overcome by the exhausting struggle to get to shore. Miraculously the Margaret and Mary survived this mishap and was repaired and continued to trade for another 5 years; until she sank in 1850 whilst at anchor in Fishguard harbour. This meant that after 1850 the captain's widow Mary had no income to support herself and her young son David. As she suffered from a ruptured groin she applied for, and received, an annual pension from Trinity House


David Jones 1834-91, the son of Richard and Margaret also became a master mariner, and he married Jane James 1838-1917. They had 3 children Richard 1881-1937, John James 1865-91 and Mary Jane 1867-1935. Like his father before him Captain David Jones was also to lose his life at sea alongside that of his own son who was part of the crew when the Resolute was lost with all hands in 1891.


Captains David, Richard, Enoch and John James, who owned and ran the Resolute as well as other vessels for decades were slowly divesting themselves of their shipping interests. In 1875 Captain Jones, their brother-in-law, became the sole owner of the Resolute. The James family had lost the schooner Gleanor in 1859 and had also sold the Beatrice to Captain Thomas Rees. Unfortunately, after the Beatrice was wrecked 1886 Captain Rees was eventually declared bankrupt. As this story reveals the Resolute was lost in 1891 and a decade later the family's last sailing vessel, the schooner Dovey Belle, was sold to Aberdyfi owners. Sailing ships were vanishing rapidly so it was steamers that Borth men next commanded and sometimes owned...these vessels traded from ports such as Liverpool, Cardiff and Barry.


The 10th March 1891 was to be a fateful day for the James and Jones families as the Resolute was swallowed up by a fierce storm on the south coast of England. The crew of five, David Jones master, his son John James Jones, mate, William Brennan seaman and two ships boys from Borth, 17-year-old Evan Williams and 15-year-old John David Thomas, were all lost. It was young Evan's second voyage on this vessel, and even more heartbreaking, it was John David Thomas' first trip to sea. He was the son of William and Jane Thomas of Penmount House and his fate haunted researcher and descendant, the late Vivian Snow.


The report of the loss of the Resolute was made by the captain of the Progress. He stated that the Progress had sailed from Milford Haven in the company of 3 other vessels, namely the Hope and Resolute of Aberystwyth and the Eliza Hannah of Porthmadoc. They had all kept within sight of each other until the storm struck with an accompanying snowstorm that reduced visibility drastically. The Progress saw the Resolute take in her sails, presumably waiting for the Hope to catch up with her. At this juncture the Progress decided to move on and seek shelter further along the coast where it dropped both anchors and managed to ride out the storm. The report finished by stating that if the Resolute had “cracked on” instead of delaying she would have been saved.


What transpired afterwards is truly remarkable, if not downright eerie. Five months later a bottle with a message in it was found by summer visitor Miss Phillips of Llanelli on the beach near the entrance to Aberystwyth Harbour, the Resolute's port of registry. The message was as follows:


Schooner Resolute of Borth, Port of Aberystwyth Wales. 16 miles west of the Isle of Wight, great snowstorm, vessel stretched timbers, and in sinking condition, no chance of escape from drowning. Goodbye mate. If found please communicate with friends of captain and crew. Am afraid the Hope is done by the way she is tossed about. She has lost her main top mast and sails. Progress has kept ahead and we have no sight of her...goodbye, vessel nearly gone.


This was written by John James Jones the mate who in his 26th year was facing his own death along with that of his father, a crew member and two boys from Borth, leaving a record of the last moments of the ship and crew. I had read this story on several occasions but did not realise that father and son were close relatives of Captain Richard Jones of Miramar House, whose descendants today live at The Meads Ynyslas, nor that the James mariners were also close relatives of theirs. The latter has been confirmed by James family descendant John Ellis. Furthermore, Alan Jones bought to my attention that he recently discovered that his antecedent, the redoubtable Captain John Jenkins, was a cousin of the Jones's.  The fact that crews of Borth vessels were often related meant that loss of ship and life had widespread effects on families. As has often been quoted, in the end it seems that the mariners of Borth and their families were all related by marriage.