Life Saving Awards from the Collection of John Wilson

Date of Auction: 25th March 2013

Sold for £2,900

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,400

A rare ‘Isles of Scilly’ Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck Medal in Gold to Captain Charles Steel, H.M. Coast Guard

Royal National Institute for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, G.IV.R., gold (Mr Chas. Steel, voted Mar. 4 1841), fitted with original gold band with integral eyelet and ring suspension, in fitted case of issue, extremely fine £2000-2400


Ex D.N.W. 29 June 2006.

‘4 January 1841: On passage from Dublin to London, the 500 ton Dublin steam packet Thames was seen just before 7 a.m. among the Western Rocks, Isles of Scilly, in very heavy seas and a severe westerly gale. Disabled, she soon ran aground on Jacky’s Rock in the Brow of Pond’s Reef, and three gigs were launched from St. Agnes. Captain Steel, who had been instrumental in getting a lifeboat station at St. Mary’s, had difficulty at first in manning the boat. The four men who were awarded silver medals were the first to volunteer. Eventually enough men were cajoled aboard and the lifeboat set out, as did the gigs, through massive seas and squalls of hail and sleet. The lifeboat reached St. Agnes but could proceed no further.

One of the gigs managed to rescue three women from the Thames who were transferred to a pilot cutter which landed them at St. Agnes at 3 p.m. The other rescue boats waited near the wreck for a lull in the weather, but none came. Improvised rafts had been made by the sailors on the Thames; these floated off when the wreck disintegrated, and some were dashed ashore on Rosevear Island. One seaman survived, and he was rescued next morning. The lifeboat recovered eight bodies which were taken to St. Mary’s. The figure for those lost was given variously as between 57 and 62’ (Lifeboat Gallantry by Barry Cox, refers).

For the action, the R.N.I.P.L.S. Medal in Gold was awarded to Captain Charles Steel, Inspecting Commander, H.M. Coastguard, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly; and the Medal in Silver was awarded to William Rowe, Boatman and Patrick O’Neal, Boatman, both H.M. Coastguard, St. Mary’s; and James Hyde, Labourer and Barnard Hicks, Seaman. Sold with copied research which includes an extract of the action from Gold Medal Rescues by Edward Wake-Walker and a colour photocopy of the rescue in progress.