Shipwreck Research Information

Ships Name : Freesia   ( GY633 )

Date Lost : 01/01/1922

Ex :

On : 132102

Ship  Type : Steam Trawler

Cargo : Fish

Cause: Stranded then foundered

Wind :

Sea State:

Crew : 11

Crew Lost: 9


Pass Lost :

T/Lost : 9

P of Registry : Grimsby

Flag : UK

Owner :  N.E. Steam Fishing Co

Shipbuilder : Cook, Welton & Gemmell (Yd.No. 210)

Construction : Steel

Where Built : Beverly

Year Built : 1911

      Propulsion : Steel Screw.

Engine Makers: C.D. Holmes

Boilers : 1

Gross Tons : 285

Net: 123   (tons)

HP 80

Length : 132.0

Breadth : 22.5

Ships Draft :11.7 (  ft  )

Armament : NA

Voyage From : Faeroes

Voyage To : Grimsby

Location A : Eynhallow  Sound

Location B : Off Midhouse Farm

Latitude : 59.09.47N

Longitude : OO3 10 45W

Depth : 40 Meters

Captain : Thomas Nicalsen


Skipper:                         Thomas Nicalsen                         (lost)

Mate:                             William Saxby                             (saved)

3rd hand:                         Albert. E Dartnell                        (saved)


Chief Engineer.             ? Lewis                                         (lost)


2nd engineer:                 A.Cowie                                       (lost)


                                     H. Easton                                   (lost)

                                     G. Hogg                                     (lost)

                                     C. Woolhouse                             (lost)

                                     H.G. Cook                                   (lost)


Trimmer:                       W, Taylor                                    (lost)


Steward:                      P. Baldwin                                     (lost)

The Orkney Herald,                                                                     Wednesday, January 4th 1922.                   

                                         TRAGEDY OFF THE EVIE COAST.


                                               Grimsby trawler sinks after

                                                         striking rocks.                


                                                           Nine lives lost.




On Sunday morning 1st at about 9.15 a.m., Mr George L.Thomson, Hon secretary of the Stromness Lifeboat received a telegram stating,

‘’Steamer struck and damaged near Keith Hall wreck Birsay, she is burning flare lights. ‘’ Immediately on receiving the above, Mr Thomson called out the lifeboat crew and notified the Rocket Brigade, all of whom responded to the call in the shortest of time, and the Lifeboat left the harbour at 9.40 to render assistance. The weather at the time was very rough, and a heavy land sea was breaking on the shore all along the west side. While the lifeboat was proceeding on her way, the Rocket Company, in motors, under the direction of Mr William Couper, were making for Birsay to assist if needed, and Mr Thomson and a party of expert signallers also left for Costa, Evie, and other vantage points , where they could signal and direct the lifeboat on her arrival from Stromness. The Lifeboat however had made a quick run, and arrived off Costa Head before she was expected. Meanwhile Mr Thomson had arranged for two boats from Evie and one boat from Rousay to be launched and manned to render any assistance possible. 


It is most difficult to get the particulars of the trawler. Our information however is that she struck the rocks at about 7.30 am just as the cook was calling the skipper for breakfast, and the very heavy sea running smashed the boat. After some time she floated off and drifted east with the tide until she rounded Costa Head, and then immediately off the farm at Midhouse, Costa, Evie and about half mile from the head she came to anchor, but owing to the damage she sustained on the rocks was making much water and settling down.


 The crew after the boat had been smashed, constructed a raft, on which nine members took their places, expecting in this way to save themselves,

When the vessel went down.

Unfortunately that expectation was not realised as when the vessel sank the suction was so great that the raft and its occupants were swept down.

Two members of the crew, the mate and third hand, could not get on the raft and clung to a life-buoy between them until they chanced to get hold of the raft, on which they clung until saved by the life-boat.

 After saving the two men, the life-boat ran down Eynhallow Sound and transferred the men saved to one of the Rousey boats, by whom they were landed, and driven by Mr D.F.Lennie of Stromness to the post office at Evie, where they received every kindness and attention.

 We understand the Freesia experienced very rough weather at Faroe and lost her small boat there. She struck the face of the cliff bow-on on Sunday, and rebounding, lost her propeller and drifted out of control in the direction of Costa Head.

 It was only when the two survivors had been landed that it was known which vessel it was that had been lost. The survivors told the tale of disaster and suffering and the loss of the trawler s.s.Freesia, of Grimsby

With all but two of the crew. She was on passage from North Faroe, bound home when the disaster occurred.

 The life-boat after nobly doing her duty, made for Stromness and when near Costa Head picked up two bodies which she brought to Stromness, where she arrived about 6.30 p.m.

 More than one member of the life-boat crew, when the call came, rushed to the life boat house without taking any food, and had no opportunity to do so till they returned.

We have already stated that two boats from Evie and one from Rousay were launched and manned and proceeded towards the raft with the two men on it, but were unable to render assistance on account of the heavy sea in the Burgar Roost. They searched the shores of the island of Eynhallow in case there should be any survivors there, but unfortunately without success.

  The two survivors of the disaster were brought to Stromness by motor car on Sunday night, and were taken in charge by Mr James D. Brown, Hon agent of the Shipwrecked Fisherman and Mariners Society, who lodged them with Mrs Flett where they had every kindness and attention. They procceded south by the mail steamer St Ola yesterday (Tuesday) morning.

The names of the saved are: - William Saxby, mate, 403 Wellington St. Grimsby and Albert Edward Dartnell, third hand, 2 Centre Vale, Nelson St Grimsby.    


The Orkney Herald.                                                                                      8th February 1922


                                     APPRECIATION OF THE LIFEBOAT CREW-

Mr George L. Thomson, Hon secretary of the National Lifeboat Institution at Stromness has received the following letter from the widow of Capt. Thomas Nicalsen who was lost with the ill-fated Freesia:-

360 wellington Street, Grimsby,21/1/22 - dear sirs  - I wish - on behalf of myself and three little children, to thank one and all of the gallant crew of the Stromness lifeboat for their great effort in trying to save my husband ( Thomas Nicalsen ) and the crew of the Freesia. Any words of mine cannot express my thanks. I also wish to thank the volunteers who also, so readily gave their service, for which I again express thanks and gratitude.- Believe me, dear sir, yours sincerely Mrs Thomas Nicalsen.

Grimsby News.                                                                                               6th January 1922

                                             ROUGH WEATHER AT SEA


                                             GRIMSBY TRAWLER & NINE

                                                                       LIVES LOST.

                                                                                                                                                                            Great damage and loss of life has been caused by the terrific  gale, which prevailed during the weekend. Grimsby trawlers have returned to port, the crews of which state they had been unable to battle against the raging sea

And unable to shoot the trawl. Quiet a number of the trawlers landed members of the crews suffering from injuries chiefly through men being washed about the deck by heavy seas or being flung down by the lurching vessels.

 The s.s.Freesia which is owned by the North East Steam Fishing Co. Ltd was wrecked of the Orkney coast on Sunday morning. About 7 a.m. the Freesia struck a point on the west coast of the Orkneys, known as Skippigeo where only a few weeks ago the Aberdeen liner, Keith Hall, was wrecked and one life lost. After the trawler struck she floated off and was driven towards Costa Head, however she was so badly damaged that she foundered. Steps were promptly taken by those on shore who had witnessed the disaster to call out the lifeboat and rocket apparatus from Stromness. The lifeboat was speedily on the scene of the disaster and picked up two of the survivors, who where clinging to wreckage near Costa Head and landed them at Evie.

Particulars taken from the two survivors show that nine of the crew lost their lives. The Freesia was homeward bound from Faroe where she had been fishing. After the vessel struck, she bumped three times and the skipper ordered the engines full speed astern. The vessel was found to be very badly damaged being holed forward in the engine room and it was recognised that the ship could not be saved. The crew thereupon set about making a raft with planks and liver jars. Nine of the crew including the skipper pushed of from the ship. The mate and third-hand, wearing lifebelts dived from the ship when she was on the point of foundering. Owing to the great suction caused by the sinking ship the raft and the occupants were drawn under the latter were drowned. The mate and third hand escaped and succeeded in reaching the raft. It appears the trawlers distress signals were observed from shore and three fishing yawls put off from Rousay and Evie, but in consequence of the heavy seas running in Eynhallow sound they found it impossible to give help. The lifeboat reached the scene about one o’clock and picked up the two survivors, who were in a very exhausted condition. Quite near the scene of the disaster is Marwick Head of which the Hampshire conveying Lord Kitchener was lost, there is no lighthouse to guide mariners on this stretch of coast between Noup Head in the Orkneys and Dunnet Head in Caithness. All fishing boats are said to take this course coming from the northern fishing grounds.  


The Orkney Herald.                                                                                  5th July 1922.

                                                                         A GALLANT DEED

                                          Stromness Lifeboat coxswain and Crew Honoured

                                         PRESENTATION OF MEDEL AND VELLUM    

Stromness town hall was packed to its utmost capacity on Friday night, the occasion being the presentation of honours to the gallant crew of the local lifeboat in recognition of there bravery going to the rescue of the Grimsby Trawler Freesia, which had stranded at Birsay on Sunday, January 1 1922.

  It will be remembered that the Freesia struck the rocks about 7.30 a.m. and the very heavy land sea running smashed the vessels small boat. After some time the Freesia floated off and drifted east with the tide until she rounded Costa Head where she came to anchor, but owing to the damage sustained on the rocks was making much water and was settling down.

The crew constructed a raft, on which nine of them took their places, expecting in this way to reach the land. Unfortunately the vessel sank, and the suction so great that the raft and occupants were swept under.

(Text continues with much the same as Jan 4 1922)

Orcadian.                                                                                                                    22ND March 1928

                                STROMNESS - RECORDS OF FOUR BOATS.

                                                          John A. Hay.

1st Jan., 1922- steam trawler Freesia of Grimsby struck near Costa Head and sank in deep water. Nine of the crew drowned; two were saved off a small raft of planks by the lifeboat. Lifeboat out for nine hours. Bronze medal and vellum awarded to Coxswain Johnstone and additional monetary reward to each member of the lifeboat crew.

(Taken from a list of rescues performed by the various Stromness boats up till 1928).

From ‘Britain’s Lifeboats’, by Major A.J.Dawson.