Notes - Thomas W. Lawson

Times:  Monday, December 16, 1907, Issue 38517 – Wreck of the T. W. LAWSON 1

“A wreck, attended with the loss of 17 lives, occurred on Saturday morning off the Isles of Scilly.  It was reported on Friday night that a large sailing ship was in difficulties in Broad Sound, and the lifeboats at St Agnes and St Mary’s went to her assistance.  It was found that the vessel was the American schooner THOMAS W. LAWSON, 5400 tons, bound from Philadelphia for London with case oil.  She was anchored in a dangerous position, and the St Mary’s lifeboat, which had been dismasted, returned to obtain the assistance of a tug.  The St Agnes boat meanwhile, stood by with the object of rendering assistance.  As the night wore on the wind blew with almost hurricane force, and the sea became very rough.  One of the St Agnes boats crew was taken ill, and it therefore returned to harbour, leaving W. Hicks, a Trinity pilot of St Agnes, on board the ship.  Hicks arranged to signal if the lifeboats were needed during the night, but no signal was observed.  The schooner’s lights were seen until 2 50 a.m. on Saturday, when they disappeared.  It was thought that possibly the ship had slipped her cables and cleared the islands, but at daylight it was found that she had capsized and become a total wreck.  The St Agnes lifeboat went out and rescued the survivors, who numbered three, and were found on the island of Annet and the outlying Hellweather rocks.  They are the captain, George Dow, of Somerville: the engineer, Edward Rowe, of Boston: and one of the seamen named George Allen, who lived at Battersea.  Allen died yesterday afternoon.  The rest of the crew, numbering 15, and the pilot, were drowned.  The captain had a broken wrist, and Allen was suffering from exposure and buffeting by the waves, Rowe was unhurt. 
He states that the captain, mate, and pilot and himself were lashed to the mizzen rigging when the mast fell.  He jumped to the deck, and was washed overboard.  The captain also managed to get clear, and they were both washed to the same rock half a mile from the wreck.  The pilot seemed to be entangled in the wreckage.  All had lifebelts on.  Hicks, the pilot, leave a widow and nine children.  Five bodies have been recovered, and three of them have been identified – those of Mark Simpson; cabin boy, Brooklyn; George Bolimke, a German; and Victor Hansell, a Swede, fireman.  The inquest will open to-day.  It appears that the captain was found on the Helewether Rock he was injured and unable to swim to the rope thrown from the St Agnes boat.  The captain was helpless, and of the four men who attempted the rescue Hicks (from the lifeboat) alone could swim.  Without hesitation, and fully dressed in his oil skins and sea boats, Hicks sprang into the water a carried a rope through the breakers and among the jagged rocks to the helpless man.  Upon reaching the captain he made fast the rope to him, and stopped on the rock until the captain was safety lifted into the boat before he himself returned.  Darkness was coming on at the time and the tide was rapidly rising.”

Times:  Thursday, December 19, 1907, Issue 38520 – Wreck of the T. W. LAWSON 2

“THE WRECK OFF SCILLY – An inquiry was held at St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, yesterday, on behalf of the National Lifeboat Institution respecting the wreck of the THOMAS W. LAWSON last Friday night, when one of the lifeboat men was drowned, as well as 16 of the crew of the vessel.  Mr Dorrien-Smith presided, and Lieutenant Rowley, R. N., district inspector, attended on behalf of the institution.  The question of the abandonment of the ship when one of the crew of the St Agnes boat was taken on board was fully inquired into, and the conclusions arrived at were that everything that could be done was done by the lifeboats.  It was pointed out that the St Agnes boat omitted to inform the boat at St Mary’s that they had been forced to leave, but the opinion was expressed that even if the message had been sent the St Mary’s boat could not have reached the wreck on account of the very severe weather.  The brave conduct of F. C. Hicks, the son of the drowned pilot, in the rescue of the captain of the schooner is to be brought to the notice of the lifeboat institution with a view to the medal of the institution being conferred on him.  Two more bodies were recovered yesterday.” 

Times: Wednesday, December 25, 1907, Issue 38525 – Wreck of the T. W. LAWSON 3

"THE RECENT WRECK AT THE SCILLY ISLES – Mr T. Algernon Dorrien-Smith, writing from Tresco Abbey, Isles of Scilly, makes the following appeal:- “We have formed a committee on these islands for the relief of the widow and family of W. T. Hicks, pilot and lifeboatman, who lost his life in the execution of his duty, at the wreck of the American seven-masted sailing ship THOMAS W. LAWSON on December 14.  The tragic details have been fully reported in your paper.  He leaves a widow and a family of nine.  She and the four youngest, aged 16, 15, 12, and 7 were dependent on his earning for their support.  Contributions will be gratefully received by me, or by Barclay and Co. bankers (Scilly Branch)"

Times: Friday, January 10, 1908, Issue 38539 – Wreck of the T. W. LAWSON 4

"ROYAL NATIONAL LIFEBOAT INSTITUTION – A meeting of the general committee, held yesterday, was presided over by Sir Edward Birkbeck.  The sum of £200 was voted, with an expression of the committee’s sympathy, towards the fund raised locally for the benefit of the widow and dependant children of W. T. Hicks, a lifeboatman, who lost his life on board the seven-masted schooner THOMAS W. LAWSON, wrecked at the Scilly Isles on December 14, 1907.  The silver medal of the institution was awarded to Mr Frederick C. Hicks for gallantry saving the captain of the vessel on the same occasion…"

Times: Tuesday, September 8, 1908, Issue 38746 – Wreck of the T. W. LAWSON 5

"HUMANITY REWARDED – The Board of Trade have received, through the Foreign Office, a gold watch and chain for Fredrick E. Hicks, and gold medals for Osbert Hicks, William Trenary, Obadiah Hicks, Grenfell Legg, Frederick Hicks, William C. Mortimer, junior, and Israel Hicks, junior, boatmen, of St Agnes, which have been awarded to them by the President of the United States in recognition of their services in rescuing the survivors of the crew of the American schooner THOMAS W. LAWSON of Boston, which was wrecked off the Island of Annet, Scilly, on December 14 last."

Other References:

The T. W. Lawson by Thomas Hall.  ISBN: 9780976442301. Publisher: St. John, USVI: Orchid Hill.  2003.

The T. W. Lawson : The fate of the world's only seven-masted schooner by Thomas Hall.  ISBN:9781596292086.  Publisher: Charleston, SC : History Press.  2006.

Scillonian Magazine: No. 13, p19; No. 66, p34; No. 75, p93; No. 143, p193; No. 156, p237; No. 169, 69.