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Boy victim of the cruel sea

PUBLISHED: 11:27 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:27 05 July 2010

A SURPRISE find amongst a relative's possessions left a family intrigued. And now they are asking Journal readers if they can throw some light on a sad story dating back more than a century.

A SURPRISE find amongst a relative's possessions left a family intrigued. And now they are asking Journal readers if they can throw some light on a sad story dating back more than a century.

The tale concerns the discovery of an In Loving Memory card, letter and photograph of a 15-year-old Lowestoft youth who died at sea at the turn of the last century.

Mike King, of Sandbank Road, Lowestoft, said: “These documents, all neatly wrapped in tissue paper, were found among the possessions of my wife's late grandmother, Mrs Howes, who lived in Great Yarmouth.”

The photograph was taken at

Edgar and Co's Parade Studio in London Road South, and on the reverse is written: “In loving memory of Jack, the dearly beloved son of the late FC and Edith R Richards of Lowestoft. Born March 9, 1885, died December, 28, 1900. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”

The accompanying card explains that Jack, christened John, died tragically at sea. The text reads: “John Gordon Coke Richards. Lost off Holyhead on the foundering of the ship Primrose Hill, December, 28, 1900, aged 15 years, interred at Holyhead January 3, 1901.

For tho' from out our bourne of time and place

The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my pilot face to face,

When I have crost the bar.”

Alongside the photo and card is a letter addressed to Mrs Howes written on June, 24, 1907, by Edith Richards and embossed Edensor, London Road South, Lowestoft. She writes: “My son Jack had been on one voyage to San Francisco and was at home for nearly two months. He was just starting on his second voyage when the awful calamity occurred. Thank God I was able

to go to Holyhead so that I know where he is laid to rest.”

Using these details, Mr King has discovered a little more about Jack's fate. The Primrose Hill was a double-deck iron barque powered by sails on four masts. She was bound for Vancouver from Liverpool with a cargo of bricks, but in a force 10 gale she ran aground on rocks near the South Stack lighthouse, Angelsey.

There was only one survivor from the 34 crew members, as the lookout managed to scramble to safety from his upper mast post.

“Some bodies were not found and some could not be identified. Jack Richards was identified and is described as an apprentice. In Holyhead cemetery stands a magnificent marble memorial with an angel on top,” said Mr King.

“I never discovered what the connection was between Mrs Richards and a Yarmouth family that she appeared to know very well. My late father-in-law, who was born in 1904, had never heard of her and was equally surprised to see these documents.

“I have often wondered if the Richards family has any surviving relatives locally.”

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