William Williams

William Williams (1833 to 1912)

William Williams was born in Ballintoy Co. Antrim on 10th August 1833. His father, Enoch Wlliams, was a Coastguard stationed there. His mother was Anne, nee Seymour.

Ballintoy, Co. AntrimIn 1845 his father was transferred to Guidore (Gweedore) Co. Donegal and his family moved there with him. Although Guidore was the main Coastguard base there were what might be called sub-stations, including Rutland (Island) and Bunbeg. It is likely that the family lived in the Coastguard houses in Bunbeg. At that time Ireland was in the throes of the Potato Famine and the West of Ireland was in a very poor state. Bunbeg was fortunate in that it was part of the estate of Lord George Hill, an improving landlord who did much to alleviate the suffering of his tenants and the local populace. The Coastguards were lucky in that they were servants of the British Crown and would have had regular wages and provisions.

In September 1852 William joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Entrant. At nineteen he would have been rather old for that, but we do not know the full circumstances. He may have been at sea in some other capacity before that. He trained on HMS Excellent, an old survivor of the Napoleonic Wars, which had taken part in the battle of Cape St. Vincent.

On the 1st My 1853 he enlisted in the Royal Navy in HMS Sybille, a 36 gun Fifth rate of 1633 tons built in 1846, His Service Record Number was 2275. His Naval record is Ref. ADM139/23/2275 He was soon to see adventure because in 1855 a flotilla sailed for the Far East.

25 Apr 1855 HM Ships Sybille, Hornet, and Bittern, under Commodore Hon Charles Elliot, lat 37" 17' 23 " N, long 1331" 54' 23" E - island discovered in the Sea of Japan, about a mile in extent, running in a NW by W and SE by E direction and are formed together by a reef of rocks. We could discern no dangers lying off them and the waters appears to be deep close to the shore. They are barren, without exception of a few patches of grass on their sides and landing would be difficult except in very calm weather. The height of the NW island was ascertained to be 410 ft above sea level - Charles C Forsyth, Cdr HMS Hornet

  • 24 Nov 1855 arrived Hong Kong from Hakodadi.
  • 15 Dec 1856 Whampoa, Commodore Elliot.
  • Jan 1857 men from the Sybille garrisoning the Macao Fort in the river leading up to Canton.
  • 15 Jan 1857 Canton.
  • 10 May 1857 Canton River.
  • 10 Jul 1857 Hongkong.
  • 10 Aug 1857 Canton River.
  • 28 Nov 1857 Hongkong.
  • 28 Dec 1857 Capture of Canton (see also report in London Gazette www.gazettes-online.co.uk of 16 and 26 Feb 1858).
  • 21 Jan 1858 departed Hongkong for UK.
  • 1 Oct 1856 - 26 Jun 1858 Parliamentary Grant of £33,000, for services (in lieu of Prize Money) on the China Station to be divided between 56 Vessels

While on Sybille he had progressed from Ordinary Seaman through Able Seaman to Leading Seaman and had picked up his first Good Conduct badge.
On returning to England, he was transferred for a short time to HMS Impregnable, a training ship. In July 1858 he was transferred to HMS Corawallis a 1800 ton 74 gun ship built for sail in 1814 and later fitted with steam auxiliary power and transferred to the Reserve fleet. The exact timing is unclear but about that time he transferred to the Coastguard Service with the rank of Boatman and his record shows him stationed at Saltburn in Yorkshire. His Coastguard Record Number was 68245.
He did not waste his time ashore as, on 14th April 1860, he married Mary Marshall of Skelton nearby. Their daughter Martha Ann was born in June of the following year.
We do not know how life ashore agreed with him however, as, by August 1862, he was still serving aboard the Coastguard vessel HMS Cornwallis,. The 1871 Census shows him stationed with his family at Robin Hood's Bay, still in Yorkshire.

He served on Several Coastguard vessels and in January 1873 signed for a further period "To complete time for Pension". He was in Audacious in '73 to '74, in Endymion for periods from '74 to '79, and from his record would have been in "Iron Duke" when she was in collision with HMS Vanguard in August 1875 off the coast of Co Wicklow. He had risen in rank from Boatman to Commissioned Boatman in 1866, Chief Boatman in 1869 and was appointed Chief Officer in 1875, having acquired 3 Good Conduct badges.

It is not clear from his record how much "Sea Time" he put in in his later years of service, but, in July 1888 he applied for his pension and he retired on the 22nd August 1888 having served for 35 years and 335 days, the Admiralty generously rounding it up to 36 years.
The 1901 Census shows him living at 27 Diamond Street Saltburn-by-the-Sea with his wife Mary and daughter Martha Ann. He died at the age of 79 in December 1912, his wife having pre-deceased him by 2 years. We have not yet been able to trace what became of his daughter.

2 Comments · 14839 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on November 16 2007


#1 | Philip on 26/11/2007 18:15:26
Ardglass Coastguard Houses photo kindly sent in by norman. you can view it in "Photo Galleries" - "Contemporary Photos"
#2 | crimea1854 on 17/03/2009 18:43:03
Williams was awarded the 2nd China War medal with clasps for 'Fatshan 1857' and 'Canton 1857' for his time aboard HMS Sybille, the medal being sent on 9/7/62.

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