The steel steam trawler Freesia was launched form the Beverley yard of Cook, Welton and Gemmell Ltd, Beverley (Yard No 210) on 3rd April 1911. She measured 132.0′ x 22.5′ x 11.7′ and her tonnage was 285 gross tons, 123 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by C D Holmes and Co Ltd., Hull delivering 80 registered horse power. She was built for the North Eastern Steam Fishing Company of Grimsby and registered there as GY633. The Freesia was the second of a pair of trawlers built to the same design and specification by the builders, her sister ship, the Escallonia was yard No.209, and a picture of her is included below.
With the outbreak of World War One she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and spent the war as minesweeper FY716. On the cessation of the war she was returned to her owners in Grimsby who sold her to Thomas Basckomb of the same port.
On New Year’s day 1922 Freesia was off the north west coast of Orkney on her homebound voyage from the Faroe Islands under the command of her skipper Thomas Niclassen with a crew of ten men aboard. Around 7am that morning, in poor weather conditions, she ran ashore striking the steep cliffs somewhere near Brough Head. The vessel was badly damaged in the collision losing her propeller resulting in her floating helpless at the mercy of the wind and towards Costa Head and filling with water with every passing minute. As they rounded Costa Head and reached the somewhat calmer water of Outer Eynhallow Sound, they anchored and began preparations to leave the ship. The crew hurriedly prepared a raft of planks and nine of them clambered aboard. Unfortunately, as the Freesia sank beneath them, the raft was sucked down and the men aboard were lost. The two remaining crewmen, the mate and the third hand, who had been unable to board the raft jumped into the water and clung to some floating debris before reaching the upturned raft and climbing aboard.
Thankfully the plight of the Freesia and the distress flares launched by the crew had been spotted from the shore and messages sent to the lifeboat secretary at Stromness who had immediately raised the alarm and called out the crew. The lifeboat was launched at 09:40am and sped to the site. The rocket brigade were also called out but the lifeboat was first on the scene despite the poor weather and sea conditions off shore. By the time the lifeboat arrived the Freesia had foundered taking the nine crewmen with her but they were able to pick up the two survivors and transfer them to a boat from the shore which landed them at Evie.
The wreck of the Freesia lies in position 59° 09.469’N, 003° 10.449’W in 37 metres with a least clearance of 33 metres. The wreckage is very broken spread over a wide area but her boiler is still more or less in tact and the most obvious feature of the wreck.
We would like to thank Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Heritage & Education Centre for allowing us to reproduce documents from their archive in this article.