On Ship Wreck Business - 1847

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The envelope was posted at Dunfanaghy in County Donegal, Northern Ireland, and received the Irish numeral 188 postmark on the imperforate 'penny star' and on the reverse, two strikes of the double arc backstamp in green on 9th January 1847.

On arrival into the London postal system, a circular receiver’s mark was applied to the reverse in red on the 11th January (code 8). For some reason, not recorded here, the letter could not be delivered to Mr Edwards at 8 Gt Winchester St. and was returned to the Chief Office, where a second circular receiver’s mark was applied to the reverse in red on the 12th January (code H7). 

This failed delivery resulted in a 'dumb'1 bishop style inspector’s mark being applied to the front in red (just to the left of the stamp).  Associated with this is a small hamburger delivery mark applied to the reverse, also in red, and this is believed to be a tracking device to record the efforts made by the delivery office to deliver the letter. This hamburger mark has a 'B' in the bottom frame line of the mark to identify the postman wielding the handstamp. The mark is timed at 12 NO(on) on 12 January. An inverted mirror image of this mark also occurs on the front of the envelope.  It may be assumed that the 12 noon delivery was successful; otherwise one or more further hamburger marks would have recorded additional attempts at delivery.  This hamburger shaped mark, normally in red but known in black, with a letter in the bottom frame line is believed to have been in use on undeliverable mail over the period 1844 to 1853.    

The letter enclosed makes reference to the wreck of the ‘Friends’ which ran aground near Innisboffin off the coast of Donegal. 

1 Reference to a postmark that gives little information and no date.

Transcript follows…


                                                                                                                        Sheephaven, Dunfanaghy,

Co Donegal

9th January 1847



            In reply to your note of 5th instant, I beg to state,        1st That Bryan McGhee and his Party did not go off in a boat to save the Crew of the “Friends”, (InnisBofin being a Lee shore).  But made their utmost endeavours to get through a heavy surf, with ropes ^ get as near the vessel as pofsible its Blowing a tremendous Gale with Hail and snows – McG(h)ee was nearly drowned by having been swept out by the underdraft of the returning sea, but being a tall stout man he regains his footing and all was right, but the Loss of his Sunday Hat – no doubt there was Great Risque (sic).

                                                                                                2nd The “Friends” was a total wreck and

                                                                                                                        was sold as she was

Thos Edmonds Esq.                                                                                                     for Something

                                                                                                                 over £50





And the only Salvage was £10 to the Innisbofin coastguard crews given by the Master of the “Friends” to remunerate them for their service and cover their expenses, while on the Island attending to the wreck.

                                                            3rd Bryan McGhee consisted of himself and 5 others were inhabitants of the Islands where the wreck occurred and not Cgd (Coastguard) men.


                                                                                    I am


                                                                                    Your Very Obedient Servant


                                                                                                C McGlading Lt. RN.

                                                                                                      Inspecting Leiut. Coastguard.