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The Sinking of Recovery, 1787

Recovery, which sank in 1787, was one of 250 copper clad vessels out of many thousands of the British Merchant fleet. Its hull planking was copper- clad  teak. The ship appears in Lloyd’s List of 1774 and 1776, alongside the name Weatherhead. The captain was William Weatherhead, sometimes Wethered.

Recovery was not the only ship Wethered commanded during this time:

Recovery had possibly sailed from Italy to London before voyaging on to Dublin, or perhaps Newry was her destination. The ship was lost near Rosinstown [pronounced Rosstoonstown], County Wexford, on 4 December 1787, along with six of her crew.[i]  An early account of the loss follows:

‘The private Letters by Yesterday’s Irish Mail, bring the melancholy Account of the Loss of the Discovery [sic, Recovery], Captain Weatherhead, bound from London to Dublin, off Wexford. She was one of the finest Ships in the Irish Trade; and what makes the Loss more calamitous, all on board, except the Captain, perished, among whom were his two Sons. She sailed in Company with ten or eleven Sail, all of which arrived safe at their destined Ports, except the above unfortunate Vessel. The Loss the above Ship is estimated at £14,000. She was the richest Ship that has sailed for Newry these four or five Years.’ [ii]

The Chester Courant of Tuesday 11 December 1787 added these details:

‘The following are further Particulars of the Loss of the Recovery, Capt. Weatherhead, mentioned in the former Post as sent to the Master of the Royal Exchange, Dublin :

“The Recovery, Capt. Weathethead, from London. to Dublin, is driven on Shore, near Rustanston, or rather the End of the Lady Island Lough, with the Loss of two of the Captain’s Sons, and three more of the Crew.”

“The Vessel is almost entirely broken up, and it is doubted whether any Thing worth Notice will be saved. She heeled towards the Sea, and the Surge gaining heavy prevents any Goods from being taken out but what flow to the Sea.”

“In Addition to the above official Account, we hear that she was very valuably laden, and amongst other Articles of her Freight was a Collection of Busts, Statues, and Vases, designed for [the?] Ornamentation of the New Custom-house, and collected at great expense in Italy by the Right Hon. the Earl of Charlemont, and others. Her Cargo was uninsured.’

John La Touche and General Daniel Corneille were named as owners of goods on board in The Gentleman’s Magazine (London, England), Volume 62, F. Jefferies, 1787:

‘Among the cargo of the Recovery, Weatherhead, lately wrecked upon the rocks near Wexford, there are a quantity of rich and rare curiosities of art and nature collected on the continent of Europe by John La Touche Esq, and the entire stock of household furniture, baggage & c. of General Corneille, late Governor of the land of St Helena.’

Further specifics of what were lost were published in the Dublin Evening Post of 18 December 1787:

‘LOST in the Coast of Wexford, by the wreck of the Ship Recovery, the following Articles of Plate :—An Epargne with four Saucers and Branches, (one saucer found) one Pair of Candlesticks and Nozils, two Rummers, one large round Waiter, two small Ditto, one Cruit-frame with three Castors and two Cruits, one Wire-frame, four Cruits, six Salts and Ladles, one Ostrich Egg mounted in Silver, one Mustard-pot and Ladle, one Pint Can, seven Bottle labels, two Sauceboats and Ladles, one Soup-ladle, twelve four-prong Table-forks, one Bread-basket, one Cup and Cover, one Fish-knife, and a pair of Asparus [asparagus?] Tongs, the arms, three Crows, the crest a Crow. Any person into whose hands any of the above Articles may have fallen, and will give notice thereof to Daniel Cornielle, Esq; No. 35, Dawson-street, shall be handsomely rewarded; and it is requested, if offered to Sale, that information may be given as above. Dublin, 15th December, 1787.’



La Touche and Corneille were both scions of Huguenot families. Daniel Corneille was Governor of St Helena from 1782 until 1788, during which time he oversaw much tree planting on this island. He had been in St Helena since at least 1770 when he married Mary Thwaites there, and served as Lieutenant Governor to the Secret Committee, 5 Apr 1772. A drawing of Plantation House on St Helena from circa 1780  by one of the Corneille family can be found here. He subsequently returned to Ireland where he died in May 1792. Mary died in 1813 at Dublin. The family lived at Woodview, Stillorgan as per this study by June Bow & Karen Poff.  Their son Daniel Corneille was chairman of the board of inland navigation in the early 19th century.

‘NOTICE. THIS is to caution all Persons against purchasing damaged Piedmont Silk, said to have been saved out of the Ship Recovery, Wm. Wethered, Master, lost near Wexford, as there was no Silk of that Description on Board, but what was the Property of Mess.  Jaffray, Fayle, and Hautenville, and Mess. John James Pacheand Co. Merchants, who are determined to prosecute any Person presuming to offer any Part of such Silk to Sale, without their Knowledge. Dublin, 15th December, 1787.’ [iii]


With thanks to William Kavanagh and Edmond O’Byrne.


[i] The Marine List”. New Lloyd’s List (1939).

[ii] Northampton Mercury – Saturday 08 December 1787

[iii] Saunders’s News-Letter – Monday 17 December 1787