Sunderland man’s last message to his wife and children before he was lost at sea

The busy shipping scene in Sunderland.
The busy shipping scene in Sunderland.
0
Have your say

A tragic Sunderland man penned one last letter to his beloved wife - knowing he would never see her again.

Sailor Robert Mustard knew his ship was sinking fast. He also knew his life would soon end and he wanted his family back at home to know how much he had loved them.

Paul Brown with his new book.

Paul Brown with his new book.

His emotional letter, and other stories of messages in a bottle, are the subject of a new book written by a Seaham man.

Chris Cordner found out more.

In November 1897, a message in a bottle was found at Dartmouth Harbour in Devon.

The message read: “Going down now at Flamborough Head. S.S. Princess of Sunderland. Should any one pick this up please to let my dear wife know, lives at Lawrence Street, Sunderland.”

I first stumbled upon these messages by accident, and quickly became fascinated by them, particularly as I live right by the sea. Each little message tells a different story, and they’re full of drama, mystery and romance

Paul Brown

It continued: “Engines are broken down. God help us. Going down every minute. Good bye all, my wife and little ones. May God forgive me all.”

It was poignant, heartbreaking and a story which would not have an ending for another four years.

The message was signed by able seaman Robert Mustard, and dated November 13, 1893.

To explain more, the ship SS Princess was Sunderland-built and was owned by John Sanderson, who was the Mayor of Sunderland.

Paul's new book which is filled with intriguing and emotional stories.

Paul's new book which is filled with intriguing and emotional stories.

All of the crew were from the Sunderland area and their fate was a devastating one.

The boat was wrecked between Sunderland and Bilbao during the Great Gale of 1893, which killed around 200 seamen within 48 devastating hours.

Able Seaman Mustard’s poignant message, found four years after the wreck.

It was passed via Customs House authorities and eventually found its way to its intended recipient which was Mustard’s widow.

This is just one of several Sunderland-related messages included in new book which is called Messages from the Sea.

It is a fascinating collection of vintage messages which have been found in bottles which have been washed up on shores around the world.

Some date from the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

Some tell of the messages of sailors from foundering ships, some from missing ocean liners and sme from shipwrecked sailors.

Many contain moving farewells from tragic sailors realising their fate.

Others are romantic declarations of love and others contain intriguing confessions.

Included among the 100 messages in the book are a clue to the fate of the missing White Star liner Naronic, a murder confession found off the White Cliffs of Dover, and a message from the deck of the sinking Titanic.

The book was compiled by Paul Brown, who lives in Seaham.

He said: “I first stumbled upon these messages by accident, and quickly became fascinated by them, particularly as I live right by the sea.

“Each little message tells a different story, and they’re full of drama, mystery and romance. Many of the messages are incredibly moving, and they really do highlight the brave, lonely and fragile nature of life at sea.”

Paul said the book relates to a collection of messages in bottles found during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly sent by sailors aboard stricken vessels.

He said the messages were “from all over the world, but some of them were either found at or near Sunderland, or relate to Sunderland vessels and sailors.”

Robert Mustard lived in Lawrence Street (next to the Charltons pub in Hendon.

Among the other messages was one on a letter inside a lemonade bottle - found in the stomach of a giant cod.

Another was a confession of murder from a man who jumped overboard, leaving instructions as to where to find his victim’s body.

Yet another of the messages was from a man who spent 16 days in an open boat off the coast of Australia, describing himself as nearly exhausted for the want fresh water and not knowing where he really was.

Paul’s book is fully titled Messages from the Sea: Letters and Notes from a Lost Era Found in Bottles and on Beaches Around the World, and is published by Superelastic Books.

It is available now from Amazon priced at £10 for paperback and £5 for eBook.