Stephen Sherwin was born in Bagillt on 26th December, 1885 and baptised on 24th January, 1886 at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Flint. He was the tenth of 11 children to Michael Sherwin and Ann (Povey).
Michael was born in Dublin, Ireland and Ann in Bagillt and they were married in 1866 in the Holywell Registration District. They lived in Voel Gron, Bagillt for several years before moving to 2, Castle Terrace, Flint.
Michael was employed as a gate keeper and died at his home on 6th December, 1902 aged 59. He was buried in Pantasaph Churchyard.
Stephen was a bricksetter’s labourer before joining the Merchant Navy when he was about 21 and his home address at this time was Croes Atti Mill, Nevassa, Oakenholt where he lived with his mother. In the 1911 census Ann was living with her son Daniel, a railway servant, aged 36 and grandson John, a sailor, aged 22. On the 7th February, 1914 John was drowned off Holyhead and interned at Holyhead Cemetery.
Stephen, meanwhile, was sailing the high seas but his life was not without incident, as the following story attests.
GERMANS’ SEIZURE OF AN ENGLISH VESSEL
CAPTURE OF A FLINT SAILOR
(County Herald 23rd October, 1914)
Information reached Flint on Friday last that Mr Stephen Sherwin, whose home is at Croes Atti, near Pentre, Flint, has been made a prisoner by the Germans. Mr Sherwin was employed as one of the seamen on the SS Lowther Range, a vessel trading with merchandise. When the vessel was on her voyage in the Indian Ocean she was captured by a German cruiser, whereupon the whole of the crew were made prisoners and interned. He will, it is expected, remain a prisoner until the end of the war. Mr Sherwin is well known in Flint, and has been engaged in seafaring life for several years. He is a member of the Flint Castle Lodge of Oddfellows, and at a meeting of that lodge on Saturday night the circumstances were reported, whereupon it was decided to accord with a rule which means that his contributions will be defrayed during his absence from home.
THE CAPTURE OF A FLINT SEAMAN
(County Herald 30th October, 1914)
It will be remembered that in our last week’s issue we reported the capture by the enemy of the SS Lowther Range on which vessel was Mr Stephen Sherwin, a seaman whose home is at Croes Atti, Pentre, Flint. In corroboration of the capture of the vessel and members of the crew the following announcement appeared in Saturday’s edition of the Daily News and Leader:- “Lloyd’s Vancouver (BC) agent cables that the British Steamer Lowther Range is reported to have been taken into Esquimault with a prize crew on board.”
In the Evening Express, published on Sunday afternoon, the following appears in respect of the SS Lowther Range:- “With reference to the report alleging that the steamer Lowther Range, just arriving at Esquimault, Vancouver Island, is under suspicion of having supplied coals to German cruisers, the Evening Standard is authorized by the owners of the vessel, Messrs Furness, Whitby and Co, to state that they have received a cable from the captain of the Lowther Range as follows:-
‘stopped by British cruiser October 11th. After coaling from cargo ordered Esquimault with balance.’ – ‘The steamer,’ declared a member of the company to a Press representative, ‘is on a time charter by a San Francisco firm, who are alone responsible for the employment of the vessel during the period of the charter, and she was on a voyage from Newcastle, NSW, to Guayamas, Mexico. The statement alleging she had been suspected of supplying German cruisers with coal is monstrous, and in view of certain geographical absurdities in one of the reports published it is apparent to us that the whole thing is a fabrication from start to finish. Yet even if it were true that the Lowther Range was carrying war contraband for the enemy, this would have been no responsibility of ours while the time charter with the San Francisco firm remained operative.’ ”
A FLINT SAILOR’S EXCITING EXPERIENCES
HIS VESSEL HELD UP BY A BRITISH CRUISER
(County Herald 20th November, 1914)
Three weeks since it was reported that the SS Lowther Range, a vessel belonging to West Hartlepool, had been captured by the Germans, and that Mr Stephen Sherwin, whose home is at Croes Atti, Flint, had been made a prisoner of war with the other members of the crew. Intelligence was awaited of the occurrence. On 29th October Mr Sherwin, writing from the vessel, which was at Esquimault, British Columbia, has placed a somewhat different complexion upon the exciting experiences. It states that he is quite well, and that the vessel and the crew were at Esquimault. They were bound for a port in Mexico, but were held up by an English cruiser, which was out there looking for the German cruisers which were doing so much damage in the Pacific; and his vessel was ordered up the coast to Esquimault, which was only about 150 miles from Seattle. Sherwin is anxious to know how the war is affecting the people in Flint. He had heard his vessel was to leave for a home port, but he did not know when.
Nothing was mentioned about Stephen in the local newspapers for almost two years when the following story appeared.
FLINT SAILOR DROWNED
(County Herald 7th July, 1916)
Yesterday (Wednesday) morning the sad information reached Flint of the drowning of Seaman S Sherwin, whose mother and brother reside at Croes Atti Cottage, off the Chester Road, Pentre, Flint. The deceased was known for some time to have been employed in the conveyance of goods to this country. The information of the death was forwarded by Mr H H McAllester, Director to the Hall Line, Limited, Liverpool. The letter was forwarded addressed to the superintendant of Police at Flint, and dated Liverpool, 4th July. It stated that the Company regretted to state that Quartermaster S Sherwin, of their vessel the SS City of Birmingham, was washed overboard and drowned from the steamer during heavy weather, and on the third day after the vessel had left ——–. The Company did not know whether Sherwin had any relatives, but the address he gave was “Croes Atti Cottage,” Flint. They would be obliged if the Police would make enquiries, and if he had any relatives no doubt the Police would be good enough to break the news to them. Police Inspector B Jones caused the news to be communicated to the deceased’s relatives, who are his mother, Mrs Sherwin, and his brother, Mr D Sherwin, at the address mentioned. The deceased was a well known sailor amongst the people of Flint, and friends regret to learn the bereavement which his mother and brother have therefore sustained.
It is not known if he was awarded any medals but he is remembered on three war memorials – Flint Town; St Mary’s Catholic Church, Flint and Oddfellows Hall, Flint. He is also remembered on his parents headstone in Pantasaph Churchyard and is commemorated on the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor.
On 27th November, 1916 the British passenger steamer SS City Of Birmingham, also a troopship, armed with 145 crew and 170 passengers, including women and children, and general cargo, was on a voyage from Liverpool to Karachi was torpedoed and sunk by the German U-Boat 32, 90 miles SE of Malta. Four crew, along with the Captain, went down with the ship. The survivors were rescued with great difficulty in heavy swell. Cadets N Hugh-Jones, R V Fox and N H Bucknall acted with great gallantry and succeeded in saving three lives for which they all received the Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal.
The photo was taken by an unknown seaman, who survived the Birmingham’s sinking, and managed to photograph the ship going down. He was picked up alone on a raft making his way to shore.
On 20th April, 1918 the defensively armed SS Lowther Range, carrying iron ore from Cartagena to Clyde, was torpedoed and sunk in the Irish Sea by U-Boat 91, 20 nautical miles (37 km) west by north of South Stack Rock, Holyhead. No lives were lost.
Stephen’s mother, Ann, died on 27th August, 1920 aged 76 and was buried with her husband and son, Daniel, who died in 1950 aged 75.