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Accident at Portreath

Extracted from The Cornubian 12th August 1915

Feared Loss of Life at Portreath.


On Thursday morning at about 9.30 three Portreath men left the harbour in an 18ft centre board sailing boat with the intention of “whiffing” for mackerel, but have not since been heard of. The men were the harbour pilot of Portreath (Capt. Grenfell), William Henry Treloar (son of Mr John Treloar, of Messrs. Bain’s yard, Portreath) and Edgar Greenslade (son of Mr David Greenslade), Portreath. Very little hope is now felt for the safety of the men. It is feared that the boat was struck by a squall and capsized, or got carried out to sea. The boat was rigged with a small foresail, jib and mizzen. There was a fresh sailing breeze from the S.S.E. A couple of hours later the wind freshened to half a gale, accompanied by thick rain, and just before this the boat was seen reaching to the Eastward in the direction of Porthtowan. At about noon a heavy squall with strong wind was observed, and it is believed that it was during this that the mishap occurred. Other small sailing craft were out from Portreath. These returned in the bad weather with a fair number of mackerel. They were asked by Captain Cock, Messrs Bain’s storekeeper, if they had seen anything of the big boat (Treloar’s), and their reply was in the negative. Captain Cock came to the conclusion that they were at the Western end of Porthtowan bay. As the afternoon went on, the wind drew more to the southwest and moderated. The small craft went out again. Becoming anxious about the party, Captain Cock decided at 3.30 to go out in his little motor boat and look for them. Then the weather was moderate. Their search, however, availed nothing. Since then the coast-watchers have been keeping a sharp lookout for any trace of the boat and men, and the coastal authorities were warned as far as Newquay. Large numbers gathered along the coast in the evening, but saw no trace of the missing man and boat. The following day was unfavourable for the search. But the weather being fine on Sunday, five boats and sixteen men left the harbour at five o’clock in the morning and proceeded to Porthtowan Bay, where they carried out grappling operations for some time, but without result. The s.s. Treleigh, which was waiting for the tide to come in, also proceeded to the bay and cruised around, but all efforts proved fruitless, nothing being found. They returned to the harbour at 11 o’clock, after some six hours of operations, with nothing to report. On Monday afternoon boats were again out for some time, but returned with nothing to report.


On Monday afternoon a report came from Perranporth that two small pieces of wreckage had been washed ashore and picked up. A conveyance was at once sent to bring them to Portreath, and on their arrival they were identified as being the bottom boards which formed the bow and stern sheets of the missing boat. It had been felt among most people that these were the only loose portions of her gear likely to float from her. The finding of these appears to confirm the impression that the boat was capsized and sunk in the squall at noon on Thursday last, but still leaves a small margin for hope that a passing ship picked up the men. If not, the bodies are expected to float on Friday or Saturday. Captain Grenfell was an experienced seaman, and had had a great deal of practice in sailing a small boat, and those who knew him best feel sure that he had the tiller whilst the other two fished. He was 57 years of age, a lifelong resident of Portreath, and a total abstainer. He leaves a widow, two sons (the elder of whom is now serving his country in the Miners’ Battalion, under Major Bain), and six daughters, the youngest of whom is 15 years old. A steamship captain, he had been employed by Messrs Bain and Sons since 1887, becoming master of the Veronica and other steamers owned by the late Mr D.W. Bain and his sons. He retired as captain of the Guardian in1907, became a Trinity pilot, and acted as harbour pilot for Portreath. Treloar, aged about 30 years, was the son of Mr J. Treloar, foreman of the coalyard of Messrs. Bain, Sons and Co., at Portreath, and was a carpenter by trade, though latterly he had been serving as a coast-watcher. A widow survives him.  Greenslade was 21 years of age and the third son of Mr. David Greenslade, chief engineer of the steamship Guardian. He was employed on the East Pool and Agar dressing floors at Tolvaddon.

Reports of the Inquest and Funeral
Extracted from The Cornubian newspaper 19th August 1915

The boating fatality at Portreath has attracted much attention to the little port, where every effort was made for several days to settle the fate of the three missing men. On Thursday a message came to Portreath that piece of a boat had been picked up at Porthtowan beach, just under Mr Rich’s steps. Mr J. H. Bain and Captain W. J. Cock at once proceeded to the spot, and clearly recognised the part as being the trunk which held the centre keel of the missing boat. The s.s. Treleigh, which was the same afternoon waiting for the tide to enter the harbour, picked up the mast and the sail about 11/2 miles S.E. of Porthtowan. The boat is no doubt breaking up now owing to the heavy ground sea prevalent during the last few days. On Saturday evening and Sunday morning the fate of two of the missing men was finally settled by the discovery of their bodies, one at Porthtowan and the other at Perranporth. The news reached Portreath on Sunday morning, and P.C. Phillips and Mr Charles Ruse at once drove to the places named. The body at Porthtowan was identified by them as that of the missing Edgar Greenslade, and the one at Perranporth as that of Capt. T. Grenfell. Young Greenslade’s face was so badly smashed that it was scarcely recognisable but Captain Grenfell was scarcely injured to all appearances. The scene when the corpse of young Greenslade reached Portreath was exceedingly pathetic, the emotion exhibited being striking evidence of the widespread grief felt in the tragedy by which three valuable lives had been lost.


 Mr Edward Boase, coroner, held an inquest on Edgar Greenslade, aged 20 at Portreath on Monday evening. Mr William Glanville was foreman of the jury.
 HENRY MARTIN said that he was brother-in-law to deceased, who lived at Glenfeadon-terrace, Portreath, and was employed at Tolvaddon Tin Floors. He left home about 9.30 a.m. on the Thursday in question to go fishing for mackerel. With him were Capt. Grenfell and William Henry Treloar. Deceased could not swim. At about 11.30 a.m. a fresh breeze arose from the South-East, the sea at the time being very smooth.
THE CORONER: Did you notice any difference in the wind? – No. Where was the body picked up? – Near Porthtowan and bought to Portreath, and I identified as being the body of deceased.
JAMES ANTHONY, Coast Watcher, Portreath, said he was out in his boat on the Thursday morning and passed within 20 yards of the boat in which deceased was.
THE CORONER: What time did you return? – 11.30. When did you last see him? – About 11 a.m. They were then entering Porthtowan bay, about two miles to the East of Portreath. The weather at that time was squally and raining hard. Did the young fellow have any experience in sailing? – No. But Capt. Grenfell was an old and experienced sailor. Was the spot where they were dangerous? – Yes. Why is it dangerous? – Because farther off land there are very heavy winds. How was she rigged? – She had a jib, foresail, and mizzen. Did you think that was enough sail for her to carry? – Yes. She was carrying quite enough.
A JURYMAN: Did you see if the halyard sail was made fast in any way? – No. You could not see.
THE CORONER: What is your opinion? – She was struck by a squall, fell over, filled with water, and sank. Do you know if any of them could swim? – No.
A JURYMAN: Grenfell could, but had not been in the water for some years. Having sea boots and oilskins on those would be a preventative.
THE CORONER: What sort of boat was it? – A gig.
WIILIAM SEYMOUR, employed by Messrs Bain Sons and Co., said he saw these people out on the Thursday in question. They were then in Porthtowan Bay. There was a change in the weather, which blew up quite fresh. Parts of the boat were washed ashore, including the trunk of the centre keel, which came in at Porthtowan.
THE CORONER, summing up, said it was clear from the evidence that deceased, together with the other two, was overtaken by a squall, and that the boat filled and foundered, two bodies being recovered, and up to that time the other had not been found. The jury returned a verdict of accidentally drowned, being overtaken by a squall while fishing. They expressed their deepest sympathy with the relatives of deceased.


Inquest was held by Mr E.L. Carlyon at Perranporth on Monday on the body of Captain Thomas Stephen Grenfell, aged 57, of Portreath. Deceased, with two other men, one of whom was Edgar Greenslade, went on a fishing expedition on August 5. Soon after the boat started a heavy squall sprang up, and the other craft which were out returned to harbour, but nothing more was heard of the boat in which the deceased was, although on Thursday a mass of sail was picked up by a steamer and recognised as belonging to Captain Grenfell’s boat Deceased’s body was washed ashore at Perranporth, and recovered by a man named Samuel Rippon. Deceased’s son, Arthur Grenfell, gave evidence of identification, and said his father went out fishing. Nothing more was heard of the boat, it being thought that it was overturned in a squall.

MR BAIN of Portreath, was present at the inquest, and said deceased had been engaged in the harbour there for many years, and was a most capable and industrious man. The jury returned a verdict of “Found drowned”, and expressed sympathy with the relatives of the deceased, with which Mr Bain concurred.

Extracted from The Cornubian newspaper 26th August 1915

The funeral of two of the victims of the Portreath boating fatality took place at the Illogan parish church amid every token of respect and sympathy, the Revs. H. Oxland and Cuymns officiating. The chief mourners at the obsequies of Captain T. Grenfell were:- James Anthony and Thomas Grenfell, sons; Mary Ann, May, Violet, Gladys and Myrtle Grenfell, daughters; Captain Hattie Grenfell, brother; John Phillips, William Quick, Richard and Harry Martin, nephews; Mrs M. Willoughby, Misses R. and M. Martin, nieces; Captain Charles Greenslade, father-in-law; Mr W.B. Cocking, the Misses Bessie and Janie Stevens, Mesdames C. Veal, G. Stephenson and G. Rouncefield, cousins; Messrs. Charles H. Richards, J. Tangye and T. Adey, brothers-in-law; Messrs. Percy Lee and H. Phaby, sons-in-law. Those also present were: Messrs. J.H. Bain, W.J. Cock, J.C. Penberthy, S. George, W. Trathen, R. Trathen, W.T. Slee, J. Hampton, J. Selwood, C. Ruse, H. Coad, J.H. Cock, J. Anthony, J.H. Jenkins, B. Johns (Portreath), W. Butler, J.H. Penhaul (Mawla), W.K. Wilton, S. Launder (Redruth), J. Trevaskis (pilot, Hayle), Capt. Curnow (s.s. Pultney), Stevens (pilot, St. Ives) and a large number of others. The coal porters from Messrs. Bain, Sons and Co’s yard were in attendance. Members from all denominations were present.

The coffin was of oak and the breastplate bore the inscription, “Thomas S. Grenfell, died August 5th. 1915, aged 57 years”.

Deceased was very highly respected and everyone showed their sympathy with the bereaved widow and family. There were a large number of floral tributes sent, including one from St. Mary’s Church, Portreath.

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