Committed to the mercy of the waves

Sophia Dorey was born in 1785 and baptised at East Stoke, Dorset on 20 November. She was the second daughter of cordwainer George Dorey and his wife Elizabeth nee Trinkhole to bear the name Sophia – her sibling Sophia born the year before had died shortly after birth.

Sophia had elder siblings: Katherine (baptised 9 December 1777), George (baptised 30 November 1779) and Betty (baptised 28 November 1781). She also had younger siblings: Robert (baptised 28 September 1788) and John (baptised 5 March 1798).

Sadly, on Thursday 2 October 1806, Sophia’s life was cut short at the age of just 19 years. She had been to Poole and was returning home on the evening passage boat to Wareham when it got into difficulties, grounded, capsized and then sunk. The boat’s owner and two crew perished, along with ten of the twelve passengers. Seven of them were women, one being Sophia Dorey.

The account of the passage boat’s last journey as published in the Canterbury Journal of 14 October 1806 is reproduced below.

Poole, Oct. 7.

Particulars of the loss of the Wareham passage-boat on Thursday, 2d instant

The boat left Poole Quay between five and six o’clock in the evening, deeply laden, having also twelve passengers on board, besides Mr. Gillingham, the owner, and two boatmen. The wind was right a-head: between six and seven o’clock it began to freshen, with a thick fog and small rain, that made it extremely dark. About midway of their passage, the boat ran aground just when she was in stays; the skid took the ground, which, with the pressure of wind in sails, laid her down so that she took in a quantity of water. The place where she grounded being steep, she slipped oft into deep water and instantly sunk; thus they were obliged to commit themselves to the mercy of the waves. Mr. Everett (the only man who escaped, and by whose exertions a poor woman by the name of White was also saved) attempted to swim to the nearest shore, which was on the Isle of Purbeck, but being encumbered with a great coat, and the woman having hold of him, retarded his swimming so much, that he resolved, in order to save himself, to shake off his unfortunate partner, and leave her to the mercy of the waves; but at that moment one of the oars floated just by him, on which he placed the woman, who, by this time, was too much exhausted to proceed. The distance that they must have floated by the oar could not be less than two miles, and the method they pursued was by each taking hold of the end of it. Mr. Everett hastened to a house and requested their assistance; but humanity had no dwelling in their habitation; they were deaf to his intreaties, and would not let him in, or give him any assistance, which obliged him to proceed on to the next, where he received it, and immediately went to the place where the woman was, whom they assisted to the house, gave her dry clothes, &c. By this time, Captain Bartlett, of Wareham, arrived with a post-chaise, (Mr. Everett having proceeded on thither, and informed him of the circumstance);  he immediately brought the woman back in the chaise to his own house, where she had every nourishment necessary, and was put to bed, when, by the next morning, she was so far recovered as to be able to go on to her own house. Eleven of the unfortunate people are taken up, seven of whom were buried at Wareham on Sunday last, and a suitable sermon, on the occasion, was preached by the Rev. G. H. Hyde.

Those who drowned:

  • William GILLINGHAM of Wareham, 52
  • William OXFORD, 37
  • William TURNER, 52
  • Charles WHITE Jr, 33
  • Elizabeth PINDAR, 27
  • Betty BROWN, 39
  • Amelia RANDALL of Stobro (Stoborough), 19
  • Edith RANDALL, 24
  • Elizabeth MINTERN, 38
  • Elizabeth FOSTER, 27?
  • Mary NEW of Church Knowle, 33
  • Jane BARNES, 33
  • Sophia DOREY of East Stoke, 19

Those saved:

  • Mr Edward EVERETT of Wareham
  • Mrs WHITE of Church Knowle