I do not believe in coincidences!

The Menai Strait is the captivating submerged valley that separates Anglesey from mainland North Wales.  It is orientated north east to south west, and stretches for approximately 15 miles from Trwyn Penmon to Abermenai Point.

The present day channel is a result of glacial erosion of the bedrock along a line of weakness associated with the Menai Strait Fault System. During the series of Pleistocene glaciations a succession of ice-sheets moved from northeast to southwest across Anglesey and neighbouring Arfon scouring the underlying rock, the grain of which also runs in this direction. The result was a series of linear bedrock hollows across the region, the deepest of which was flooded by the sea as world ocean levels rose at the end of the last ice age.

According to Heimskringla, the 11th century Norse-Gael ruler Echmarcach mac Ragnaill plundered in Wales with his friend, the Viking Guttorm Gunnhildsson. However they started quarreling over the plunder and fought a battle at the Menai Strait. Guttorm won the battle by praying to Saint Olaf and Echmarcach was killed.

It is a very important waterway since ancient times boats, ships and fishing vessels were slipped through the narrow banks of their way to various destinations. Inevitably Strait waters swallowed and many ships were involved in accidents. Over the last two hundred years in the Menai Strait have produced more than 1,000 such events. But, some of them have a common denominator.

On December 5, 1664 a ship sank with all 81 passengers who were on board. Only one escaped. His name was Hugh Williams. The information appears in the footer of 155 page of Cliffe’s Book of North Wales. The book was published in 1851.

Another tragic incident occurred in 1785 on the same date 5 December. Of the 60 people on board survived only ... Hugh Williams. It could be just a coincidence. The evidence of this is all in the book. There is more documentary evidence for the 1785 sinking.  Pages 281- 286 of Rev. William Bingley’s book “North Wales, including its scenery, Antiquities and Customs” 1804, Vol. 1.  describe Hugh Williams escape from the shipwreck on December 5, 1785.

Again on May 20th, 1842, a boat was crossing the Menai, near the spot where the above catastrophes happened, when she upset with 15 passengers  and all perished save one; but in this instance the name of the survivor was Richard Thomas.

On 10th July 1940, a British trawler was destroyed by a German mine – only two men survived, one man and his nephew – they were both called Hugh Williams.

Considering the natural inclination of people to the side mysterious things might believe that the appearance of that name in several disasters marine products in one place and with only one single survivor, is more than a coincidence and that phenomena or entities that the human mind can not fully understand, and have contributed to the production of a certain kind of events.

Exaggerations went up to consider this combination of information as "the strangest coincidence ever recorded." Amateur sensational or not life teaches us all that in situations of this kind must let reason to find explanations most logical and weighted impulses of passion which pushes us to believe that any matter that we do not understand is something supernatural .

One thing is obvious from the story of Hugh and his Uncle Hugh – Hugh Williams is not an uncommon name in Wales.  Apparently the Anglicization of Welsh names had an impact.  From Welsh Names : ...by the 15th century the range of names in use was affected by the great popularity of a limited number of names such as John, William and Thomas, which had also been adopted in England by that time.   Also, fixed surnames were adopted gradually in Wales, so the son of William often took his father’s first name as his last, which is how popular first names became common surnames.  Indeed, Coghlan’s account of the three shipwrecks ends with the comment: “This extraordinary coincidence can only be explained by the circumstance that the name of Hugh Williams is very common in these parts.”

Another point which emerges in the longer version of the story which includes the survivor, Richard Thomas, is that the Menai Strait is a particularly nasty body of water with strong currents and rough seas. When listening to the shorter version of the story one might think that only three boats sank in the Menai Strait over two hundred years. The number is probably closer to three hundred. The number of deaths by drowning is probably in the thousands.

The name Hugh Williams is fairly common and the waters off North Wales are treacherous.  Over a period of almost two hundred years is not that unlikely that there would be three sole survivors of shipwrecks who had the same name. Two on the same day of the month is less likely, though over more than 100 years, maybe not that improbable either.

I hope I managed to convince you that it is not an immortal Hugh Williams who managed to escape from many shipwrecks over two hundred years. Or maybe not ………

photo credit: google.com
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