Grave of John FINCH of Maldon, Essex

The burial of John FINCH of Maldon in Essex is found in the graveyard in St Athernase’s Church in Leuchars. The stone is under a tree on the East side of the church. John was a master mariner, shipwrecked in St Andrews Bay in 1848. I am posting it here for those researching Maldon Finches who may not know of its existence.

Gravestone of John FINCH of Maldon at Leuchars

The inscription reads:

Sacred to the Memory of John FINCH, Aged 65 Years, Master Mariner of Maldon in Essex, who was drowned with a crew of five others in St Andrews Bay 28th January 1848; the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and is safe. Proverbs 18th: 10.

The Fife Herald for the 3rd February 1848 gives an account of what happened:


On Friday the 28th January last, about midday, a brig was observed in the bay, the sea and the tide running very high – wind SE and snow. The crew were apparently strangers to the coast; and the vessel drifted west (in) the Bay will about two miles north of the town, where she was brought to anchor in a very dangerous situation. The lifeboat was instantly brought to the beach, but the crew of fishermen appointed by the Town Council to man her refused to do so, when a number of young seamen boldly volunteered, who, with the assistance of the captain of the coast guard and his men (two of whom went in the boat), and few of our townsmen, got the boat afloat, and made an effort to reach the vessel; but the wind and sea being so very high , they were, after a bold attempt, compelled to return to the shore. By this tie, the snow fell very thick; and the night closing in, the vessel was lost sight of from the shore, and nothing further passed till about half past 7 o clock PM, when a boat was cast ashore, bottom up, on the West Sands, marked “Endeavour, Maldon” “John Finch” which gave rise to great doubts as to the safety of the crew. About eight o clock, the wind fell, and veered round to SW and the snow cleared away. By next morning, the sea had fallen considerably – so much so, that a common fishing boat could have reached the vessel with perfect safety. The weather, however was so thick that the vessel could not be seen until about eleven o clock, when she was again visible; and the crew who had so nobly volunteered on the previous day, and at the risk of their lives endeavoured to gain the vessel without success, again offered their services to man the lifeboat, but, strange to say, the captain of the coast guard and of the boat, positively refused to allow them, and preferred the fishermen, who would on no account whatsoever go on the previous day, when their assistance, WISELY DIRECTED, might have been the means of saving the unfortunate crew. The lifeboat this manned reached the vessel, but not a soul on board – both chains broken, and the vessel drifting about. The fishermen made sail, and took her to Dundee in safety. The crew, consisting of seven hands (as appears from ships articles), had left the vessel in their own boat; and, in endeavouring to gain the shore, she had swamped, when all perished. The vessel sailed from Seaham on the 24th ultimo, bound for Maldon, with coals. The fishermen, we think, were greatly to blame in not endeavouring to go off to the vessel when she was first seen – the consequence of her not having been reached has been, that they are now entitled to salvage for the vessel, while human life, to a great extent, has been sacrificed. This is the second case of salvage that has occurred with the same fishermen within the last twelve or eighteen months; and we sincerely hope that, in this case, they will get no more than a fair remuneration for their day’s labour – for nothing more could it be called – there bring no danger; as, if a full salvage be awarded, we need no longer look for any exertion being used on their part to save the lives of their fellow creatures.

This account was repeated almost verbatim by several other newspapers but a different account was given in the Arbroath Guide, which seems to be written by another eye witness.


On Friday forenoon last, while Lieutenant Henry Cox RN Inspecting Officer of the Fife District, was at St Andrews, he observed a brig running into the Bay during a heavy gale of wind with hail and snow showers. At noon she hauled her wind and attempted to work out of the bay, but was eventually compelled to anchor at three PM, about one and a half miles from the mouth of the River Eden. A large party of fishermen and other having collected on the beach, the life boat was brought out with a view to rescue the crew of the vessel from their unfortunate position. Volunteers manned the boat, and Lieutenant Cos exerted himself to the utmost, but such was the fury of the waves they could not get her a hundred yards from the beach, and they were compelled to give up the attempt. A good lookout was kept after the vessel, which was still riding; at about eight PM, a boat came on shore bottom up, near the rocks, marked ‘Endeavour’ of Maldon, John Finch, master, and about two miles to the southward of the vessel. Next day (Saturday) at eleven AM, the most having cleared away, the vessel was observed in the same position as on the preceding evening. The weather now being more moderate, Lieutenant Cox manned the lifeboat with a crew of four coastguard men and twelve fishermen and succeeded in reaching the vessel, when they found her abandoned by her crew; and, as the vessel’s name was the ‘Endeavour’ of Maldon, and the stern boat still hanging in place, there is no doubt but the unfortunate crew had taken to the long boat, which had been upset by the fury of the sea, and the whole (six in number) drowned, the boat being washed on shore, as previously mentioned. The salvors found, on heaving up, that the chains had parted from both anchors, so that the ship would have come on shore the following tide. The wind having proved favourable, Lieutenant Cox and his party succeeded in working the vessel into the Tay, and she was safely moored in King William’s Dock here on Saturday evening. The vessel has sustained no damage except in her rudder that can be seen; and, had her unfortunate crew only remained on board, they would have been all saved. She is now in charge of Mr Just, as agent for the salvors and all concerned. It appears from her register that the master was owner. She is coal laden; but no papers have been found to show what port she was bound. Intelligence was sent off same evening to the Collector of Customs at Maldon, in order that the relatives of the lost crew might be appraised, as well as those interested in the vessel and cargo. To many here, Lieutenant Cox is well know as ever ready in the cause of humanity in cases of shipwreck; and during a long residence at St Andrews he has rendered great services in many perilous cases. After an absence of three years in command of a cutter he is now back in his old district; and, as the inspecting officer resides at Elie, with the Fife coast under his charge, no officer, on the coast is more active and ready to render assistance to the shipwrecked mariner, for which services he has at different times received marks of distinction.

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