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Jonkheer Meester Van De Wall

Lost in most peculiar and mysterious circumstances, the case interested Arthur Quiller-Couch. The ship was wrecked 25th March 1867. The one survivor Giorgio Buffani, in his evidence, only led the Inquiry into deeper mystery.

Jonkheer Meester Van De Wall
treeve, Mar 29, 2010
    • treeve
      About 11 o'clock, on the evening of 25th March, 1867, the Vicar [Edmond George Harvey BA] was sitting alone in his dining room, reading, deeply engaged with the book before him. Suddenly he started to his feet. He heard, or fancied that he heard, a prolonged shrieking wail, as of many voices. Immediately unfastening the window shutters, and throwing up the sash, he listened long and anxiously. The wind, which was blowing a gale, swept right in from the sea, and its howling among the trees, together with the thundering of the surf upon the shore, distant hardly more than half mile from the vicarage, were all that could be heard. The Vicar closed the window, and concluding that the sound he had heard was nothing but the wailing of the storm, he retired for the night.

      The following morning he was informed that a large vessel had gone ashore during the night, and that a number of persons had been drowned. The coastguard on watch had come up to the village about 3 o'clock, a.m., with the alarm that he had seen a large, barque dangerously near the cliffs ; so the rocket apparatus was carried down to Poljew Cove on past Poljew towards Gunwalloe, but nothing was to be seen of any vessel. Meanwhile, some of the villagers had gone along the cliff tops between Polurrian and Poljew, and there they saw parts of a wreck; and, at length, clambering about the rocks under cliff, the sole survivor of the unfortunate vessel's company, a Greek sailor. He was so bruised and benumbed, that at the moment, he could have given no very intelligible account of the wreck.

      Soon the stern of the vessel was found washed in between two ledges of rocks on the southern side of Poljew Cove, and near it the bodies of two females, with nothing but the remnants of their night dresses about them ; then the body of another female was discovered, and later in the day those of a sailor and an infant were picked up. These were all taken and laid in the tower of Mullion Church to await a coroner's inquest.

      About 9 o'clock, the Greek sailor having had a dry suit of clothes provided him, and some refreshment given him, the Vicar went to see what he could learn from him concerning the ship and her cargo. The man seemed but little inclined to be communicative, and his own language, a mixture of Greek and Italian, was difficult to be interpreted. He said he had joined the ship at Batavia [Dutch East Indies], but he did not know her name nor the name of the captain ! He had slightly injured his right arm in clambering up the cliff, but beyond a few bruises, was otherwise uninjured. He had on him a lady's gold watch and chain which was difficult to account for in the case of a common sailor like himself. There were five and twenty souls on board at the time of the wreck, and this was the third time that he had been wrecked, being the only one saved on each occasion. The mystery has begun …..
    • treeve
      The vessel was assumed to have sailed in right against the cliffs between Poljew and Polurrian, striking her keel on Men y Grib rocks, having her back broken upon them, and then slipping out and subsiding in deeper water, with the exception of the stern portion, which was broken off and washed into Poljew. At the time she struck he said that he and two other sailors were forward on the jib-boom, all three sprang off it on to the face of the cliff, two being by the next wave sucked backed into the sea and drowned. He himself held on, managed to scale the cliff in the darkness, and then wandered about till he was found by the coast-guard and villagers. Of the women washed ashore one was the body of a large person, probably Dutch, and about fifty years of age, having nothing on at the time but two stockings, and these both on the left leg. This person proved afterwards to be S__ W__. She was a passenger from Batavia, in charge of a gentleman on board. Another, aged about 23, dark hair and finely formed features, with but drawers and stockings on, a gold clasp ring, and a gold heart-shaped black enamelled locket enclosing miniature photograph of a young gentleman. She was found to be J__ B__, fiancee of Herr M__ of Utrecht, to whom she was shortly to be married. The third, a short, bright haired young woman, S__ G__ who passed on board for the Captain's wife. She had been confined on board about three weeks previously; and the drowned infant was her child. It had on, when picked up, its little night-dress and cap, and a coral necklace. This was all the information that the sailor was able or willing to afford. Along the shores coffee in the coffee beans were washing in in very large quantities, as the waves completed their destruction of the ship, and piles of sugar baskets tubular affairs, 6 feet long by two feet in diameter, composed of split bamboo, bound with cane, and lined with dry leaves were to be seen lying about at the waters edge in every direction.
    • treeve
      The inquest was held on Wednesday, at the Old Inn, by Mr. Roscorla, county coroner. The Greek sailor was examined through Giacomo Carlo Bilestreri, of Penzance, interpreter. He said, ‘my name is Georgio Buffani, I was seaman on board the ship which belonged to Dordrecht. I ship at Batavia, but I do not know the name of the ship, or the name of the Captain.’ [Batavia is where Jakarta now stands, Suez not yet completed, a long way to travel around The Cape of Good Hope, and up the African coast, and not know the name of your captain]. On his being shewn the official list of Dutch East Indiamen, he pointed to one built 1854 ‘the Kosmopoliet, Captain Konig. We sailed from Batavia for Rotterdam on 25th November last, with a cargo of coffee, spice, and sugar, there was a quantity of tin also on board as ballast. The vessel's crew consisted of 20 men, all told, and there were 6 passengers, being 3 ladies, 2 gentlemen, and an English lad. Oft the African coast two of the sailors, Englishmen, died, and a third was left at St. Helena, sick. On Saturday last we were off Falmouth, which port we might have entered but did not, on Monday, 6 a.m., we were abreast of the Lizard, wind S.W. to S.S.W. We then came under the land in Mount's Bay, and were tacking about all day, but could not get out’ [A vessel had been observed by the Mousehole pilots, on Monday afternoon, endeavouring to get off the eastern land, and about 4 o'clock was seen to' miss stays more than once off Mullion Island. She had no signal flying, but it was thought unless she was ably manned she would have great difficulty in rounding the Lizard.] [This was a furious March] ‘We hoisted no signal When the vessel struck every one was on deck, and the Captain cried bitterly. In 20 minutes the vessel broke up. I was on the jibboom, with two other sailors, and managed to save myself by jumping to the cliff, the others were caught by the sea’

      The Jury returned the verdict ‘Accidentally drowned’
      Just after the inquest, W. Broad of Falmouth, Dutch Consul, arrived, bringing with him two Captains of Dutch East Indiamen, then lying at Falmouth. One of them asked at once, ‘Is it Klaas Lammerts'?’ On being told that the Kosmopoliet was the name of the wrecked ship, he said he did not believe it, ‘for the Kosmopoliet would hardly be due for a fortnight It must be Klaas Lammerts’. The Vicar, who had now joined them, exhibited a bit of flannel he had picked up, with ‘6 K L’ marked upon it ‘Ah ! It must be so ! It must be the Jonkheer’. But she had been returned Kosmopoliet at the inquest, on the evidence of the Greek sailor, so there the matter rested.

      [Klaas von Lammerts was the name of the captain]
    • treeve
      It was mysterious enough that the one person saved knew virtually nothing of the ship or captain, let alone the fact of the ship, despite heading for Rotterdam, came to Falmouth yet did not port, and allowed herself to enter Mount's Bay in the most tempestuous of weather. It deepens ....
    • treeve
      On the Friday following, however, when Mr Broad and this Dutch Captain again visited Mullion, the first thing handed them was a parchment which had been picked up, and this was none other than the Masonic diploma of Klaas von Lammerts. The ship was identified as the Jonkheer Meester van de Wall van Puttershoek, Captain Klaas von Lammerts, 650 tons register, homeward bound from the East Indies, with a Cargo of sugar, coffee, spices, and some Banca tin. The value of the ship and cargo would be between £40,000 and £50,000.The week following, the Vicar received a letter from Mrs. C__ S__ of Manchester, stating that one of the passengers by the ill-fated Jonkheer was her sister, Mrs. S__ W__, 49 years of age, a widow, who had been in India as a governess for 20 years, that her husband had died 9 years ago, and that she was now returning to England, having accumulated a small fortune.

      From St. Helena, where the vessel had touched on 18th January, her sister had written to her informing her of her being on the passage home. Mrs. S__ also made such inquiries as were natural under the circumstances, to which a reply was returned that her sister's remains had been, with others, decently interred in Mullion churchyard. Ten more bodies were afterwards recovered and buried. Tons of coffee were collected and carted away to Penzance, only to prove a ruinous speculation to the purchasers, the salt water had rendered it quite useless. Messrs Jackson and Jones, of Penberth Cove, were engaged to recover the sunken tin, which they did by means of water glasses and long tongs, at a remuneration of £15 per ton. It was found lying with the anchors, chain cables of the ship, in 6-fathom water. While this work was proceeding, Mr Nicholas, the Consulary agent, at Mullion, called, one morning, on the Vicar, and asked his company to the Cove, to be present at the opening of a small box, seemingly containing treasure, which Messrs Jackson had fished up. It was a tin box, about a foot square, and contained valuables to the amount of £1200 or £1300. It contained Mrs. S__ W__'s will and property. The discovery of this treasure having been mentioned in the newspapers, another claimant to it, besides Mrs. S__ appears on the scene no less a person than Mrs. W__'s husband supposed to have been dead 9 years ! It appeared that he had separated from her before she went to India, and that he had mysteriously disappeared. Messrs Jackson and Jones received, as was their due, one third of this property; and, after the law expenses had been paid by Mrs S__ and Mrs. W__’s husband, as to the ownership of the remaining two thirds, there was not much left for either to enjoy. The sum of £5 had been offered by Widow Klaas von Lammerts, of Rue de Plank, Dordrecht, for the recovery of her husband's body, but it was never identified among those washed in. Cane, bamboo, and wreckage continued to cover every sandy beach for a long time after the wreck. Coffee bags, laid down as mats, may be now seen on many a cottage limeash floor ; sugar baskets, split and fastened to stakes, to protect garden ground, may still be found in many parts of the parish, and this is about all that remains of the ill fated Jonkheer

      The almost unaccountable behaviour of this vessel, on the afternoon previous to the wreck, caused grave suspicions in the minds of those on shore that there was mutiny or extreme disorder of some kind on board, but of this nothing certain could be ascertained. There is, also, a discrepancy in the accounts as to the time of the occurrence of the wreck, which has never been solved satisfactorily. The coastguard's- man arrived at Mullion Churchtown about 3 o'clock, a.m., saying he had seen a large vessel in danger. That was when the tide had ebbed for four hours. When the villagers went down to the coast they found coffee, and walked over portions of the wreck, which was lying right up at high water mark. The vessel, then, must have struck before or, at least about, the time of high water, and that was at eleven o'clock the previous evening. When the Vicar had been disturbed from his book.

      One saved, 24 drowned 15 buried in Mullon Churchyard.
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