Tuesday, April 13, 2010

White Wife of Queydon, Otterswick, Yell

The Figurehead of the "Bohus" "The White Wife".

On the 23rd April, 1924 the then German barque "Bohus" set sail for Taltal, Chile. She was an iron hulled 3-masted barque of 1487 registered tons and was built in Alloa in 1892. Three days out of Gothenburg, the Captain made a navigational error. This resulted in the "Bohus" being 60 miles off course by the 26th April. In a thick haze [presumably fog], the ship was dashed broadside on to the rocky spur at the Point of Hatt [not noted on any OS maps - presumably Black Skerry], and was grounded. Within half an hour most of the ship had broken up. Four of the thirty nine people on board were killed or drowned, Including Cadet "Tom" Eberth who saved four of his shipmates before being swept away. Many of those who were killed owe their lives to the prompt action of the Yell men who rushed to their assistance when they saw the ship was in distress.

The figurehead came ashore in September 1924. It was fittingly erected by the people of East Yell within sight of where the ship foundered. Restoration work by the Shetland Amenity Trust commenced in 1986 and on 22nd April, 1989 the refurbished "White Wife" was officially unveiled.

Some of those who lost their lives were buried the Mid Yell graveyard. A black marble slab commemorates Cadet "Tom" Eberth. The marble slab is set into a stone which comes from nearby Hascosay. Mementoes from the "Bohus" can be seen in Shetland Museum, Lerwick and at the Old Haa Mueum, Burravoe. The book "Wrestlers with the Troubled Sea" 1994 by Louis Johnston tells the story of the wreck.

The interpretive board below the figurehead is in need of a little repair, as is the wife herself - the paint is flaking off in places and some of the wood has come away from the bck where she is atached to the stand.

Before being sold and renamed as the German barque "Bohus", the 'White Wife' was the figurehead of the steel barque "Bertha" built in 1892 by Grangemouth Dockyard Co., Grangemouth, as yard no. 163. Her dimensions were: 74,11×11,70×6,88 meters [248'2"×38'4"×22'4"] and with a tonnage of 1653 GRT (1499 NRT and 2600 DWT). She was launched at the shipyard of Grangemouth Dockyard Co. for Joh. H. Soost, Hamburg on July 6th, 1892. She was named after Bertha, the eldest daughter of Joh. H. Soost, and this should be the proper name of The White Lady.

In 1899 she was sold to Captain M. Dietrich, Hamburg, and thereafter changed hands several times. In her great days until 1912 she did a lot of long distance runs such as 1904 from Lizard Point to Seattle in 154 days, 1906 from Lizard Point to Sydney in 117 days and again in 1909 in 114 days or in 1910 from Sydney to Falmouth f/o in 129 days.

In 1912 she was sold to Sweden changed hands several times and ended up with Förnyade Ångfartygs AB Viking, Gothenburg, for SEK 500.000. She was then renamed Bohus and assigned the official Swedish Reg. No. 5903 and signal KBCV. Captain at that time was Mr Ragnar Erik Nyberg, Stockholm. Bertha was bound to the Baltic Sea, mostly sailing in Swedish and Finnish waters.

The 'White Wife' seen from across the south side of Otters Wick. The white wife is the small white dot slightly right of centre near the shoreline. To get to the white wife - follow the signs from the Yell ferry, or from mid Yell if youre heading south.


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