Mr. Samuel Popplestone, The First Recipient of the Albert Medal. Click on image to enlarge it.

The wreck of the Spirit of the Ocean, a vessel belonging to the line of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick packets, which was driven upon the Prawle rocks at Star Point, near Dartmouth, on the South Devon coast, during the violent gale of the 23rd of March, will not have been forgotten by the readers of this Journal. A view of the scene of the disaster, with the scattered fragments of the wreck, was engraved for our publication of April 7, from a sketch with which we were favoured by Mr. W. Lidstone, of Kingsbridge.

The unfortunate vessel, which was outward bound, had a crew of eighteen men and twenty-four passengers; and out of the whole number only four were saved. These were the mate and three sailors, who were rescued mainly by the heroic exertions of a neighbouring farmer, Mr. Samuel Popplestone. His house, called the Start Farm, is situated half a mile from the place where the ship was wrecked. He saw her go upon the rocks; he then got a rope and let himself down over the precipitous cliffs, so that by the time some of the coastguard men had arrived to lend a hand the men could be safely hoisted up. Mr. Popplestone further took them to his own home and gave them food and shelter. For this example of courage and humanity he has been rewarded by the Queen with the first of the Albert Medals, a new decoration, instituted by the Royal warrant of March 7, "for persons who have helped, at the hazard of their own lives, to save the lives of others from shipwreck or other perils of the sea," An Illustration of the design of this medal appeared in our Number of March 31.

It is understood that her Majesty, on being made acquainted with the story of the wreck at the Start Point, at once resolved to send for Mr. Popplestone and give him the medal with her own hands. This gracious purpose was carried into effect on Monday, the 14th ult., when Mr. Fopplestone, having been desired to attend the Court at Buckingham Palace, was introduced to her Majesty by the President of the Board of Trade, the Right Hon. T. Milner Gibson, and received the medal, which could not have been more honourably bestowed. Our Portrait is engraved from a photograph taken by Mr. Ash, of Kingsbridge.

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“Mr. Samuel Popplestone, The First Wearer of the Albert Medal.” Illustrated London News. (2 June 1866): 537. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 12 January 2016.

Last modified 12 January 2016