Joseph Nelson's Grave

Dumfries and Galloway

[Photo of grave]
Ruth Airley. Dumfries and Galloway Libraries

Prior to the start of serious road building in the 1750s Galloway proved difficult to access by land. Because of this the movement of both travellers and goods tended to be by sea, with a thriving trade developing between the Cumbrian ports of Maryport, Silloth and Whitehaven and the Solway ports of Dalbeattie, Annan, Dumfries and Kirkcudbright.

However the northern Solway coast was also ideal smuggling territory, having many deserted beaches with secret paths leading towards suitable inland distribution points. Because of the tax-free status of the Isle of Man, Ramsey and Douglas became hotbeds of the Hollands trade. Cargoes of Dutch gin, French brandy and Brussels lace, all heavily taxed, were run in overnight and unloaded from small flat-bottomed boats.

Few names of those involved survive. One that does however is the redoubtable Captain Yawkins, oft-time master of Black Prince and The Flora. Another is Joseph Nelson, a crew member of The Ann, which was lost with all hands on January 2nd 1791. His body wasn't washed ashore for some months, eventually being buried where it was found on July 20th of the same year. His widow Ann caused a stone to be erected with the following inscription

In memory of Joseph Nelson who was lost on his passage from Whitehaven 2nd Jan 1791 and was buried here July 20 following. Aged 59 years. This stone is erected by his widow Ann Nelson in Whitehaven


The small walled enclosure containing the grave lies close to the footpath between Rockcliffe and Castle Point.


In Smuggling in Solway Gallovidian (1907), the editor quotes a story set in the same locality which may or may be another version of this story.