THE woman believed to be the last widow of the HMS Thetis submarine disaster paid a touching visit to Holyhead to pay homage to her former husband and she was treated to a VIP presentation by the town’s mayor Cllr Ann Kennedy.
Cllr Kennedy met 99-year-old Mary Beard, and her daughter Jenny Curtis-Beard, to present her with a town crest plaque at a special ceremony in the town hall on Wednesday, September 20.
Mrs Beard, of Great Bentley, Essex, was married to Able Seaman James Arthur Morgans, one of the 99 men who died aboard the ill-fated Thetis submarine when it foundered off the coast of Anglesey, near Moelfre, on June 1, 1939.
The Cammell Laird-built sub went down in one of the Royal Navy’s worst peace-time disasters. It was brought ashore at Traeth Bychan, and it was towed into Holyhead.
The Pontoon House, in Holyhead, was used as a makeshift mortuary. There were so many dead, funerals were held in batches in November 1939 and coal wagons helped transport the coffins.
Forty-four of the dead were buried at Maes Hyfryd cemetery in the town, including Mary’s husband, who was only 26 when he died. Mary was only 20 and they had only been married for 11 months.
During last week’s visit, she visited the cemetery to lay flowers and the pair were given lunch and a tour of the Thetis exhibition at the Holyhead Maritime Museum.
They were also taken to Stena House and met the Port of Holyhead port services manager Alan Williams, who explained the inner harbour and the Pontoon House, which was used as a temporary mortuary during the disaster.
“I wasn’t sure if I should come.
“I’d read somewhere there were no Thetis widows left, so I thought well, I’m still here and I shall go!” said Mary, who will be 100 next June.
“It was a very difficult time for everyone involved when it happened. Everyone gathered at the dock in Birkenhead. I was looking forward to him coming back and went to meet him. It was a terrible shock.
“I shall always remember Jim - he had lovely blue eyes, he was very strong and had a great sense of humour.
“He was very handsome.”
Mary added: “My biggest regret is that we never had children.
“But, it was coming up to the war and if he’d survived, he may have been blown up on a ship like so many young men.”
Jenny, who is Mary’s daughter by her marriage to John Beard in 1947, said: “We’d like to thank everyone in Holyhead who gave up their time for us.
“We had a very interesting day in Holyhead, although tinged with sadness, mum was treated like a celebrity.”
Cllr Kennedy said: “We presented Mary with a plaque of the town crest. We felt it was important for us to commemorate such an important event, and were were very proud and delighted to receive her and her daughter.
”The town clerk Cliff Everett was able to tell Mary all about the history of the town at the time of the disaster, and she was very interested in it all.”