NEW BOOK ALERT! “The Lost Story of the William & Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson”

WandM cover“[S]he struck against a reef … the scene which then took place was fearful in the extreme. The passengers came rushing up the hatchways, some in their night-clothes, and all in the greatest disorder, screaming and wringing their hands frantically, while the ship kept rolling from side to side with the greatest violence, sometimes appearing as if she would have gone on her beam ends altogether…” Ebenezer Miller, passenger (Preston Chronicle, Saturday 11 June 1853)

The loss of the emigrant ship William & Mary made news around the world not once but twice in 1853. First when her American captain reported the vessel lost before his eyes in the shark-infested waters of the Bahamas and the death of over 200 left on board, then again when the truth emerged – a tale of abandonment, desperation, and the incredible heroism of a wrecker and his crew. Discover the people involved in this mysterious shipwreck, including:

~   Captain Timothy Stinson, the callous young mariner who attempted mass murder

~   Susannah Diamond, the English 19-year-old hoping for a new life in St. Louis with her family, husband and unborn child

~   Izaak Roorda, one of a group of 87 Dutch emigrants seeking to settle in Wisconsin, who found the lifeboat more perilous than the sinking ship

Over 160 years later, Gill Hoffs reveals the terrifying true events that drove one man to murder passengers with a hatchet and others to abandon their family and friends – and a wrecker to risk his life for total strangers.


“A terrific, rollicking adventure” – Simon Garfield.


My new book “The Lost Story of the William & Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson” will be published by Pen & Sword in September 2016 in the UK and available elsewhere in the world around new year.  The hardback will retail at £19.99 and is available from the usual suspects online (including as well as plenty of bookshops – it’s worth seeing if your library has it in stock, too.

I learned about this wreck while researching contemporary wrecks for my first shipwreck book “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic‘” (Pen & Sword, 2014, 2015).  The William & Mary sailed from Liverpool and wrecked in the Bahamas while the RMS Tayleur was still being built in Warrington, England.  Both ships were packed with emigrants headed for new lives overseas but the similarities end there.  If the story of the Tayleur made you sad, the tragedy of the William & Mary will make you burn with rage!

There are several talks and events lined up this autumn to help promote this new book; I’ve included the ones I believe are open to the public below so do come along, the more the merrier!  I’m always keen to hear from readers, descendants of people involved with the shipwrecks I write about, or organizations seeking a speaker so do feel free to contact me on twitter via @GillHoffs [ by email at gillhoffs [at] Hotmail [dot] co [dot] uk to discuss availability and fees.  I have quite a hectic schedule at the best of times but if I can help, I will.  Likewise, if you would like a review copy for your publication, an interview, or an article, do get in touch.

Thursday 8 September, 6.30-8pm – FREE – Waterstones, Golden Square, Warrington (official launch including a short talk, Q&A, and CAKE!)

Saturday 10 September, 2.30pm – FREE – Warrington Museum, Warrington

Thursday 15 September, 12.30pm – Liverpool Nautical Research Society, Athenaeum Club, Liverpool

Saturday 17 September, 12 noon and 2pm – FREE – Tall Ship, Glasgow

*as with my first book, please, please contact me if you think you are related to anyone involved – I may be able to put you in touch with other descendants*

5 thoughts on “NEW BOOK ALERT! “The Lost Story of the William & Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson”

  1. Hello Gill, thank you for bringing this story to life. My great-great-grandfather – Arjen G. Westerhuis [Westerhouse] was on The William and Mary. He died in New Amsterdam, Wisconsin, Sept. 6, 1877. My father was born in Holman, Wisconsin, nor far from Onalaska, Wisconsin, were my cousin Nancy [Westerhouse] Tolvstad lives. That area was originally know as New Amsterdam. If you ever decide to make a documentary about the story, as a composer I would like to contribute to the musical score. Thank for writing this book and I look forward to getting a copy when it is available here in the US. I live in Manassas, Virginia.

  2. Pingback: Magnetic Reno Through Amazing Stories – Vandana Sandhir

  3. I am a descendant of the Friesians who were aboard, Charly and Susan Chalsma who met as teenagers aboard the ship, settled New Amsterdam Wisconsin, and later married. We have a seashell attached to a watch chain that was collected during the shipwreck. I just now became aware of the book and can’t wait to order it!

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