Review: The Lost Story of the William and Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson

Book Review: The Lost Story of the William and Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson by Gill Hoffs

In Gill Hoffs latest book, she takes us on a fascinating voyage across the sea. In this vivid account of life aboard a 19th century emigrant ship – with it diverse assemblage of life – a searing tale of hopeful passengers emerges who find their fates are bound together by the utterly self-serving actions of their captain.


Setting sail for the new world A long and turbulent voyage awaited them

The William and Mary set sail on favorable winds from Liverpool on the 24th march 1853. The hold crammed full of British, Dutch and Irish immigrants, each one in turn brimming full of their own turbulent mix of sorrow, trepidation and anticipation – of what they had left behind and what was to come. It would be six weeks to cross the Atlantic and reach the port of New Orleans to begin their new lives.

But fate, of course, had other plans. For it was the great misfortune of these passengers to have unwittingly put their lives in the hands of Captain Stinson. Certainly they knew from the outset the journey would be difficult. Death, disease and crime was a part of life on these emigrant ships but much hung on how their captain would lead. It was his duty to look after those on board his ship but through his impatience, recklessness and downright coldheartedness, he would lead his ship into gravest danger and his actions would weigh heavy on the lives of each and every passenger.


Throughout Gill’s telling of this story, we encounter the people of the William and Mary. Their compelling personal accounts are woven together, bringing the all important human context to what a journey at sea was like at the time.

The fair winds that saw the William and Mary off didn’t last long and the ship was battered by stormy weather and wild seas. As the ship sailed Stinson grew uneasy with their progress and he sent the ship through a perilous route in the Bahamas. When he should have slowed and been cautious he pushed forward. The fate of his passengers an afterthought. But the tale is more than a journey across the sea. It’s also one of manipulation and lies, all centred on the actions of the Captain Stinson.

Gill gets to the heart of the story of the William and Mary and through her insightful analysis of firsthand accounts of the passengers we find out what really went down. She calls out Stinson for his cowardice and we find out about what ultimately happened to him and the other passengers.

In this excellent new book, Gill brings into vivid light the incredible experiences of these passengers in all its graphic and visceral detail. If you enjoy maritime history this book is a must. It really puts you in the position of these people who thought the risk of a dangerous Atlantic crossing was worth it for a chance at a better future. 

If you’d like to get a copy of Gill’s book, it’s available now on Amazon – Click here for Amazon.

About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22