The cursing power of Psalm 109, ‘Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow’, was once a widely held superstition.
It was this ‘cursing poem’, uttered by a sailor who had been unjustly condemned to death, that is said to have brought about the worst ship wreck ever recorded in the Isles of Scilly.
The man who was cursed by the sailor was Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel, who was noted for his hot temper and cruel discipline on the ships he commanded. Not a nice man at all!
Sir Cloudesley Shovel (1650 – 1707) was a well-known Admiral of the Fleet.
In 1692 he played an important part in the defeat of the French at Barfleur, and in 1704 he assisted Sir George Rooke in the storming of Gibraltar.
He was a man who expected his orders to be carried out without question… even if they were not really practical.
In 1707, a fleet commanded by Admiral Cloudesley Shovel ran into a severe storm just off the Scilly Isles.
One of the sailors onboard the flagship, who knew the dangerous waters well, rushed to warn Sir Cloudesley that his ships were headed for the dreaded Gilstone Reef.
The Admiral did not take kindly to one of his sailors giving him advice, and immediately ordered the sailor to be hanged for his impertinence as a sign that he, Sir Cloudesley, would not be told how to sail his ship!
As the rope was placed round the sailor’s neck, he recited Psalm 109 and so laid a terrible curse on Sir Cloudesley.
The sailor was right …the flagship HMS Association, together with four other ships, foundered on the rocks in the raging sea.
2,000 men lost their lives that day, including the commander Sir Cloudesley …his body was washed ashore eventually at Porthellick Cove, on the island of St. Mary’s in the Scilly Isles.
It was said that he was still alive when an old woman, who was well known as a ‘wrecker‘ on the island, found him on the shore.
She saw that he had many rings on his fingers, and that one included a magnificent sapphire, so she hacked-off his fingers and buried him, still alive, on the beach.
After the woman confessed to her crime when on her deathbed, a rough stone monument was erected to mark the spot where he was buried.
It seems the ‘cursing power’ of Psalm 109 should not be taken lightly!
Published: 15th June 2015