Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
The Admiral was returning with his fleet from Toulon, when, on the evening of the 22nd October, 1707, his ship struck on the Gilstone, about three miles and a half from St. Agnes; and in a few minutes afterwards she went down, and everybody on board perished, except one man, who saved himself by floating on a piece of timber to a rock called Hellweathers,—about two miles and a half from the Gilstone,—where he remained some days before the weather permitted any boat to approach and take him off to St. Agnes.
He is said to have stated that the day before the Admiral's ship was wrecked, one of the crew, who was a native of Scilly, and well acquainted with the channel, represented to Sir Cloudesley that the course the ship was taking would bring her on Scilly rocks. The Admiral and his officers were incensed at the man's interference; and because he persisted in affirming that the ship's way was wrong and would bring them to destruction, Sir Cloudesley Shovel—rather summarily, one might now think—condemned the man to be hanged for insubordination and endeavouring to excite a mutiny.
When the poor fellow was tied to the mast, preparatory to his being suspended by his neck, from the yard-arm, he begged, as a last favour, that a Psalm might be read before his execution. His request being granted, he selected the 109th,, and repeated certain imprecatory portions of it after the reader; and the last words he uttered were to the effect that Sir Cloudesley Shovel and those who saw him hanged should never reach the land alive.
His body, shrouded in a hammock, with a shot to sink it, was cast into the deep, and but little heed paid to the dying sailor's sentence. Shortly after, however, the sky, had been gloomy all day, much darker; black, lowering, hung over the fleet like a funeral pall, and the gale rose to a violent tempest. Then the hanged man's curse was dreaded; and lo, to the crew's consternation, they beheld his corpse—divested of its rude winding-sheet—floating near the doomed ship, which it closely followed, with its face turned towards her,—in all her varying course, through eddying currents,—until she struck on the Gilstone; when the hanged man went down with the ship and his messmates.
At this unfortunate time there perished, besides the Admiral, several officers, and about two thousand men, belonging to then "Association" and other vessels of the fleet.
Sir Cloudesley Shovel's body was washed ashore at Porth-Hellick Bay, in St. Mary's, about eight miles from the Oilstone. It was quite naked, and on the hatch of a ship, on which he had endeavoured to save himself,—and a little dog lay by him,—when he was found by a soldier and his wife, who only knew him to be
the Admiral by a diamond ring on his finger. They buried him in the sand, where a pit on Porth-Hellick Bank still marks Sir Cloudesley Shovel's grave. The pit never fills up in the greatest storms; and no grass ever grows on this blasted grave, although the ground around it is often green.
"So the hanged seaman had as sweet a bit of revenge as one could wish for," said our narrator, with a motion of his head which showed his satisfaction at the Fates' award.
Connected with this unfortunate occurrence, there is a gratifying bit of true history—we cannot say so much for all the above—which says that Lady Shovel, on having her husband's ring,—by which his body was identified,—sent her by the soldier, she gave him a pension for life; and the Admiral was deposited in Westminster Abbey, where his monument recalls the direful tale.