Thorn Island shown within Pembrokeshire
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Mid and West Wales|
Thorn Island is in the Community of Angle off the south west coast of Wales. The island is dominated by a fort that was built to defend Milford Haven from the French Navy. The Angle lifeboat received silver medals in 1878 rescuing the crew of the Loch Shiel on rocks near the island which carried cases of whisky.
The 2-acre (8,100 m2) island had the fort constructed in 1854. The fort was created as it guarded a place of naval importance. A Royal Commission recommended to Lord Palmerston that 70 forts should be strengthened or constructed to counter the potential threat of the French Navy. Eventually twelve forts were constructed around the entrance to Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven including Fort Hubberstone, Popton Fort and Stack Rock Fort. Even without the fort, the island and the rocks around it were a hazard to any shipping.
Divers recognise over twelve wrecks that are worth diving in the area of the island but of interest is the sailing ship that sank in 1878. In that year, 27 (some say 33) people who were rescued from the 1878 built sailing ship Loch Shiel which had run into rocks off the island. Two Angle lifeboat crew members and the honorary secretary received silver RNLI medals. It was said that the lifeboat was unable to reach them but these brave people managed to do it.
The rescue is particularly noteworthy as it is described as Wales' "Whisky Galore". The Loch Shiel was carrying goods from Scotland to Adelaide and included gunpowder, beer and 60 (some say 7,000) cases of Glasgow whisky. Much of this was never recovered. Some of the bottles are still amongst the wreck which are described as "undrinkable", but many and much of the cargo was only partially recovered by the customs men. It was said that one local drank himself to death on the 100% proof whiskey (Correction needed please. Whiskey can not be %proof. It is either % by volume or degrees proof.).
The fort was converted into a hotel in 1947 and was sold in 1999 for £275,000. In 2001 it was owned by the Von Essen hotel group who intended spending four million pounds to reopen the hotel with a five star rating and a cable car to allow access from the mainland. In 2001 a competition was successfully held to find a family who would serve as caretakers for a year. In 2011 the island is up for sale again with a price tag now of £750,000. The island was finally sold in November 2011 for 'significantly less' than the guide price 
Divers still investigate the wrecks off the island and they have auctioned full beer bottles that came from the Loch Shiel. The beer is reported to be untainted by salt water, flat, but drinkable. Each bottle has sold for £1,000 at auction.
- Angle History, RNLI.org, accessed 31 August 2008
- Diver sinks £1,000 pint, BBC, accessed 30 August 2008
- Lord Palmerston's Follies, The Needles Battery, 31 August 2008
- Ship wrecks of Pembrokeshire, dive-pembrokeshire.com, accessed 31 August 2008
- letters, wrecksite.eu, accessed 31 August 2008
- Loch Liel, Pembrokeshire wrecks
- Mystery buyer for island, 27 July 1999, BBC, accessed 31 August 2008
- Castaway caretakers set for island life, 9 July 2001, BBC, accessed 31 August 2008
- 2011 sales particulars accessed 25 July 2011
- Treasures of the deep bring £10,000, 29 April 2000, BBC, accessed 31 August 2008
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