The Lady Lovibond, sometimes Lady Luvibund, is perhaps the best-known of the many ghost ships reportedly seen in British waters. The common version of the legend tells that on 13 February 1748 the ship, captained by the newly married Simon Peel,[a] was carrying his new wife Annetta and their wedding guests from London to Oporto. Unknown to Peel, his first mate Rivers was also in love with Annetta, and in a fit of “insane jealously” seized the helm after murdering the helmsman and deliberately steered the ship towards the Goodwin Sands, where it ran aground, drowning everyone on board. A sceptical reader may perhaps wonder how the details of the Lady Lovibond‘s final moments can be known when there were no survivors, but the legend goes on to say that at a subsequent inquiry Rivers’s mother testified that her son had vowed to have his revenge on the captain even at the cost of his own life.
And there the story might have ended, had it not been for witnesses who claim to have seen the ghostly ship reappear every fifty years, some of them even passing close enough to hear the sounds of celebration. On 13 February 1798 the skipper of the Edenbridge recorded in his log that he had almost collided with a three-masted schooner that was heading straight for the Goodwin Sands; subsequent sightings have been reported at fifty-year intervals except for 1984, when the ship failed to materialise.
There is no historical evidence for the Lady Lovibond being wrecked on the Goodwin Sands, and surveys of notable wrecks for the period in question fail to mention it, as do the local newspapers.
Most accounts of the Lady Lovibond‘s fate closely follow that written by George Goldsmith Carter in his 1953 book The Goodwin Sands, but the earliest known version was published anonymously in the Daily Chronicle on 14 February 1924. That earlier version places the ship’s loss at 1724, twenty-four years earlier than Carter’s account, and the unnamed reporter gives the impression that he had been sent to witness the “legendary apparition due every fifty years at midnight on Feb. 13”, but which had failed to materialise.
Although an oral version of the story may have circulated during the 19th century, it seems unlikely that no Victorian collector of such folk tales would have thought it worthy of inclusion in their publications. That, together with the “consciously modern” style of the Daily Chronicle‘s version of the story, leaves open the distinct possibility that the legend of the Lady Lovibond is a 20th-century invention based on the standard motifs of the ghost-ship genre, according to the researchers Michael Goss and George Behe.
- Also known as Simon Reed or Simon Reid in some tellings.