Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Henry Irwin Jenkinson, the original Lakeland Guide Writer. 1838 - 1891

Henry Irwin Jenkinson was born at Brotherton, near Pontefract, Yorkshire on 22nd December 1838. He was christened there on 1st May 1839 and was the son of Robert and Mary (nee Shillito) Jenkinson; Robert was a grocer at the time of Henry’s birth. When he was born, he had five older siblings, Robert (11 years older), Mary (9yrs), Benjamin (7yrs), Elizabeth (5yrs), James (2yrs).  Little is known of his early upbringing, but he became a member of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics Institute and the York Institute of Popular Science and Literature. In the former in 1857 he was awarded certificates in algebra, geometry, mensuration and trigonometry. In the latter institute in 1858 he was awarded a first-class certificate for excellence in arithmetic, a second-class certificate for geometry and a third-class certificate in trigonometry.

In the 1861 census Henry is shown as 22 years of age with employment as a railway clerk, still in the Brotherton area. He moved to Keswick to work as the station master of the newly opened railway station, but it is unclear if this was in 1861, or when the station opened for passenger traffic in 1865. It was here that he developed his love of the surrounding fells and began to walk them with ardour. In 1867 he was initiated as a Freemason at the Greta Lodge in Keswick; this may be an indicator of his arrival in 1865. By 1869 he is described in local papers as the ‘late station master’, and now he was giving tuition at the Keswick Mechanics Institute for the April examinations of the Keswick Society of Arts.

In 1871 Henry was shown in an advert in the local papers to be the Secretary of the Threlkeld Sheep Show dated 30th August and was one of the earliest indicators of his deep involvement in all thing’s lake district related. At that time, he was living as a lodger on High Street, at the premise of a Mr. Thomas Woof, a boot and shoemaker. Henry was by now a coal and lime agent.

Also in 1871 he was known to show Flintoff’s celebrated model of the English Lake District and in the summer of that year the well-known publisher of maps and books, Mr. Edward Stanford of Charing Cross, visited Keswick and viewed the model. In discussion with Mr. Stanford Henry expressed a desire to publish a guidebook and was encouraged to do so by his visitor. Once the tourist summer season had waned Henry than set about this new project with zeal. He had re-lived the walks, through the winter months, starting on 15th October and ending in mid-May of 1872. He had become benighted on the fells on several occasions, and at times had to struggle through deep snow drifts, conditions uncommon to the usual tourist traveller. He was meticulous in his detail and walked Great Gable on no less than four occasions in order to correctly describe the ascent to his would-be readers. This was the beginning of his fame as ‘Jenkinson’s Practical Guide to the English Lake District’ was published on 15th August 1872 and contained 9 maps of the area. Despite what initially appeared to be a high cost of six shillings, it received excellent reviews and went on to be re-printed on nine occasions over the years, the later ones by Canon Rawnsley, the famous vicar of Crosthwaite.

H. I. Jenkinson's 1st Edition Guide Book

Pall Mall Gazette 15th August 1872
 Other guidebooks covered the lakes, but none covered the depth of material that the Jenkinson’s Practical Guide did. If the book had a fault it was his own opinions on the Geology of the area, but in that they added to the readers debate on the book’s merits. That they had been written by a man who lived and breathed the English Lakes was perhaps their greatest selling point, for here was the most authoritative guide for any traveller. One account, reported to be well attested, was of him setting off at midnight on 17th June 1871 to walk over Great Gable, Scafell Pike, Bow Fell, Helvellyn, Blencathra, and finally Skiddaw. The distance was said to be 70 miles, coupled with the huge cumulative ascent. On his way up Scafell Pike he had encountered drizzling rain and mist. Then at Hanging Knott he felt it necessary to descend due to the lack of view, but then met two shepherds who were able to direct him, having once again ascended with them. In time he would go on to write similar books on The Isle of Man, The Isle of Wight, North Wales, and the Roman Wall; also other books not ‘Guide’ related.

Now Henry was a celebrated man of the Keswick area and his life would go on to form newsworthy events, causes being given greater authority by his involvement in them. On Wednesday 31st December 1873 an ‘Old Folks’,( or ‘over 60’s’) day was organised for those eligible residents of Keswick and surrounding areas. The organiser of the event was Henry himself, acknowledged as such by the vice chairman, Mr. Mumberson, who was the Keswick auctioneer. The oldest male present was 87-year-old John Twentyman and the eldest female was the 84-year-old quilter (3,570 in total), Mrs. Thompson. Those that could not be present due to infirmity had their celebratory dinner taken to them, making a grand total of 219 elderly residents given a hearty free meal and day of merriment. After songs, poetry recitals, and games, the day concluded with Auld Lang Syne, followed by the National Anthem, with carriages then ready to take the more infirm to the homes. These ‘days’ would go on to become an annual event, thanks largely to the driving force of Henry. He had also tried to organise a ‘Young Folks’ day along similar lines, but the interest was not found, and it became too impractical.

By 1876 the books were essential carrying companions for any serious tourist, especially in the Lake District. A London Silversmith called Edward Barnard had travelled to Keswick with his wife and daughter. He set off on 14th August on his own to walk from the Scafell Hotel in Borrowdale, first to Wasdale Head, then over Black Sail Pass, Gatesgarth Pass, and when there, to catch a coach back to Borrowdale; but he never arrived there. Mr. Jenkinson was called to organise the search for him, himself assisting in the hunt. On Sunday 10th September two farmhands from Wasdale eventually found Mr. Barnard’s body resting against a stone in Ennerdale, below Green Cove. Mr. Jenkinson was called and when they searched the deceased, they found his guidebook in a pocket. In the second week of October of that year, his wife's brother, David Reid of Newcastle, presented Mr. Jenkinson with a gold hunting, keyless, chronometer watch and chain and compass, valued at 70 guineas, with the inscription: 'To Henry Irwin Jenkinson, from the widow, brothers, and sisters of the late Edward Barnard, in recognition of the services they can never repay. September, 1876.' I wonder where this lost piece of Keswick history is now?


Henry immersed himself in all things Keswick and Lake District related. On 22nd October 1879 Henry organised a concert at 7:30pm at The George Assembly Room, Penrith. Part of the concert was a 'Rock Band', namely Messrs. Till & Sons, performing on their famed 80 piece musical stones, gathered from Skiddaw and the surrounding mountains. Part of their Performance was Handel's Harmonious Blacksmith. The performers had been engaged for eight years in the creation of the instrument, which was regarded as the greatest musical wonder of its age. Reserved tickets were 3s, 1st class, 2s, 2nd class 1s, 3rd class 6d, although the last were limited. On 26th August 1878, the Derwentwater Regatta was held, organised by Henry, who was the Honorary Secretary. These name but two ways he saw hos duty to his adopted town and community.

1880 saw Mr. Jenkinson now openly proposing and speaking of the purchase of Fitz Park as a public amenity. The ground was offered for sale as building plots and he then broached the subject of its use by the public as a park. Its loss would deprive Keswick of a location for the agricultural show and a place to practice volunteer drill, cricket, football and other games. His appeal struck a chord with townspeople, which led to the eventual purchase; it was said that a further day’s hesitation would have been fatal to the project. The price of the land was £7,000 and although the land was purchased it took monies raised from benefactors, with other sums from the public, to finally clear the debt and provide the nucleus of an endowment. Had Henry Irwin Jenkinson been given his full reign he would have gone on to fulfil his wider project for the park, namely a free library, gymnasium and public baths, but others had feared the spiralling debt. The final £500 debt was cleared on the day of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, celebrated across 20th and 21st June 1887, across the nation. Part of those celebrations were the organising of bonfires across the country. In the Lake district Mr. Jenkinson was the Keswick representative on the bonfire committee meeting held in Ambleside.

When Rawnsley and Jenkinson came to work closely together is unclear, but they joined in a right of access crusade on behalf of the general public. In that period of the Jubilee there was a growing concern of access to ‘public’ footpaths, none more-so than around the Keswick area. Rawnsley was the local Preservation of Footpaths Association president, with Mr. Jenkinson as the secretary and they were seeking funds to defend the public use of such paths in law. The access to Latrigg became an issue of national importance, as the landowner, Mr. Spedding, stated that the public had no right of access. The association disagreed, claiming the right of ancient users. On 30th August 1887 a protest march was organised by the group. This was high-lighted in a letter written and published in the local press where the vice-president, W. Routh Fitzpatrick, and the Honorary Secretary Henry Irwin Jenkinson, both thanked the members of the society, public and visitors, for their support in asserting their public right of way onto Fawe Park and Latrigg. On the afternoon of Saturday 1st October, a crowd of 2,000 people joined the association in the removal of barriers for a further ascent of Latrigg via Calvert’s Road and Greta Bank, without the landowner’s permission. They took the zig-zag path to the summit, where their loud cheers could be heard the town itself. This finished with the National Anthem being sung and people then made their way off the fell, fully satisfied with their day’s efforts.

Other issues had arisen, such as access to Aira Force, in the Ullswater area, but these were largely resolved through discussion between Mr. Jenkinson and the Association, and the owner of the land, Mr. Howard. What was now becoming ‘The Latrigg Case’, still needed resolving and funds were still gathered through adverts in local and more national papers, with Mr. Jenkinson as the Hon. Secretary. The case was before Lord Justice Grantham at Carlisle Assizes in the first week of July 1888. The matter revolved around there being two routes; one described as a ‘private occupation road’, and the other of a more public character. After hearing from all the witnesses, most of an elderly nature who described to the court their earlier experiences of access to the fell, the lawyers finally got together prior to the retiring of the jury. Finally, a compromise was agreed; Mr. Spedding was to retain the only access via the private road, with the public having access by use of the other. This meant that the principle of access to Latrigg summit had been achieved, so all were satisfied. Not only had this Yorkshireman become the accepted expert guide and author of Lakeland, but now he was the champion of its residents and visitors.

The work of the footpaths association continued into 1889 with meetings to discuss access to Derwentwater; Mr. Jenkinson was still listed as the Honorary Secretary. The paths to Friar’s Crag and to the summit of Castlehead had always been considered public, now this access was more formalised.

The Herculean body of work Jenkinson subjected himself to, for the betterment of the residents and visitors to Keswick, took its toll on his well-being. He had been known as a strong and hearty man, but his friends noticed a serious change in him. Due to the workload he subjected himself to he worked well into the night on these projects and to the clearing of debts.

In 1891 he was known to be living as a lodger at 4 Southey Street, and recorded as a Common Writer of Guidebooks. On Tuesday 26th May 1891 he was travelling to Ingleton when he was struck down seriously ill. At the age of 52 years he had suffered a debilitating stroke and suffered paralysis and lost the power of speech. He was a single man, but on 2nd June his nearest family had him taken to the Essex Asylum at Brentwood, London, where he could receive the best care to hopefully aid his recovery. That outcome never occurred and following a period of three months debility, he died there at 1pm on Friday 28th August. He was interred in West Ham Cemetery on Tuesday 1st September with his brother (Benjamin Shillito Jenkinson), and his wife, also his nephew and his wife, present. Due to the distance it could be understood that a man who was held in such reverence by the people of Keswick, should have so few at his funeral. Canon Rawnsley was so moved by his sad departure that he wrote one of his many sonnets for such occasions:



28th August 1891.

On moor and fell, in silent mountain places,

We meet him still to ask him of the way,

By pathless crag, where streams perplexing stray,

Each Shepherd’s track familiarity he traces;

Or, where the Greta by the grey town races

And brims its pools, now solemn and now gay,

He mingles with the old men at their play

Or gazes on the children’s happy faces.

But whether through green park or purple mountain,

Free on the sunny height, by shore or wood,

That never resting spirit haunts us still!

His heart of hope springs upward like a fountain,

Who blessed the far-off future, and whose will

Was ever set to serve the public good.

Now the funeral had occurred it fell on the good people of Keswick to recognise their friend who had given the best part of his life to the people and causes of Keswick, but what was the best way to do this? On Monday 14th September a public meeting was called and Mr. Mumberson put forward a suggestion that a public shelter or pavilion be built in his memory. A further meeting was held on Wednesday 23rd where Mr. Hewitson suggested an obelisk in Higher Fitz Park be at least erected. Canon Rawnsley seconded a motion to a monument with an inlaid medallion likeness and inscription. Finally, a set of gates were decided upon and on Thursday 6th July 1893, the same day as the Royal Marriage of the Duke of York, the Jenkinson Memorial Gates were formerly opened at Keswick. They were designed by Thomas Hodgson, (who was also the Fitz Park Treasurer) who also designed the medallion portrait that is displayed above them. The gates themselves cost £130, with Mr. Hodgson charging only for his material costs and workmen’s wages. The anti-friction rollers were supplied by Mr. Henry Powley. Canon Rawnsley gave a fine eulogy to his parted friend, saying he needed no memorial, as this was there for all to see by merely looking around them. He was a man later worn down in life by his public service, concerned also in the clearing of personal debt, and debts from the projects he had instigated on behalf of the town. Some believed that those ought to have been cleared prior to the erection of memorials, and people on the day agreed to work to that aim in the near future.  He died a poor man, but his memorials were the gates, the Old Folks Dinner and the books he had written, especially his lakes guide. 

The Memorial Gates
To this day the park stands as his greatest contribution. Other walking guidebooks have come along and inspired new generations. The early Jenkinson 1st edition books command a high price when they come up for auction. Still, the tribute to him is to sit and rest in the park, especially when the traffic is light, and one can sense the beauty he felt in his adopted town of Keswick 160 years previous. The houses are far more built up, the traffic cannot fully be escaped, but the eye can be cast upward, or the memory invoked, that peers onto the mountains and lakes that inspired Mr. Jenkinson on his first arrival. He was a single man, so there were no family to remember him. The town of Keswick however was his family, he provided for their wellbeing and they loved and remembered him.


Monday, 7 October 2019

Maryport Lifeboat - The Civil Service No5. 1886 - 1905

On Saturday 27th November 1886 a cargo of some importance to Maryport arrived at the railway station. It was the new lifeboat called The Civil Service No.5; it remained there until her inauguration ceremony on Thursday 2nd. The boat was so named as it had been supplied from the subscriptions made to the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund, originally commenced by Mr. Charles Dibdin, F.R.G.S., who was the Secretary of the Institution and this was the fifth boat paid for from the fund. It had 8,000 subscribers, all paying half a crown each and had raised £10,000 total. The lifeboat was 31 feet in length and rowed 10 oars, double banked. It was fitted with all modern improvements, including water ballast tanks, fitted amidships to increase stability and assist in weight reduction when transported.
On the day of inauguration the old Henry Nixon boat was reverentially placed upon her carriage for the final time and was to be taken to London to be broken up.
At 1pm the various societies gathered in Fleming Square and began to lead out at half past the hour. The chief interest was in the new lifeboat itself, with its crew of 10 oarsman, the coxswain, sub coxswain and bowman, all seated in the boat with their cork jackets on. The procession of 2,000 people wound its way to the boathouse at the dock. Inspector Grisdale and Sergeant Simon commanded a group of police officers to manage the 5,000 crowd who lined the dock itself. Once there the boat was formally handed to Lieutenant Tipping of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution(RNLI), who gratefully accepted it as part of their fleet of boats. The Institution had now been in existence since 1824 and was credited with saving over 32,000 lives. It now had over 300 lifeboats around the coast of the United Kingdom, of which he was responsible for 60, stretching from Holyhead to the north of Cumberland (which now had 5), taking in the Irish coast and the Isle of Man. The boats were preferably manned by local fishermen due to their personal knowledge of the coastal waters and their strength of arm, in the rowing of boats. The Lieutenant said that the coxswain and sub-coxswain were paid a small fee towards maintaining the boat, but the men were only paid for work done. He recognised that they went to sea to primarily save life, but the crew received £1 for going to sea through the night and 10 shillings if through the day.  If a man lost his life or was maimed while engaged in a rescue, then the institution stepped in to maintain his family. Only the previous year a 35-year-old Whitehaven lifeboat man called James William Henny was killed and the institution had subscribed £200 for the maintenance of his family; this information was received with loud cheers from the crowd. At the conclusion he formally handed the boat to the local Secretary, Mr. Senhouse, who after a short speech, then asked the Reverend E. Sampson, of Maryport, to perform the services. The christening was performed by Mrs. Senhouse, who formally named the boat and broke the customary bottle of champagne against her hull. The proceedings closed with an evening concert at the Athenaeum, where the crew were seated in the gallery in full lifeboat uniform and headgear.

A slipway was built for the Maryport lifeboat and in February 1887 the RNLI in London accepted a payment for this from the Civil Service fund of £242 6s.

On Tuesday 21st June 1887 a lifeboat race took place at Whitehaven which sportingly pitted the Civil Service No. 5 of Maryport, against the Dodo of Workington, and the Elizabeth Leicester of Whitehaven. The race was over a distance of 6 miles by either option of sailing or rowing. The race was won by the Maryport vessel followed by Workington, then Whitehaven, with prizes of £8, £5, and £2, respectively. When the result was received at Maryport the news was received with 'great satisfaction'.

On Wednesday 19th October 1887, trials were undertaken where the lifeboat was capsized several times in Senhouse Dock by use of a steam crane. The boat was then taken outside into the sea where she performed admirably under sail. Lieutenant Tipping and her crew were highly satisfied with her performance.

The lifeboat was called out to a Norwegian barque, the William Leavitt, on the morning of Saturday 25th November 1888. It had sent two distress signals, having parted with its anchor in a storm off Workington and had beached 7 miles higher in the Solway, 300 yards out from the high water mark at Dub Mill Ledge. The Maryport steam tug Senhouse had managed to get to her first and had saved the whole crew of 16 souls. Part of the cargo of timber was salvaged, but the ship itself became a total loss. Letters of appreciation were received by the Maryport Steam Shipping Company who owned the tug, and the Maryport Lifeboat. They were sent by the Swedish and Norwegian Vice Consulate, on the request of Captain Gude of the William Leavitt. The letter to the lifeboat station acknowledged that although saved by the tug, had it not reached them first, then the captain knew that the lifeboat would have continued in its perilous journey and would itself have rescued the crew.

Earlier to the rescue of the William Leavitt crew, on Thursday 22nd November, the Estrella de Chile, a 556 tons registered iron sailing ship, built in Glasgow in 1867, had left Whitehaven harbour. She was initially towed for 3 miles by a tug, with a cargo of railway material bound for Rasario, but could not get beyond St. Bees Head, due to the storm conditions. She was pushed back into the Solway and grounded on Robin Rigg sandbank on Saturday night, after striking the botttom three times. Lights were seen from Maryport, but no distress rockets; these lights eventually disappeared from view. The next morning nothing could initially be seen out at sea, but as the visibility gradually improved, at about 2pm, Captain Nelson, the harbour master, saw through powerful binoculars what he took to be debris in the direction of Robin Rigg, 11 miles out to sea. He immediately fired the signal rocket for the lifeboat crew to assemble, which brought thousands down to the dock. At 3pm the lifeboat was launched and towed out by the steam tug Senhouse, with the crowds patiently standing in the rain to await the outcome of a hoped for rescue.

The Estrelle de Chile on Robin Rigg, with the steam tug Senhouse and the Civil Service No.5 lifeboat rescuing the crew.
The lifeboat crew were: John Benn(coxswain), John Lannigan, Joseph Kirkbride, William Kirkbride, jun., John Lowery, William Ball Robinson, Samuel M'Graa, James Peat, Michael Hawkins, John Byers, John Scott, John Johnston, and John Robinson.
Captain Nelson and Captain Penrice, the Honorary Secretary of the lifeboat institution at Maryport, accompanied the tug. The weather was strong winds and the tug made slow progress, it being nearly dark when it was lost to the view of those waiting on shore. It was 6:10pm before the re-entered the harbour, towing a fully laden lifeboat. The tug lit a 'flare-up' light to show they had been successful and the whole harbour let out a tremendous cheer. 
On arrival at Robin Rigg the tug and lifeboat had found the hull of the vessel under water with the crew having taken to the rigging. The men had nearly succumbed to the cold, but the sight of rescue vessels had reinvigorated them. The lifeboat separated from the tug, but found great difficulty in getting to the stricken men. Eventually they loaded up with some of crewmembers and tried to get them to the tug. Due to the weather they could not transfer them, so had to return to the sunken ship and take every crew member on board. One French sailor out of fear was refusing to leave and had to be physically pulled off the rigging, by ropes and thrown off the ship by the carpenter. All were saved, with the exception of Donald Napier the mate. A couple of hours prior to the arrival of the lifeboat, with the captain and one other crew member, had fallen from the rigging. The captain and other man managed to re-scale the rigging, but the mate was washed away. He had managed to grab the back stay for several seconds as his loss was excruciatingly played out in the face of the crew. He was 25 years old, from Lieth, and was a married man. Once at Maryport the benumbed men were taken to the Coffee House where a roaring fire was glowing; the captain taken to The Golden Lion Hotel.
On Monday the shipwrecked crew were presented with new suits and left for their respective homes, after being given a sum of money from a representative of the Shipwrecked Mariners Society, even though none were members. They were extremely grateful for this and the kindness shown to them by the people of Maryport.

On the morning of Saturday 31st January 1891, a terrible storm struck the coast of West Cumberland, the likes of which had not been seen for many years. The ebb tide turned an hour earlier than listed, due to the ferocity of the sea. Between 8 and 9 o'clock a small vessel was seen in distress off Maryport harbour and a rocket signal was immediately fired to alert the lifeboat crew. The vessel was the Wave trawler of Whitehaven and it was driven onto the north shore. Naval Reserve men entered the water up to their necks and threw a line to the vessel, but this uninviting method of escape did not appeal to the trawler crew. Sgt. Major Smith went so far into the water that the waves came over his head and two others had to assist him back. Samuel Hardingham, a coastguard man, managed to get to the wreck and it was at that point that the lifeboat rounded the north pier, so the captain opted for that method of rescue of his crew. However, despite their best efforts the lifeboat drifted to leeward; the anchor had been dropped on the windward side, but had little effect. The lifeboat was striking the bottom and in danger of being smashed. It fired red rockets and the crowds then ran to its aid, leaving the trawler. That crew then took to its own punts, but they overturned and the crew returned to their stricken ship. Captain Nelson and 5 other men then came from the shore in a skiff and managed to get the trawler crew off their vessel and safely to the shore. The lifeboat was still at serious risk, but after slipping the anchor and breaking an oar, they managed to get into deeper and safer water and set the sail for Silloth. The coxswain was to later comment later that the tribulations around the trawler were nothing in comparison to the Silloth journey. The trawler crew were removed to the custom house, where every attention was given to them. The master commented on him having fished for 40 years and had never before experienced conditions that bad. Their fares home were paid for by the Shipwrecked Mariner's Society. 
Later that day another trawler which had lost its sails, struck the woodwork of the pier. The Angus Glover of Preston, put into Maryport that afternoon in a distressed condition. She had lost her master at sea, he had been washed overboard. A sloop, the Go-Ahead, of Whitehaven, had foundered off Workington that Saturday morning; all three crew were lost to the raging waves.

Friday 30th October 1891 saw the lifeboat returned to Maryport following certain modifications, particularly the raising of the deck. Practice drills were regularly conducted with the boat, and example being the afternoon of Tuesday 9th May 1893. The launch was satisfactory, with John Benn still as the coxswain. It lasted from 3:35pm to 6:45pm, and was put under sail to the lightship and back.

On Tuesday 6th February 1894, a barque supposed to be the Vale of Doon, bound for Silloth was believed to be in distress passing Maryport. The vessel was showing a flag for a pilot, the weather was thick and stormy. A telegram was sent to Silloth to see if it had arrived, which was negative, so a watch was kept all night from Maryport. On the Wednesday morning a barque was seen a mile off Maryport, at the lightship, flying a flag of distress in a strong gale. The lifeboat was launched at 11am, towed out by the steam tug Dunrobin. Once contact was established with the captain it was found to be the Trinidad and was at anchor, needing no assistance. It had set off from Workington with rails, towed past St. Bees Head by a tug, but due to stress of weather had been compelled to put back.

On Saturday 6th October 1900, a ship was in distress off Maryport and the lifeboat was called. The ship was drifting towards Robin Rigg sandbank. It was a stormy night with a high flood tide. While the lifeboat crew were made ready and the necessary arrangements made to launch, the crowd that had gathered were becoming impatient at the extended delay. An Inspector Holmes of the Cumberland Sea Fisheries shouted, "Will nobody go?" At that two men volunteered to set out with Mr. Holmes and the three went out in a small vessel to effect a rescue. It was around an hour from the firing of the flares to the launch of the lifeboat, towed by the steam tug Netherhall. On the arrival of the three men at they lightship, they found the stricken vessel was on Robin Rigg and had split in two with the captain and seven crew having been in the rigging of one section. They were now in a boat put off the Silloth steamer Kittiwake. It was at this point that the Netherhall and the Maryport lifeboat arrived and the saved men were transferred to the Netherhall and later landed at Maryport. The men had been in a critical condition and the vessel was the Topdal, bound for Whitehaven with a cargo of Pitch Pine. It had been in distress off the Isle of Man on the previous Thursday, saved by the Ramsey lifeboat. On the Saturday the captain had decided to run for Whitehaven in the absence of the arrival of a pilot. It had been 8 miles off St. Bees when the wind increased and blew it off course.

The steam tug, Netherhall.
The delay of the lifeboat caused an inquiry to be launched by the committee of management of the RNLI, on 8th November. Following their investigation they arrived at three findings against the coxswain which were published. They criticised his apparent apathy in not readying the crew at 6pm and launching the boat; he ought also have not returned home at 7pm, once the boat was got ready; and once the signal was fired he took too long in launching the boat. They were of a mind to dismiss him, but for his past excellent service and issued a severe reprimand instead, warning him that any further incident would bring about dismissal.

On Wednesday 3rd December 1902 the boat redeemed itself with an early launch in readiness for any reports of distress by fishermen caught out in a sudden storm. Boats could not return to the harbour and the lifeboat was credited with saving five lives that stormy day. Some criticism was levelled by a captain for not keeping alongside his frail vessel, but the local press emphasised the importance of the lifeboat in saving life, not property.

The Hougomont was a 2,261 tons register 4 masted barque on a voyage from San Francisco to Liverpool. It was carrying a 4,000 ton cargo consisting of 1,000 tons of wheat, 1,000 tons of barley, numerous bales of sea weed, 32,000 cases of tinned apricots and pears, and 24,000 cases of salmon. It commenced its journey on 9th October 1902 and due to difficulties in landing it eventually had to anchor off Maryport on the morning of Wednesday 4th March 1903. The Brilliant Star, a powerful tug was subsequently sent by the owners to escort her to Liverpool. It arrived at Maryport on the Thursday morning and set off with the ship in the afternoon. When day broke on Friday 6th the Hougomont could be seen on its own off Allonby, and in distress. The tug had needed to release the vessel in the Solway and seek its own shelter from the terrible storm. A telegram was sent for the Maryport lifeboat to attend and save the reported 32 crew. The Hougomont was by now broadside on the beach with the crew having to take to the mizzen rigging, the foremast having been lost in the forenoon. It was 2pm before the lifeboat reached the vessel and managed to save all the crew, the captain, his wife and two officers had decided to remain with their ship.  The cargo was strewn across the shores and retrieved by the locals of the area. The Hougomont was the largest vessel ever grounded on the Cumbrian coast.
 An inquiry behind closed doors was conducted on 12th March at Maryport Town Hall into why the lifeboat had taken so long to reach the vessel. From the circumstances gleaned in the town, at the time of the report it transpired that seven of the lifeboat crew had refused to sail out in the lifeboat, which had been offered to be sailed by Inspector Holmes of the Cumberland Sea Fisheries. Only when other men volunteered to man the boat was it able to attend the scene of the Hougomont and save the crew. The decision of the Board of inquiry was:
  •  That, while not calling into question the personal courage of the coxswain of the lifeboat, the committee considers that he should have shown more energy in the necessary steps of getting the lifeboat to sea, such as obtaining the services of the tug, filling up the numbers of the crew, encouraging the waverers, and calling for volunteers. He is admonished to assume greater personal responsibility in these matters for the future.
  •  That after fully considering all the evidence the committee consider the seven men mentioned had no adequate excuse for leaving the lifeboat, and are therefore dismissed from the crew.
  •  That for the future there is to be no regular enrolled crew at the station, the places for exercise or service being filled up from the first comers so long as they are known to the coxswain as competent men. The seven men mentioned above, are, however, never to be employed.
The vessel was eventually recovered at high water (12:30pm) on Sunday 15th March by the Liverpool Salvage Company. Three powerful tugs were used to finally pull her from the Cumbrian shore.

The Hougomont being recovered.
On the night of Wednesday 18th May 1904, the little Scottish schooner called Jane, of Garlieston, went ashore on the North Bank at Maryport, carrying a cargo of pit timbers. The vessel sent off signals of distress and the lifeboat was launched. It managed to rescue the three crew and landed them safely at Maryport; the schooner itself was a total wreck.

On the night of Tuesday 6th September 1904 the Allonby postman saw what he believed to be lights of distress out at sea; they appeared closer to the Scottish side than the English coast. He cycled to Maryport to alert the authorities who were initially troubled, as it was not a stormy night, although it had been raining. The lifeboat was however launched around midnight and went in the direction of Robin Rigg, although the crew found nothing. They continued to the Scottish side, but again found no vessel in distress. They eventually returned at 9am. It was later believed that the lights had been fireworks from the Scottish coast, but messages had earlier been passed warning of festivities taking place. Whatever, the cause, the original report had been given with good intent and the local papers praised the crew for the commitment.

By May 1905 the Civil Service No. 5 lifeboat had served the town of Maryport for 19 years. Now it was to be replaced by a new and updated bigger vessel which was of the 'Watson' type: it was 38 ft long and 9ft 4ins wide. It had 10 double banked oars and was fitted with two drop keels, to improve stability. The new vessel was also provided by the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund and was to continue the name of 'Civil Service No. 5'. So commenced a third chapter in the saving of life off the coastline of Maryport.

(All photographs and pictures used are by the kind permission of Maryport Maritime Museum)


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Maryport Lifeboat, the Henry Nixon 1865 to 1886.

The Henry Nixon (or Nixson) Lifeboat.
Whitehaven had a lifeboat, which was owned by the harbour authorities and had been placed there from 4th January 1804. It would be some time before the next boat would be placed on the North Cumbrian Coast. This the Angela Hannah, which was at Silloth and launched on 25th June 1860. Maryport was a busy port of both commerce and fishing and following an increasing number of sinking tragedies, and beaching of boats in storms, it was deemed essential to obtain a lifeboat for the town's harbour. The driving force behind this need had been Mr. Lindsay, the H.M. Collector of Customs Taxes for the port. Following his exertions, by early January 1865 the Royal National Life-boat Institution had agreed to make the port a life-boat station, on the understanding that a proper boathouse was built and a crew found, all of which had to be paid and maintained. A committee was immediately formed with Mr. Lindsay in the chair, the initial purpose being to raise £100 towards those ends. 
By February 1865, concerts were beginning to be conducted in the West Cumbrian area with that goal in mind. The public's consciousness on the subject was enhanced through the local newspapers, stretching from Carlisle to Whitehaven. The Carlisle Journal of 17th February carried the following poetical article on the subject.

A meeting of 25th May was for the purpose of the erection of a boathouse, the cost of which was expected to reach £600, and the construction of a gangway/slipway for its launch was also broached, although this appears not to have been built until the replacement of the Henry Nixon, by the Civil Service No. 5 lifeboat in 1886. The land on which the boathouse would be constructed was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Senhouse.
A Mr. Henry Nixson/Nixon,of Green Bank, Old Trafford, Manchester, came forward as a philanthropic benefactor and paid for the boat itself, with a total donation of £550.
The boat was built by Messrs. Forrestt and son, of Limehouse, London, who were established lifeboat builders, and had earlier built the Silloth boat. It was 32 feet long, 7 feet wide, with 10 oars, double banked. The carriage was built by Mr. Robinson of London, who had also built the Silloth carriage. They were shipped free of charge to the town by both the London and North Western, and the Maryport and Carlisle railway companies, both wishing to show their support for the men and vessel when saving life at sea.

Thursday 13th July was the day of the launch and a regatta was organised, with cheap trains being run to allow crowds to flock to the town for this momentous occasion. This event would go to define the desire for safety of those who went to the sea for a living, or who used boats a means of transport to other ports. At just after 12 noon the boat was loaded onto its own carriage at the railway station with the crew sat in the vessel in full lifeboat attire, and wearing cork jackets. It was drawn through the principal streets by four horses, headed by a large group of dignitaries, including the benefactor Mr. Nixon; and a band. A large procession of the public followed the lifeboat as it wound its way to the south side of the harbour, for the launch. Just prior to 1:30 pm Mr. Nixon made a short address, followed by prayers from Reverend J. Stevens. The 'christening' ceremony was conducted by Miss Deane, a relative of Mr. Nixon. She smashed the customary bottle of wine against the hull as the boat, which she christened The Henry Nixon, glided into the waters where it would in times to come, fulfill its life saving purpose. It was a self righting vessel, with patented valves that could self eject any water within 25 seconds, following its righting.
By the time of its launch their were now 150 such vessels stationed around the coastline of the nation. Later a dinner was provided at the home of Mr. J. P. Senhouse. The Chairman stated that Mr. Nixon had proved to be a friend to the town and toasted his health. Mr. Nixon graciously accepted the toast, adding he hoped the boat would show its qualities in the times ahead. Unfortunately, due to the boisterous weather, the regatta had to be scaled down as a number of boats were unable to weather the conditions.
Following a meeting of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on 3rd August 1865 and the awarding of rewards to crew members around the country following the brave conduct, it was then stated that 3 new vessels had been built by Messrs Forrestt and Son for the French Shipwreck Society, superintended by the Institution itself. It also played host to Count de Baslard and Captain Albert, of the French Imperial Navy, who were present on behalf of the French Society to witness the system of management of lifeboat stations and the rocket systems. Great Britain were the forerunners in the lifeboat movement and led the world in the number of boats, and the technology of their construction and use.
In the course of the next year the Institution had dispatched another 37 lifeboats to the coastal towns, although some would be replacements for older, smaller and less safe boats, as the number had now increased to 160.

The first test if the life boat came on Tuesday 24th April the following year when the Goole Schooner The Treaty, was seen 8 miles E.N.E. of the town at Dub Mill Scar, between Allonby and Mawbray, and was flying a flag of distress. It was laden with a cargo of granite.  There was a strong W.S.W. gale blowing at the time and the lifeboat set out under canvas to assist, taking an hour to arrive. It dropped its anchor near the vessel which was crewed by a master and his wife, and two other men. The master was ignorant of his whereabouts so the coxswain and four of the lifeboat crew boarded the vessel. One of the crew was in the rigging, and the sea was breaching the vessel. One of the cables then broke, so the coxswain quickly shipped the other and ran the schooner into Silloth harbour, thus saving both life and vessel. A steam-tug had by this time come out and then took the lifeboat back to Maryport harbour. It was said by the crew that their new boat had performed admirably in the adverse conditions, they being very pleased by its handling. This brave performance of the crew resulted in a £6 reward being paid to them following a meeting of the Institution on Thursday 3rd May.
At 7 pm on Sunday 7th February 1869 a terrible S.S.W. gale was blowing when a brig was seen in distress, north of Maryport harbour, with its anchors down and its masts cut away. Within 20 minutes a number of rocket lines and the whip block and tackle were fired over the ship but the crew were unable to attach the equipment to effect an escape. The ship was the Robert Bruce, of Belfast, and the lifeboat was launched and managed to get a grapnel to her, but the jerk of the waves straightened it. A 2nd attempt was made but the rope snapped, however, a 3rd attempt managed to secure the line and get the six crew off before it finally broke up.
The 17th December 1871 saw the coal laden brig The Wanderer set sail from Maryport harbour, heading for Derry. Due to the adverse weather she had to try and return to the port on the afternoon of 18th, but passed the harbour and was driven onto the shore. The lifeboat was once again launched and saved the 10 crew.
In May 1875 the boat was launched to aid the crew of a smack called Native, of Piel which had gone ashore on the North Bank. The vessel was extricated from its perilous position and the crew of three were safely taken into the harbour.
Thursday 10th October 1878 saw an iron barque, the Carn Tual, of Liverpool, trying to ride a gale with its anchors down, between Robin Rigg and Dumroof Banks. It showed signals of distress so the Henry Nixon lifeboat was launched. It spent 6 hours searching for the vessel but nothing was found and she returned to port. The next day she put to sea again, towed by a steamer, and found the vessel, saving all 9 crew. The Carn Tual was still afloat and was later towed to Whitehaven harbour.
The morning of Friday 17th October 1879 saw the lifeboat called out by telegram to assist a barque flying signals of distress that was half a mile out, and off the slag heap at Workington. It was at anchor, riding out a storm and was in difficulties. It was the Solafide of Grimstadt, Norway and was bound from New York to Maryport via Queenstown, with a cargo of Indian Corn for Messrs. Rigg and Co.. The vessel got into difficulties at 4am and had made every effort to keep from beaching, but by 7am the captain finally had his wife, the ships mate, and three crew sent off in the ship's rowing boat to get assistance. The lifeboat was dispatched to save the rest of the crew if the situation worsened, but finally the wind dropped and allowed the Workington tug The Confidence, to finally put to sea with the mate and crew members of the Solafide. They managed to re-board their vessel and after a number of attempts to fix a line, they finally were under tow and taken into Lonsdale Dock.
Perhaps the most dangerous rescue the lifeboat was ever involved in was that of the morning of Monday 12th February 1883. The Cumbrian coast was subjected to the worst storm in the memory of some of the oldest residents of the area. The Diana of Belfast appeared off the port and was flying signals of distress. It overshot the harbour and bounced along the beach before turning broadside to the waves with their full force then crashing over the ship. The Diana's crew had tried to take to their life craft but to no avail. The Henry Nixon lifeboat was launched to cheers of the thousands now watching the dangerous, yet amazing spectacle. It was crews by Robert Avery(Coxwain), John Benn (second Coxwain), Joseph Hoffin, Thomas McParthen, William Kirkbride jun., John McGuire, Thomas Fisher, S. M'Grae, William M'Gee, Joseph Donaldson, William Porter, John Hodgson and Patsy Reed. It was seen cutting through the waves, at times lost in the troughs, then riding the huge crests. It made it to the stricken Diana but as the Henry Dixon rounded her stern, Hoffin, M'Grae, Donaldson, and Porter, were tossed out into the raging sea. Ropes were thrown and the first three regained the safety of the lifeboat, minus their oars, but Porter missed his line and drifted too far from the boat. On land three man now played a hand. James Ogle, a Customs House Official, and Two Naval Reserve men called Matthew Purcell and John Byers now threw there coats to one side and entered the crashing waves to try and rescue the stricken Porter. The strongest swimmer was Byers and he shot ahead of the other two, reaching Porter as his strength began to fail him. They manged to get Porter to the shore, with tremendous cheers then coming from the huge crowd; Porter was saved. The lifeboat crew had tried to rescue him but themselves struck the bottom on a number of occasions, before managing to get back into deeper water. Now he was rescued they turned their attention back to the task in hand but found the water now too shallow between the  Diana and the shore to effect a rescue. The steam tug Florence now attended but had to lay by, due to the shallow waters. A party of naval men tried to launch a boat from  the shore but it overturned on them all. Around twenty men then rushed to their aid, managing to recover them all from under their vessel. Finally a rope was fired across the Diana and slowly the crew were rescued by this means. The Diana was 200 tons burthen, owned by Mr. Moore of Portaferry, and was believed to be a total wreck. On the previous Thursday the schooner The Just had to beach at Allonby and the Florence also had to take a trawling smack in tow, into the safety if the harbour.
On Wednesday 23rd January 1884 another storm lashed the coast and a Norwegian barque called The Alma was anchored two miles off Maryport harbour. This vessel was formerly a Russian man-of-war. The lifeboat crew were called following a distress signal at 5pm, and kept vigil from the piers until 10 o'clock when the Alma crew now wished to be rescued. The lifeboat was towed out by the steam-tug Florence. Despite the darkness the whole crew of 12 were safely brought to the harbour at midnight without mishap. The weather moderated on Thursday and the crew were able to be returned to The Alma, which had by now suffered great storm damage to its mast and rigging; it was also shipping water. The captain had said that it had been impossible to remain on the ship in the storm as the waves were crashing over her fore and aft. The crew of the Alma presented coxwain Robert Harvey with a fine model of a barque, a valuable album and a powerful telescope. He had boarded the vessel and navigated it to the harbour entrance.

In early December 1886 this essential vessel for Maryport had become obsolete as bigger and technologically more up to date vessels were constructed. It was replaced by 'The Civil Service Number 5', which was christened in a ceremony on Thursday 2nd December. This vessel would now conduct rescues around the harbour of Maryport. The Henry Nixon had been attributed with the saving of 54 souls from drowning in the Solway Firth, a roll of honour to be rightly proud of. It had done so in the most dangerous of conditions, with no loss of life to any of its crew, despite the dangers they had faced. Rather ignominiously the Henry Nixon was sent to London to be broken up; a sad end for a vessel that had performed a high duty to the town, residents, and wayfarers of the coastal waters. During her service a total of four coxswains had commanded her missions of mercy. They were: George Rule, John Webster, Robert Harvery, and finally John Benn.


Saturday, 21 September 2019

The First Sillloth Lifeboat, The Angela Hannah, 1860 to 1867

The Solway Firth like many other coastal areas, was a dangerous location for shipping, particularly as storms lashed the Cumbrian coastline. Men made their living from the shipping of goods to and from its ports and the fish the sea had to provide. Both had a cost, paid for dearly with human life. The ships that made for the Cumbrian ports of Whitehaven, Workington, Maryport, Silloth and Port Carlisle were vulnerable to these elements of wind and tide, with the coastal rocks and shallow sand banks in the Firth itself, hidden just below the tidal surface. In 1859 there was already a lifeboat stationed at Whitehaven but no others, despite the many deaths that occurred along the coastline, or making their way to or from those harbours. On Monday 29th August 1859 a ship called The Amelia was coming out of Port Carlisle and had to run aground near Silloth as it was blown off course by the storm. The next day The Mary was making its way to Port Carlisle, in similar storm  conditions, and was laden with slates. It became grounded on Silloth Bank at 10:15am and the crew flew signals of distress, then having to take to the rigging as she began to fill with water. The Queen was bound for Dumfries and after repeated attempts at rescue, she finally managed to save the crew of the stricken vessel, but the Mary's mast now snapped and seriously injured the mate of the Queen. Thankfully there was no loss of life but these incidents now caused discussions to be had on the need for the positioning of a lifeboat at Silloth, as Whitehaven was too great a distance to effect urgent rescue.
By mid October that year the Royal Lifeboat Association had decided to place a vessel there, but the funds for the boathouse, carriage, and the lifeboat itself had to be gathered by subscriptions or donations. These were proving difficult to gather, until a female philanthropist called Miss Angela Georgina Burdett Coutts, of 22 Regents Park Terrace, London, offered to pay for the lifeboat, if local funds could be found for the carriage and boathouse. 
The boat was built by Messrs Forrestt of London and was put through a harbour test at Limehouse, in the city. It was 20 feet long, 7 feet wide, 3 feet 3 inches deep, was rowed with eight oars and weighed 30 cwt. The carriage was built by Mr. Robinson, of Cambden Town, London. The boathouse had already been constructed and the boat and carriage were transported free of charge by the London and North Western Railway Company. The boat was launched to great fanfare on the afternoon of Monday 25th June 1860, near the Cote Lighthouse on the Skinburness Road. As it launched from the carriage into the water, Mr. William Gaddes, the inspector of buoys and light houses in the Solway, dashed a bottle of port against her side. It was crewed by: John Duff (Coxswain), Robert Ferguson, William Hawkins, Thomas Howes, Jos. Bennett, Joseph Faulder, John Johnston, and James Matthews. All were men of the neighbourhood.

The AGM for thre lifeboat took place on Tuesday 19th March at Carlisle Town Hall with the Mayor Mr. J. D. Carr in the chair. The finances were gone over and the cost of the life boat was stated as £148 9s 6d, the boathouse £146 18s, the carriage and skidds £59 and the stores were £30.
September 1861 saw the addition of a patented coast barometer, calibrated against the Greenwich instrument. Fourteen of these had been in operation along the Northumbrian coast, paid for by the Duke of Northumberland, and were believed to have been instrumental in the saving of more than 30 lives.
Quarterly exercises were performed, testing the boat and training the crew. The one conducted on 6th October 1862 was done so under the most trying of circumstances. A strong gale was blowing with a heavy sea rolling in on a low tide. One man was thrown from the boat but fortunately received no injury, but it highlighted the risk the crew were exposing themselves to in order to save life from the waters of the Solway.
The boat provided service to the town and local communities for a number of years, but by 1867 it was regarded as no longer fit for purpose. It was then replaced by a mahogany built boat, 32 feet in length, now with 10 oars with the name of the new boat to continue with 'Angela Hannah'.


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The Sinking of the Briton at Maryport Harbour, on 13th February,1882

The Briton was a brig, which is a two masted square rigged ship, and was built at Maryport in the yards of John Peat & Company. It was a fine coppered and copper fastened vessel of 111 tons burthen per register, its name was depicted by a full length carved figure of an ancient Briton with spear and buckler. It was built for Captain Mason of Seaton and was intended for the St. Domingo trade. 
 In 1846, following repair, she was then put up for auction on 13th April at Mrs. Rennick's Senhouse Arms Inn, at Maryport. The boat was described as 'ready for sea' at the time of auction, the auctioneer was George Lister. 
 She was once again put up for early auction on 26th January 1847 at The Golden Fleece, Whitehaven. The vessel was now mastered by J.W.T. Middleton, and advertised as fully coppered and repaired at Whitehaven, in September last. However, it was listed, still under the deposition of Joseph W. J. Middleton, in Lloyd's on 16th December that year as sailing from Newport for Dublin. 
She was again to be auctioned on 30th August 1859 at Whitehaven and it was adverted that she was in 1st class order and £1,200 had been spent on her. Through her life she would undergo many auctions of the ship itself, or shares of her.
In January 1866 an application to remit a portion of the dues owed was made by the then owner, Mr. Thomas Kelly of Whitehaven, who had lost a man overboard at St. Bees Head on the night of 30th December. The Briton had then missed Whitehaven, but got into Maryport harbour. The trustees agreed to so remit part of the dues, as it had neither discharged nor taken on a cargo at its intended harbour.
 In February 1882 she was now found to be registered at Kirkcubbin, of Strangford Lough, Ireland, and commanded by J. M'Kay. 

Sunday 12th February was one of the finest and mildest winter days ever known in Maryport, but this turned into a tremendous storm through the night. On the morning of Monday 13th it was reported that a West to South West wind of Force nine was billowing and it was raining, with very limited vision. Some described it as a hurricane force wind; waves were breaking over the pier, with slates and chimneys being blown off roofs. 
At 4 am, Harbour boatman Wilson Beck went down to the south pier to light the tidal light; this would signal to shipping that there was 8 feet of water to enter the harbour in, the tide then being 4 hours flood. He saw two bright lights at sea, a little to the west of Flimby. It was later known to be The John, and the captain was signalling for a tug. Wilson alerted John Brown, the mate of the 117 tons gross weight, iron steam-tug called the Florence, who informed its commander, Captain Mounsey. This vessel was owned by The Maryport Steam Shipping Company Limited, and it then set out from the harbour to offer assistance. As they passed down the harbour channel, driven by the 70 horsepower engines, they came abreast of the light and stopped the engines, so not to proceed into the huge waves at too great a speed. Suddenly they spied a topsail, then a vessel, coming into the harbour. Mounsey shouted an urgent command of, 'Full speed astern!' to his engineer, although the helm wasn't altered. He then called out to the vessel, 'Hard a Starboard!' The  two ships soon collided with the Florence struck on the starboard bow and her mast was carried away. The other vessel was The Briton, and it then drifted damaged down the channel, going ashore on the north bank of the harbour and immediately broke up on the rocks. The crew of three and the captain took to the rigging in an attempt to save their lives. 
Following the collision the Florence captain had instructed the engineer to 'Turn a-head' with the intention of proceeding to the original vessel, the John, that had signalled for assistance. Unfortunately the mast and its stays had become entangled in one of the paddle wheels and the steamer had to move a'stern and return to port to clear this.
The next vessel to try and make the harbour was The John at 4:45am, but she was blown onto the shore a quarter of a mile beyond the harbour and beached. At 5am the North Branch attempted the harbour entrance and missed, though managed to drop her anchor, and brought herself up at the end of the north pier. The Ottawa then attempted to enter after ten further minutes and also missed the entrance. She narrowly passed the North Branch and beached on the shore near the north pier. She was within 30 yards of the stricken Briton and saw her crew crying out for aid in the rigging, but could offer no help. The Briton crew were known to have hung to the rigging for an hour and a half before their strength failed them and they were lost to the crashing waves; all four men were drowned.
The next ship, called The Allies, later tried to make the safety of the harbour, but struck the North Pier and remained there until the following day. This ship and the Ottawa, both of Maryport, were eventually wrecked, although there was no loss of life from those two vessels. 
The inquest was opened at the police court on Wednesday 15th and Adam Palmer, the father-in-law of James Gaw gave evidence of identification. He also told the inquest that the brig had sailed the previous Sunday, 11th. 
James Wilson Ogle, an out-door officer of customs, was on the hill at 9 am and saw the ships beached. He went down and helped recover the first body, then another three. Two locals were able to board the stricken Briton at 11 am, and not before due to the danger. The eventual verdict on th efour bodies was 'Found Drowned' and the main inquiry into how the accident happened would be an issue for a later maritime inquiry. The bodies of four deceased crew were released after identification by the coroner and were placed in coffins for transport back to their native Ireland. The bodies were arranged to be transported by rail to Barrow for shipment, at £5 per coffin. Thus would have been a significant cost to the bereaved families but now the owner of the s.s. Black Diamond, crewed by naval reserve men, was telegraphed and agreed to transport the bodies free of charge. That departure was from Maryport as the ship was engaged in the transport of coal, and was sailing to Belfast. She was owned by Mr. Wood, the brother of John Wood, who owned the Maryport Hematite Iron Works, and was a Trustee for the town and harbour. The coffins were loaded for a 5pm sailing; the whole town turned out in reverential respect to fellow departed sailors. 
On Friday 17th, all four crew members were buried in their native graveyards. James Gaw (36), the owner and captain, was buried at Glastry; Francis Filston (35) in Kirkcubbin; James Ross (36) in Ballyhalbert; and John Dorrian (21) in Lisban graveyard. A subscription of £50 was raised for the widow and orphans of Filson and Ross.

Coastal towns live with tragedy at their door and soon recover. That a terrible shipwreck had occurred was undisputed, but hand in hand with coastal catastrophes and loss runs their bedfellow, namely salvage. The contents of the Briton were auctioned at the Custom House Yard, Maryport, on Monday 20th of that month. Following the contents auction the remains of the vessel itself were further put under the hammer. It had been clear from the later inspection of the wreck that the stern had suffered catastrophic damage.

A Board of Inquiry was commenced on Friday 24th March, to investigate the circumstances of the tragedy. It continued on 25th and concluded on 27th. It was held at the Athenaeum and chaired by Mr. Rotheray, the Chief Commissioner of Wrecks with The Board of Trade. The Maryport Steam Shipping Company, and the Briton owners were each legally represented. Two assessors were also appointed under 'The Shipping and Casualties Act, 1879'. They were Captains Murdoch, Parish, and Rear Admiral Moresby, RN. It was said the Briton was 68 feet long, 19 feet broad, and 10 feet deep. She had sailed from Portaferry on 12th and was laden with twenty tons of stone ballast, eleven and a half tons of potatoes and five of hay and bound for Whitehaven. James Gaw had owned her for a year and it was a seaworthy vessel and not overloaded. 
The Board immediately honed in on the weak points of those who tried to clear their actions. Captain Mounsey came in for the particular criticism of The Board who stated that The Briton was coming into the harbour quite properly.  The 'Hard a-Starboard' shout was a violation of the rules of the road at sea. Then after the collision there was no evidence to show that the crew of the steamer had tried to aid any of the crew of the Briton, despite the fouling of the starboard paddle wheel. The board concluded that something should have been able to be done to rescue the crew. They said that all Captain Mounsey did was return to the safety of the harbour. Although he reported to the harbour master that he had been in collision with another vessel, the seriousness of the impact was not conveyed. They further concluded that he had set about to treat the collision as lightly as possible. They then censured William Johnston, the acting harbour master and the John Webster the coxswain of the Maryport lifeboat, for not sending out the boat when they knew a vessel had been struck. They stated that the regulations of the lifeboat were disgraceful and clearly what occurred was, 'What is everyone's business is nobody's business'. It was said that the lifeboat would not be sent to a vessel unless they specifically signalled they were in distress. The board found such a statement as simply astounding on any level of human intelligence. How could a man, who had taken to the rigging of a broken vessel to save his life, send a signal of distress? The only signal that such crew could give was cries for help, and hope brave men would risk themselves in the face of such a tempest to save fellow sailors; that cry for aid was ignored. The final board decision was that Captain Mounsey was to blame for the collision, having tried to pass on the inside of, and the starboard side of The Briton. They further concluded that Webster and Johnston were to blame for the failure to launch the lifeboat. Mr. Hutchins was the Chief Coastguard officer, but they concluded he was blameless. He had only been alerted around 6:30 am and attended immediately. On going to the end of the north pier he saw what he believed was a man fluttering a flag and ordered the lifeboat to be launched, but before it could be got out the flag waver had disappeared.
The local press reported on the board of inquiry findings and used the words of, indifference, cowardice, and they commented also on the shame born by the town, due to the inaction of its harbour staff.

On Tuesday 23rd January 1883, at Whitehaven County Court the case of Ruth Gaw -v- Maryport Steam Shipping Company Limited was commenced at a preliminary hearing. Mrs. Gaw was claiming £300 for the loss of The Briton. A date was set for the full case and at Carlisle Court on Wednesday 9th May this was to be heard. The claim was now £279 and it was recognised by each party's barristers that Mrs. Gaw had a separate claim  for the loss of her husband, to be heard before the Admiralty Court in Liverpool. The lawyers had all now fairly met and agreed a settlement of the whole matter at £500.


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Charles Gough, The Faithful Dog, and the Helvellyn Monument

On Saturday 18th April 1805, Charles Gough, a painter from (Kendal/Manchester) was holidaying in the Lake District, reported to be with his brother, and had stayed at Thomas Dobson's Inn at Patterdale. It was a common occurrence for him to holiday in The Lakes, as he had for the previous three years. On this day he intended on setting out for Wythburn with the intention of fishing in that water, now extended from Wythburn Water and Leathes Water to become Thirlmere; this was a regular haunt for him. He was to travel over the Helvellyn range and would take his fishing tackle with him, accompanied by his trusty companion a small brown terrier called Foxie. After eating at the inn he enquired if a guide could escort him over the range yet there was a General Review Day of the Volunteers in Patterdale and no guide was available. He set off to make the journey with his only companion being his little rough haired terrier (one account calls it a spaniel) and was never heard of alive again.

Striding Edge, as seen from the Nethermost Pike path.

Helvellyn summit looking back to Glenridding, and Charles Gough's route

Striding Edge with the rise to the Gough Memorial stone, likely the area of his fall.

Coming off Striding Edge for the final summit climb, where Gough would have fallen

Looking back along 'The Edge'.
Accounts state that people tried to dissuade him from the unaccompanied journey, yet he endeavoured to reach his goal, but the weather turned. One account says it snowed that day and the mist descended over the fells.
The exact location of his body is now not certain, but for reasons later disclosed it seems most likely to be the final ascent to the summit from Striding Edge, on the southern side of Red Tarn, Helvellyn. On 20th July 1805 a shepherd boy was out on the fells and heard a dog yelping. When he went to investigate he came across the decomposed and flesh stripped body of a man. The body was in such a state of decomposition the the head was detached and lying seven yards below the main corpse. Some accounts give the hands and feet as being detached. The shepherd boy raised the alarm in Patterdale and a party of men set off to recover the deceased male. On reaching it they checked the body and confirmed who it was through an engraved gold watch and papers in his pocket book, it was indeed that of Charles Gough. The dog appeared to be in a very nourished condition and had clearly been in pup when they began the fateful journey on 18th April. The searchers discovered she had born a litter; two were now dead and lay next to Gough's body, but at least one other was still alive, appearing to be about six weeks of age. The adult bitch could not be taken hold of and was hunted (to capture) by the shepherds dogs and eventually taken to Patterdale Hall, with the one remaining pup. These were then taken on to Kendal by his maternal uncle, a Mr W. Braithwaite

Picture of the supposed scene, by Sir Edward Landseer, depicting the faithful Foxie never leaving her master.
Tragic as the circumstances were of the death, that Mr Gough came by his unfortunate accident on the slopes of Helvellyn, it was clear that he had likely fallen from Striding Edge area. The monument is set above the final face of the southern side of the bowl of Red Tarn. The accounts of the time though are confusing, some speaking of the Edge, some of Red Tarn Crags and others of Cat-stee, which we would now call Catstye Cam. The exact location is perhaps an irrelevance, the fishing tackle he had taken added to the tale in that it was found at the top(it was not stated whether this was the summit or top of either Edge), above him and part of the scalp was below this, stuck to a rock with a deep cut through his cap; he had clearly come to rest at a location some distance down the Red Tarn cliff-face following a fall from height. He may even have reached the summit ridge and become disorientated in the fog, perhaps a snow cornice had given way which to this day remains a hidden and real danger for the uneducated 'climbers' of Helvellyn.

Attention initially centred on the well nourished dog and it was speculated at the time that it had nourished itself by worrying the corpse of its Master. In one article it was reported:

 '....; for, it appears that a small brown bitch, which accompanied him, had pupped after the fatal event; which, together with her litter, were found near his remains, uncommonly fat, and the flesh of the latter was mostly consumed. ...'

 Local people quickly dispelled this as a likely version of events, stating that it would have maintained itself from carcasses of dead sheep that would be in the area and the worrying of the corpse would be from carrion that thrived in the area. Thus the scene was set for the romantic tale that led to two of the great poets of the time to write on the subject, Sir Walter Scott and Wordsworth.

Sir Walter Scott - Helvellyn

I climbed the dark brow of the mighty Helvellyn,
Lakes and mountains beneath me gleamed misty and wide;
All was still, save by fits, when the eagle was yelling, 
And starting around me the echoes replied.
On the right, Striden-edge round the Red-tarn was bending,
And Catchedicam its left verge was defending,
One huge, nameless rock in the front was ascending,
When I marked the sad spot where the wanderer had died.

Dark green was that spot 'mid the brown mountain heather,
Where the pilgrim of nature lay stretched in decay,
Like the corpse of an outcast abandoned to weather,
Till the mountain-winds wasted the tenantless clay.
Nor yet quite deserted, though lonely extended,
For, faithful in death, his mute favourite attended,
The much-loved remains of her master defended,
And chased the hill-fox and the raven away.

How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber?
When the wind waved his garment, how oft didst thou start?
How many long days and long weeks didst thou number,
Ere he faded before thee, the friend of thy heart?
And, oh! was it meet, that—no requiem read o'er him,
No mother to weep, and no friend to deplore him,
And thou, little guardian, alone stretched before him—
Unhonoured the pilgrim from life should depart?

When a prince to the fate of the peasant has yielded,
The tapestry waves dark round the dim-lighted hall;
With scutcheons of silver the coffin is shielded,
And pages stand mute by the canopied pall;
Through the courts, at deep midnight, the torches are gleaming;
In the proudly arched chapel the banners are beaming;
Far adown the long aisle sacred music is streaming,
Lamenting a chief of the people should fall.

But meeter for thee, gentle lover of nature,
To lay down thy head like the meek mountain lamb,
When, wildered, he drops from some cliff huge in stature,
And draws his last sob by the side of his dam.
And more stately thy couch by this desert lake lying,
Thy obsequies sung by the gray plover flying,
With but one faithful friend to witness thy dying

In the arms of Helvellyn and Catchedicam.

Wordsworth however did allude to the practical question of nourishment in his final verse of:

A barking sound the Shepherd hears,
A cry as of a Dog or Fox;
He halts, and searches with his eyes
Among the scatter'd rocks:
And now at distance can discern
A stirring in a brake of fern;
From which immediately leaps out
A Dog, and yelping runs about.

The Dog is not of mountain breed;
It's motions, too, are wild and shy; 
With something, as the Shepherd thinks,
Unusual in its' cry:
Nor is there any one in sight
All round, in Hollow or on Height;
Nor shout, nor whistle strikes his ear;
What is the Creature doing here?

It was a Cove, a huge Recess,
That keeps till June December's snow;
A lofty Precipice in front,
A silent Tarn [1] below! 
Far in the bosom of Helvellyn,
Remote from public Road or Dwelling,
Pathway, or cultivated land;
From trace of human foot or hand.

There, sometimes does a leaping Fish
Send through the Tarn a lonely chear;
The Crags repeat the Raven's croak,
In symphony austere;
Thither the Rainbow comes, the Cloud;
And Mists that spread the flying shroud; 
And Sun-beams; and the sounding blast,
That, if it could, would hurry past,
But that enormous Barrier binds it fast.

Not knowing what to think, a while
The Shepherd stood: then makes his way
Towards the Dog, o'er rocks and stones,
As quickly as he may;
Nor far had gone before he found
A human skeleton on the ground,
Sad sight! the Shepherd with a sigh 
Looks round, to learn the history.

From those abrupt and perilous rocks,
The Man had fallen, that place of fear!
At length upon the Shepherd's mind
It breaks, and all is clear:
He instantly recall'd the Name,
And who he was, and whence he came;
Remember'd, too, the very day
On which the Traveller pass'd this way.

But hear a wonder now, for sake 
Of which this mournful Tale I tell!
A lasting monument of words
This wonder merits well.
The Dog, which still was hovering nigh,
Repeating the same timid cry,
This Dog had been through three months' space
A Dweller in that savage place.

Yes, proof was plain that since the day
On which the Traveller thus had died
The Dog had watch'd about the spot, 
Or by his Master's side:
How nourish'd here through such long time
He knows, who gave that love sublime,
And gave that strength of feeling, great
Above all human estimate.

This however came out after Scott's more romantic version of 'Helvellyn' which turned Gough into a martyr of heroic 'seekers of the natural world'. Scott was the known celebrity figure of the time and Wordsworth was much lambasted by the critics of the age, only finding popular favour later in his life. I myself am of the view that the dog worried his master's corpse. This will always cause debate, especially from those who humanise such an animal to be human in its characters. All I can say is that I have experienced more modern incidents that, following death, such animals have quickly given weight to my view. I will say no more here on that point.
 Later, emanating from these great masters of literature, their followers in turn were to pay for a memorial to commemorate the death of Gough on the fell with the placing of this memorial stone in his name. These two people were Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley and the writer Frances P. Cobbe. It was erected by Messrs. Bromley of Keswick around November 1890.

The erection of the Memorial Stone to Charles Gough on Helvellyn. Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley stands behind the stone, facing the camera.
The Gough Memorial now. (sorry about the muzzle!)

In an article from The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald of 1903 it was said that Rawnsley had been fortunate enough to have spoken to the son of the man who found Gough's body. His father had told him that he was up the fell the same day as he met Wordsworth, Scott and Davy. Scott was going down to see the very spot where Gough came to rest. His father took Scott down and Scott then sat on a 'girt stane, and just luikt, an' luikt, an' luikt'. Rawnsley himself became interested and went and found the stone and green area, which could not be seen from above. Scott himself was to descriptively refer to: 'The dark green in the brown mountain heather.' One would expect that now the location of the body coming to rest was identified to these academics, then this would in turn be passed on, until Rawnsley was later in possession of the knowledge and therefor know where to best place the memorial.
Warren Hastings (the first Governor General of India 1713 - 1818) visited Patterdale in 1806 while travelling south from Edinburgh and obtained an account of the incident from a local man, assumed to be Captain Charles Luff, a friend of the Wordsworth's. It perhaps shows the interest the death now had on people of Society, that they would ensure they detoured to obtain as close an account as possible, to report on as a now acknowledged source.

Charles Gough was not a novice to the area, as earlier discussed it was his practice to holiday at Wythburn and he had at least climbed Helvellyn the previous year so would know of the precipitous drop on the eastern face. He knew his way around the lake district and conversed with Mr. Robinson of Buttermere, the Fish Hotel proprietor and the father of Mary Robinson, the beauty (or Maid) of Buttermere, who would be so wronged by John Hatfield through a bigamous marriage in 1802.
Gough was born in Manchester and was a quaker by religion although he was excluded from them approximately two years prior to his death, following him joining the volunteers, the militia, this being the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Following the discovery and extraction of his remains from the fell, the Quakers must have relented, now he was answerable to only The Almighty and he was interred at the Quaker burial ground at Tirril, near Pooley Bridge, on 22nd.