... On the Night of the Green Sea
December 9th 1886 is one of the most tragic dates in the history of the lifeboat movement. The German cargo boat Mexico had run aground off the Lancashire coast, just north of Southport, in a storm and was fast breaking up when lifeboats at Southport, St. Annes and Lytham were launched. Spectator's worst fears, raised by lack of the usual light signals from the lifeboats, were confirrmed when the bodies of Southport lifeboatmen began to be washed up on the beach. Morning light revealed the Southport boat, Eliza Fernley, keel up on a sandbank. The implications of the tragedy were only fully realised when Laura Janet, the St. Annes lifeboat, was also spotted upturned. The 12 crewmen from the Mexico were finally rescued by the Lytham boat, the Charles Briggs, but 27 of the 44 lifeboatmen who had set out never returned, leaving behind 16 widows and 50 orphans.
On the back of a wave of national sympathy a relief fund was set up and the first public street collections for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution were held, organised by Charles Macara A tradition which has continued to this day.
This monument is a tribute to these men and may be found on the St. Annes promenade, gazing out to the site of the disaster.
Then, as now, all lifeboatmen were volunteers, risking their lives to save others in peril on the sea. I have a vague memory of my grandfather in Scotland helping with the lifeboat in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, but do not really know the facts, one day I will try to find out.
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