Thursday, 20 August 2015

Shipwreck By Sunset

In September 1988 I went down to the Promenade at Anchorsholme and walked across the beach to the wreck of the Norwegian barque, The Abana.

The tide was just turning to come in but I had a good hour or so before I would have to move away from the incoming sea and during that hour the sun sank lower in the sky, creating one of those glorious Blackpool sunsets.

A barque was a three-masted sailing ship and the Abana had left Liverpool some three weeks earlier, sheltered from the weather in Ramsay Bay, Isle of Man and then resumed her voyage at Christmas 1894 after sailing from Liverpool. According to one newspaper report, she was bound for "Savello", but apart from a castle in central Italy - an unlikely destination for a ship - I'm not sure where that could be... Seville has been suggested and the Abana's Wikipedia entry lists the destination as Savannah, Georgia, USA.

In any event she was not destined to get there. The crew saw Blackpool Tower on the coast, but as this was then brand new and an unfamiliar sight, they mistook it for a lighthouse. Not that they could do much about it anyway for, with her sails torn to shreds, the Abana was tossed around the Irish sea until, after being spotted off the North Pier, she grounded off Anchorsholme. The alarm was raised by the landlord of the Cleveleys Hotel.

The weather was so bad that the lifeboat could not be launched at Blackpool, nor could horses pull it along the coastal road. They had to use the back streets which afforded some shelter and then launched the lifeboat, the Samuel Fletcher from Little Bispham. This then had to rowed out to the Abana by the 16-man crew, who rescued the entire 17 men onboard the barque and also the ship's dog.

They were all taken to Bispham's Red Lion Hotel to recover from the ordeal. The ship's bell was given to Robert Hindle, the landlord of the Cleveleys Hotel in gratitude for his having raised the alarm and the dog also stayed with that gentleman when the Captain of the Abana was recovered enough to go home.

The ship's bell was given to St Andrew's church in Cleveleys - where it can still be seen today.

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