Saturday Scenes

Wed 23 November 2011

Doom Bar

Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 00:41

One hundred years ago, on the 19th of November in 1911, the Doom Bar in Cornwall claimed two ships: the Island Maid and the Angele.

The Doom Bar is a bank of sand on Cornwall’s coast which formed where the Celtic Sea rushes against the flow of the River Camel during the reign of Henry VIII (1491-1547). In between the tides it is submerged by just a few feet, making the entrance to the Padstow extremely dangerous to navigate. The name comes from the gaelic Dunbar which simply means sandbank.

It is said that the Mermaid of Padstow fell in love with a Cornish man who shot her when she tried to lure him into the sea (or possibly because he thought she was a seal). She retaliated by cursing Padstow and throwing sand at the harbour. A dark storm gathered and the Doom Bar formed, ending Padstow’s prosperous time as a port.

The first of two ships to wreck on the 19th of November was the Island Maid. The crew were rescued by the lifeboat before the ship sunk. But soon after, the Angele ran aground. The tide had turned and the sun was setting and the lifeboat crew refused to return to the boat. The coxwain, William Hory Baker, explained what happened at the inquest which was reported in the newspaper:

Papers Past – Grey River Argus – 10 January 1912 – LIFEBOATMAN WHO REFUSED.

“Some of the crew considered it was risky,” said Baker. “By this time, the searchlight from the steam lifeboat was playing on the wrecks, and when my crew saw the terrible seas which they would have to encounter their hearts failed them, and they left the boat.

I had to have the rockets fired to summon another crew. Eventually the boat put off with a scratch crew including some men from the steam lifeboat, and part of the crew of a trawler, a coastguard, and a policeman.

…I would much rather the men’s hearts failed them before they went out than just as they were reaching a vessel,” added Baker. “I never remember the whole of the crew backing out before. The first trip was a very severe one.”

They found only one survivor, the captain. The rest of the crew had drowned. The coroner returned a verdict of “accidentally drowned” and did not fault the crew.

You can read more about the rescues of the past in ‘A Short History Of The Padstow Lifeboat’ compiled by George C Phillips which is available from the Padstow Lifeboat station priced at £3.25. The ticket to Cornwall may cost quite a bit more.

But don’t despair, you can still travel the world without spending a penny.

Exactly one hundred years later, these potentially-historical-events were recorded using digital technology and uploaded so that everyone could share in the moment. We have photographs from Malaysia, the Netherlands, Scotland, Zambia, the US, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Dubai, Wales, Belgium and Spain: take a look!

And these are the photographers who took them:

Incidentally. There is also a Cornish ale called Doom Bar Bitter. In order to make sure this post was 100% authentic, I drank a few pints. It is extremely nice. Any incoherence this week is thus due to the subject matter as opposed to my bad writing.

See you next week!

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