In this the second article commemorating the legacy of 150 years of the lifeboat, we look at the first major engagement of the Blackpool Lifeboat ‘Samuel Fletcher’ as she battled through heavy seas to support the foundering Norwegian flagged, 1200 ton barque ‘Abana’.
Sailing from Liverpool, on the 22 December 1894, the Abana was bound for Sapelo, Florida. As she sailed through the Irish Sea off the Isle of Man she encountered a major storm. The same storm had already claimed a Fishing Smack, the ‘Petrel’ off the Blackpool Coast. Mistaking the Tower for a Lighthouse, she first hit North Pier then drifted north with tattered sails. At about 3pm, Little Bispham landlord Robert Hindle, was watching the storm from an upstairs window of the Cleveleys Hotel.
To his horror he was able to see the Abana in great difficulty just off the headland in front of the hotel. He summoned the lifeboat by sending a man on horseback to the Lifeboat Station at Blackpool, located opposite what was the Coliseum. The crew had just returned from rescuing the crew of the ‘Petrel’, washed ashore opposite Uncle Toms Cabin. Within 20 minutes, six horses were harnessed to the Lifeboat wagon and driven at full speed down the lanes to Bispham, arriving and launching some 5 hours later..
For his part in the rescue, Mr Hindle was presented with the ships bell at a short ceremony, by the ships Captain. Shortly after, the bell was presented to St Andrews Parish Church, in Cleveleys for both safekeeping and as a reminder of the fragility of life at sea. The hulk of the Abana lay rotting and plundered for souvenirs for many years.
In terms of the legacy of this event the bell can still be seen in the North porch of St Andrews along with a framed citation of the events leading to it being presented to the church. More especially the carcass ribs of the Ababa can still be seen at low tide, just off the promenade at Anchorsholme Park, Cleveleys, quite close the place where the ‘Riverdance’ foundered 110 years later.