Those in peril on the sea – in 1813

‘Those in peril’ is, of course, a line from the famous hymn ‘Eternal Father, strong to save’. Actually, the first hymn I ever learned, as pre-schooler: no idea how/why I learned that, of all hymns, so young.

It also features on the image used to illustrate this short post: a plaque in Whitehaven, honouring those who sailed from there never to return. The plaque includes the hymn’s plea to God to hear those who ‘cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea’.

1813 is a totally random year, but a quick read of the shipping news over just a few weeks in 1813 highlights some of the hazards for whose livelihoods were on the sea. They don’t all have a Cumbrian connection.

Those in peril – March 1813

  • 1813 March 16. The Lark, Halcrow, which sailed from Drogheda on the 21st or 22nd for Whitehaven has not since been heard of. Early on Friday se’ennight, a vessel was wrecked on one of the banks of the Solway, rather nearer the English than the Scottish side. She appeared to be a small brig and the hull, at the time the wreck was discovered, seemed to be split in two. It is feared the crew have perished. Some butter has been cast on shore, in the (Scottish) parish of Colvend.
  • March 23. There is now no doubt the vessel wrecked in the Solway was the Lark, loaden with grain for this port. 
  • March 30. The Eclipse, Richardson, of North Shields for London, is totally lost, with all her crew.

April 1813 – tragedies and animal stories

  • April 6. The Resistance, Schwartzwald, from Liverpool to Gottenburgh, was totally lost in a hurricane in February; the whole of her crew were drowned. News could travel slowly in those days.
  • April 13. The Industry, Smith, foundered two miles from the Isle of Man: the crew were saved in the long boat. The Oscar, Innes, was lost near Aberdeen with all but two of her crew. 
  • Meanwhile, a very large porpoise was spotted in the Eden near Rockcliff Scar – and shot by fishermen. Poor thing was 12 feet long and eight feet in circumference at its thickest part, which suggests either a fisherman’s tall tale or it was actually a whale.
  • April 20. A sloop belonging to Wigton made it into harbour, despite having struck a rock. Less lucky, unsurprising, was its cargo – of salt.
  • April 27. At least a thrush which had made its nest in a bottle rack outside the back door of Anthony Thompson, of St Bees, fared better than the ‘porpoise’. It was a return visit, she was happy to take food from the hand, and great care was being taken to protect her and her four eggs. And no reports of lost ships.

Those in peril – May 1813

  • May 4. There was a night of hail and snow.
  • May 18. If ships survived the elements, there was another risk: privateers. It was reported that the Leopard, Wilkinson, of Maryport, carrying potatoes, had been taken by Yankee privateer the True Blood, in Dublin Bay. After taking what they wanted, they sank her and took the crew to France, where they became prisoners of war.
  • Meanwhile the King George, Atkinson, taken by the Americans, was sold in Boston for £950. She’d cost her Workington owners £5,400.
  • May 25. Heavy snow in Workington surprised townsfolk. While the Ann packet, Hill, taking mail to Jamaica, lost a sea battle with American privateer York Town and was captured, with the loss of one crew member. 

And finally…

June 1. As well as two ships lost at sea, and five captured by privateers, there was news that the Charles, Graham, from London to Sierra Leone, had been wrecked off Gambia river – and the master and passengers killed by natives.

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