Harry's Fish Bar supports the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). Although there are numerous worthy causes out there, we here at Harry's feel that considering a large part of our business involves the buying and selling of fish, it is right that we help raise money to fund what is voluntary and surprisingly non-government funded organisation. When our fishermen get into trouble it is these volunteers that are called to help. Without your support it would not be possible for the RNLI to operate.
Can i therefore say a big thankyou to all our customers who have contributed in helping us raise funds by way of their donations.
The Morton family was having an unusual start to the Christmas holidays that year. Henry Morton was the captain of a brand-new 1,400-ton coaster, the Union Star. She was on her maiden voyage from the Dutch port of Ijmuiden to Arklow in Ireland’s County Wicklow with a cargo of fertilizer. So they could all be together for the festivities, Morton had collected his wife Dawn, 32, and her two teenage daughters Sharon, 16, and Deanne, 14, en route. Counting the captain, there was a crew of five. The addition of Morton’s family brought the head count to eight. In fact, Dawn was several weeks pregnant so perhaps nine was a more accurate total of lives aboard. By December 19 they were in trouble.
Fifty-six-year-old William Trevelyan Richards was at home watching television with his widowed mother, Mary, when he got the call. Some of his crewmen, he knew, would be in Mousehole’s Ship Inn. It was the last Saturday night before Christmas and, bad weather or not, celebrations were already under way. The rest of the men were likely at home with wives and families, listening to the worst storm in living memory as it screamed its fury at the sea and sky.
Trevelyan Richards put on his coat, said goodnight to his mom and stepped out of the door into the howling dark. Down at the Ship Inn he asked for quiet and told them the situation. He needed seven volunteers and a dozen men raised their hands, including the pub’s landlord, Charlie Greenhaugh.
Down at the boathouse, fish salesman and lifeboatman Nigel Brockton, 43, turned up accompanied by his 17-year-old son, Neil. They’d been at home watching television with the rest of the family when word of the call-out reached them. Neil was a crewman too - a volunteer of just a few months’ standing, but Trevelyan Richards wouldn’t risk two members of the same family on such a night and refused to take him along.
The men who climbed aboard along with Trevelyan Richards were second coxswain James Stephen Madron, 43, assistant mechanic Nigel Brockton, 43, emergency mechanic John Blewit, 43, Charlie Greenhaugh, 46, Barrie Torrie, 33, and 23-year-olds Kevin Smith and Gary Wallis.
It took masterful seamanship to get the Solomon Browne out onto the water that night. By the time those men arrived at their lifeboat station they were fighting to stand up in the face of a full-blown hurricane - the kind of weather event most of us will never even see. Yet they looked out into the dark of that winter’s night, at 60-foot waves whipped up by 100-mile-an-hour winds, and decided to get aboard a 47-foot boat and head out into it. Remind yourself that they’re volunteers, who do the job because they know what it’s like to be on the sea when it all goes wrong. They understand what it means, and rather than stay safe on dry land while it all plays out, they find it easier to go out there and help. I find it almost impossible to imagine bravery like that.
Trevelyan Richards took his boat back alongside the coaster once again. He was after every last man and his crew expected no less. The reporter watched, and the crew of the helicopter too. Falmouth Coastguard could only listen to their radio. What came next was everlasting silence. “Penlee lifeboat. Falmouth Coastguard.Over.” Nothing. The coastguard repeated his call over and over, not believing. No one knows for sure what had happened; the full facts of that night, minute-by-minute details of 16 lives fought for, were lost along with so much else. What does seem certain is that the two vessels came together in the dark one last time.
The Solomon Browne was smashed to pieces, match-wood; the wreck of the Union Star was found the next morning, upturned and washed against the base of the cliffs. Of the 16 who were lost, only eight bodies were recovered - four from each vessel.
Every year, at eight o’clock on December 19, the Mousehole Christmas lights are turned off for an hour as a mark of remembrance.
Extracts from ‘The Penlee Lifeboatmen” by Neil Oliver
'Remind yourself that they're volunteers'. The RNLI is funded entirely by voluntary contributions.
Harry's Fish Bar
191/193 Warrington Road
Penketh, Warrington WA5 2EN
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Contact us on 01925 72 2242
50th Anniversary 1967-2017!!
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