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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Cork Jackets And Drill: The Great Lifeboat Disaster Of 1886

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Cork Jackets And Drill: The Great Lifeboat Disaster Of 1886
Private Label CJR001

This tale is by Southport based playwright Len Pentin and tells the story, through original songs and narration, of the disaster which claimed the lives of almost all the crew members of the Southport and St Annes lifeboats. It tells how the dreadfully impoverished lifeboatmen of the northern towns of Southpost, Lytham and St Annes attempted to save lives. On a terrible storm ridden night (9 December 1886) a flare was seen and the three lifeboats bravely gave battle in an attempt to save the crew of the German barque Mexico, which was in distress off Southport Sands. The Lytham lifeboat, Charles Biggs, returned safely having rescued the Mexico’s 12 man crew. However, the Southport lifeboat, Eliza Fernley, and the St Annes lifeboat, Laura Janet, were both wrecked with the loss of 27 lives. There were only two survivors and it remains the RNLI’s greatest disaster. The notice the next day recalls father and sons, brothers, grandfathers and grandsons all perishing in the stormy waters.

At the time, the tragedy touched and deeply affected the whole of the country, but is now, sadly, largely forgotten. This CD and live show attempts to rehabilitate the memory of the brave lifeboatmen (mostly fishermen by trade) who risked and gave their lives that evening for others.

The songs follow the passage of time through that fateful night and include Southport Sands, Down To The Shore, Soul Savers, Storm Song, Boys Of The Mexico, Green Light, Flowers On The Water, Have You Seen My Boy and Commemoration, with fine narration from Colin Wayte. The very titles of these songs trace the tragic events of that night.

The word ‘hero’ is widely misapplied these days, but these men were heroes in every sense. Their story is remarkable and should be known by generations to come. Hopefully Len’s show and this CD will enable this story to be widely known.

The songs are performed by the Cork Jacket Crew: Pete Rimmer, Chris and Siobhan Nelson, Colin Wayte, Clive Pownceby and Len Pentin, all well known and respected singers and musicians. This is a well crafted production that should be booked by festivals and maritime events. Anyone who is interested in the RNLI, maritime history or Lancashire should see the show and have the CD in their collection. A fitting tribute to those men who were called ‘part time sailors’, but who were soul savers. Historic photographs were supplied by Sefton Council and there are more photos and information on the website.

Kathy & Bob Drage

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This album was reviewed in Issue 109 of The Living Tradition magazine.