Sunday, November 04, 2007

It came in on the Abana boat…

Before we start, a quick thank you to everyone who's signed the guestbook so far. It's good to know that we have actually got some readers. And if you haven't signed it yet...well, the link's at the top of the right hand column if the urge suddenly takes you that way.
Right, let’s shatter a myth. The shipwreck off Little Bispham, still visible to this day although little more now than a ribcage of joists moated by rock pools and suffering from the twin diseases of limpets and cockles, is not Nelson’s Flagship.
Nelson’s flagship, otherwise known as the Foudroyant, was actually blown from her moorings between North and Central Piers on June 17th 1897, ending up on the beach in front of the Metropole where, true to form, it was quickly dismantled, pillaged and hawked by local entrepreneurs.
The wreck at Little Bispham, on the other hand, is, in fact, the Abana, which has its own story. The photograph below shows the Abana the morning after December 22nd 1894 (at least we think it does…it wasn’t long after it was wrecked at any rate) considerably more intact than it is nowadays but occupying its final resting place on Little Bispham sands:

“’Twas three days before Christmas, and all round the Fylde, the wind was a-howling like a loud, hungry child.” (Sorry about that…I suddenly came over all Allen Clarke for a moment there. It won’t happen again, I promise.) Anyhow, where were we? Oh yes, on the 22nd of December 1894 the 1200-ton three-masted barque from New Brunswick, Norway, ran headlong into a typical Fylde Coast hurricane and, consequently, a great deal of trouble.
Actually, when we say ‘a typical Fylde Coast hurricane’ that might be a bit of an under-exaggeration. There were actually fears that Blackpool Tower would blow over and officials climbed to the top to ensure its safety. We’re not quite sure what they were planning to do once up there…but we’re deviating from the main thrust of the story, so let’s return.
The Abana’s crew of seventeen, including the captain, Mr. Danielson, were all rescued by Samuel Fletcher and taken to the safety of the old Red Lion Inn. Animal lovers will be pleased to hear that the captain’s dog was also rescued.
According to Ralph Smedley’s ‘Thornton Cleveleys Remembered’ the drenched and badly shaken seamen were treated to: “hot coffee and rum”, and being them all “finely built fellows” courted an excessive amount of attention from the young ladies. (Not our words…we’re just quoting from Ralph Smedley’s book here. We wouldn’t want to imply that the men of Bispham were all weedy and useless by comparison.)
Anyway…in due course, the bell of the Abana was presented to Robert Hindle of the ‘Cleavelas Hotel’ who had raised the alarm. He, in turn, donated it to the forerunner of St. Andrew’s church, which amounted to a shed known as the ‘Institute’ (sounds like the mafia headquarters, doesn’t it?) somewhere behind the present day Woolies on Victoria Road. Here Reverend Everard Healey (parents seriously didn’t care what they called their kids in those days) used the bell to call the worshipers to prayer.

The bell, pictured above, is still in St. Andrew’s church to this day.
Another memento of the Abana wreck (although not an officially presented one) included an unusual figurehead, salvaged by the grandfather of Mr. T. J. Hearn of Fleetwood…apparently. Just for the record, we’ve included a photograph of the figurehead below. At least we think that’s what it is. It looks more like a brain plastered onto a dressing table mirror to us…but there you go.

Perhaps our favourite part of this whole sorry tale, however, took place on the Saturday night following the disaster when, shortly after midnight: “A mysterious conveyance drove up to the wreck at low water.” In the morning the side of the beached barque had been painted with the legend ‘Beecham’s Pills!’ proving, if nothing else, that every cloud has a silver lining…especially if you’re an opportunist with a pot of spare paint.


JahTeh said...

Was she steel-hulled, steam and sail powered or just steam?

Brian Hughes said...

Er...I don't honestly know. She was a 1200-ton three-masted barque from New Brunswick, so I'm working on the assumption that she had sails, no engines and was made entirely, from wood. The bits that are left sticking up out of the sand are all wooden anyway...I think. The nails were metal, but I don't reckon that counts. Perhaps I ought to get out my shovel and take a closer look next time I'm down that way.

John said...

This was a good un, as they say, full of humor, history, and hijinks. I suppose we'll all be wondering why those officials climbed the tower during a hurricane, in the hopes of saving it. Unless, of course, officials refers to politicians, whose motives and brains are difficult to understand at the best of times.

Maybe some smart young voter told them they could get a better view of what was going on up there?

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS How can I get a ship's bell?

Brian Hughes said...


I don't can you get a ship's bell?

(Actually, working on the assumption that's not a humorous riddle, the usual way is to go the chandlers and buy one.)