in a NORTH-WEST GALE 26 January 1868


Shortly before one o'clock on the morning of Sunday 26 January 1868 Benjamin Evans, coxswain of Point of Air lifeboat, noticed a fire out on the West Hoyle sandbank. With his telescope he could see that a vessel was on the bank so fired the gun and his crew and launchers rapidly turned out. Then the horses arrived from Dawson's farm and the lifeboat was launched in half an hour into the heavy seas produced by a north-west gale.

The lifeboat got to the vessel at about 3 a.m. and took off Capt J. M. Tucker, the Liverpool pilot John Jones, passenger Alfred Nichol and ten members of the crew.

The vessel was the barque MERSEY which had left Liverpool on Thursday 23 January with a general cargo and was bound for Arica, Peru. Unable to make progress westward the barque was putting back to Liverpool when the strong gale drove her onto the West Hoyle at about 11 p.m. on Saturday. An hour or so later the crew began to set fire to their bedding in an attempt to draw the attention of those ashore. Three seamen and the steward had decided to attempt to get ashore in the boats but these were swamped and they were drowned.

The lifeboat got ashore with the thirteen rescued men at about 4.30.  The lifeboat had then to be got back onto her carriage, rehoused and made ready for the next emergency. This was completed by 7.00 that Sunday morning.

For this excellent rescue the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, which ran the station until the RNLI took over in July 1894, awarded double pay to the lifeboat crew.

Though you will find that the spot where this lifeboat station was is named Point of Ayr on the Ordnance Survey map the Harbour Board always spelt it Air.

Most of this article is derived from the Log of the Point of Air Lifeboat Station 1852 - 1894 which was transcribed from the original by Jeff Morris, Hon. Archivist of the Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society.







Two cattle vessels wrecked on the West Hoyle


The river Dee runs out into Liverpool Bay between the north Wales coast and the Wirral peninsula. The sandbank known as the West Hoyle lies off the Point of Air which is the north east point of Wales. The East Hoyle lies off Hoylake on the Wirral.

Ships running into or out of the Dee estuary or sailing to or from Liverpool had to pass these banks. If the visibility was poor or the wind blowing onshore there was a chance of them running onto the banks.

In 1825 there were two cases of vessels carrying cattle from Ireland being lost on the West Hoyle.

The schooner GIPSY, of Newry County Down, John Christian master, left Warren Point for Chester but was driven onto the bank on 13 August. The newspaper accounts are not very clear but it appears that her crew, said to number only three men, survived while the passengers and cattlemen were drowned.

In November that year the brig MARY, of Whitehaven, Cowman master, was bound from Dublin to Liverpool with cattle. At five on the morning of Saturday 26th she lost both topmasts and her bowsprit in severe weather. Twelve hours later she anchored well off shore between the Great Orme and Point of Air but the cable soon parted. Now unmanageable the north west gale drove her onto the West Hoyle at about ten that evening.

Huge seas swept the deck and within a few minutes two of the cattle men were washed overboard and drowned. The master's wife went next soon followed by Capt Cowman. Then two more of the drovers. Next John Brown, Joseph Tyson, Hewitt Graham and John Moore were swept overboard. The last three men William Bell the mate, William Porter and James Robinson took to the rigging.

On the ebb tide the vessel dried on the bank and the three left the brig and attempted to walk ashore. Very soon though the tide was on the flood and the three returned aboard. Bell and Porter soon became exhausted and at about midnight they too were washed over the side and lost.

After a further ten hours in the rigging James Robinson was rescued by Thomas Jones, keeper of the Point of Air lighthouse, and the crew of the Trinity boat stationed there.