LLANELLI    LIFEBOAT

 

Wreck and Rescue in the Bristol Channel - Volume 2 The Story of the Welsh Lifeboats by Grahame Farr was published by Bradford Barton of Truro in 1967. The late Derek Scott, then Coxswain of Mumbles Lifeboat, loaned me his copy and I was so fascinated by the detail that I purchased my own. In time I acquired the whole Wreck and Rescue series.

Chapter 8 of this volume is entitled Llanelli. I have to say that I was rather surprised to learn that there had been a lifeboat there. Farr wrote "The station was almost unique in that the boat was kept on davits on a lightvessel off the harbour entrance".

It is clear from the chapter that Farr thought that the lightvessel was moored in the estuary. My own research has led me to a different conclusion.

The sea area between Whitford Point and the Carmarthenshire shore to the west of Pembrey is known as Burry Bar and, up until the beginning of the 19th century, the north Gower coast from Whitford to Penclawdd was usually known as South Burry, while the shipping places of Pembrey, Barnaby Pill and Llanelli were North Burry.

Burry Bar was an area of shifting sandbanks with a couple of channels to the open sea. The south channel hugged the shore from Whitford to Burry Holmes. This was sometimes referred to as the Lynch Pool - a channel of reasonably deep water inside the Lynch sandbank. This channel was buoyed in the early 1800s - the position of the buoys and directions for entering being published in the national newspapers.

On 24 March 1840 a 49 ton vessel named Lynch was moored in this channel in lieu of the No.1 buoy. She served the dual purpose of lightvessel and pilot station. I believe the light was tidal - that is it was shown only when there was sufficient water to enter the estuary - three hours either side of high water. It was an exposed station and early in December 1841 the vessel parted her moorings in a gale and was driven onto Whitford beach. The crew were able to scramble ashore.

The small ports of the estuary imported copper ore from Ireland and Cornwall and exported coal so there was a good deal of trade at all times of the year. There were numerous wrecks to coasting vessels, and to ships on longer voyages which had been driven into Carmarthen Bay by sou'west gales, or found themselves off course due to overcast conditions.

A branch of the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners Benevolent Society had been formed at Llanelli in 1840. Its main function being to reimburse seamen for clothing and belongings lost through shipwreck and to support widows and orphans. The society also formed a lifeboat branch to supplement the work of the Lifeboat Institution. In March 1852 a lifeboat built by James Beeching of Great Yarmouth was sent to Llanelli.