It was Christmas 1894 that this tale has a beginning. One of the worst ever storms crossed the Irish Sea and a Norwegian barque got into trouble off North Wales, drifting with torn sails until it finally beached in the sand off Anchorsholme.
With huge waves crashing over, bringing down the main mast and with 17 men and a dog on board the ship sent up distress flares. Blackpool’s lifeboat, Samuel Fletcher, was taken over land from the old lifeboat house on Lytham Road, behind the Manchester pub, to Little Bispham where it was launched with a crew of 16. Reaching the Abana was no easy business for a large boat under oars, trying to get close to a ship whose mast and rigging were hanging over the side. The lifeboat was large enough to take all of the Abana crew, who were taken to the Red Lion inn to dry out and recover following their ordeal.
The Abana’s bell was salvaged and can still be seen in Cleveleys parish church. The original lifeboat house still exists on Lytham Road and even the Samuel Fletcher survived as a pleasure boat on Stanley Park lake. The ship’s dog was given a home by a Cleveleys local when the ship’s crew returned to Norway. The wreck of the Abana can still be seen off Anchorsholme and is easily reached at low tide.
A barque was a three-masted sailing ship and the Abana had left Liverpool some three weeks earlier, sheltered from the weather in Ramsay Bay, Isle of Man and then resumed her voyage at Christmas 1894 after sailing from Liverpool. According to one newspaper report, she was bound for “Savello”, but apart from a castle in central Italy – an unlikely destination for a ship – I’m not sure where that could be… Seville has been suggested and the Abana’s Wikipedia entry lists the destination as Savannah, Georgia, USA.
In any event she was not destined to get there. The crew saw Blackpool Tower on the coast, but as this was then brand new and an unfamiliar sight, they mistook it for a lighthouse. Not that they could do much about it anyway for, with her sails torn to shreds, the Abana was tossed around the Irish sea until, after being spotted off the North Pier, she grounded off Anchorsholme. The alarm was raised by the landlord of the Cleveleys Hotel.