News : Mexico disaster memorial service
The Mexico Disaster Memorial Service was attended by approx 50 people, amongst whom was Southport Visiter reporter Danielle Manning, the following article appeared in the 15th December issue:
Courageous men who lost their lives in the worst lifeboat disaster in British history have been remembered at a special service.
Local people gathered at the lifeboat memorial on the Promenade on Saturday morning (December 10) for the service which marked 125 years since the tragedy in 1886. Prayers were said and hymns were sung in memory of the 27 men. Southport Lifeboat crewman James Foster read an extract from the poem Warriors of the Sea to the gathered crowd before a wreath was laid by Kath Wilson and John Shawcroft, founder members of Southport Offshore Rescue Trust, while the names of the men who died were read out.
Nick Porter, of Southport Lifeboat, said: “It’s so important that we all remember. A lot of people in Southport don’t know the story so you do have to try and keep the memory alive. When we do talks or introduce new crew members we make sure that we tell them about it. We usually do something every year. The Fisherman’s Rest helps us out and holds events for us because that was used as a temporary morgue where all the bodies were laid out. But this is the first time that we’ve held a memorial on this sort of scale and we’ve had a great response from it, it has all been really positive and we had a good turnout, a couple of lads from Lytham came down too.”
The service remembered the evening of December 9, 1886, when crew members from Southport, Lytham and St Anne’s battled against hurricane conditions to rescue 12 men trapped aboard the German ship the Mexico.
The Lytham crew saved the lives of those on board the stricken barge, while all 13 of the St Anne’s lifeboat crew, and 14 of the 16 from the Southport lifeboat ‘Eliza Fearnley’ perished, leaving behind 16 widows and 50 children.
Bodies of the deceased were lain on Weld Road in Birkdale, which is how the popular pub, The Fisherman’s Rest, was named. A memorial can also be found in the Duke Street Cemetery and on the Promenade.
Mike Griffin’s great, great grandfather was one of the men who died in the Mexico disaster. He said: “I’ve always grown up very aware of that night, what happened was always passed down throughout the family. It’s really important that people don’t forget because that often happens as time goes on.”
The day was important for others to remember the tragic loss of loved ones too. Kath Wilson lost her 18-year-old son Geoff Clements 24 years ago. She said: “Four went out and two lived, two died. They went fishing and the boat overturned. Geoff was found washed up by Blackpool, his friend swam for 11 hours to get back to the shore. From that I started fundraising, doing car boots, anything at all to raise money. They’re all good lads at Southport Lifeboat, it’s a great gang of people.”
Founding member of Southport Lifeboat John Shawcroft said: “The memorial went really well and I’m really happy with the turnout. It was definitely a team effort to organise this, we were all very heavily involved with it because we wanted to do something special to mark the 125 years."