ON THIS DAY | Remembering 27 lifeboatmen lost saving the Mexico

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December 9th and 10th 1886 saw the worst British lifeboat disaster ever recorded occur just off the shores of Southport.

Lifeboatmen from Southport and Lytham St Annes lost their lives in heavy storms while trying to rescue a German ship, The Mexico, bound for Ecuador that had run aground.

14 crewmen of the Southport boat, The Eliza Fernley, lost their lives, with 2 survivors.

The Southport crew were the first to row out late in the evening, but their lifeboat was struck by heavy seas and capsized just as they reached The Mexico.

A second life, Laura Janet, launched from St Annes around 20 minutes later. They were not seen again until their bodies washed up on shore the next morning.

14 crewmen of the Southport boat, The Eliza Fernley, lost their lives, with 2 survivors. A total of 27 lifeboatmen perished.

Queen Victoria wrote in her private journal the next day: “A dreadful misfortune has happened on the Lancashire coast, the loss of life boats, & many lives, a terrible & inconceivable thing!”

Queen Victoria’s journal entry on 11th December, 1886.

All 12 of the German crew were saved.

The bodies of the lifeboatmen once recovered were laid out in the coaching house of the nearby Birkdale Palace Hotel, where the Fisherman’s Rest stands today.

Brass decorative mermaids commemorating those who lost their lives still remain inside the Fisherman’s Rest.

The memorial to the crew of the Eliza Fernley lifeboat, in Duke Street Cemetery, is a grade II listed building.

Southport Offshore Rescue Trust said: “We remember the brave men of Southport and St Anne’s lifeboats who lost their lives on the late evening of December 9 1886.

“We remember this tragic event and the sacrifice of those brave crews by placing a wreath on the Fernley Lifeboat Memorial on Southport’s Promenade.”

Image reproduced from: https://www.facebook.com/SouthportLifeboat

Their wreath reads: “To the 27 brave lifeboatmen of Southport and St Annes who perished in their attempt to rescue the crew of the Mexico during a violent storm.

“Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

“From the Coxswains, Crew and Volunteers of Southport Offshore Rescue Trust”.

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