by William Canton (1845-1926)
Did you ever read or hear
How the Aid—(God bless the Aid!
More earnest prayer than that was never prayed.)
How the lifeboat, Aid of Ramsgate, saved the London Fusilier?
With a hundred souls on board,
With a hundred and a score,
She was fast on Goodwin Sands.
(May the Lord
Have pity on all hands—
Crew and captain—when a ship's on Goodwin Sands!)
In the smother and the roar
Of a very hell of waters—hard and fast—
She shook beneath the stroke
Of each billow as it broke,
And the clouds of spray were mingled with the clouds of swirling smoke
As the blazing barrels bellowed in the blast!
And the women and the little ones were frozen dumb with fear;
And the strong men waited grimly for the last;
When—as clocks were striking two in Ramsgate town—
The little Aid came down,
The Aid, the plucky Aid—
The Aid flew down the gale
With the glimmer of the moon upon her sail;
And the people thronged to leeward; stared and prayed—
Prayed and stared with tearless eye and breathless lip,
While the little boat drew near.
Ay, and then there rose a shout—
A clamour, half a sob and half a cheer—
As the boatmen flung the lifeboat anchor out,
And the gallant Aid sheered in beneath the ship,
Beneath the shadow of the London Fusilier!
“We can carry may be thirty at a trip.”
(Hurrah for Ramsgate town!)
“Quick, the women and the children!”
O'er the side
Two sailors, slung in bowlines, hung to help the women down—
Poor women, shrinking back in their dismay
As they saw their ark of refuge, smothered up in spray,
Ranging wildly this and that way in the racing of the tide;
As they watched it rise and drop, with its crew of stalwart men,
When a huge sea swung it upward to the bulwarks of the ship,
And, sweeping by in thunder, sent it plunging down again.
Still they shipped them—nine-and-twenty, (God be blessed!)
When a man with glaring eyes
Rushed up frantic to the gangway with a cry choked in his throat—
Thrust a bundle in a sailor's ready hands.
Honest Jack, he understands—
Why, a blanket for a woman in the boat!
“Catch it, Bill!”
And he flung it with a will;
And the boatman turned and caught it, bless him!—caught it, tho' it slipped,
And, even as he caught it, heard an infant's cries,
While a woman shrieked, and snatched it to her breast—
So the thirtieth passenger was shipped!
Twice, and thrice, and yet again
Flew the lifeboat down the gale
With the moonlight on her sail—
With the sunrise on her sail—
(God bless the lifeboat Aid and all her men!)
Brought her thirty at a trip
Thro' the hell of Goodwin waters as they raged around the ship,
Saved each soul aboard the London Fusilier!
If you live to be a hundred, you will ne'er—
You will ne'er in all your life,
Until you die, my dear,
Be nearer to your death by land or sea!
Was she there?
Why, the baby in the blanket—that was she
Service of the Ramsgate Life-Boat.
THE following is the Coxswain's report of the important services rendered on the night of 3rd Dec. last, by the Ramsgate life-boat, to the passengers of the emigrant ship Fusilier, of London; and to the crew of the ship Denierara, of Greenock. On the night in question Mr. ALDRICH, Chief Officer of the Coast-guard at Margate, proceeded with all dispatch to Ramsgate to give tidings of the wrecks. The Coxswain states :— " We proceeded about 8-45 P.M., on the 3rd Dec., in tow of the Aid steam-tug, on our voyage in discovery of the distressed ship ; the night was intensely dark. We went in the direction of the Tongue light-vessel. Shortly after passing the North Foreland we could see the signals going up from both light-ships, and after a great deal of difficulty we reached the Tongue light about midnight Having hailed her, we were told by those on board that the supposed vessel was on the high part of the Shingles, bearing north-west from the light. We proceeded in that direction, but, being unable to find her, we made our way to the Princes light-ship, the Girdler and her firing minute guns continuously. We hailed the Prince's light, and received information from them that there was a large ship on the high part of the Girdler. We again proceeded on our way, and eventually discovered her position by the tar-barrels she was burning. After getting into position to reach her, we slipped our cable from the tug. The wind was at this time blowing a complete hurricane from north-west by west, with a terrific sea on, the horrors of which being much increased by the darkness of the night, so that we had the greatest difficulty in getting alongside. On doing so, we found her to be the Fusilier, of London, bound from that port to Melbourne, with emigrants, and belonging to the Black Ball line. This was about 2 A.M. of the morning of the 4th. We shouted to those on board to first save the women and children, of whom there were a great number. The scene at this time was an appalling one; the howling of the wind, mingled with the shrieks of the women and the rush of the waves against the sides of the ill-fated ship, used as we are to similar sights, made us doubly anxious for the safety of those whom, by God's providence, we had come to rescue. We managed in the first trip to take off 25 women and children; these and the others whom we afterwards took off, were got into the life-boat by the aid of two of the ship's crew being lashed in bowlines and slung over the sides of the vessel, who lowered them into the boat by ropes— the task being one that taxed the nerves of all, as sometimes the water was up to her mizen-chains, while at other times it was quite the other way. The first batch having been taken to the tug, which was in the Prince's Channel, about three quarters of a mile off, we, by her assistance, were again able to get into a position to run to the ship again, the second trip bearing off forty women and children, the latter being lowered into the boat in blankets; and in two more trips—making four in all—we got off the male passengers, and placed them on board of the tug, where they were all attended to. It was now 6 A.M., and the sea running high. We laid by the steamer until daylight, when she started for Ramsgate, leaving us to keep by the ship to aid, if necessary, the captain and crew, who had determined upon remaining by her, the tide leaving the ship. After the tug had been gone an hour and a half, to our surprise we saw her returning towards us, and making signals for us. We slipped from the vessel, and went towards her, and were told by the captain that while returning home she had discovered another large vessel ashore, and on her beam-ends on the Shingles—the vessel no doubt seen on the previous night by the light-ships We made all haste to her, and, with great danger, we crossed the Sands, and got alongside of her. We found her to be the Demerara, of Greenock, and found the crew—18 in number, together with the Trinity pilot, Mr. BURTON—clinging to the rigging. In this position, we were informed, they had been for ten hours. We took them off in a very exhausted state, the sea, during the night, having made a clean breach over them. We transferred them to the tug, and we both returned to this harbour, where we arrived at 12-15, after an absence of about sixteen hours, the chief part of the time being drenched by the sea. We landed in all about 120 souls." [The Ramsgate life-boat and harbour are now under the management of the Board of Trade; and are specially under the control Capt. WALKER H.C.S., of that department, who is ably assisted by Capt. SHAW, the harbour-master at Ramsgate. We should add that this life-boat is a self-righting one, and is on plan of the boats of the NATIONAL LIFE-BOAT INSTITUTION.]
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This document was last updated on May 25, 2018