Trebetherick Coastguard

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Trebetherick by John Betjeman

We used to picnic where the thrift
Grew deep and tufted to the edge;
We saw the yellow foam flakes drift
In trembling sponges on the ledge
Below us, till the wind would lift
Them up the cliff and o’er the hedge.
Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea,
Sun on our bathing dresses heavy with the wet,
Squelch of the bladder-wrack waiting for the sea,
Fleas around the tamarisk, an early cigarette.

From where the coastguard houses stood
One used to see below the hill,
The lichened branches of a wood
In summer silver cool and still;
And there the Shade of Evil could
Stretch out at us from Shilla Mill.
Thick with sloe and blackberry, uneven in the light,
Lonely round the hedge, the heavy meadow was remote,
The oldest part of Cornwall was the wood as black as night,
And the pheasant and the rabbit lay torn open at the throat.

But when a storm was at its height,
And feathery slate was black in rain,
And tamarisks were hung with light
And golden sand was brown again,
Spring tide and blizzard would unite
And sea come flooding up the lane.
Waves full of treasure then were roaring up the beach,
Ropes round our mackintoshes, waders warm and dry,
We waited for the wreckage to come swirling into reach,
Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and I.

Then roller into roller curled
And thundered down the rocky bay,
And we were in a water world
Of rain and blizzard, sea and spray,
And one against the other hurled
We struggled round to Greenaway.
Blessйd be St Enodoc, blessйd be the wave,
Blessйd be the springy turf, we pray, pray to thee,
Ask for our children all happy days you gave
To Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and me.

trevThe trawler ‘Peace and Plenty’ was in grave danger out at sea near Padstow, and two of the town’s lifeboats; ‘James Stevens’ and the ‘Arab’ were involved in an attempt to rescue the crew.

Five of her crew were saved by the Trebetherick Rocket Brigade, and three were drowned. Soon after the local pulling lifeboat ‘Arab’ was launched, but was struck by the stormy sea which completely buried the lifeboat. It washed eight of her crew overboard and broke all of her oars.

The crew were helped safely back on to the lifeboat and they attempted to reach the shore minus the oars. When the tired crew finally reached the creek they jumped for the shore. The lifeboat dashed against rocks becoming a total wreck.

The Padstow steam lifeboat was launched after the pulling boat. But soon a heavy swell broke and completely turned the boat over. The second coxswain, Orson French was at the helm. He was among the three members of crew who survived. The other eight drowned.

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