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Overland Launch Overnight 1899

At approximately 1830 hours on the evening of January 12th.1899, a distress call was received in Lynmouth indicating that the 1900 ton, three masted, fully rigged vessel, the Forrest Hall was foundering off Porlock. One of the severest storms ever, it was the night that the Woody Bay pier was destroyed, was being experienced in the Bristol Channel and it was quickly ascertained that it would be impossible to launch the Lynmouth lifeboat, the Louisa in Lynmouth.

OVERLAND LAUNCH OVERNIGHT January 12th. /13th.1899An immediate decision was taken that if the lifeboat could not be launched in Lynmouth, then it would be launched in Porlock and so commenced one of the most remarkable events in the annals of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The boat was pulled, pushed, cajoled or come what may up Countisbury Hill, over Exmoor and down Porlock Hill the thirteen and a half miles to Porlock Weir where she was launched at 0630 hours on January 13th. The lifeboat then escorted the Forrest Hall to a safe anchorage off Barry arriving at 1800 hours. The Lynmouth lifeboat then had to return to Lynmouth, this time by sea, finally arriving at her home station at 1130 hours on January 14th. Thus completing forty-one hours of true heroics.

The full remarkable story is told in detail in a display at the entrance to the Glen Lyn Estate in the centre of Lynmouth where a sister craft to the Louisa is on show. Additionally the full history of the Lynmouth Lifeboat and in particular, a detailed description of the Overland Launch is told in a publication by John Loveless easily obtainable in several outlets in Lynton and Lynmouth.

On January 12th. 1999, the communities of Lynton and Lynmouth celebrated the Centenary of the epic events of their forefathers by re-enacting the events one hundred years earlier. The boat used was the lovingly restored Isle of Wight Classic Boat Museum owned, Queen Victoria. She was originally the Bembridge lifeboat and was almost identical to the Louisa. For many practical reasons, the inability of horses to work on surfaced hills and a necessity to complete in daylight for insurance purposes being just two; it was not possible to stage the event exactly as originally undertaken.

The boat was horse drawn and manhandled from the Sea Front in Lynmouth to Lyndale Bridge, tractored up Countisbury Hill, horse and man powered the seven miles over Exmoor to the top of Porlock Hill and tractored down Porlock Hill to Porlock.

The horses, crew and many launchers were victualled in Porlock before embarking on the final two-mile trip to Porlock Weir in the manner employed by our predecessors in 1899. The enthusiastic support along the route was only surpassed in Porlock Weir where the cavalcade was greeted by the Minehead Inshore Lifeboat and the Barry Offshore Lifeboat at sea and hundreds of supporters ashore.

The many who took part in the event, both physically and metaphorically, will never, ever forget the day. It was hard for them, but nowhere near as hard as it had been for the worthy locals who gave of their time and talent in their attempts to uphold the tradition of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution one hundred years earlier.

The following extract taken from:
This is from Tom Richards recordings;

Lifeboat leaving Lynmouth"Post Office had a telephone message from Porlock saying that there was a ship in distress, blowing a gale. Maroons set up to call the crew down to the lifeboat house. It was impossible to launch the lifeboat. Dad, Jack Crowcombe and Mr. Peter went back to the PO to decide what to do. Decided to take the lifeboat over to Porlock. People had gathered outside the PO from curiosity; they thought it was foolish to launch from Porlock.

A fellow was sent to Lynton for 18 horses, quite an industry up there, and they were tied up to the lifeboat. All the women and kids and men hauled the boat up Countisbury Hill; stopped for refreshments at the Blue Ball Pub at the top of the hill. Women were told to go home and the few men left carried on. Had to break down hedges to get the carriage through. Took 7 foot wide skids with them, pulled the lifeboat over the top of those. Terrible job getting down Porlock Hill.

Took part of a woman’s garden wall down; still dark but when she realised it was a lifeboat, she helped them down to Porlock Weir. There they launched the lifeboat. Towed the carriage back to Lynmouth. Went alongside the Forest Hall schooner. Got aboard and helped the crew and landed up in Barry for the night. Sailed back next day; a steamer leaving Barry harbour gave them a tow back to Lynmouth. No lives lost. Uncle Bill Richards was the youngest member, 15 years old. 13 in the crew."




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