The lifeboat for Mortehoe, 1871

Morthoe Bay, Morte Point, Rockham Bay, and Bull Point, have an evil repute in the sailors’s log. It has been buoyed with such warning as might serve to caution ships making for the Bristol Channel to give it wide berth and rather anchor at Lundy than risk too close an acquaintance with Morte Stone, or Woolacombe Sands, there is now to be stationed there a life-boat. 

The boat itself, is the gift of the Bristol captains in the African Trade who have “ clubbed together,” for theirs and others’ lives imperilled on the rugged coast. On Saturday the presence of the boat at Bristol gave occasion for grand holiday, at which thousands of people turned out. The boat has been named the Jack-a-Jack, so called after the African station where the movement was first originated about four years ago. They have also contributed towards the boat-house that has been erected Morthoe for the life boat  . 

Agrand procession was formed of sailors, soldiers, and civilians. The lifeboat herself, hoisted on her transporting and launching carriage high above the many-headed crowd, formed the focus of the picture, with Union Jack, ensign, and National Institution flag flying, and crew with their cork life-jackets on, their “peaked oars,.”

The boat-carriage was horsed by a team of splendid draught horses, which drew the eight or ten tons weight up Parkstreet with comparative ease. The public “ reception “ given to the boat was certainly a most gratifying one. 

The procession arrived at the Zoological Gardens in Clifton, where the ceremony of launching took place in the artificial lake. Mr. W. P. King made a vigorous speech at the “giving away “ of the boat. The seamen from Bristol, he said, know full well of the dangers of the beach, and, anxious to rescue those wrecked, have been doing their utmost to collect for the lifeboat to be placed on Morte Bay. 

No doubt they would be glad to have such a boat as Jack-a-Jack, but the difficulty is that no such Christian spirited and self-devoted people could be found as we have on the coast of Devon to take their share in the work of benevolence. 

Captains sailing from Bristol to the coast of Africa, as none of them never hope and few expect to be placed in such circumstances as to need the assistance of the lifeboat Jack-a-Jack. They feel that it belongs to the position that the African trade holds in Bristol (more ships go out from Bristol to Africa than to any other part of the world) to place a lifeboat on the coast of Morte Bay. 

Amidst ringing cheers the ceremony was completed. Rockets were sent when the launch was completed, and a salute was fired from the guns of the Artillery Corps, the multitude which must have numbered many thousands, then left the Gardens. 

Friday, the 17th of March, must henceforth be reckoned one of the red letter days the history of the village of Morte. It is presumed that there has not been so large a number of persons there at one time for many years.

The gift of a lifeboat, presented shipmasters and merchants of Bristol to be stationed at Morthoe, has caused a great deal of  excitement, in the usually quiet hamlet and culminated on Friday as general holiday among the inhabitants, who flocked to the shores of Woolacombe to witness the first landing and launch of the Jack-a-Jack. 

Numbers of sightseers were observed wending their way westward causing one to fancy that it was ‘race-day ‘ somewhere. On arriving at the lifeboat station at Woolacombe, the transporting carriage for the boat was found ready on the launching ways front of the boat-house. This building is of a substantial nature, and is of the pattern now generally adopted at all stations under the control of the National Lifeboat Institution.

At about 2.30 p.m. the Morte and Ilfracombe rocket carriages, appeared on the scene, of Morte being manned by members of the Morte Volunteer Life Saving comapny, whilst the coastguard, command of Lieut Williams, worked the one of ‘Combe. The former came directly to the beach, whilst the latter took up ground on the grassy point to the right. Shortly after this the boat rapidly pulled towards the intended landing place, and at exactly 3.30 the new boat first touched what must henceforward be called her own ground.

When the boat was fairly rehomed,  the carriage Capt. Ward made a short address to the bystanders. He said that before re-launching the boat it would be as well to say a few words reference the origination of her presentation. At this the scene of her first landing they were assembled to witness. It is a matter of regret that at present there was not sufficient number of skilled boatmen living in Morte to form a crew, but that the llfracombe men were all times willing to come should their services be needed. Many vessels as they were doubtless aware had been lost in that locality.

The Bristol shipmasters had now therefore liberally defrayed the whole of the cost not only of the boat, but also of the building a boathouse amounting altogether to considerably over £700, thus leaving the locality responsible only for the future maintenance of the boat and he (Capt. Ward) did not doubt, that the inhabitants of Morte and the surrounding district would do their part. The somewhat strange name of Jack-a-Jack had been given to the boat at the request of the donors and was so given reason of its being the name of part of the African coast retorted to by traders chiefly of Bristol.

The National Lifeboat Institution now has boats within the neighbourhood, one at Ilfracombe and the one they had come to see. The photograph of the boat and crew, together with members of the committee and others was then taken by the Messrs. Catford after which the boat was launched and pulled a short distance seaward. 

There was some difficulty experienced with the horses as they objected to the water, and the crew had eventually to jump out and launch her themselves, assisted by the bystanders. The water, with the exception of a small breaker, was perfectly smooth. 

Whilst the boat was afloat the crews the rocket apparatus under the command Lieut. Williams, fired several rockets with the line attached seaward, and the whole process, showing the means by which life is saved with this excellent invention, was practically illustratad, several youngsters making an ariel voyage from the cliff to the beach, very much to their own delight and the amusement of the spectators. 

The boat was now replaced on her carriage and conveyed to the boathouse, after which cheers and were given for the boat, the donors, Capt. Ward, Local Committee and Sir Bruce Chichester who had most geuerously presented land for site for the house, and material for its construction. 

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