On the 9th of December, we commemorate the anniversary of the Mexico Lifeboat Disaster, a tragic event in the history of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) which occurred this day in 1886.

The event, also known as the Southport and St Annes’ lifeboat disaster, is the worst loss of crew in a single incident in RNLI history.

The Mexico, a German cargo sailing vessel en route from Liverpool to Guayaquil in Ecuador, fell victim to a full WNW gale off the coast of Southport. The captain, fearing the vessel would be blown onto sandbanks, sent out distress signals.

In response, lifeboats from Lytham, St Annes and Southport rushed to save the crew of the Mexico. Despite their best efforts, the ‘Eliza Fernley’ lifeboat from Southport capsized, resulting in the loss of 14 of its 16 crew members. Subsequently, ‘Laura Janet’ the St Annes lifeboat, was discovered washed ashore the next morning, and all 13 men on board lost their lives. The ‘Charles Biggs’ lifeboat from Lytham successfully rescued the twelve crew members of the Mexico.

Memorials to the tragedy were erected on the Promenade in St Annes, St Annes Parish Church, St Cuthbert’s churchyard in Lytham, Layton Cemetery, and Duke Street Cemetery, Southport.

Cllr Karen Buckley, Leader of the Council, commented: “The Mexico Lifeboat Disaster is a somber chapter in our borough’s past, highlighting the inherent risks faced by those who dedicate their lives to saving others at sea. To mark the anniversary, we will fly the Borough flag at half-mast at the Town Hall as a symbol of respect for the lives lost and gratitude for the ongoing dedication of the RNLI.”

David Forshaw, Lytham St Annes Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer / Deputy Launching Authority added: “The heroism of the RNLI Lifeboat Crews around the coast of the British Isles is still ongoing with the Sea Charity’s Lifeboats ready to launch in any weather conditions, day or night, to help those in danger at sea. The example set in 1886 by those brave crew members of the St Annes and Southport Lifeboats who gave their lives in an attempt to save complete strangers must never be forgotten. The Lytham Lifeboat brought the Mexico’s crew to safety, despite the terrible conditions, but their colleagues, and in many cases relatives, in the other two Lifeboats sacrificed their lives in the attempt. We should all be proud of their selfless heroism”.

For more information on the Southport and St Annes lifeboat disaster, visit the RNLI’s website: https://rnli.org/about-us/our-history/timeline/1886-southport-and-st-annes-lifeboats-disaster


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