• 150th Anniversary Commemoration

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    Gill is the Clerk to the Rushen Parish Commissioners.

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    March 29th, 2008 by Gillian Kelly in Events

    If anyone would like to come along on 8th April, at 11am (the time that the rescue took place) then they are most welcome.
    The commemoration will be a low-key event to give people an opportunity to reflect on the bravery of those men who risked their lives then and still do today to save ‘those in peril on the sea’.
    Anyone wanting further information can contact Gill Kelly, the Clerk on 834501 or email on

    The Wreck of the Jeune St Charles and the Bravery of Men from the Howe and Port St Mary.

    On 8th April Rushen Parish Commissioners will be commemorating the 150th anniversary of an act of heroism by men from The Howe and Port St Mary who, at great risk to themselves, rescued some the crew of the Jeune St Charles from certain death in the treacherous waters of The Sound. The rescue took place on the morning of 8th April 1858 in dreadful conditions

    The Thousla Cross, in the form of a cross of Lorraine, is the memorial to mark this event and which Rushen Commissioners had erected at The Sound, overlooking the Thousla rock, after which it is named, so that the event would never be forgotten.

    The following is part of the record of events and is taken from the booklet written by Stanley Clucas, CP, who is a former Commissioner.

    On 29th May 1858 the French schooner Jeune St Charles set sail from Pontrieux, Northern France to Londonderry, Northern Ireland with a cargo of flour. The cargo was very valuable as they was a great shortage of wheat in the aftermath of the Crimean War. There was a crew of six, the Captain was Joseph Jegou from Lezardrieux and he had his 13 year old brother, Yves making his first voyage as ships boy. There was also another ships boy, 14 year old Francois Ave.

    With favourable winds the journey should have taken about five days. However, on 4th April they were caught up in a south easterly gale and were forced to heave-to. There were heavy seas and damage caused to the ship but they set sail again at 4am in a full south easterly and blinding rain. By 10pm they were under sail when the weather cleared briefly. They saw the lights of the Calf of Man to the west ward. The Captain judged his position to be too close to the Isle and he decide to drop anchor and weather the storm. The mate gave the alarm that there was land at a distance of only one cable so they immediately dropped the two bow anchors to hold them. The sea was washing over from stem to stern and the pumps manned to keep them afloat.

    At 8am on the eighth day the anchor chains parted and the ship began to drift along the coast, being driven along about three fathoms from the cliffs her head could not be got out of the sea so they dropped their one remaining anchor in the channel which separates the Isle of Man form the Calf of Man. It held just long enough for them to launch a long boat and immediately after that the anchor hawser broke. It was obvious to the crew that the ship was going to be swept through the channel and break up on the rocks so, taking a few personal possessions and the ships papers they abandoned the Jeune St Charles to he fate.

    The wind and the currents were so strong that before they had time to ship the oars both the Jeune St Charles and the long boat went aground on a rock awash in kid channel. The first wave took away their oars, the second capsized the long boat and all six crew were left clinging perilously to the rocks. One minute later the two ships boys, Yves and Francois, could no longer hold on and disappeared into the waves and perished. The Captain, mate and two crew were left clinging to the rocks in terrible anguish, the waves breaking over them tearing the clothes and flesh from their bodies.

    At first light the dangerous position of the French schooner had been noticed by farmers on the hillside overlooking the eastern approaches to the Sound. Word quickly spread to Port St Mary and there had been great concern for the safety of the ship. For three days the persistent south easterly storm force winds had swept across the mouth of the harbour making it impossible to attempt a rescue. When news of the ship wreck and the crew’s plight was known it was determined that a rescue attempt would have to be made.

    The only possible way would be to launch a substantial rowing boat from the Sound and this was carried from Port St Mary to the Sound by relays of men via The Howe and Cregneash. The boat, crewed by Henry Qualtrough, Thomas Taubman, John Maddrell, Edward Fargher and Thomas Keig was launched from the Sound but could not reach the wreck and, after battling against the south east wind and the flood tide, the rescuers were swept past the desperate sailors and, to save their own lives, landed on the Calf. A second boat was carried from Port St Mary and this was crewed by Thomas Harrison, Joseph Harrison, John Watterson, Daniel Lace and John Karran. These men, by a combination of skilled seamanship and a total disregard for their own safety launched their frail craft into the ragin channel in a final attempt at rescue. The cries of the beleagured French men could be heard clearly by those on shore as each wave broke over their heads. Their ordeal had lasted for three hours and hope had almost gone when the first boat had been swept past. Straining on the oars the second boat was swept towards them and they were grasped by willing hands and taken aboard, to be driven by the strong current to the safety of the Calf.

    The Frenchmen were badly injured but were looked after by the lighthouse keepers. They were later taken to Castletown in the care of Dr Underwood and, when somewhat recovered were taken into the care of the French consul in Liverpool.

    An eye witness of the rescue said “I was never prouder of my countrymen than on this occasion. I have witnessed many wrecks and assisted at saving lives but never saw a crew more determined to risk all to save human lives, especially taking into account the frail and tiny boat, the bad oars, the raging sea, the fearful tide rushing through the narrow channel, the rocks only appearing at intervals threatening the destruction to their feeble boat at the fall of every breaking surge. I sincerely hope that their bravery may be a stimulus to others”.

    Their bravery was indeed recognised and, on the 7th December 1858, the crew of the second boat were presented with silver medals by the Lieutenant Governor on behalf of the French Government.

    After the wreck there was great agitation for a beacon to be erected on the “Thousla Rock” for the safety of shipping and the Manx fishing fleet. The Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses erected a beacon on the rock the construction also provided a refuge where shipwrecked mariners could remain out of reach of wind and sea. This was completed in 1859. The Cross of Lorraine was erected using money raised in France and this was put on top of the beacon in memory of the two ship’s boys who had been lost. That cross was lost during a storm in 1905 but the beacon was replaced and a wooden cross constructed of red wood by Mr Willie Collister, was erected.

    In 1980 the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses had the cross removed so that it could be replaced by a gas light to give better warning to shipping. The cross was left in the builders yard until it was rescued by Rushen Parish Commissioners, in whose area the Sound and Calf lie and they decided to erect it at the Sound as a memorial to the bravery of local men. In the summer of 1981 a service of dedication was held.

    Rushen Parish Commissioners ensure that this memorial is kept painted and the ground around it in good order so that those looking at it can look across the Sound to the treacherous rocks and try to imagine the bravery of two crews of the rowing boats who were prepared to risk their own lives to rescue fellow sailors. There is always a small bunch of flowers placed by the cross but it is not known by who. The Commissioners have named their Charitable Trust The Thousla Cross Trust to honour those men.