Port Eynon lifeboat tragedy memorial


port_eynon_billy_gibbsThe marble sculpture of a lifeboatman outside St Cattwg's Church commemorates three members of the Port Eynon lifeboat crew who drowned during an unnecessary call out on 1 January 1916.

There was a westerly gale when the steamer Dunvegan lost power near Oxwich Bay. When the lifeboat arrived, nobody on the ship acknowledged its presence. The ship’s captain said later that he had been calling for a tug (to tow the ship to Swansea), not a lifeboat.

As the lifeboat travelled towards shelter at the Mumbles, it was capsized by a large wave and then righted itself, as it was designed to do. Two men were missing. The boat capsized again, and this time coxswain William Gibbs, aged 66, was missing. He was a churchwarden and parish councillor. Billy (pictured) left a widow and two daughters.

The other 10 crew members reached the Mumbles the following morning, about 23 hours after they had launched.

The body of George Harry, 46, was found at Jersey Marine (east of Swansea) four days after he drowned. He is buried in the churchyard here. He left a widow and four children.

Old photo of Port Eynon lifeboat memorialThe body of second coxswain William Eynon, 46, eventually washed ashore near Porthcawl and was taken to St Cattwg’s churchyard for burial. It was said that when he dashed out of the house on the day of the tragedy, his little daughter had followed him to the beach and implored him not to go to sea that day.

The public had grown used to bad news from what would come to be known as the First World War, yet the lifeboat tragedy was a shock. Within a fortnight of the disaster, a fund was established to create a memorial at the churchyard.

The lifeboat station, at the western end of the bay, closed temporarily after the tragedy and permanently in 1919. A new lifeboat station, near the east end of the bay, opened in 1968.

Postcode: SA3 1NN    View Location Map

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