The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society was formed in 1839 after the loss of fishing boats in a storm off the north Devon coast. I first came across them after noticing the mine along the strand in Ballycastle in Antrim. And this organisation is not only active in the United Kingdom, but also in the Republic of Ireland. Shipwrecks and poor sailors have no borders!
On Sunday 28th October 1838 twelve fishing vessels, with a total of twenty six men on board, left Clovelly harbour for the fishing grounds. Only two returned and twenty-one men were lost after a ferocious storm. This tragedy led to the foundation of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society in February of the following year. The purpose of the charity is to provide financial help to merchant seafarers, fishermen and their dependants who are in need. Shipwrecks continue today, especially with fishing vessels, and often with devastating consequences.
According to their own website they help mainly retired or permanently disabled seafarers and their widows/partners. Beneficiaries are typically aged 50 and above (although of course they consider enquiries from people of all ages) and have backgrounds in the fishing industry and Merchant Navy. Their sea service may have included time in the Royal Navy as well.
Our mines have become iconic across the UK and are the visible manifestation of our existence. If you’ve been to a popular seaside town you’ve probably seen one but many people don’t realise what they are, or their significance, which is particularly pertinent this year as we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2.
About 200 mines were originally donated to them by the British Navy for use as collection boxes in recognition of the Society’s significant help to thousands of shipwrecked survivors during WW2. I wish I had the time to do this! The Society has around 60 mines remaining and they’re spread around the coastline of the UK – including the occasional one on outer islands. The society has estimated that it could take someone in the region of three months to visit them all if travel is by bicycle! “Dear son, I am writing this letter as I depart for three months on my trusty Raleigh…….!”
Here is a map from their website of where these mines are located (red dots).