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Wreck of the Thorne

More Whisky

 

Work proceeded on the salvage of the cargo but access to the lower cargo deck was more difficult and it was not possible to keep up the former pace. The chances of floating the hull became less as the days went by and on Monday 10th February a strong sea was running and work ceased.

On Tuesday evening the wind increased to a gale from the south east which backed east south east. The hull lay facing the south west and presented her port side to the wind and sea. In the early hours of the morning of Wednesday 12th February the seas were breaking over her and the Thorne, lighter by some 600 tons of cargo removed, began to move on the rocks where she had lain still for a month. At four o’clock the Customs officer on duty began to suspect that she was breaking up. He reckoned that any cargo washed out of her would come up on the beach near the tramway terminus and made his way there. On his arrival he found several kegs and other debris coming ashore and it was clear that the Thorne had broken up.

He was not alone on the beach for although it was barely five in the morning a number of people were already on the scene and some had been up all night in anticipation of this harvest from the sea. A message was carried to the customs and within an hour a number of policemen and all the customs officers were in attendance. For a while they were able to cope and the barrels of whisky and brandy were secured as they came ashore. A runner was sent to Capt Young of The Salvage Association, who was aboard the Hyena in the inner harbour, to advise him of the position and to summon all his men to assist in protecting the cargo. It was nearly daybreak before they could arrive and the forces of law and order were finding it impossible to watch the whole length of the coast.

The barrels of spirits came in as far along the beach as the Granville Hotel on the Loch Promenade and The Manx Sun recorded that "the shore presented an unprecedented scene.." and "..during the day there were hundreds of people..about on the sands". Casks were broached and bottles opened and their contents drunk. Some lapped the spirits from the kegs like a dog whilst others used boots to bale it out. It was said that the women at the scene were as bad as the men in this frenzy of drinking.

The result according to The Sun was that "many were soon on their beam ends and in a glorious state of insensibilty, rolling about higgledy- piggledy on the cliffs, on the brows and on the shore and a scene, such as perhaps seldom in the annals of Douglas, was witnessed".Eventually the situation developed into saving lives rather than property as fighting broke out amongst the drunken crowd and some were injured through falling on the rocks and down cliffs.

In an attempt to prevent the mob getting hold of further drink, barrels which had already been opened were turned on their sides and the contents allowed to flow away. Some then promptly drank from the gutters. Serious consideration was given to sending to Castletown for the military at the garrison there and at one stage a customs officer fired his pistol several times in the air to disperse the crowds.

The Manx Sun does not record how the disturbances finally came to an end but when they did the police had to commandeerany means of transport available to remove the drunk and incapable to the Police Station. Two were so far gone that they were taken to hospital and their lives saved by stomach pumping. All around the town the police found men lying in the streets and borrowed stiff carts trundled about collecting them and a doctor was sent for to dress their injuries.

Retribution came for some of them at a High Bailiff’s court on the following morning. Fines of five shillings or ten days imprisonment in default were imposed on some, and ten shillings or twenty one days on others. One who asked for time to pay was informed that he could have until two o’clock that afternoon, the High Bailiff adding that - "Happily the country will be relieved of you for a time in order that there may be peace and quietness and that honesty may prevail..". Although no charges of theft of the cargo were brought, the High Bailiff went on record as saying that "..It is a terrible thing that when a vessel goes ashore that the goods belonging to an insurance company should be stolen and the insurance company should have to provide drink for you. It is not your own. You stole it. It is theft. You will have the Island brought to a pretty state when people hear in England that...wreckers and loafers... here won’t respect property of this kind."

About three hundred more casks of brandy and whisky were salvaged when the Thorne broke up, together with other items of her cargo. Of the Thorne herself little remained except the forecastle which was visible at low water. Kegs and cargo continued to come ashore for a time but the situation was in hand and these recoveries, or at least the greater part of them, were removed by the customs.