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Wreck of the Thorne

The Anchorage at Douglas

 

Other vessels had the same intentions as the master of the Thorne and at Douglas, on the afternoon of Sunday 19th January, a large screw steamer, the Lord Aberdeen, bound from the Mediterranean to the Clyde, put into the bay and anchored just beyond St Mary's or Conister Rock. Her steering gear required attention and this was repaired and she left on the following day after the weather had moderated somewhat. This steamer was followed, at three o'clock, by a four masted, full rigged ship under fully reefed storm try-sails on both her main and mizzen masts. She swept into the bay, as if with the intention of anchoring, but not thinking the Douglas anchorage secure, she ran on to Ramsey Bay.

At about noon on Sunday, the Thorne sighted the Isle of Man. Because the wind had changed direction it was not thought possible to reach Ramsey Bay which would have offered better shelter and so the Thorne put in to Douglas Bay and came to anchor there at about seven o'clock in the evening. Since leaving Liverpool she had been at sea for the best part of a week.Capt Glazebrook knew that it was not good holding ground at Douglas, the chart showing the bottom to be of mud and clay with some rock. His chief officer, John Stanley Taggart, although Manx, had left home too early to have local knowledge of Douglas Bay but it was recorded that Taggart believed that the position in which the Thorne anchored was the best that was to be had.

It must be borne in mind that the Lord Aberdeen had arrived at Douglas before the Thorne and had anchored in the bay. It was stated in evidence at the inquiry that the barque had anchored in 12 fathoms and about a mile and a quarter from the "town", which was probably meant to indicate the area around the harbour and the Loch Promenade. The depth of water, reduced to chart datum, might indicate a position near to the 10 fathom line. The port anchor had about 120 fathoms of chain and the starboard one around 135 fathoms. Both anchors were laid, each with about 90 fathoms, or 540 feet, of chain. The wind at the time of anchoring had gone round to the west nor'west and was blowing "half a gale", probably around 30 knots. With the wind off the land the Thorne rode easily and did so for the next few days.

On Wednesday, 23rd January the wind shifted to the south east and increased. In preparation for a departure first mate Taggart went ashore to arrange for a tug and the crew started to lift the port anchor but found it to have fouled the starboard anchor chain. On Taggart's return from the shore on Wednesday evening the lifeboat was being lifted back on deck when the davit collapsed. The boat dropped into the sea with the davit attached and drifted away. In the meantime the crew had been attempting to clear the fouling of the port anchor and although they worked throughout the night it was not cleared when the tugboat, the Manx King, came on the next morning and it was arranged that they would signal for the tug to return when they were ready. It was not until four o'clock in the afternoon that the port anchor was raised and the plan to put to sea on the Thursday was abandoned.

On the Thursday morning Capt. Glazebrook sent his mate Taggart and two hands ashore in a dinghy to collect a telegram from the owners. Taggart had orders to return as soon as possible but that, if conditions were bad, he was not to take risks in the small boat. In the event and in spite of several attempts, Taggart was unable to return to the Thorne. The Examiner of 25th January reported that Taggart had gone ashore to visit his mother but it is clear that he was on ship's business. Also on the Thursday morning a boatman named Brew came across the Thorne's lifeboat floating in the bay and towed it into the harbour. In the afternoon he returned it to the barque and was given five pounds for his trouble.