Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Álora: where eagles dare and virgins are reflowered every year.

Álora; where eagles dare and virgins are reflowered every year.

Antes que nada I'd like to offer my sympathy and best wishes to the people of The Turks and Caicos Islands who have just suffered the ravages of Hurricane Irma. 

I bumped into a friend in town today who lives on a hill just outside Álora. He looked a bit down in the mouth. He told me that his cat had been eaten by an eagle. While I was struggling to find appropriate words of consolation I wondered if this was likely..

'Did you see the eagle catch the cat?'
'No, but it was definitely  an eagle or I'm a Dutchman.'

Fair enough!
Rudi, who is not usually prone to flights of fancy, was clearly upset so I decided that this was probably the wrong moment to press my friend, who incidentally IS from Holland, on the matter. I had just been been telling him that I had started taking our dogs,Tommy and Monty, for walks near where he lives. He was just giving me a warning about the dangers up there in the hills. 
I hope he recovers from his loss soon. I might suggest that he replaces his unlucky pet with the big tabby that keeps digging up our plants.

Watch this!         Eagles snaches baby 

There is no shortage of cats in Álora. A lot of people actually encourage them by putting food out. They say it keeps the rat and mouse population down.

We've got lots of eagles in Andalucía, including Golden Eagles which could easily snatch a moggie. In fact, a couple of years ago a lady called Suzanne Dodd (aged 43) had to fight off an eagle that was trying to grab one  of her Jack Russells, just outside Benalmádena.

"Suddenly this enormous bird swooped across the path. With one talon it grabbed her nose and the other her collar and I thought that was it for the dog but it struggled for a moment and I moved in," she told The Daily Telegraph by telephone from her home.
She seized it by a wing and prised the bird's claws from her terrier's head as it dragged the dog from the path towards a cliff edge. "I had just a moment to act and grabbed hold of its enormous wing. It turned and bit me but released the dog." 

The 'eagle' then chased her and the terrified terriers down the path towards  Torremolinos and 'swooped down twenty times'.

'It was a terrifying and surreal experience' (Miss Dodd).

'There once was a woman called Dodd
Who thought that her child came from God
It wasn't the Almighty
That lifted her nightie

Complete the limerick  to win this week's star prize, a two litre bottle of Dulce Zahira wine (13%vol). Mmmmm.

Answers, as usual, on the back of a 50€ note.
Box 501 Álora.

Blogger's query: Why does nobody ever enter  these top notch competitions?

I once saw a 'Short Toed (Snake) Eagle flying off with a snake in it's beak up near Casarabonela.

Come to think of it, we lost our bag of sandwiches up there last October while we were picking olives. It was a large pink cool bag and it just disappeared. We never found the bag or the sandwiches. And Christopher Moore has lost his specs.

Good to see that our popular and long sitting alcalde (mayor) Jose Sánchez (no relation) ('Epi' to his friends)  is back from sick leave and getting stuck into  the job. 
I saw him last week at Álora's annual  Romería pulling pints (cañas y tubos) in the PSOE's chiringuito.

                                                   'Epi' getting stuck in.

Mrs. Sánchez and I always try to get back here in time for the Romería which is really a pilgrimage in honour of la Patrona ( the Patron Virgin) of Álora, La Virgen de las Flores (The Virgin of the Flowers).  We have another 'spare' one called La Virgen de la Cabeza (The Virgin of the Head) but she only has a small romería down by the station in April.

  La Virgen de la Cabeza.

The big Romería starts off with a novena (nine days of masses) in la parroquía (the parish church) in La Plaza Baja (the Bottom Square).  Then we have The Day of the Virgin on September 8th. with a big procession and lots of celebrating and the following Sunday the actual 'pilgrimage' from La Plaza Baja to el Convento up on the Ardales road.

They used to send up cohetes (exploding rockets) on every one of the nine days, then on the Sunday there was an ear-splitting barrage at 8.00am. This was thought to be very entertaining and respectful until every dog owner from here to Pizarra complained and cracks started appearing in the houses on Calle Benito Suarez. Now we can all have a lie-in in prepartion for the hard day ahead.

          Getting the ox-cart and the virgin ready at the bottom of our street.

Regular readers may recognise the chap on the right who is helping to tie the oxen to the cart. Yes. It's Juan Mañoño, brother of Paco Mañoño, in a relatively sober moment.
Juan is our Centro de Medico's (Health Centre) best and most loved customer. 

Within two days he will be sporting another big bandage on his forehead after another  'accident'. (see above, five days later).It's about time they moved him into a bungalow - it could save the Spanish Health Service thousands of euros.

La Virgen de las Flores (she's been doing this since 1502 - Just gone 3.00pm).

The procession starts at 10.00am, going through the Plaza Baja up the very steep Calle Atrás pulled by two oxen which are encouraged by poles with sharp points. They reply by venting their voluminous bowels along the street. The scores of horses that follow need no such encouragement and follow suit. What a niff! 

                                                           Going up Atrás

Hundreds of enthusiastic 'pilgrims' bring up the rear, trying their best to avoid all the festive faeces. This year the official street sweeper vehicle was out doing the business, much to the disappointment of Mrs. S. who is a keen gardener and had a bucket and shovel at the ready. The driver was not open to negotiation either. And I thought that Spain was built on curruption! Load of crap!

                                             Our municipal 'clean machine'

Three hours later....

There are three big festivals in Álora every year and countless small ones. You´re never far away from a celebration here. The big difference between the two religious ones, Semana Santa (Easter) and La Romería is that the Romería is more fun. Everyone is smiling all day. And it NEVER rains. It fact, it was so hot last Sunday that a girl in front of me in the 'queue for the bar' keeled over in a 'swoon'. She soon recovered, but not before I'd managed to get my order in.  Come on!  It's every man for himself in those conditions.

The usual arrangement is that you have to queue up and buy tickets for the amount you're going to spend (like at a school fete) and then queue up again to 'buy' your drinks and food. It's anarchy out there, I can tell you. All the paella goes en dos por tres (like that) and you should see the size of the pan!

                                                     Anyone seen Paco?

  We usually start off at El Capirote, the big chirigito run by the Dolores Hermandad. The PSOE one is usually very big too. 
Paco Mañoño was helping behind the bar in El Capirote.This year he didn't go home in an ambulance. Must be off his beer.
By about 3.30pm. the dust starts blowing around and the horsemen get more drunk so it's safer to look for a 'private' party to gatecrash or a small chiringuito a bit out of the way. 

                                                      I am turning left

The only criticism I have of this wonderful event is the lamentable lack of latrines. Most people just wander off into the olive trees which could all do with a drink at this time of year, but those prepared to queue at the only official servicios may have to wait many excruciating minutes in the searing heat for a seat.

 Bar News.

Bar Adeli Blanco has opened on Calle Santa Ana. It is in the building that was the old post office, then Bar Correos, then Bar El Cirineo. The food is good and they do a good Menú del Día for 7.50€. Adeli is the owner and cook. It was shut today.

La Lonja de Mamely is tucked away on Avenida Cervantes, on the left. Its seafood is fantastic. We went today. Squid on toast, seafood croquettes.fried squid, tuna with guacamole on toast. Ice cold Cruzcampo cerveza.

The next big day (last weekend was The Day of the Pedal) will be El Día de las Sopas Perotas.(The Day of Sopas Perotas) on October 7th. Good fun for all with music, lots of stalls and a free plate of Álora's signature dish Sopas Perotas. Mmmmmm.
It's one of the few days in the year that Mocho's Bar in La Plaza Baja makes any money.

¡No te lo pierdes! (Don't miss it!).

                 (Our back wall is in the picture, just to the right of the spoon handle)

Juanito Sánchez 19th. September 2017 (Talk like a pirate day).


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Egg-bound and bound for Álora. ¡Manda Guevos!

I don't believe it!

After three days of hard travellin' on road and sea Mrs. Sánchez, Tommy, Monty  and I pulled into Álora feeling about half past dead. 
Our very obliging neighbours had blocked a parking space for us right outside our 'casucha' on Calle Benito Suarez,  so unloading all our equipaje (stuff) took no time at all. By 8.00 pm (Spanish time) los Sánchez were up in La Plaza de la Fuente Arriba (The top square) in search of ice cold red wine and tasty tapas.
First Stop; Los Caballos Dos and los niños del Divino who 'run' the place.

´'Dos copas de Ribera del Duero y la carta, por favor.'  (Two red wines and the menu please)

'No tenemos carta. Tenemos queso, jamon o tostada con secreto iberico' (No menu but we've got some cheese, ham and pork on toast.)

'¡No puedo creerlo! (I can't believe it)

Now it's true a Tuesday night is not the best time to look for a meal in the top square these days. In the winter months (January and February) nobody goes out much anyway - but during la canicula (the dog days of August)?
Lo d'Antonio's on La Rampa  is shut on Tuesdays anyway but it appears that several bars in town are closed all week for 'vacaciones'!!Por  piedad'! ( For pity's sake!)

It took me back to my childhood days in Oldham in the late fifties when all the cotton mills shut down for 'Wakes Week' and everybody cleared off to sunny Blackpoool for fresh air and fun.
Except me.

                    Wakes Week 'up north. 'This town is coming like a ghost town' (The Specials). 
                     (with no smoke).

                                                        Fresh air and fun

What a bleedin' liberty! Didn't they know we were coming back today?

The evening was unseasonably chilly and Mrs.S didn't fancy the cold aluminium chairs they put outside La Casa de Romero (She hates those uncomfortable bum freezers and everyone knows you can get piles from sitting on cold seats). Also, the 'Deliverance Drinking Duo' from Dudley were having a quick tubo in the doorway before their appointment next door at the 'Chino'

Handy tip from the Dudley Duo : The 'Chino' ,next door, stays open late and sells cold 2 litre bottles of Cruzcampo for 1.50€ a piece.

Bar Alegría, Cafe Bar Madrugón and Cafetería Azahar don't open at night even at the best of times so we set off up Calle Vera Cruz towards the bar-lined boulevard named after Spain's greatest author and Álora resident, Calle Cervantes.
We'd  got as far as Bar El Gusto (known as El Bulgaro by the local Perotes) when Beatles fan Khalid  greeted us with another invitation to his house. I proudly showed him a photo of me on my phone outside the phoney 'Cavern Club' on Matthew Street in Liverpool. He was well impressed.


We then had an unfathomable one-sided discussion about 'Bressi' (Brexit) with Filiipe of the IU (United Left Party) and it was nearly 11.00 pm.by the time we sat down inside Bar Casa Pinto, which is now one of the best places to eat in town. 
                                                          Bar Casa Pinto

They do a selection of 'Sartená'  here, a traditional Andalucían dish, I'm told, which is a balti pan with virtually anything you fancy on top of  a deep bed of chips and fried  green peppers with a fried egg on top. I had a beicon (bacon) one and Mrs. S. had one with 'gambas fritas' (fried prawns). 

                                                 Una beicon y jamon sartená mmmm.

I don't know about you but I find you can't go far wrong with an egg or two -  a culinary maxim embraced enthusiastically by Spanish cooks from Bilbao to Benalmadena. But it's in the La Mancha region of central Spain that they go really egg-mad. 

We stayed the night last Monday  at El Real Castillo near Tembleque in Castille - La Mancha. It wasn't a real castle at all but they took dogs, the parking was free and the food was great, if a bit eggy. Mrs. Sánchez had pisto manchego and I had morcilla con patatas fritas (and two eggs).
We both started with Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup).

Pisto Manchego (spot the egg).

                                                    Sopa de ajo (garlic soup)

It's the land of 'Quijote Cuisine' and I doubt that there´s anything on offer in any restaurant in La Mancha that does not include at least one egg, usually fried.
Don Quijote, the 'Man of La Muncha' himself, started every day with a plate of fried eggs and went to bed with a large glass of egg nog. Indeed, many of his famous sayings include references to eggs and/or chickens. For example:

         'All eggs are good (or are less) with bread'
'The proof of the pudding is in the eggs'

'The egg,  Sancho my friend, is one of the most precious gifts that Heaven has  bestowed on mankind.'

'Can one desire too much of a good thing'

'The truth is, Sáncho, I think that, after a woman, my second choice would be a chicken'
          'Go to work on an egg'.

                                        Don Quijote come huevo (Don Quijote eats egg).

 The Spanish word for 'egg' is 'huevo' (pronounced 'Wave-oh' ) (plural: huevos), which is also used instead of 'testiculo' to mean 'testicle'.(even in medical text books and the bible!). 'Testicles' also translates as 'cojones',(pronounced co-hone is)  but only in the plural. (except for this extraordinary angry ejaculation):

"¡Si no te gusta lo que te digo, chúpame un cojón!"
("If you don't like what I'm saying, suck my testicle!")

Such pithy and entertaining wordplay provides much  amusement here in Spain, as you can imagine, and there are literally thousands of popular expressions using 'cojones',and 'huevos' and if I knew any I would give you some examples. If you tried making a few up yourself  you  would probably find that they are bona fide Spanish. A good rule of thumb, though, if you want to avoid embarrassment or a fat lip, is to avoid any reference to huevos at all in polite company  which, of course, may limit your options when eating out in Castilla-La Mancha.

Tip ; Don't confuse 'cojones' with 'cajones' (drawers). And try not to trap one in the other. 



This weeks competition:

Make up a 'cojones' comedy quip using this photo that I took in a bar in La Guardia (Castilla- La Mancha) last Tuesday.

  Answers, as usual, on the back of a 50€ note. PO Box 51 Álora

Stop Press.......Stop Press............

Good news. Lo D'Antonio's will be re-opening on Thursday at mediodía. Casa Abilio, which has been shut during August is now open again.
 Cafe Bar Alregría is open again but Paco tells me he won't be doing tapas.
 ¡Me están tocando los huevos! 

New Bar News 

The bar on your left as you enter Álora by the   'nuevo acceso' which used to  be Bar Fuente Nueva, then  Bar Something Else, then Bar Fuente Nueva again has now  re-re-reopened as 'Casa Nelly'.

Have you been? What do you think?
                                Nelly's Bar

Good to be back. It's the Romería next week!

Juanito Sánchez 5th. September 2017.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Man not in Álora tells Scilly Stories of Shipwrecks, Skybus, Strudel and Cyber Stalking.

Scilly Stories of Shipwrecks, Skybus,Strudel and Cyber Stalking.

About this time of the year, when the British summer is at its peak, Mrs. Sánchez and I pack our buckets and spades and, filled with the optimism that comes with failing memory, head south west for the cooling heady breezes of the Isles of Scilly, a group of largely unspoilt islands, rocks, reefs and ledges 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall.

People who live on the five inhabited islands are called 'Scillonians' or 'Islanders'. You can imagine how amused Scillonians are by the possibly infinite number original and entertaining ways  the pun: Scilly/silly can be used.  (Scilly ass, Scilly bee, Scilly sausages etc.) That is probably the reason they don't like you saying 'The Scilly Isles' and prefer 'The Isles of Scilly', 'The Fortunate Islands' or 'Lyonesse'. It hasn't stopped some shameless incomers employing the worn out pun to sell stuff, though.

One of the reasons Scilly is so 'unspoilt' is that it's not easy to get there to dump your rubbish, string vests and tattoos  are banned and it's very expensive.. It's a long drive to Land's End from everywhere in Britain except, perhaps ,Cornwall and then you have to leave your car in the hands of  a licensed bandit while your stomach  makes the  2 hours 40 min. sea crossing on Scillonian 111 (another reason for not going). There used to be a helicopter but Sainsbury's built a big store on the heliport so the only alternative to sea sickness these days is Skybus which flies from Lands End Airport (LEQ), near St. Just-in-Penwith, to St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly.

                                          The Skybus 8 seater 'Islander BN-2B'.

Until a few years ago it was called St Just Aerodrome and  the planes took off in a field which was a bit bumpy (rabbit holes) and the field got waterlogged after a heavy shower. In 2014 they laid  a concrete runway and changed the name. It is now thoroughly modern, with flashing runway lights, a new cafe serving 4 kinds of coffee and a televised safety film.

Land's End Airport
What a rude pilot!

After a gruelling six hour drive Mrs.S. and I arrived, parked the car and went to check in. We weighed our bags on a machine (15kg maximum per person) and we were well under. Then I saw a notice saying we had to have 'Photo ID'. Mrs. S. didn't have any. I didn't want to leave her behind  (I had my driving licence) so I tried to blag our way past the 'security' lady. If you can do a Cornish accent, read the next bit aloud using it.

'You have to have proper ID. This is a proper airport.
(they use the adjective proper as often as possible in Cornwall)

'I've got mine but my wife hasn't got any' 

´Has she got a bus pass?' (cheeky mare!)


'That credit card will do. Pop your bags on the belt'.

A chap who looked just like the policeman in Doc Martin started calling out the weight of each item.

'8, 5, 8'

'Hang on a minute, we've just weighed all those. That bag never weighs 8 kilos!'

'We're talking pounds. Proper job.  What about those other bags?'

'Hand luggage'

'Too big. pop 'em on the belt'

'But that will take them over the weight limit'

'Don't worry about that. Now who's going to be weighed first?'

 We stepped forward in turn and placed our feet on the two foot-shapes on the floor.

'That's all fine. Proper job. Go and have a cup of coffee and a pasty and we'll give you a shout when your flight's ready.'

                                                             'Proper job!

The flight to St. Mary's (the big island) took 15 minutes as there was a head wind. Paulger's Taxis whisked us down to the quay where we waited for the 12.45 'Spirit of St. Agnes' to ferry us over to the most south-westerly of the inhabited islands, St. Agnes, ancient home of the Hickses and Leggs. 
All the other islands used to be one big island (Lyonesse) but global warming around 500AD caused an inundation and the islands of Bryher, Tresco, St. Mary's and St. Martin's were created (previously the hilltops) and that's  all that's left of Lyonesse.

"So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur's Table man by man,
Had fall'n in Lyonesse about their Lord,
King Arthur...."

(Morte d'Arthur

We've been going to Scilly since 1977 (it's an addiction) and we are still classed as 'visitors' which is fair enough, but when we go to one of the other islands we become 'trippers' which irritates me a bit. To be an 'islander' you have to able to prove your family was living there when Adam was a lad.
Our kids still keep going back for holidays too. It's a very peaceful place. Crime is is virtually non-existent (although there was a murder in 1976 (incomers on St. Mary's) and a minor crime wave in 1975,( also on St. Mary's) .
In the 70's Mrs. Sánchez and I were happy to let the kids run wild around 'Agnes' until teatime, confident that they would come to no harm. Paedophiles hadn't been invented then  and children still ' made their own amusements'. It's much the same today. There are no snakes and you are more likely to smell a pasty than smell a rat; the latter were all bumped off a few years ago.

The real truth is that St Agnes is a very dangerous place. I had no idea. A friendly cricket match last week against a pub team from Cheltenham was abandoned when a St Agnes player nearly had his left eye removed by a cricket ball and then one of the opposition dived for a catch and broke his collar bone. A couple of days later the coastguard helicopter was called out to evacuate a sailor who had damaged a hand in an outboard motor propeller. (Agh!)

                        Coastguard rescue helicopter hovering outside our bathroom

And then there's The Lobster Man. Half man, half lobster, he haunts the lanes of St. Agnes on misty nights. You may laugh but all the 88 permanent residents of St. Agnes treat him with respect and always wear some seaweed about their person if they find it necessary to pass by the Island Hall in darkness.
There is a saying here;

'A pasty a day keeps the Lobster Man at bay'

I may have had this very saying in mind as I collected our lunchtime pasties from the bar in The Turks Head, the island's pub. These pasties must be in short supply because there is a sign outside the pub telling one to ' pre- order pasties before 11.00am' and I was looking forward to sinking my gnashers into one of these piping hot savoury pastries. As I reached for my wallet a voice from behind me that I did not recognise said,

'Are you Juanito?'

I turned to face a tall and considerably broad male figure silhouetted against the sunlit window.

'Do I know you?' I asked, as I squinted to make out his back- lit features.

'No. I'm , *****, the owner of the pub. I believe you had a problem here last night.'

The pub had changed hands since we last stayed on St. Agnes. I knew nothing about the new owners. I tried to remember a 'problem'

'Last night. Down to the pub at 9.15. Ordered drinks for Mrs. S and myself. Barman says, I'm shutting the pub at 10.00. I was disappointed. First night. First drink at pub. As I put the drinks on the table, feeling a little disgruntled, my phone dinged. 
A knife and fork symbol in the top left hand corner.'

'Your are in the Turks Head, St. Agnes. Can we have your opinion?' 

'Not wishing to disappoint and more than willing to share my dismay with someone I wrote:
'Pub shuts at 10.00pm. No food after 9.00 pm. Only game in town.'
We drank our 'Sea Fury' ale and left'.

'No I didn't have a problem.'

'You gave us a bad review on Google. You only gave us one star'.

'Oh, sorry, I just said you were shutting at 10 o'clock.' They asked me.

'Well,  I'd like you to reconsider your review'


I was suddenly aware that my pasties were cooling on the bar, the sunny pub garden and Mrs. Sánchez beckoned and I still hadn't paid. I handed over the money and picked up the two plates. He was still there. I could make out his features now. We had never met. I had never seen him before. I had another 6 days to stay on the island with only one pub and only one other (expensive) place to eat in the evenings. Curiosity overcame my need to eat and drink for the rest of the week.

'By the way, how did you know I am me? How do you know my name?

'I spent 20 years in IT so I know how to find out about people.'

He showed me his 'phone. There was a gallery of photos of me. Some not very flattering.
He'd been waiting for me to come in with these pictures to identify me.
I started to feel very uncomfortable. Creepy, right?
Phones, computers, the internet; nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from cyber stalking.

Not such a peaceful island then.

The Turks Head (no apostrophe) is a lovely pub with an amazing view over the islands.

We've had many great evenings there over the last 40 years with family and friends. The beers always good and lots to choose from on the menu board.

A couple of days later ( still managing to get food and drinks at the pub) Mrs. Sánchez and I wandered into the little church at Periglis  in Cornish (church cove) to have a look at the stained glass windows.

The 'new' stained glass windows in the church
The top one on the left depicts two of the pilot gigs which used to row out to ships as they approached the English Channel in order to to put a local pilot on board to guide the ship through the deadly rocky western approaches. The Western Rocks are some of the most dangerous in the British Isles. The Bishop Rock Lighthouse ( the most westerly lighthouse in Europe) was built to keep ships away from these rocks, underwater reefs and ledges. 
There are 580 registered shipwrecks around The Isles of Scilly.

A gig usually had a crew of 7 including the 'cox'. Their long and slim design and the six oars made them fast boats; fast enough to outrun the Customs boat too.

                    Two gigs racing. The St. Agnes gig Slippen is on the right

The gigs often went out at night in high seas, usually competing with gigs from other islands to be the first to put a pilot on board. It's how they made a living. Many islanders lost their lives attempting to save the crews of ships in distress. 

There's a plaque on the wall of the Church which sketches the story of the schooner 'Thomas W. Lawson' which was wrecked in 1907 off the small uninhabited island of Annet, just across from St. Agnes.

The story of the Thomas T. Lawson is a gripping tale of greed, heroism, tragedy and hubris. (I've never been too sure about hubris) and I think it's worth telling in more detail. So here goes. 

                                                          The Thomas T. Lawson

At the time the Thomas T Lawson was built (1902) the majority of freighters were using steam power or a combination of steam and sails. She was originally built to carry coal along the East coast of the United States. Freight operators had found that steamers were uneconomical because a third of their cargo space was taken up by coal for the boilers, then there was the cost of the fuel itself. So John G. Crowley paid $250,000 dollars to have the biggest pure sailing vessel ever built. No other sailing ship had so many masts  but it was 'a turkey' from the start. Its massive deep steel hull and inadequate sail area made it handle 'like a beached whale'; it couldn't  get into many of the coal harbours and it did not have an auxiliary engine for manoeuvrability in light winds. Its only engine was a small 'donkey' which was used to winch  the heavy sails and to operate the pumps and the steering. Powered winches meant a smaller crew and more profit.

By 1903 transporting coal wasn't very profitable so Mr. Crowley had it refitted to take a cargo of oil and on November 17th. 1907 off she set for London with 58,000 barrels of oil - but not before replacing 6 of the crew, who refused to work for such low wages, with mostly non-English speaking unqualified seamen, two days before the off.  The full complement on board was 18 including the captain, George Washington Dow, two stewards an engineer and  two helmsmen. (no mention of a cook!).

Two days out she ran into a series of terrible storms and was not sighted for 20 days. By the time she reached the Celtic Sea, west of The Isles of Scilly, she had lost most of her sails, all but one lifeboat and the pumps had clogged up.  On Friday 13th. December, with hardly any sails and no engine the Thomas T Lawson couldn't be steered effectively and, to make matters worse, the crew  failed to spot the Bishop Rock Lighthouse. The ship staggered up Broad Sound on the wrong side of Bishop Rock towards the treacherous rocks of Annet. 

                                      Annet (Minmanueth is a the top left hand tip.)

Near Gunners Rock (just out of the picture, top left) Captain Dow dropped two bow anchors to ride out an impending gale and await assistance. Lifeboats from St. Mary's and St. Agnes came out and requested the captain to abandon ship, which he refused to do several times, trusting his anchors, but he agreed to take on board Billy 'Cook' Hicks, a Trinity House pilot from St. Agnes. As the storm gathered force one of the anchors started to drag. 
The St. Mary's lifeboat had to return home with an injured crew member, The St. Agnes boat had lost a mast and so followed suit after staying alongside the ship for 4 hours in the most terrible high seas and gale force winds. Falmouth was cabled to send a tug which never appeared.

                                            The Western Rocks, Isles of Scilly

During the night the port anchor chain broke, then the other one. The ship was doomed. 
Soon after 2.30 am. watchers on St. Agnes saw the ship's lights go out. She had crashed into Shag Rock and broken in two.The cargo of oil gushed out into the boiling sea.. All the masts broke off and fell into the rocky maelstrom  killing all the crewmen, who had been ordered to climb up them for safety. Billy Hicks was among them. Only three men out 19 remained alive; the captain, the engineer, Edward Rowe and crew member, George Allen.      
 Every man was wearing a lifebelt but all 16 were killed by falling masts, getting trapped in the rigging , smashed against the jagged rocks or drowned in a mixture of sea water and oil. Bodies recovered after shipwrecks are rarely intact.

  The St. Agnes gig 'Slippen'

By morning the overwhelming stench of oil across St. Agnes told all. The ship was lost.
 But what of survivors?.The St. Agnes lifeboat couldn't get out of Per Conger bay. Meanwhile Edward Hicks, the son of the pilot Billy 'Cook' Hicks,tried desperately to raise a crew to take out the pilot gig Slippen to look for his father and other possible survivors.
Eight men, including Edward launched Slippen and struck out into the huge waves for Annet.
Above the howling of the wind and the crashing of waves they heard a voice calling for help and found a sailor, George Allen, who was badly injured, and took him back to St. Agnes, where he died later. He had been the only survivor, it was presumed.

Young Edward Hicks would not give up hope and that afternoon the crew of the Slippen set out again and this time came across the engineer, Rowe, who had been washed up on the Hellweathers Carn rock. He had swallowed sea water and oil, but was without serious injury. They threw him a rope and pulled him into the boat. 

                                                   Hellweathers Carn Rock

He told them he'd seen the captain alive on some rocks not far away. Edward grabbed a rope and plunged into the sea, clambering 50 yards through sea and rocks for 50 yards to rescue Captain Dow who had a broken wrist. For his bravery the U.S. government gave him a gold watch. All the Slippen crew were also given gold medals.

Lucky, indeed. Not so lucky  the crew members and St. Agnes pilot who may have survived if he had accepted help early on.

The next day, Sunday, the St. Mary's lifeboat and gigs from the other islands went out to look for the bodies of the rest of the crew. A grisly task .Their remains were buried in a grave on St. Agnes.

Today the Thomas T Lawson lies on the sea bed to the west of Shag Rock. It is a popular site for divers. 

Edward Hicks's grandaughter, Mandy Pearce still lives on St. Agnes with her husband, Adrian. They used to be flower farmers and owned The Bulb Shop on St. Agnes (now 'Potbuoys'). We know Mandy quite well and a had a chat with her last week. I'd no idea until days later that she had this connection to the Thomas T Lawson

There is a little school on St. Agnes for the nine children on the island of primary school age. The nearest Secondary School is on St. Mary's.
The schools here break up two weeks later than on the mainland so we were able to go and watch the concert that they put on outside the school. It was very good indeed. Although there aren't many children, there is a wide age range.
As 'Young Mr. Grace' of Grace Brothers used to say ' You've all done very well'.

The concert
                                                               Young Mr. Grace

As we sat watching the show, the St. Agnes Post Office Van went by. Yes, 88 residents and they have their own Post Office van. Proper job too!

And their own BT van!

Pie News

No pie news this time because everybody eats pasties here but if you are ever on St. Mary's, get yourself up to Kaffehaus on High Lanes and have some of their delicious  Apfelstrudel. 

 Juanito Sánchez August 4th. 2017.