Laura Janet Memorial Cross

St. Cuthbert's Church, Lytham and St. Anne's Parish Church (bottom)




On 9 December 1886 a German barque, the Mexico, travelling from Liverpool to Ecuador, was caught in a storm and dropped anchor in the Ribble estuary. The ship’s anchor broke loose and the crew signalled for help as they drifted towards sandbanks off Southport. Three Ribble lifeboat stations launched to help the crew of twelve: the Charles Biggs from Lytham, the Laura Janet from St Annes, and the Eliza Fernley from Southport. The Charles Biggs rescued the Mexico’s crew and returned home. Shortly after this the Eliza Fernley arrived at the Mexico but was hit by a huge wave and capsized with only two of its crew of sixteen surviving. Meanwhile there was no sign of the Laura Janet. The following day the Charles Biggs and the Blackpool lifeboat, the Samuel Fletcher of Manchester, launched to search for the Laura Janet. She was eventually found capsized off Birkdale near Southport with her crew of thirteen all dead. The Mexico disaster was, and still is, the worst in RNLI history.

Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany both sent their condolences. A major appeal followed to provide funds for the families of the deceased and for the erection of memorials. Sir Charles Macara (1845-1929), a leading figure in the Lancashire cotton industry and resident of St Annes at the time of the Mexico disaster, developed the idea of charity street collections to raise funds. Many others contributed including Queen Victoria (£100), Kaiser Wilhelm I (£250), the City of Hamburg, and various national newspapers.

A memorial carved by the Edinburgh sculptor W B Rhind to five of the Laura Janet crew who lived in St Anne's was erected in the St Anne's parish churchyard above the grave of the five deceased crewmen. Rhind also sculpted the Grade II listed memorial located on St Anne's Promenade that portrays William Johnson, coxswain of the Laura Janet (List Entry 1196340). A graveside memorial to seven crew members who lived in Lytham was erected in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard, Lytham, and is listed at Grade II (List Entry 1297684). Another crew member is buried in Layton cemetery, Blackpool. Fourteen members of the Southport lifeboat, Eliza Fernley, are buried in Southport Cemetery where there is a Grade II-listed memorial (List Entry 1379580). Also in Southport there is another Grade II listed lifeboat memorial commemorating the loss of the Eliza Fernley and her crew (List Entry 1379732).

Sir Charles Macara's gravestone stands close to the Laura Janet Memorial.

Text courtesy of URL: Laura Janet Memorial Cross, Saint Anne's on the Sea - 1423950 | Historic England


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