[From Mannin, # 6, 1915]
E MANXMEN, in the Island, and the world over, are proud of the little Wanderer and her crew, and the memory of their heroism will live as long as the tragic remembrance of the fate of the Lusitania.
The great liner sank in fifteen minutes, about 2-15 on the
afternoon of May 7th, 1915, and no steamer arrived on the spot for
two hours. The Wanderer, a Peel rugger of about twenty tons,
was fishing a few miles away. Thomas Woods was alone on deck, on
watch, and steering - he had sent little Johnny Macdonald below to
make tea - when he saw the Lusitania list. He gave the alarm,
and the crew quickly tumbled up on deck. The skipper's first words to
Woods at the helm were, 'Go for her, be British.' The Wanderer,
undeterred by the danger of lurking submarines. was quickly
within a quarter of a mile of the scene of the disaster, where she
took on board 160 people-men, women, and children, including Mr. D.
A. Thomas, of Cardiff, the famous coal owner and millionaire, and his
secretary, Mr. A. L. Rhys Evans. So crammed was the lugger; that Mr.
James Brooks, of Bridgeport, Conn., wrote, 'I even had to sit with my
leg hanging over the side because there was no room to put it on the
inside.' The rescued, many of whom were in a pitiable plight, were
kindly tended by the skipper and crew, who gave them all their
changes of clothes, blankets, food and drink, and, the weather being
fine and the sea calm, they were able to transfer them to the tug
Flying Fish, of Queenstown, two miles off the Old Head of
Kinsale. Such are the bare outlines of the story. The imagination
fails to grasp the realities of it, but extracts from the letters of
the skipper and crew, given below, are more telling than the words of
any one who was not present can possibly be. The names of the crew
are:- William Ball (skipper), Jurby ; his son,
Stanley; William Gell, Ramsey; Thomas Woods, Robt. Watterson, John Macdonald, and Harry Costain, all of Peel; owner, Mr. Charles Morrison, Peel.
We had rather an exciting experience on Friday afternoon, about 2-30 p.m. We were coming in with about 800 mackerel, the wind light and ahead, and we put off to sea again for another shot, rather than lose the night. When we were six or seven miles off the Old Head we saw the Lusitania sink, after being torpedoed by a submarine, about three miles SSW. outside of us. We made straight for the scene of the disaster. We picked up the first boats a quarter of a mile inside of where she sunk, and there we got four boat loads put aboard us, We couldn't take any more, as we had 160-- men, women, and children. In addition, we had two boats in tow, full of passengers, We were the only boat there for two hours Then the patrol boats came out from Queenstown. We had a busy time making tea for them - and all our milk and tea is gone and a lot of clothes as well, and the bottle of whisky we had leaving home. The people were in a sorry plight, most of them having been in the water. We took them to within two miles of the Old Head, when it fell calm, and there was a little air ahead. The tug boat Flying Fish from Queenstown then came up and took them from us. . . . It was an awful sight to see her sinking, and to see the plight of these people. I cannot describe it to you in writing.
The saddest sight I ever saw in all my life. I cannot tell you in words, but it was a great joy to me to help the poor mothers and babes in the best way we could.
We saw an awful sight on Friday. We saw the sinking of the Lusitania, and we were the only boat about at the time. We saved 160 people. and took them on our boat. I never want to see the like again. There were four babies about three months old, and some of the people were almost naked - just as if they had come out of bed. Several had legs and arms broken, and we had one dead man, but we saw hundreds in the water. I gave one of my changes of clothes to a naked man, and Johnny Macdonald gave three shirts and all his drawers.
We saw the Lusitania going east. We knew it was one of the big liners by her four funnels, so we put the watch on. We were lying in bed when the man on watch shouted that the four-funnelled boat was sinking. I got up out of bed and on deck, and I saw her go down. She went down bow first. We were going off south, and we kept her away to the S.S,W. So we went out to where it took place - to within a quarter of a mile of where she went down, and we picked up four yawls We took 110 people out of the first two yawls, and about fifty or sixty out of the next two; and we took two yawls in tow. We were at her a good while before any other boat. The first person we took on board was a child of two months. We had four or five children on board and a lot of women. I gave a pair of trousers, a waistcoat, and an oil-coat to some of them. Some of us gave a lot in that way. One of the women had her arm broke, and one had her leg broke, and many of them were very exhausted.
The consciousness of having saved so many lives- must in itself be a great reward, but there would indeed be a lack of generous feeling in the world if this admiration did not find some tangible expression. The Manchester Manx Society voiced the sentiments of all Manxmen '..when it invited the skipper and each man of the crew to accept a medal, designed by Mr. F. S. Graves, 'In remembrance of the fortunate act of charity and courage' performed by him, as his Excellency Lord Raglan worded it when he presented the medals on Tynwald Day,:`', adding, I am quite sure that we shall always feel gratitude to you and to those with you.,