[From Manx Soc vol XXI]
ON Saturday the 14th December 1822 His Majesty's brig of war Racehorse, of 18 guns, commanded by Captain W. B. Suckling, was totally lost on Langness, Isle of Man.
It appeared that a rose had been painted on one of the beams of the cockpit of the vessel., This incident induced a gentleman, then in the island, Captain Hook, son of Major Hook of the Royal Artillery, who had resided for many years in Douglas, to write the following song, which appeared within a few days after the loss of the Racehorse.
THE rose is now withered and sunk in the grave,
Its leaves are now blighted and wet in the wave
No more through the stream the proud Racehorse goes,
Yet life's brightest sunshine was under the rose.
Oh, sigh not, for fancy shall picture full true
All the moments of gladness which there swiftly flew
And as memory shall trace her full sail down the stream,
Do you think she'll pass heedless " The Rose on the Beam?"
Ah no! yet time's sand must run on and decay,
And memory, like evening's last gleam fade awiy;
The heart must be blighted, life's current be froze,
E're the days be forgotten-when under the rose.
Then tarry ye moments, too swiftly ye fly,
Our leaves, like the rose, must soon wither and die
Life quickly shall pass (tis a feverish dream),
And too soon be forgotten, " The Rose on the Beam."
The loss of the Racehorse caused a considerable sensation in the island, but more particularly at Castletown. She was on her way from Millford Haven to Douglas, for the purpose of convoying His Majesty's cutter Vigilant, which had been considerably damaged upon " Connister," in Douglas Bay, on the 6th October preceding. She made the Calf of Man Lights at 5 P.M. on the 14th December. Some time afterwards another light was distinguished, which the pilot believed to be that on Douglas pier head. It turned out, however to be the Castletown pier-head light. The brig had at this time got into the entrance of Castletown Bay, and before Captain Suckling could get out of the difficulty he was in, the vessel struck upon a rock at the south point of Langness. It was then dark and cloudy, with a heavy sea, which caused the brig to strike violently. With considerable difficulty the cutter was got out, and every exertion used to get the stream anchor into it, with the intention of carrying it out, but owing to the heavy breakers this was found impracticable.
It was soon ascertained that the rock was through the brig's bottom, and the water flowed in until it actually lifted the lower deck. Guns were fired, rockets thrown up, and blue lights burnt, but without attracting attention on shore. The cutter, under the command of Lieutenant Mallack, and the galley, under Mr. Curtis (Purser), left the brig with orders to make for shore to endeavour to procure assistance. Being ignorant of the locality in which they were, the men must have pulled round the promontory of Langness as the galley reached "Fort Island" at 11. 30, the cutter being fully an hour later. From this place the officers and men proceeded to Castletown for assistance. Several boats put off for the scene of the wreck, but only one succeeded in passing through the breakers. This boat made five trips, and brought all the crew from the brig, but, unfortunately, when nearing the shore for the last time, with Captain Suckling, the first Lieutenant Falkner, and a number of men, a sea broke on board and swamped her. Six of the brig's crew and three Manxmen perished. Captain Suckling and Lieutenant Falkner were the last rescued, and their preservation was almost miraculous.
The cool and undaunted conduct of the Captain during the whole scene was the theme of admiration and praise by all his officers and crew. Not an article of clothing or property was saved by any one, except what was upon their persons.
On the following days, Sunday and Monday, every exertion was made to save portions of the wreck, but very little was recovered. The brig went down in deep water. The Lieutenant-Governor and the gentlemen of Castletown showed the utmost attention to both officers and men; the former were accommodated at the "George Inn," and the latter in the Barracks.
The above is an extract from an account of the loss given in The Rising Sun newspaper of the 17th December 1822.
In a statement of " Vessels wrecked on the Coast of the Isle of Man " from 1822 to 1835, published by Robert Kelly, Esq., Notary-Public, the number of lives stated to have been lost on board the Racehorse was seven. The value of the vessel was set down at £15,000.
Captain Suckling was said to have been a nephew of Lord Nelson's.