Southport Pier and the pier divers

The life of Southport pier began in 1859 when the Southport Pier Company was formed with a capital of £12,000 in March, with construction work starting in August that year. Designed by James Brunlee, a Scottish civil engineer, the pier took a year to complete with the final cost being in the region of £8,700, the equivalent of just over a million pounds at today’s prices. The pier’s primary purpose was to be a promenade rather than a sole place for ships to dock; it was considered to be the country’s first iron-constructed pleasure pier, the second longest after Southend pier and was opened with fireworks and a grand procession on August 2nd 1860.
During the pier’s first few years waiting rooms for boat passengers were added and by 1865 a cable-operated tramway had been installed. In 1868 the pier was extended from its original 3,600ft length to 4,380ft and was used by various steam packet ships with services operating to resorts including Fleetwood and Llandudno. Visitors to the pier originally had to pay a toll of 6d (2.5p) priced deliberately high so only the most affluent people could go there, but with an increase of working class visitors during the 1870s the toll was reduced to 2d.
Southport pier pre-1900 – postcard photo from the internet
In September 1897 a fire destroyed the pier’s original pavilion; its replacement was opened in January 1902 and with the inclusion of an auditorium it was considered to be grander than the original. In 1905 the tramway was electrified and from 1906 the new pavilion was leased to a variety of entertainers including Charlie Chaplin and comedian/singer/music hall performer George Robey, then following WW1 it was renamed The Casino with its main attraction being dancing.
By the early 1920s silting up of the water channel towards the landward end of the pier led to extensive land reclamation but this made it difficult for steamer ships to dock so the service ended completely in 1929, then in 1933 a large fire in July that year destroyed the pier head. The cost to put right the damage was estimated to be £6,000 – almost £433,000 today – which was unaffordable to the Southport Pier Company so in 1936 the pier was sold to Southport Corporation for almost £35,000, or nearly £2.5 million today, and during repairs the tramway rolling stock was rebuilt.
During WW2 the pier was closed to the public while it housed and operated the searchlights used to detect enemy aircraft en route to Liverpool docks and it didn’t reopen until 1950. By then the tram line had been moved from its central position to the side of the pier and the track gauge had been changed, with new diesel trains known as ‘Silver Belle’ running from 1954, then in 1959 another significant fire destroyed 5,000 sq ft of decking, reducing the pier’s length to the now present day 3,633 ft.
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The Silver Belle, 1954-1973 – photo from the internet
In 1973 the ‘Silver Belle’ trains were replaced with ‘English Rose’ trains and in 1974 the newly formed Sefton Council acquired ownership of the pier but in spite of being in a state of deterioration it was designated as a Grade ll listed structure in August 1975. Deterioration continued through the years with a storm in 1989 causing extensive damage; due to the rising cost of repairs and maintenance, and in spite of its listed status, Sefton Council sought to demolish the pier in December 1990 but the proposal was defeated by a single vote.
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The English Rose, 1973-2000 – photo from the internet
After operating at a loss for several years and with unaffordable upkeep costs, a charitable trust was formed in 1993 to maintain the pier’s operation but in 1997 a structural survey confirmed its poor condition and recommended its closure. After receiving a grant of £1.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund restoration work started in 2000 and was completed in 2002 with the pier reopening to the public in May that year. The modern pavilion structure at the pier head was designed by Liverpool architects Shed KM and houses a cafe with airport-style floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the beach and a ‘penny arcade’ with a collection of vintage amusement machines using pre-decimal old pennies which can be bought on site at £1 for ten.
The 2000/2002 pier restoration also provided a new 3ft 6ins narrow gauge tram track running along the centre of the widened deck and in August 2005 a new twin-section battery powered articulated tram started operating, running a half-hourly service from each end of the pier every day except Christmas Day. In July 2013, following the discovery of cracks in the supporting columns, the tram service was suspended, then due to rising maintenance costs and council cost-cutting measures it stopped running entirely in June 2015; it was replaced by an extension of the pre-existing land train which runs to this day.
Modern tram, 2005-2015 – photo from the internet
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Current land train
On my visit to Southport last month I’d noticed a couple of what seemed to be sports-themed sculptures on top of tall poles near the pier. The person featured on one of them seemed to have half a leg missing – was this deliberate or had the leg somehow been damaged and removed for repair? There was nothing anywhere to explain the significance of either of the statues but some later internet research provided some very interesting information.
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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Pier Diving was a seasonal phenomenon which kept the crowds entertained in several seaside resorts around the country and a popular attraction at Southport for many years from 1903 was a succession of divers who would dive into the sea several times daily from the roof of the tea house at the end of the pier. Although some of these men did have true academic qualifications many of those who didn’t would still take the title of ‘Professor’ and the two most associated with Southport were Professor Gadsby and Professor Powsey.
Professor Frank Gadsby, the one-legged diver, was born in Nottingham in 1882 and after dislocating his hip as a very young child had to have his leg amputated. An early photo shows that the full leg had been removed so I can only assume that whoever did the sculpture wasn’t working from a photo, or it was purposely made to be more aesthetically pleasing. Frank learned to swim at the age of 12 and in spite of only having one leg he enjoyed success in many swimming championships, then after a succession of different careers he became a travelling showman, performing dare-devil high dives at many seaside resorts during the summer seasons. His acts included diving 100ft from a special mast into the sea or a water tank, he was often to be seen diving from Southport pier and he would always perform his final dive wrapped in a burning sack. He died at the age of 76 in 1958.
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Professor Gadsby – photo from the internet
Professor Albert Edward Powsey was born in Sheerness in 1866 and at the age of 14 he was awarded the Humane Society Medal for rescuing a local woman from the sea. After working in a grocer’s shop then as an apprentice steam pipe fitter and works foreman he spent ten years as a swimming instructor at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, where he devised his high diving act which he eventually took to the pier at Herne Bay in Kent. From Herne Bay he moved on to Brighton pier and then Clacton before starting an 18-year run at Southport pier where he evolved and perfected his ‘dive of flames’ and his ‘terrific bicycle dive’ from a specially constructed platform which was the inspiration for the sculpture.
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Professor Powsey’s bicycle dive, Southport pier – photos from the Powsey Family History
From the pier Professor Powsey went to the old fairground (now Pleasureland) and started his greatest act of diving – plunging from an 80ft tower into a tank containing just 4ft of water. His only break from the fairground before his retirement was when he was booked to perform six dives, at £50 per dive, in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall. To make the dive from the required height would have meant removing part of the roof so the local corporation vetoed the act; Professor Powsey sued the corporation and following a long legal wrangle he was awarded £150 damages. At the age of 75 he made his last dive at a Southport gala for the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Charity funds then spent his retirement living locally before passing away in a Liverpool hospital in 1956 at the age of 89.
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When I took a ride on the pier land train just a month ago I didn’t realise then that I would end up researching the history of the pier itself and its divers but although quite time consuming it’s proved to be a very interesting exercise – and as the saying goes, you learn something every day.

The Mouse House blog….

Is now four years old, according to the WordPress notification I got yesterday.
Happy Anniversary with!
You registered on 4 years ago.
Although this blog is only four years old I’ve actually been blogging for almost eleven years. I discovered a talent for writing when I was at school, photography had been a hobby since the age of ten and a love of camping started in 1997 with my very first weekend on Anglesey, so after becoming a solo camper in 2009 I started my first blog as a way of combining all three interests. Initially it was more of a reminder to myself of places I’d been to but if I picked up a few readers along the way then that was a bonus.
When I started this blog in October four years ago it was mainly as a hobby, something to keep myself occupied during the late autumn and winter months when I wasn’t camping, but I’ve found that in the last couple of years it’s turned into almost a full-time job. Right from the start I’ve often randomly featured places, usually fairly local, which I’ve been to while walking the dogs but joining in occasionally with Jo’s Monday Walk has encouraged me to explore places further afield and to always post my walks on Mondays, with probably more general posts on Fridays.
Many of the places I write about have a fair bit of history attached to them, history which could mean the difference between writing an interesting post and writing a mediocre one, so I can often spend hours, days even, researching the details and editing the photos for whatever I happen to be writing about at the time – and as soon as I publish one post I make a start on the draft for the next one. So if anyone ever asks me if I watched (insert whatever programme comes to mind) on tv recently the answer will most likely be ‘no’ – I rarely watch tv as I’m too busy here on my pc.
Not long ago I had a 2-week holiday from work although I didn’t actually go away anywhere. Camping was out of the question and a trip to Ireland would have produced more problems than it was worth so I stayed at home, and being blessed with good weather for most of the two weeks I was able to get out and about with the camera to places which will eventually feature on here. In fact I was so busy exploring during those two weeks that I went back to work for a rest!
Of course, there’s something about this blog which shouldn’t be ignored and that’s my lovely blog readers. It’s nice to know that there are at least some people reading my scribblings, and if it wasn’t for my readers there may not be a blog anyway, so thank you everyone for following me over the last four years – here’s to the next four, and hopefully beyond.

Remembering Sophie

It was eleven years ago today that Sophie came into my life. I’d found her from a classified ad on the internet while searching for a companion for my other little dog Sugar and of all the Jack Russells advertised something kept drawing me back to her picture. It seemed I was the first person to ring and enquire about her; she lived in south Derbyshire and as I couldn’t drive at the time a good friend offered to take me down there to see her the following day.
When we pulled up outside the house Sophie was in the garden with Christina, her owner, and the minute I saw that little dog something grabbed me and I just knew I was bringing her home. The following day was Sophie’s birthday, she would be two years old, so it seemed that not only was I getting a new little friend and Sugar was getting a new companion but Sophie was also getting a new home for her birthday.
She curled up on the back seat of my friend’s car and slept all the way back, and from the minute we arrived home it was as if she had always been there. She settled in with Sugar straight away, often sharing the same bed, she liked running about and exploring while on our long walks and quickly grew to love our many camping adventures. She only ever barked briefly if someone came to the door, other than she was very quiet, and she was the happiest, sweetest, gentlest, most good natured little dog I’ve ever known.
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Photos above : Top – Sophie’s 2nd birthday, 23-09-2009   Centre – Fleetwood beach, 04-10-2009   Bottom – Christmas Day 2009
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Photos above : Top – Swamped by a wave on a Norfolk beach, 03-06-2010   Centre – With the rosettes she won at a fun dog show, Oswestry 20-06-2010   Bottom – On Cemaes beach, Anglesey, 28-06-2010
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Photos above : Camping at an East Yorkshire site, May 2011   Centre – Paddling in the River Calder, June 2011   Bottom – Camping at Elvaston Steam Rally, July 2011
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Photos above : Top & centre – Looking abandoned outside a cafe near Abergele, North Wales, Easter 2012   Bottom – With Sugar on the Anglesey camp site, June 2012
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Photos above : Top – Looking very silly in a hoodie far too big for her, Willow Lakes camp site February 2013   Centre – With Sugar on the same site   Bottom – In the van and not happy to be going home, Anglesey June 2013
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Photos above : Top – The end of another holiday, Anglesey May 2014   Bottom – At Elvaston Steam Rally July 2014
Sophie had been with me for over five years when just before Christmas 2014 I sadly lost Sugar to kidney failure at the age of sixteen-and-a-half. I’d been aware of the outcome when she first became ill so not wanting Sophie to be on her own I searched the internet again and found Poppie – she lived in Grimsby and I collected her on the last day of October that year. Initially on the timid side she became a good friend to Sophie once Sugar was no longer with us and the two of them were often found sharing the same bed.
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Photos above : Top – With Poppie in the tent, Anglesey June 2015   Centre – At Elvaston Steam Rally July 2015   Bottom – On the camp site at California, Norfolk, September 2015
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Photos above : Top – Curled up with Poppie, Anglesey May 2016   Centre –  In the tent, Anglesey June 2016   Bottom two – Santa’s little elves, December 2016
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Photos above : Top – The deepest she ever went in water, at a local reservoir May 2017   Bottom – After a minor operation on a front leg, June 2017
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Photos above : Top – The end of an Anglesey camping trip, June 2018   Bottom – After a long local walk, July 2018
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Photos above : Top & centre – A walk in a local park, March 2019   Bottom – With Poppie on holiday in Cumbria, June 2019
I didn’t know it at the time but our Cumbrian holiday in June 2019 would be the last proper holiday Sophie would have. As many of you will remember from previous posts she suffered a stroke in early January this year; with medication and 24/7 care from me she improved slowly and I was hopeful that she would eventually recover but sadly it wasn’t to be and she drifted peacefully away after almost five weeks.
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Photos above : Top – Wrapped in a pilchard-stained towel after just being fed   2 – A silly way of sleeping   3 – The best way to keep her safe while I was out of the room   4 – In her bed at the side of mine   Bottom – In the back garden after a walk
Sophie’s passing left a huge hole in my heart, a hole which even now still hasn’t completely healed, and I still have unexpected moments of sadness when something triggers a particular memory of her. Tomorrow would have been her 13th birthday and though she is no longer here Poppie and I will cuddle up, remember the good times, and share a bit of cake in her memory.

In search of Colourfields

Pennine Lancashire’s Panopticons are a unique series of twenty-first century landmarks purposely situated in high-point places which give panoramic views of the surrounding areas and after visiting the Singing Ringing Tree three weeks ago I decided to seek out another of the landmarks. Blackburn’s Corporation Park features Colourfields and as it’s an easy drive from home I went there just a couple of days ago.
The Colourfields landmark sits on the former cannon battery which was originally installed for the park’s opening in 1857 and which housed two Russian cannons captured during the Crimean War. Unfortunately time took its toll over the years and the battery fell into disrepair but the design and construction of Colourfields in 2006 enabled the structure to be preserved rather than demolished, which would otherwise have been necessary owing to its deterioration.
The large park is situated on a very steep hill to the north west of Blackburn town centre and while I realised that Colourfields would more than likely be towards the top end actually finding it wasn’t the easiest task. Numerous paths led to different parts of the park but following various signs didn’t help as they seemed to be sending me in all different directions, and I was just beginning to lose the will to live when I got chatting to a very nice couple who lived locally and were able to tell me where the landmark was and how to get to it.
Unfortunately when I did finally find Colourfields I felt distinctly underwhelmed and disappointed. There was nothing anywhere to say what it actually is, no information board, nothing, and having previously seen photos of it on the internet it was vastly different to what I expected. Any colour had disappeared almost into oblivion, there was a tile missing from one of the steps and some parts of the original coloured floor surface had been replaced at some time with ordinary plain grey tiles. The surrounding railings were nothing to write home about either, they looked just like the ones you find where you cross a road junction with traffic lights – in short, the whole thing just looked incredibly dull.
Internet information says that from the viewpoint you can see over the park down below and the town beyond, and on a clear day there are distant views towards Lytham, Southport and Fleetwood; unfortunately most of the view was obscured by trees and the sun was shining from completely the wrong direction so I didn’t take any photos from there. For the purposes of this post I’ve pinched a couple of shots from the internet just to show what Colourfields should look like but the other four photos are my own.
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It’s a shame that Colourfields has lost its colour and is looking a bit worse for wear as it was obviously once quite attractive, but though much of the internet blurb describes it as being ‘dramatic’ and ‘impressive’ I’m afraid my own opinion of it is vastly different. On the other hand, Corporation Park itself is lovely and I got some great photos while I was there so I may very well revisit another time but one thing’s for certain – I won’t be walking all the way up to Colourfields.

MV Carrier – a ship on the rocks

Situated on the hillside high above the A55 Expressway at Llanddulas, to the north of Colwyn Bay in North Wales, is the limestone-producing Raynes Quarry. Stone from the quarry is transported by conveyor belts crossing above the nearby railway line and under the A55 to Raynes Jetty where it’s loaded into coastal freighters for taking to other parts of the British Isles.
On the evening of Tuesday April 3rd 2012 the Bahamas registered 269ft long cargo ship MV Carrier, having collected about 1,700 tons of limestone from the quarry, was hit by force-9 winds and five-metre swells and ran aground on the rocks and concrete sea defences near the jetty, breaching its hull in three places. In an operation involving two helicopters and two lifeboats launched into a full gale and rough seas all seven uninjured Polish crew were rescued, with police closing a section of the A55 for public safety and to allow the helicopters to land and take off.
A few days later it was the Easter weekend and while camping at a lovely site less than three miles north of Llanddulas I drove down the A55 on a day out from the site. I could see the tops of the ship’s masts as I went past its location but that’s all I could see so I decided that on the way back I would try to find it and get some photos. It wasn’t an easy task as I had to park up and walk quite a distance along the coastal cycle path, also a 100-metre exclusion zone had been placed round the ship’s immediate area and police and officials were everywhere, but by walking up to the top of a steep grassy outcrop and down the far side I managed to bypass the barriers and the blue-and-white ‘Police Crime Scene’ tape and get to a spot where I had a good view of the ship.
After an inspection of the ship and a structural assessment revealed severe damage the German shipping company who owned and managed it declared it ‘a constructive total loss’. Salvage crews were called in to remove 24,000 litres of fuel, work which had already started when I shot my photos, then the Carrier was to be cut up on site into manageable sections which would be taken by road to a designated scrap yard.
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Keeping off the A55 I headed back to the camp site along a road which took me past Raynes Quarry on the hillside and on the spur of the moment I decided to try and see the Carrier from up above. Unfortunately the roadside wall was too high for me to see over but a short walk through a nearby small housing estate led me to a spot on the hillside almost directly above the ship. My view was partially obscured by the branches of various shrubs and bushes but I was still able to take a reasonable photo. 
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The fuel removal operation was completed on April 9th and demolition of the ship started immediately afterwards with the work expected to take about six weeks depending on various safety and weather conditions. Unfortunately I was unable to revisit the area for any more photo opportunities so I’ve pinched a couple of superb shots of the Carrier during demolition from another blog I read.
Twelve months after the ship’s grounding a critical report by the Marine Accident Investigation Board raised questions about the experience and guidance of the quarry’s jetty operators, adding that staff allowed the Carrier to continue loading in spite of the bad weather conditions. The ship’s owners also criticised the quarry operators for not giving the crew appropriate advice, and following the report the company no longer sends ships to Raynes Jetty.


Scavenger photo hunt – August

It’s photo challenge time once again and this month’s topics are – moving, boxes, starts with ‘D’, breakfast, making, and as always, my own choice. Admittedly a couple of these had me scratching my head and I wasn’t sure I’d find anything suitable but almost by accident I came up with something so here we go –
The first shot was taken in 2011 while I was camping at Filey in North Yorkshire. I’d gone to Bridlington for the afternoon, a place I’d never been to before, and while wandering round the seafront fairground decided to test the sports shot facility on my recently bought camera. The log flume seemed to be a good choice to ‘freeze’ a rapidly moving object and the results came out quite well.

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Moving – log flume boat on its descent

The opportunity for the next topic arrived at just the right time. My friend Lin was clearing out her spare bedroom and needed to put some things into storage temporarily so last weekend a couple of hours of my time were taken up in helping her to move her stuff down to the rented lock up. My large mpv was packed full of boxes and it took four trolley loads to get everything into the unit.

Boxes – some had already been taken off this trolley

The next shot was taken back in April 2007 while I was looking after two dogs in my role as pet sitter. Fliss and Daisy lived in a large detached house only a few streets away from me and belonged to the lady vicar of the local parish church. They were lovely dogs, I looked after them several times and was quite sad when the family moved to another town.

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Starts with ‘D’ – dogs. Daisy on the left, Fliss on the right

A photo of my breakfast on a tray would be too obvious and very unexciting so after a bit of head scratching and quite by accident I ‘thought outside the box’ and came up with the next photo. Breakfast At Tiffany’s has long been a favourite film and I remember when I first saw it on tv back in the 70s – being the animal lover I am I cried near the end when the main character threw her cat out of the taxi into the pouring rain, then I cried again when she went back and found it cowering wet through under a cardboard box. I bought the dvd several years ago and even now that cat brings a lump to my throat.

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Breakfast – (at Tiffany’s) – one of my favourite films

Another head scratcher now as I don’t bake, knit, sew, or otherwise make anything on the domestic front, however the next shot, even though I used it in a previous post several weeks ago, just lends itself nicely to the topic so I just couldn’t resist using it again.

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Making – the mess Michael was making while rearranging his room

And finally, another ‘by accident’ shot now which I found while trawling the archives for a nice view to end the challenge. On a camping holiday in Norfolk back in 2010 I was taking the dogs for an early morning walk when I came across a wheelie bin with a picture stuck on the front of it. Not only was it cute it also made me smile so much I just had to have one, so back home I tracked one down via the internet and stuck it to the back of the door in the spare bedroom which is now Michael’s room. It’s still there and it makes him smile too.

My own choice – a poster which always makes me smile

Well that’s it for another month and as usual I’m linking up with Kate’s blog, so I’m settling down with a brew now and hopping over to see what delights others have chosen this time.


Riverdance wreck – a disaster and a tourist attraction

While writing about the Fleetwood wrecks the other day I remembered that somewhere in my archives I had some photos of a much more recent wreck so I looked them out and did some research which proved to be very interesting. Unfortunately due to cloudy weather and safety restrictions at the time my own photos aren’t exactly brilliant so for the purposes of this post I’ve pinched a few from the internet.
Built in 1977 and initially named Mashala the ro-ro (roll on/roll off) cargo ship was registered in Nassau, Bahamas, and operated first in the Mediterranean then in the Caribbean, the North Sea and the Irish Sea. After several name changes over the years and being chartered to different companies it was bought by Seatruck Ferries in 1997 and renamed Riverdance, sailing a regular route to and from Heysham in Lancashire and Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland.

MS Riverdance – photo from Wikipedia

At 7.30pm on January 31st 2008, while carrying 54 trailers, 19 crew and 4 passengers and sailing through rain, high winds and rough seas en route to Heysham, the Riverdance was broadsided by a huge wave causing the cargo to shift. This in turn made the ferry lean slightly to one side but before it could right itself a second wave slammed into it, the cargo in the trailers became loose and the ship developed a 45 degree lean. After the main port engine failed Riverdance began drifting south; it was only seven miles from the Lancashire coast so at 7.40pm the captain asked Liverpool Coastguard for tug assistance but conditions rapidly worsened; some of the trailers broke free and slid across the deck and with the ship now listing at 60 degrees a mayday call was sent out.
Helicopters from the RAF, Royal Navy and Irish Coast Guard were dispatched, along with lifeboats from Fleetwood and Lytham while two oil rig support vessels and a tanker also made their way there to assist if necessary. Those on board were told they would be evacuated though one of the passengers, a trucker who was bringing his lorry back from its regular run to Northern Ireland, made what he thought then was the final phone call home to his wife to say goodbye.
Before evacuating the engine room one of the crew managed to start the machinery used to steady a listing ship and it reduced the lean to 20 degrees, then starting at 9pm the four passengers and eight non-essential crew were winched to safety by a helicopter crew from Anglesey in some of the hardest flying conditions they had ever experienced. After the second main engine failed Riverdance drifted into shallow water off the Fylde coast and bumped along the seabed, then at 10.50pm during a second winching operation which evacuated six more crew it grounded on Cleveleys beach at right angles to the promenade.
With Riverdance finally settled upright on the sand the remaining nine crew prepared to refloat at the next rising tide but all attempts to get the ship off the beach failed and it came to a stop, listing again and with all power finally lost. After a second mayday call the captain and remaining crew were winched to safety and at 5.15am on February 1st the Riverdance was finally abandoned. Of the 23 people on board no-one was injured although two of them suffered mild hypothermia and were checked over at Blackpool hospital as a precaution, and the trucker who had phoned his wife to say goodbye was able to phone her again to say he was safe.

Riverdance soon after beaching – photo from VisitCleveleys online

The bad weather continued for a while after Riverdance beached and the trailers on board started to spill their contents into the sea. The first thing that came off was a consignment of McVities chocolate digestives, with hundreds of packets of biscuits eventually being washed up onto the beach just north of the wreck; these were followed by long planks of wood, upholstery foam and mattresses, big blue barrells and hundreds of plastic disposable cups which blew everywhere.

Photo from the internet

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Photos taken 24/02/2008 – two trailers are just visible here

A salvage team assessed the ship and prepared to refloat it in mid February but the rescue operation was hampered by more stormy weather during which several trailers fell off, causing Riverdance to shift position and sink into the sand parallel to the shore. After re-evaluating the salvage plan, and with no hope of refloating and towing the ship off the beach the Riverdance was declared a constructive total loss in March and the decision was made to cut it up on site.
A large section of the promenade was closed off and turned into a scrap yard and with rigs and cranes working in conjunction with the tides the remaining cargo and all the fuel was removed, then Riverdance was painstakingly dismantled bit by bit, with lumps of ship being taken away on huge lorry after lorry. Although the estimated completion date for the demolition was the end of June the process took much longer than first thought and the wreck wasn’t reduced to beach level until early October.

Photo from VisitCleveleys online

Unfortunately the complete removal of Riverdance wasn’t the end of all the problems. When the ship beached it landed on the huge United Utilities sewage outfall pipe with the weight damaging a large section which had to be excavated and replaced, so back came rigs, boats and yet more workmen to put things right.
The Riverdance disaster was all over the news and tv and from the moment it beached at Cleveleys it became a tourist sensation with people travelling from all over to see the spectacle of a huge ship marooned on the beach. Roads around the town became instantly gridlocked, car parks were full and the promenade and side streets were solid with parked cars, with many streets having to be closed off when they became impassable. The shops in the town centre did a roaring trade in the best winter season they’d ever had, and it was estimated that 100,000 people flocked to Cleveleys and Blackpool between early February and April that year; even during the months of demolition people were still going to look at it.
Not far from where Riverdance landed the remains of the Abana, wrecked in 1894, can often be seen at low tide with its ribs sticking up out of the sand and many photos were taken of the two wrecks in sight of each other. Now, years later, there’s nothing to see on the part of the beach where Riverdance was wrecked back in early 2008, though it will live on in many photos in albums and on the internet. It’s also listed on the modern shipwreck memorial erected on Cleveleys promenade in 2012, and if you face the memorial you also face in the exact direction to remember the ghosts of those two ships.


The wrong sandwich

Last Saturday I had to pop into town and while I was there I went to do one of my cleaning jobs so I didn’t need to get up very early on Monday morning. It was mid afternoon and I was feeling a bit peckish so decided to get a Yorkie bar or a KitKat from the small shop round the corner from work. I’d never been in there before and the first thing I saw when I went in was a chiller cabinet with various items including sandwiches so I decided to get one of those instead of the chocolate bar.
The sandwiches were all on the top shelf and from left to right there was ham, BLT, egg mayo, cheese and tomato, cheese and onion, and chicken and bacon with red onion and jalepeno mayo. Opting for the cheese and onion I picked up the sandwich, paid for it, and went to work, and it was only once I’d made a brew I realised – I’d picked up the wrong sandwich and instead of cheese and onion I’d got the chicken and bacon one.
Now I don’t like spicy food at all  and as I hadn’t opened the packet I thought about going back to the shop to see if I could swap the sandwich for what I intended to get, but it was the first time I’d ever been in there and as they didn’t know me they may have been reluctant to agree so I decided to eat it anyway. I didn’t really know what to expect but jalapeno mayo couldn’t be that bad – could it?
Having cut the sandwich into four my opinion of the first quarter was “Mmm, it’s different but not too bad”. The second quarter was “Err, it’s definitely spicy”, the third quarter was “I really don’t think I like this but I’ll persevere” and the last bit was “Urgh! That was vile, horrible, I wish I’d taken it back. Now I know why I don’t like spicy food!”
There’s one thing which puzzles me about this – how on earth did I pick up the wrong sandwich in the first place? My eyes saw which sandwiches were on the shelf and my brain registered where the cheese and onion ones were, yet my hand inexplicably picked up the wrong one without me realising it. I think there was definitely a lack of hand/eye co-ordination there! One thing I did learn though – a sandwich with jalapeno mayo on it definitely does not  go well with a mug of tea!


Kip – a blind dog’s story

Kip was an adult liver and white English Springer Spaniel rescue dog, blind in both eyes from birth. I never really knew about his early years and why he came to be in rescue but after being transported from elsewhere in the country he had spent a couple of months in the care of NESSR (Northern English Springer Spaniel Rescue) in Northumberland before being rehomed to a lovely lady named Sylvia who also lived in Northumberland. Being blind didn’t seem to bother him and with his other senses being heightened he enjoyed life just as any other dog would, especially running along the beach at Druridge Bay and sniffing about in the nearby sand dunes with Sylvia close by. He was also a PAT dog (Pets As Therapy) and always enjoyed being fussed over by the people he went to visit.
Kip had been with Sylvia for two years when, completely out of the blue, he disappeared one day in June 2012 while on a walk along his favourite stretch of beach, and no matter how much Sylvia called there was no sign of him at all. In view of him being blind his details were immediately posted on the Doglost website and within a few hours a dozen volunteers from the local area and nearby were helping to look for him, a number which had increased to 30 searchers by 10pm that evening.
Concern for Kip’s safety quickly grew and via social media his details spread far and wide, with many more Doglost volunteers joining in the daily searches or canvassing various areas with posters featuring his photo. Those, like me, who were too far away to physically join the searches, did what they could from their computers, contacting newspapers and various tv and radio stations to ask if they would run a story on Kip in case he had somehow gone out of the area. Many dog loving celebrities were contacted via Twitter, to name a few – Coleen Nolan and Carol McGiffin from Loose Women, Ant & Dec, John Barrowman, Martin Clunes, Simon Cowell, Paul O’Grady, Jimmy Nail, Chris Packham, Chris Evans, Jonathon Ross and Cheryl Cole, and most of them re-tweeted, with Faye from Steps sending a personal message.
In the local area all vets within a radius of 30 miles were contacted, microlight pilots and the crew of the RAF Search and Rescue helicopter were asked to keep a lookout for Kip if they were ever airborne, and the Amble fishing fleet were also made aware of him. Doglost volunteers formed daily/nightly search parties and on one particular day a string of barbecues were lit at strategic places along a five mile stretch of beach between Amble and where Kip went missing in the hope that the smell of cooking sausages would bring him back.
One of the searchers belonged to the local fire crew and the fire service gave him ‘unofficial’ loan of a thermal imaging camera to use on his off-duty searches and someone else (I don’t know who) provided the services of a tracker dog and its handler when off duty. Kip’s Doglost page was inundated with hundreds and hundreds of messages of support and offers of help in various forms, and throughout it all Sylvia never gave up her search for him, often staying out all night in her car close to where he went missing. There were reports of a few possible sightings of a dog looking like Kip in various areas near to where he disappeared but unfortunately these all came to nothing.
I wish I could say that Kip was eventually found safe and well but sadly that wasn’t the case. Sixteen days after he went missing the continued searches for him were called off as his body had been found by two volunteers, washed up on the beach about two miles north of where he disappeared, and it seemed he must have been in the sea all that time. To say that this news was both tragic and devastating was an understatement – it hit everyone hard, especially those who had searched tirelessly for Kip, and the grief emanated through the messages on his Doglost page. It was news which no-one wanted but at least it gave Sylvia closure.
A few days later Sylvia posted a message to say that as a celebration of Kip’s life and a thank you to everyone who helped in the search for him she was arranging a get-together the following Saturday at the village hall close to where he was found and anyone who could get there was welcome – I had never been to Northumberland before but in memory of Kip I was determined to be there so I booked a pitch at a camp site a couple of miles from the hall and went up for the weekend.
There was quite a crowd, including various dogs, assembled at the village hall for Kip’s celebration and at 5pm we set off to walk a couple of miles to Kip’s favourite part of the beach where Sylvia would scatter his ashes before we all returned to the hall for a barbecue and buffet. One of the searchers was a member of the Blyth lifeboat crew and as we all walked along the beach the lifeboat sailed along parallel to the shore, stopping when we stopped – officially it was a training exercise but in reality they had turned out in memory of Kip.
Although we had set out in bright sunshine it was also very windy and the clouds quickly gathered as we walked along the beach, with the sky growing darker by the minute and a couple of sudden heavy rain showers hitting us. By the time Sylvia and her other dog Belle walked out to the shoreline it had gone very dark indeed but as she scattered Kip’s ashes along the sand the brightest rainbow suddenly appeared over the sea. Maybe it was being over the sea which made it so bright but I’ve never seen a rainbow like that before or since; it was as if Kip was sending down a sign from somewhere and there were many eyes filled with tears at that moment.
Back at the village hall the barbecue and buffet was, in the circumstances, a very friendly and happy occasion and I got to meet many of the people who I’d only known previously through the messages on Kip’s Doglost page, fellow dog lovers who were united by two things – the love for a blind dog who most had never met and the wish to reunite him with Sylvia, his mum. Back home a couple of days later I wrote this poem, simply titled “In Memory Of Kip” –
The sun was shining brightly as you ran along the sand
Your mum was close behind you with your lead held in her hand,
But you were having too much fun playing your own game
And you went too far to hear your mum when she called out your name.
No-one knows what happened but you ran right out of sight,
Your mum was really worried and she called with all her might.
Hours and days she searched for you and every night would pray
That tomorrow she would find you and it would be a happy day.
Lots of others joined the search and kept their fingers crossed
That everything would be okay for this blind dog who was lost.
And then one day the news came that the search need be no more
For your poor bedraggled body had been found upon the shore.
It seems like you had lost your way and gone for a long swim
Then God reached down and took you up to Heaven to live with him.
Many tears were shed that day and many hearts were broken
For this blind dog who was loved so much, and words could not be spoken.
The sun was shining brightly as we walked along the shore,
Forty, fifty people there and maybe even more.
The lifeboat sailed along with us – its captain and the crew
And all the people on the beach had all turned out for you.
As your mum sprinkled your ashes in a line along the sand
A rainbow came across the sea, sent by God’s own hand,
And as she looked up to the sky your mum did softly say
“Sleep tight sweet Kip, you’re safe now, I know you’ll be okay”
Kip's rainbow

Kip’s story touched the hearts and lives of so many people and though no-one will ever know what really happened the day he went missing his passing wasn’t in vain. The search for him brought many Doglost helpers together and forged new friendships; it also brought Doglost to the attention of many people who didn’t know about it, resulting in many new members who also helped in whichever way they could in the search for him, and some of those members went on  to search for Archie, another Springer Spaniel who later went missing in the north east.
Kip may no longer be here but eight years ago, and in his own way, he left his own lasting legacy so he certainly earned his wings.


Scavenger photo hunt – July

It’s photo hunt time again and the topics for this month are – something purple, shades of green, starts with ‘F’, still life, snapped at this moment and as always, my own choice. The first one proved to be difficult at first as for some unknown reason purple isn’t a colour which has ever featured in my life – I don’t dislike it, it’s just that I haven’t really got anything of that colour in the house – however I suddenly remembered something I do have.
Last year, at one of the animal sanctuary open days, I tried my luck on a tombola stall – not something I would normally do as I never win anything but this time I did, and got a small purple and white fluffy dog. I originally intended to donate it back to the sanctuary but it’s quite cute so I decided to keep it for a while and it’s still here.

Something purple – my tombola prize

My next choice shows a patchwork of green fields taken from the plane on a flight to Ireland in December 2018. Back in 1959 American country singer Johnny Cash wrote the song ‘Forty Shades Of Green’ while on a trip to Ireland though many people assume it’s an Irish folk ballad, and while several other singers have done their own versions of it over the years my favourite will always be the one by Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell. I don’t think there are forty shades of green in this photo but there are certainly quite a few.

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Shades of green – on a flight to Ireland

Just over a week ago it was Michael’s birthday; a couple of weeks previously I’d asked him what he wanted but got the usual very unhelpful reply of “I don’t know, get me anything”. It was round about then that he decided to rearrange his room and we came to the conclusion that he really needed another chest of drawers though it would have to be a certain size to fit in the space available. ‘Normal’ furniture shops didn’t seem to have anything suitable but I managed to find the perfect thing in one of the larger charity shops the day before his birthday – well I don’t suppose many people can say they got a chest of drawers as a birthday present, though I did also get him a new t-shirt and light jumper.

Starts with ‘F’ – furniture

The next shot is one I used in a post last month but it fits the topic nicely so I just had to use it again. While on a walk along a section of the Lancaster Canal I saw a heron standing as still as a statue in a canal overflow channel; it was still there in exactly the same place two hours later, it hadn’t moved at all, so I guess you could say that really was still life.

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Still life – heron at the Lancaster Canal

In early June, after finding an Elephant Hawk Moth while cutting the long grass in the back garden, I decided to leave an uncut area as a wildlife garden for any creatures who wished to visit and I got a lovely reward a couple of weeks ago. As I was passing the landing window one day I just happened to look down into the garden and saw a couple of pretty little goldfinches in among the weeds – a photo opportunity not to be missed so I quickly grabbed the camera, and though the first shots came out a bit blurred as I took them through the window I managed to open it without scaring them off and got a good shot of one of them. I’ve never seen goldfinches in the garden before so I was really thrilled to see these two, especially as it was just one brief moment as I passed the window, a moment which could so easily have been missed.

Snapped at this moment – a goldfinch in the garden

My own choice this month is one I came across while searching my photo archives from several years ago though there’s quite a long and sad story behind it which I will expand on at a later date, maybe next week. The shot was taken from a beach in Northumberland on an occasion where a large group of people, myself included, had gathered on a walk in memory and celebration of a much loved blind dog who had tragically lost its life to the sea.
The dog’s name was Kip and one of the many people who had helped to search for him when he went missing was a member of the local lifeboat crew – as we walked along the beach the lifeboat sailed parallel to the shore and stopped when we stopped. The weather, although initially very sunny, had suddenly changed and a brief but heavy rain shower hit us while we were on the beach but as Kip’s owner scattered his ashes along the sand the most gorgeous rainbow appeared over the sea – and yes, it really was that bright.

Kip's rainbow
My own choice – Kip’s rainbow

Well that’s just about it for this month, I hope everyone likes my choices and once again I’m linking up with Kate’s blog to see what shots other people have chosen this time.