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A wreck I don't recall but do you?

PUBLISHED: 17:38 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 11:15 03 July 2010

SAD END TO VOYAGE: The sailing ship Luna, destined never to sail the seas again

SAD END TO VOYAGE: The sailing ship Luna, destined never to sail the seas again

TO begin this week, here is a pair of pictorial posers for the maritime enthusiasts, both supplied by readers seeking solutions. Hopefully, other Mercury readers will be able to provide those answers, one relating to Caister beach, the other to the port of Great Yarmouth.

TO begin this week, here is a pair of pictorial posers for the maritime enthusiasts, both supplied by readers seeking solutions. Hopefully, other Mercury readers will be able to provide those answers, one relating to Caister beach, the other to the port of Great Yarmouth.

Stan Cox, of Westerley Way, Caister, sent two photographs of wreckage on the shore there, with people inspecting the battered boat and perhaps scavenging timber or other items. Clearly legible on the stern is the name, Moonbeam.

The Moonbeam incident rang no figurative bells with me, nor with Caister lifeboat stalwart John Cannell, and the station records failed to shed any light. But Mr Cox is positive he snapped the Moonbeam on his local shore.

A major wreck on Caister beach I covered as a reporter was the Luna, a 77-year-old brigantine that was the uninsured floating home of David and Marjan Summerskill and their two small children; about 1980 she dragged anchor in a storm off Yarmouth and was driven ashore where the crashing breakers pounded her to smithereens.

The family lost most of their belongings. Nobody was hurt, but it severely disrupted the their plans for a long international voyage, and they were stranded in Yarmouth for ages.

Eight years later the Summerskills suffered a similar fate when the three-masted brig Merkur, also their only home, was smashed to pieces on the rocky coast of Nova Scotia off Canada. Again none of the four Summerskills was hurt, but the family was stranded and penniless...and uninsured. They foundered on passage to Bermuda to deliver their Merkur to her future owner who was paying over the odds and enabling them to pay off their debts and return to the UK.

The flotilla of minesweepers photographed in the river at Yarmouth comes from the collection of Gorlestonian Mike King, now of Lowestoft and an old friend of this column. “What were those minesweepers doing in harbour in autumn 1955 (assuming they are minesweepers)?” he wonders.

There is little doubt that they are minesweepers. Can any reader enlighten us about their visit?

Water-related incidents mentioned in a recent column have resulted in feed-back from readers, and it is a Peggotty pleasure to hear from those to whom an item has been of interest or relevance.

Two people were particularly interested in rescues recalled in my look back 75 years to events in the Yarmouth area as reported by the Mercury in 1933.

Edward Perfrement, of Rodney Road, dived from Trinity Quay into a fast-flowing River Yare to save a boy in danger of drowning, but the hero's immersion in the icy water caused his health to deteriorate and he ended up in Kelling Sanitorium. His act of bravery robbed his wife and small children of their bread-winner, and the Mercury urged the townsfolk to contribute to a relief fund.

Miss Cynthia Edwards, of Caister, tells me: “I am still in touch with Mr Perfrement's two daughters who live in Retford, having left Yarmouth during the war. The family did receive some financial help from the Gari Boys (the young men who came to Yarmouth on holiday every summer and stayed at the Garibaldi, devoting much of their time to high-spirited fund-raising for good causes).

“Mr Perfrement's bravery was officially recognised by the award of a Royal Humane Society testimonial that the younger daughter, Margaret, displays at her home in Retford. Margaret and her elder sister, Thelma, are very proud of their Dad's honour.”

Mr Perfrement was discharged from Kelling, deemed fit enough to undertake light duties, but he died in 1939.

Before the war Miss Edwards lived in St George's Road, only a short distance from her childhood friends, the Perfrement girls, and “we still keep in touch.” They see one another every year, and Miss Edwards fondly recalls the happy memories of their meetings.

Another 1933 rescuer was 15-year-old Tom Neal, of Northgate Street, who fell through ice on frozen Ormesby Broad trying to help a skater struggling in the freezing water, but managed to support him until help arrived. He was awarded a Royal Humane Society testimonial on vellum given by the Carnegie Trust.

Tom Neal's widow, Margaret, contacted me from her Lowestoft home to say: “I was so surprised to read about my late husband in the Mercury - it was lovely to see it. He died two years ago this July, aged 89. I still have his testimonial on the wall although it is getting a bit faded now. It was signed by Edward, Prince of Wales.”

Tom followed his father into Barclays Bank and also did much voluntary work in Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Oulton Broad. He was a friend of the late Ronnie Brett who, with his wife Phyllis, was a leading member of Yarmouth Swimming Club and campaigned for decades for an indoor pool.

“Tom used to help Ronnie with the boys, and became a diving instructor, eventually being on the English board of diving instructors,” says Mrs Neal.

Mike King read my reference to the rescue half a century ago in 1958 of Lacons Brewery worker Arthur Beaney from “drowning” in a malt vat by his mate Ray Hall. It reminded him that the brewery was connected to the railway system and continues: “Around 1900 there was a fatality in the brewery when an unfortunate employee was crushed against the buffer stops by a wagon.

“Some years later the railway company tried to send a bogie bolster (a long flat wagon with a bogie at each end) into the works but the radius of the curve was tight and the bolster had a large over-hang, the result of which was that the large door was knocked clean off its hinges!”

Another column concerned the oil tanker Stansted that used to bring fuel for the old South Denes power station; her third engineer for some years was Stan Cox - who, incidentally, was the photographer of the Moonbeam wreckage on Caister beach!

“Do you recall that the Stansted had a bit of a reputation as a 'jinxed' ship around 1960-62 as a result of several fatal motor cycle accidents involving members of the crew? Or did I make that up?” asks Mike King.

Pass!

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