Barbara Heal (Hookey)

I was staying with my aunt and uncle near Brook. We were just sitting down to Sunday dinner when we suddenly heard an urgent hammering on the front door and a boy’s voice calling, ‘Ship ashore.’ Before we could answer he was gone. With no time for our meal, Uncle and I and his horse headed a mile or so for Brook Green to help launch the lifeboat. Monarch of all I surveyed, gripping hard to his thick black mane I rode bareback on Captain, who for all his huge height and girth was gentle as a lamb. My small child’s legs stuck out at right angles and buckled under me when I was lowered to the ground at the lifeboat house. Though all seemed bustle and confusion everyone knew his job, and soon Captain, with I think above five more equally huge carthorses, was hauling the heavy boat on its carriage along the road and down the path to the beach. There were more horses waiting, for all the farms near Brook made horses available at short notice for their invaluable share in saving life at sea – in this case a small coaster stranded on rocks just off the Hanover Point...

Helped by men from the village, the horses strained with the undertow dragging the pebbles against their legs. They appeared quite calm with the cold water splashing high on their legs. Perhaps the soft encouraging voices of the carters kept fear at bay. Suddenly the coxswain shouted ‘Launch!’, all oars dipped together and the lifeboat was off her carriage on the crest of a huge wave, heading westwards into the turbulent seas. A few minutes and the one sail was hoisted. The men still rowing strongly were now making better headway towards the stranded vessel, but we were not meant to see a rescue this day, for having lightened the vessel by throwing out some of the cargo she floated off -–the lifeboat was not needed. It returned to the shore where both watchers and horses dragged her back up the narrow path to the lifeboat house.

In Living Memory, IOW Federation of Women’s Institutes.