Fire on Chicken Rock 23rd December 1960

At about 11am on 23rd December 1960 the lifeboat maroons were fired over Port St Mary to summon a crew to the boat. A call from the coastguard had reported that Chickens Rock Lighthouse was on fire and the three lighthouse keepers needed rescue. It took the lifeboat about 45 minutes to travel the 5 nautical mile distance to the Chickens, the wind from the SW about force 5 made for a rough trip. The tide was rising and the keepers had been forced to take shelter on the bottom deck of the lighthouse, the rock itself was already awash when the lifeboat arrived, making it impossible to effect a landing and get the keepers off.

Port St Mary lifeboat crew attempted rescue using a breeches buoy, they could not fire a light rocket line onto the rock so instructed the keepers to stream a line with a board on it down tide from the rock. The lifeboat crew fired the rocket line to the board, the rocket line was caught and pulled in to the rock, the breeches buoy block and pulley could then be hauled fromt the boat to the rock and made fast.

The lifeboat had to constantly manoeuvre into the tide to keep the lines tight as the first man was hauled toward the boat. It wasn’t long before a large wave broke over him and turned him over which caused the gear foul. With huge effort the crew were able to haul him on board. Coxswain Gawne realised the dangerous predicament with the breeches buoy, as the two remaining keepers were relatively safe inside the doorway he decided no further attempts would be made to transfer them by breeches buoy. Incidentally that was the last time to date that Port St Mary lifeboat have used the breeches buoy in anger.

The keeper was suffering from shock, exposure and some burns, he needed medical attention. Port Erin Lifeboat was launched to stand-by the rock while Port St Mary Lifeboat transferred the keeper to an ambulance at Port Erin, she then returned to the Chickens. Both lifeboats stood by until 6.45pm when the tide had dropped enough for Port St Mary Lifeboat the ‘Colby Cubbin’ to get their bow into the Chickens Rock and pick up the two keepers, who were, by now also suffering from exposure and some mild burns. The boat was back in Port St Mary at 7.10pm.

The crew of Port St Mary Lifeboat the Colby Cubbin that day were J. Gawne cox, N. Quillin mechanic, J. Hudson, W. Cubbon, H. Halsall, W. Clugston, R. Hudson, B. Johnstone and W. Kneen.

The Chickens Rock Lighthouse was not manned again after this incident, the light was fully automated by 1962.

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