28th December 1852 Brig ‘Lily’ disaster in Calf Sound

The brig Lily had foundered on Kitterland on Monday 27th December 1852 and the wreck had been under police guard ever since.
The strong winds had eased throughout the night and the morning of Tuesday 28th was calm and clear. A team went aboard the vessel and try to salvage as much of the cargo as could be saved. There were 30 men altogether, all from the parish of Rushen, carpenters, shipwrights, fishermen, all went aboard the brig.

At six o’clock on Tuesday morning the men set about getting onboard. There was concern about a smell of smoke coming from the vessel, the vessel was known to be carrying gunpowder.

At five to eight on Tuesday morning the whole of the south of the Isle of Man was shook by a fearful explosion. Houses were shaken as if by an earthquake, even 18 miles away in Douglas. The explosion was heard across the whole of the south of the Isle of Man. The men on the brig Lily had cut a hole in the deck to try and locate the source of the smoke, this intake of air into the hold spread the fire to the gunpowder and the whole ship exploded.

The shattered casing of a watch belonging to one of the men was found three miles away and miners at Ballacorkish were thrown over and their candles went out at the violence of the shock.

The destruction was complete and appalling, the whole vessel was rent into small fragments. Scarcely any remains of the men on board were found. An ear was found five miles away at Scarlet and the shattered casing of a watch, belonging to one of the men who perished, was discovered at Ballacorkish three miles away.

It seems most likely that plunderers had been onboard during the night a carelessly left a lamp burning on board the vessel, which smoldered through the night and caused the explosion when the men cut the deck open.

There was one man survived James Kelly. He awoke on a rock at the Sound, totally deafened by the blast, his clothes blown off him, lying in a pool of blood. His descendants still live in Port St Mary today and I went to school with his great great grandchildren James and Michael Kelly.

The 29 men left twenty-two widows and seventy-two children in the village of Port St Mary. Their memorial is to be found in Rushen Churchyard, there is headstone listing all the names of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident. The is also a stone placed at the Sound remembering the disaster.

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