A 1924 dismasting…. a fairly common occurance during the sailing ship era.

The Dismasting of the sailing vessel ‘Falkirk’

The Falkirk was a beautiful steel 3 masted barque of 1,863 tons, built at Port Glasgow by W.Hamilton and Co in 1896.  and owned by J.Stewart & Co, London.     Length was 81.7m and breadth 12.2m.   She traded all over the world, and for her early life, all went well.    However, in 1919 the Mate was washed overboard and lost 40 miles N.W. of Ushant.    This was reported in the Liverpool papers where he lived.   At the time, the ship was homeward bound  from Buenos Aires. Captain George Bloom, the man lost, had only shipped as Mate due to a shortage of a suitable Master’s position.  The Armistice of WW1 had seen many ships disappear, which left  a temporary oversupply of Masters and Mates,  so many seasoned Captains were forced to sail in a lower capacity to make a living.  

During the Falkirk’s long career,  her log books recorded voyages to New York after departing from Cork in Ireland. Then on to Sydney and Queenstown for orders.   Then she sailed for Nantes. 

In 1909 she was recorded sailing from Tacoma in Washington State to Antwerp.   Then a voyage from Cardiff to Bahia Blanca in Argentina, and on to Wallaroo in Australia.   A voyage to Callao and Tocopilla followed by Durban, Fremantle, and then Cape Town, before heading again to Queenstown for orders.    She was a true globe trotter, but fate eventually caught up with the Falkirk in 1924.   She ran into serious trouble in the Bay of Biscay, some 28 years after she was launched. 

The Master’s account to Lloyds List in Falmouth states that the ‘Falkirk‘ left Bordeaux for New York in January 1924, and in ballast.  She was to load case oil.  The very next night she ran into heavy weather which lasted for a full week. On the Friday night the wind blew with hurricane force, and veered SW the following day, resulting in a tremendous cross sea.    He turned into the wind which was from the north west, and this meant the sea was was now an awkward cross sea. At 8.20pm the ship was hit by huge waves of 20ft  which flooded the decks. Storm conditions gave hail and lightning, and shortly afterwards the foremast came down with all the rigging and all the attachments.   Twenty minutes later, the mainmast and topmast also went overside with the big yards still attached and banging on the hull.  The storm continued with the rigging suspended overside and crashing against the ships sides.  It was eventually cut free and cleared from the ship.    The mizzen mast was still in place, but the topmast swayed continuously for 48 hours before it too fell with a tremendous crash.   It remained hanging by the rigging until partially cut away when it unfortunately carried away the rigging to the lower mast.   Just afterwards, the spanker boom fell on the charthouse, missing the second mate who had been there minutes before.   The bulwarks were damaged by all the falling masts and yards.   The Master added that it was wonderful that several of the crew had not been killed by the falling masts and rigging. It was a curious fact that the galley, binnacle, and two lifeboats were also spared.    Three members of the crew needed medical attention, however.   The steamer Somerset had stood by on Monday and did everything possible to render assistance. 

On the 25th of June 1924, after the dismasting, she was towed to Falmouth by the tug Roode Zee with only her lower mizzen mast standing , and very soon after the  tug Vanquisher took her round to Appledore in North Devon for scrapping. She was declared a total loss, and as a footnote, the figurehead  ended up many years later in the garden of the Rock Ferry Hotel, Birkenhead! 

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