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Thu, 05 Nov 2009
"The Women of Mumbles Head.". not all of it, you can find the rest by clicking on dodiesdreamworld.

I must thank the Oystermouth Historical Association for the picture below.
I am lucky enough to have a copy of Clement Scott's actual Lay,
from his 1888 book of Lays and Lyrics. Publisher Routledge & Sons

  A photograph of
Jessie Ace and her sister Margaret Wright



THE WOMEN OF MUMBLES HEAD

Bring, novelists, your notebook ! bring, dramatists, your pen !
      And I'll tell you a simple story of what women do for men.
It's only the tale of a lifeboat, of the dying and the dead,
      Of a terrible storm and shipwreck that happened off Mumbles Head !
Maybe you have travelled in Wales, sir, and know it north and south;
     Maybe you are friends with the 'Natives' that dwell in Oystermouth !
It happens, no doubt, that from Bristol you've crossed in a casual way,
     And have sailed your yacht in the summer in the blue of Swansea Bay.
     
Well ! it isn't like that in winter, when the lighthouse stands alone,
      In the teeth of Atlantic breakers, that foam on its face of stone:
It wasn't like that when the hurricane blew, and the story-bell tolled, or when
      There was news of a wreck, and lifeboat launch'd, and a desperate cry for men.
When in the world did the coxswain shirk? A brave old salt was he !
     Proud to the bone of as four strong lads as ever had tasted the sea.
Welshmen all to the lungs and loins, who about the coast 'twas said,
     Had saved some hundred lives apiece - at a shilling or so a head !

So the father launched the lifeboat, in the teeth of the tempest's roar,
      And he stood like a man at the rudder, with an eye on his boys at the oar.
Out to the wreck went the father ! Out to the wreck went the sons !
      Leaving the weeping of women, and booming of signal guns,
Leaving the mother who loved them, and the girls that the sailors loved,
     Going to death for duty, and trusting to God above !
Do you murmur a prayer, my brothers, when cosy and safe in bed,
      For men like these, who are ready to die for a wreck off Mumbles Head ?

It didn't go well with the lifeboat ! 'twas a terrible storm that blew !
      And it snapped a rope in a second that was flung to the drowning crew ;
And then the anchor parted  - 'twas a tussle to keep afloat !
      But the father stuck to the rudder, and the boys to the brave old boat.
Then at last on the poor doom'd lifeboat a wave broke mountains high !
      "God help us, now ! " said the father. "It's over, my lads, good-bye !"
Half of the crew swam shoreward, half to the sheltered caves,
      But father and sons were fighting death in the foam of the angry waves.


Up at the lighthouse window two women beheld the storm,
      And saw in the boiling breakers a figure - a fighting form,
It might be a grey-haired father - then the women held their breath,
      It might be a fair-haired brother, who was having a round with death ;
It might be a lover, a husband, whose kisses were on the lips
      Of the women whose love is the life of men going down to the sea in ships ;
They had seen the launch of the lifeboat, they had heard the worst, and more ;
      Then, kissing each other, these women went down from the lighthouse,
straight to the shore.

The Story of the Women of Mumbles Head.
Carol Powell, MA

 The two women involved, Jessie Ace and Margaret Wright, were the daughters of the lighthouse keeper, Abraham Ace. They, with the help of Gunner Hutchings from the lighthouse fort, rescued John Thomas and Williams Rosser, two of the lifeboat crew who had successfully rescued the crew of the German barque, 'Admiral Prinz Adalbert of Danzig'. Unfortunately the lifeboat crew then got into trouble themselves. The disaster took the lives of two of the coxswain's sons, his son-in-law and another man. The coxswain received a silver medal from the RNLI and £50; Gunner Hutchings received his thanks on vellum.

The action of the two women was not recognised by the RNLI but both received gold brooches from the Empress of Germany for looking after the barques’ crew. (Subsequently I have learnt that Jessie’s brooch is now the treasured possession of her great-great granddaughter in Australia.)
These happenings took place on 27 January 1883, the lifeboat involved being the Wolverhampton. In those days, the lighthouse keeper, his deputy and their families lived on the lighthouse island, so were close at hand when the ship ran aground.
Following this disaster, another lifeboat named Wolverhampton II was built and remained in service until 1898.
It was said of these men and their ilk that 'they were iron men in wooden boats.'

Posted 16:00

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