Neither Hero nor Victim: Intertidal Shipwrecks and Responses of Coastal Communities in 19th Century Britain [CANCELLED]
Dr. Cathryn Pearce (University of Portsmouth)
During the 19th century, around 850 vessels a year wrecked on UK shores, with some years witnessing well over 1000 losses. The death toll was high, but more vessels had survivors than were lost with all hands. The victims, along with their rescuers, were the focus of shipwreck pamphlets and newspaper columns. These publications highlighted striking tales of sacrifice, heroism, survival and death. Yet not all participants in the shipwreck event were included in the narratives. The experiences of inhabitants ashore were ignored, except for praise after a few select shipwreck disasters such as that of the Royal Charter in 1859. Scholarly research into the dynamics of intertidal shipwrecks, and their entanglement with coastal communities, have been limited. Using a socio-cultural coastal history approach and a wide range of sources including contemporary writings, news reports, shipwreck memorials and the records of the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariner’s Royal Benevolent Society (UK), this paper examines the roles of the coastal inhabitants caught up in shipwreck disasters. They were unsung and unremembered, yet crucial in saving the lives of the victims brought ashore. By highlighting this forgotten dimension and sharing stories of communal cooperation and resilience in the face of shipwreck disaster and extreme weather, museums, historic sites and dive sites can deepen local community connections and sense of place to the sea and shore.