Wreck of the Marguerite aground in Talland Bay 1922 (photo courtesy of Rex Raddy)
On Friday, 3rd March 1922 the French trawler 'Marguerite' went aground in Talland Bay, having lost her bearings in a south-westerly gale.
A modern steam trawler of 220 tons, equipped with radio, the 'Marguerite' transmitted an SOS signal but, being unaware of her true position, the coastguard at Looe received a message saying she was aground on the Eddystone reef. The coast was enveloped in a thick drizzle and the wind was blowing strongly from the south-west when the 'Ryder' lifeboat was launched from Looe under the command of her coxswain, Thomas Toms.
About half an hour later a message was received from Polperro saying that the trawler was aground in Talland Bay. Recall signals were fired and the motor lugger 'Dorothy' belonging to Mr J. Whynall put to sea and took the 'Ryder' under tow to Talland Bay so that her crew did not have to beat into the wind and sea.
The restored Ryder lifeboat under sail off Talland Bay in 1999
On arrival at Talland Bay, coxswain Toms let go his anchor and, in a magnificent piece of seamanship, veered the lifeboat down to the wreck which was hard aground in among the rocks with seas breaking over her. A total of 21 people, including the ten-year-old son of the skipper of the 'Marguerite', were rescued in what is regarded as the 'Ryder's most meritorious act during her 28 years service at Looe.
The story is told that a guard was put on shore at Talland to prevent any of the Marguerite's gear or the 50 tons of fish aboard her being 'liberated' but that the locals, not wishing to let good food go to waste, boarded her from seaward. Much to their disgust, the fish had been contaminated by the carbide used for the lamps and had gone pink! To this day, at low tide, the boiler of the 'Marguerite' can be seen on the rocks in the middle of Talland Bay.
The 'Ryder' lifeboat, now fully restored, can be seen in Polperro harbour alongside the Heritage Museum (Please visit the Polperro website for more information about the Ryder lifeboat - click here.
Jeremy Johns, Polperro Heritage Museum