Paul Frecker
Fine Photographs

John Jackson and Henry Robinson, 1887
Charles Thomas Mallin of Southport

A cabinet card portrait of John Jackson and Henry Robinson, the only survivors of the 'Eliza Fernley' lifeboat disaster. Their boat went down on 9 December 1886 coming to the aid of the German ship 'Mexico' during a severe storm off the coast of Southport. Of the crew of 16, only Jackson and Robinson survived. Another boat from nearby St Annes went down with all its crew. In all, 28 lifeboatmen lost their lives that night. It was the worst lifeboat disaster in British history.

‘So far as concerns the disaster to the Eliza Fernley, the Southport life-boat, […] its story is told by John Jackson, one of the survivors, who resides in West-street, Southport. He says that the boat was launched successfully and went nicely for a time. A very heavy sea was running, and their troubles soon commenced. […] They were beaten back several time, and shipped an immense quantity of water. It was pitch dark at the time, and the only indication of the distressed barque was the faint glimpse of a lamp which, as the boat got closer, they saw hung from the mizzen top. Jackson was able to discern that the vessel had lost her foremast and mainmast. They were at length within thirty yards of the vessel and could hear no shouting; indeed, the storm rose to such a pitch that it was with difficulty that they could hear their own voices. He was just about letting go the anchor to get the boat alongside, the vessel being then, he should say, twenty yards from the barque, when a tremendous sea caught the boat right amidships and she went over. They expected her to right herself, but she remained bottom upwards. Some of the crew managed at length to crawl out. He and Richard Robinson held firmly on to the rowlocks, and were buffeted about considerably. With some difficulty he got underneath the boat again and spoke, he thought, to Henry Robinson, Thomas Jackson, Timothy Rigby, and Peter Jackson. He called out, “I think she will never right; we have all to be drowned” and heard a voice, probably Henry Robinson’s, say “I think so, too.” […] Another heavy sea came, and Robinson disappeared with it and was never seen again. While underneath, Jackson called out to his brother but could get no answer. […] He drifted with the boat bottom upwards to the beach, and staggered home at three o’clock in the morning’ (Illustrated London News, 18 December 1886).

Photographed by Charles Thomas Mallin of Lord Street, Southport.

Condition: the print presents some small marks and imperfections; the mount is generally on the grubby side and has sustained a small amount of damage at its upper right-hand corner.

Dimensions: the dimensions of a standard cabinet card are 6.5” by 4.3” (16.5 cm by 10.8 cm).


price:  £150
code: cat008
John Jackson, Henry Robinson, Eliza Fernley, lifeboat, lifeboats, lifeboat, lifeboatman, lifeboatmen, Southport