Remembering a grave night in pier’s history
8:40am Thursday 2nd August 2012 in Letters
IN RESPONSE to last week’s letter (Penarth Times, July 26) regarding the damage to the pier, readers may be interested in this account of the incident that is recorded in the Yacht Club archives: ‘Irresistible force meets immovable object’ During an evening in 1947 the SS Port Royal Park (about 10,000 tons) was on passage from Bristol to Cardiff and approached Penarth from the north-east.
There was a strong wind gusting to Force 7 at times. Tugs were on call but did not get outside the Outer Wrach buoy in time to pass tow ropes. Under her own power only, the vessel was turned westwards towards the approaches to the Queen’s Dock. Being in ballast with half her rudder and much of her propeller out of the water, the vessel became unmanageable when she was turned broadside to the wind.
Unable to complete the turn she was carried southward by the downset. Tugs still failed to pass ropes and the vessel was soon in danger of going ashore on Penarth Head beach. Engines were put astern and a belated effort was made to drop anchor. No holding could be obtained and she drifted sideways to the south. Being now headed north-west and quite out of control, her port quarter hit the outer end of Penarth Pier. Under the full influence of the tide and wind she swung sideways through about 45 degrees and, like a huge door being slammed, measured her full length alongside the pier with a mighty crash. The force of impact was so great that nearly all of the cast iron columns of the pier broke off at ground level, being forced sideways and dropped vertically into the beach. The noise of the impact was clearly heard inside the club.
Bill Jones, the club boatman, being on storm duty at the outer end of the pier, suddenly realised that the entire structure was in danger of immediate collapse. Running the length of the pier and crossing the road in a single bound, he only came to a stop alongside the bar of the Esplanade Hotel, where he required the greater part of a bottle of whisky to enable him to regain his breath. The boatman’s time for the run is not known but was undoubtedly a record for the distance.
The vessel suffered only slight damage, the pier had to be nearly rebuilt and the boatman made a complete recovery.
Repairs to steamer £2,000.00 Repairs to pier £28,500.00 Repairs to boatman £1.50 (This also illustrates the effect of inflation over the past 65 years!) Peter Bussell Penarth Yacht Club