RNLI - Barmouth Lifeboat Station

 

A Maritime History of Barmouth.

The Dragon Theatre was almost full to capacity last Tuesday evening, the18th September 2012, when Fundraisers of Barmouth RNLI held an evening on the Maritime History of Barmouth.

The programme consisted of a DVD tracing the river Mawddach from its source, highlighting the industrial and social history of the area.  The film featured stories of families who lived in the remote village of Abergeirw during the last century, together with descriptions of the flourishing wool trade of the 1770s and 80s and goldmining in the beautiful Mawddach valley. This was followed by two illustrated talks.
Norma Stockford, Voluntary Press Officer for Barmouth RNLI spoke about the importance of Barmouth as a port and shipbuilding centre during the late 18th and 19th century, when impressive square riggers were built on the Mawddach estuary and Barmouth was the envy of neighbouring ports.

But the advent of the railway and the building of Barmouth bridge in 1867 had a fatal effect on shipbuilding, and, with the wool and slate trade in decline, the last ship was built on the Mawddach in 1865.  It was feared at the time that the railway would also spell the end of the ferry, but these ferry and passenger boats were actually to benefit from the influx of tourists coming to the town.

Lobster fishing was an important industry in the 1960s and the discovery of a scallop beds in Cardigan Bay in the 1970s attracted boats from around the UK, and from France and Holland.  The quayside thronged with activity again.

The first lifeboat came to Barmouth in 1828 at a costing of £56.  This 26’ open rowing lifeboat is a stark contrast to the present all-weather lifeboats which are capable of high speeds, inherently self-righting and fitted with the latest navigation, location and communication equipment.
John Sam Jones, who can trace his ancestors in the town back for over 300 years, offered a short, illustrated talk on some of the events and characters that have shaped Barmouth.  From the Barnetts who ran the Cors y Gedol Hotel and did much to develop the town as a sea bathing resort in the late 1790s to the countless ferryboat men who carried people, animals and packages across the wide estuary mouth over many generations.  The presence of wealthy and influential widows in the town had many consequence; a new Anglican church and the donation the first parcel of land to the National Trust. The Frenchman who fled Paris in 1870 after the Prussian invasion (with Victor Hugo's dog as his companion,) grew herbs on the rocky slope above the old town and was one of the faithful in John Ruskin's Guild of St George community.

The appreciative audience on the evening helped raise a magnificent £1,066 for the RNLI, the charity that saves lives at sea.