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Saved at Sea - A Lighthouse Story.


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Saved at Sea - A Lighthouse Story.

By Mrs O.F.Walton in 1887.

Here is yet another great ripping yarn. This story was written by Mrs O.F.Walton in 1887 and published by The Religious Tract Society, better known for their factual publication of W.J.Hardy's "Lighthouses; Their History and Romance".

Mrs Walton wrote a number of virtuous novels for young boys and girls with all the Victorian attitudes designed to keep them on the straight and narrow with a distinct leaning towards a good Christian life; hence the publishers.

The events unfold through the eyes of a twelve year old boy called Alick Ferguson who, in 1887, lives in the cottage in which he was born, attached to a lighthouse on a small Scottish Island four miles from land. He lives with his lighthouse keeper grandfather, Sandy Ferguson, who has been the keeper there for forty six years. The mention of a nearby fictitious dangerous reef called Ainsley Crag leads me to believe that perhaps the lighthouse is based on Ailsa Craig lighthouse.

Alick spends his boyhood on the island in youthful isolation except for Jem Millar, the Assistant Lighthouse Keeper, his wife Mary and their six small children; all who live in a second keeper's cottage adjacent to the lighthouse.

Alick's father went away to sea before he was born and his mother died from an illness during his infancy. We are not led to feel sorry for him as he is fully occupied in helping his grandfather perform his lighthouse duties with a view to becoming his replacement in the fullness of time.

Every Monday a steamer calls bringing supplies, the mail and occasional visitors. However life changes when on one particularly treacherous night they see a distress rocket in the sky indicating that a vessel is in need of help. Further distress rockets are seen but grandfather declares that it would be foolish and dangerous to put out to sea during the current storm. After a sleepless night the weather abates a little, sufficient for them to see through the mist that the sailing ship "Victory" has been driven onto the rocks of Ainsley Crag.

Grandfather; Jem and Alick take to a small rowing boat and against all odds in the still bad weather get close enough to the "Victory" to shout to the passengers and crew. The wind is howling so they cannot make themselves heard and the sea is pitching so that there is no question of an orderly descent into the small rowing boat. Just as a wave sweeps the little boat away from the stricken vessel a small wrapped bundle is thrown to Grandfather who catches it and hands it to Alick.

Yes; you have guessed it. The small bundle is in fact a tiny child and as the rowing boat is swept further away by the rough seas, the "Victory" groans and slips under the waves and all lives on board are lost.

When they get back to their lighthouse they discover that the small child is in fact a girl of about two years. Between them they manage to bring her up as if she was their own, and despite discovering her surname "Villiers" embroidered on her petticoat the owners of the vessel cannot find any trace of her on the passenger lists.

The more that they grow fond of her, the more that they fear she will be claimed one day and matters take a turn for the worse when Jem rows to the mainland on a regular trip, slips on the jetty whilst loading stores, and dies. Ultimately this means Mary and her family must leave the island and a new Assistant Lighthouse Keeper is appointed. He arrives, with no family in tow, and is unrecognised until he proclaims to Grandfather that he is his son, David, and to Alick that he is his father. The missing twelve years is rapidly glossed over with an explanation that he was shipwrecked off China and held prisoner all that time until released under a general amnesty.

In parallel with this part of the story the ship owners, Mr Septimus Forster and Mr Davis, have been paying visits to the lighthouse in an attempt to identify the girl and this they manage to achieve. They then set about to reunite her with her wealthy parents who had sent the child home alone in advance from Calcutta.

With undying gratitude Mr and Mrs Villiers reclaim their child and offer to take Alick with them and give him an education so that he can become a clerk; a worthy aspiration for any young boy. Despite Grandfather's, and now Father's reservations, all agree it would be for the best for Alick and with his Grandfather's advice ringing in his ears, he ventures into the outside world; and remembers the advice for the rest of his life.

And what was the advice?; I warned you that it was a Victorian moralistic story with strong religious overtones. There are more quotes from the Bible here than those by Dot Cotton of Eastenders, and the "Saved at Sea" refers not only to little Lucy Villiers but also to Grandfather and Alick who dust down the family Bible and take to studying it closely for the first time in his young life.

But if you see this book in a charity shop then I do recommend that you buy it and read it; it is still great fun to read and a jolly good ripping yarn.

("Saved at Sea : A Lighthouse Story" was published by The Religious Tract Society, Paternoster Row, London, for young people in 1887 and cost one shilling. Mrs. Walton wrote several other books including "Launch the Lifeboat")


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