Four years ago, in a terrific gale, a ship from Norway, the St. George, came dead on the wildest part of our coast, the fierce headland that lies back of Peel Castle rock.
The sound signal was fired and Charlie and his brave comrades went out to her. She was reeling on the top of a tremendous sea, and there was no coming near to her side. It was an awful task to get the crew aboard the life-boat, but Charlie saved every soul and lost not a hand of his own.
When the crew of the doomed ship were at the bulwarks waiting to leave her, Charlie sang out over the clamour of the sea:
“How many are you?”
“Twenty-three,” came back as answer.
Then Charlie cried, “I can see only twenty-two.”
“The other man is hurt, he’s dying; no use saving him!” the Norseman shouted.
“You’ll bring the dying man on deck before a soul of you leaves the ship!” cried Charlie.
There was a woman among them and when the carpenter came scudding down the rope he had a canvas bag on his back. “No tools here,” shouted Charlie. “It’s the child,” said the man.
The captain came last. He had left everything else behind him – his money, his instruments, his clothes, his ship, but out of his pocket there peeped the head of a baby’s doll. It was a thrilling rescue, but to see it in all its splendour you must have a drop of Manx blood in you.
Our forefathers were from Norway, our first Norse king was named Gorry. He landed on this Island, not far from this spot. And now his children’s children rescue from the sea the children’s children of the kinsmen he left at home.
Most of our men had Norse names. One of them was a Gorry, lineal descendant beyond doubt of the old sea king.
The Norwegian Government felt the touch of great things in this incident. It was not merely that the bravery of the rescue fired their gratitude. Something called to them from that deep place where blood answers to the cry of blood. They sent medals for Charlie and his crew, and the Governor of the Island distributed them inside the roofless walls of the old castle of the Black Dog (Peel Castle). It was like grasping hands with the past across the space of a thousand years.
(source: ‘Little Man Island’ by Sir Hall Caine (1894) http://bit.ly/12ckpqe; artwork is ‘Shipwreck’ by Winslow Homer http://bit.ly/1vpXc2p)