Barque Thorne Cropped

The Barque Thorne Wreck

In the early hours of 25th January 1890, the Barque Thorne was driven into the rocks off Onchan Head.



The Thorne, a barque sailing vessel weighing 841 tonnes, set off from Liverpool docks on 13th January 1890. Twelve days later her voyage ended on the rocks off Onchan Head.

What little remains of the boat can even now still occasionally be seen, uncovered during exceptionally low tides. In 1992 the bottom of the hull appeared so far above water that it was possible to walk along it.

The Rescue

All 16 crew members and two passengers who were aboard the Thorne on that stormy night were saved by the crews of two Douglas lifeboats.

At approximately 2.30am the captain of a nearby boat realised that the Thorne was drifting into danger and raced to the harbour to alert the Harbour Master.

The Thomas Rose lifeboat was launched, along with the John Turner-Turner, and they battled increasingly severe gales to reach the ship. 

By the time they had travelled to the coast near Port Jack, the stranded men had already launched their lifeboat - and it was from there that the rescue ensued.

One man, James Glazebrook, was so grateful that he wrote a tribute to his rescuers in the Manx Sun a few days later:

"I beg to express...the gratitude of myself and of all who were on board the barque Thorne to the crews of the two Douglas lifeboats for their bravery in rescuing us, at the risk of their lives...The lifeboatmen acted throughout with the greatest skill, coolness and judgement and it is only due to them that this public recognition of their gallantry should be made."

Alchoholic Cargo

Throughout the early hours of the morning, approximately 700 kilos of kegs, casks and barrels of whisky and brandy washed up on the beach.

It was a sight like never before, as men and women alike lapped the spirits like dogs and used boots to break them open.

The Sun described those drunk as "rolling about higgledy-piggedy on the cliffs", and many were injured falling down onto the rocks.

To prevent further mayhem barrels were opened and the contents allowed to flow away, but this just resulted in people literally drinking from the gutters!

When the Thorne broke up, about 300 more casks were salvaged, and cargo continued to wash ashore for some time, but they were mainly removed by Customs.

Board of Trade Inquiry

An inquiry into the stranding began on 11th February 1890, and was heard over two days.

Its verdict was that: "All reasonable precautions were taken...(and) the Master was in no way in default."

Salvage Operation

A small amount of cargo was salvaged in the weeks following the incident through the use of divers and steam pumps.

According to the Manx Sun, these goods included: "many thousand cases of whisky and cognac also several thousand gallons of Guinness's stout, and large quantities of general cargo, preserved meats, furniture, silk, cloths, linen, etc..."

Attempts were made to refloat the Thorne but they were later abandoned, and she still lies there almost 125 years on.