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If you opt to make a payment to download this track, thank you so much! Your contribution will go to our production fund for a live show of '900 Years - a journey through time'. We had hoped to put on the show during 2020, the 900th anniversary year of the building of St Michael's Church. But the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to that! We do still hope to put on the show in 2022.
HMS Brazen was wrecked just off the coast of Newhaven on 26th January 1800. All the crew (over 100 of them) died, except one man, Jeremiah Hill, a non-swimmer. He clung to some floating wreckage and was picked-up by two men, who had been lowered in a cage from the clifftop. As a result of this tragedy, and funded partially by contributions from the people of Newhaven, one of the first lifeboats in England was established in the town, in 1803, some 20-or-so years before the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was formed (in 1824).
I wrote this piece from the point of view of Louisa Hanson, the young wife of the ship's captain, James Hanson. The sea sounds, that open and close the track, were recorded on Newhaven’s West Beach, within sight of where the Brazen sank.
(Mike Flood - 14th November 2019)
The 26th of January, 1800, A wretched day, as I recall.
For I dreamed, that on that day, I was awoken, earlier than the sun
The hollow, foreboding alarm, so long and plaintive, rung.
A thousand paces west of here a ship was gone aground
beneath the cliffs. Although still dark, the spot was easy found,
The wretched mariners' cries for help were guidance by their sound…
We ran across the fading beach,
my unborn child and I,
towards the place we could not reach…
The flooding tide so cruelly caught our feet.
As daylight pushed the darkness veil away,
we saw to our dismay,
a broken vessel buffeted, by the storm enraged and angry at the rising morn.
From cliff to victim, distance was too vast… despairing sailors clinging to the mast.
The angry sounds from violent stormy moans, the breaking boat, the breaking bones…
Helpless victims, battling their fate.
Helpless rescuers, forced to watch and wait…
And in my heart, I begged he was not there,
had stayed in port and waited for the weather to be fair…
Or was alive, but floating in the rage,
and reaching out in vain to grab the cage.
For two brave heroes, with thoughts not for their own
were lowered from the cliff top down and down,
Their rescue craft was no more than a pen,
but it could be salvation for some men…
One man was dragged out from the deep
and saved, that day, from his eternal sleep.
But not my man… not my man.
And he confirmed it, deep inside I knew,
t’was Captain Hanson and The Brazen sinking from our view.
Those Brazen Souls, the sloop had been their nest. 95 came lifelessly to shore.
And in the graveyard now are laid to rest. Their monument reminds us evermore.
To this day my gaze from shore is ever with sadness tinged
As still I hear their mournful cries, carried on the wind.
Oh what irony that I should live so long,
When my child and Captain James, my husband, were so early gone…
The Spitfire Sisters - clever, catchy, retro-tunes with modern day lyrics - perfectly performed by 3 very classy ladies and their accompanying band of expert players. They're fab live too. Go see!. Mike Flood