New Book Recounts Loss Of Biggest Sailing Vessel Off Scilly

john hicks book 2015A new book that details the bravery of St Agnes lifeboatmen during a dramatic shipwreck rescue has gone on sale.

Retired QC John Hicks has been researching An Absolute Wreck, the story of the loss of the TW Lawson, for the past decade.

John has visited libraries and archives in the UK as well as in Boston in the USA, where the schooner’s owner Thomas Lawson lived.

His fact-finding has also taken him to Philadelphia, the city that the boat sailed from with its cargo of bulk oil.

The loss of the 5,218 tonne, seven-masted schooner made the headlines, as it was the largest sailing vessel afloat at the time.

It seems that the 1907 disaster stemmed from confusion over the ship’s location.

The ship’s watchkeeper thought the Bishop Rock lighthouse was actually another vessel but John says it’s still a mystery how such a distinctive beacon could be mistaken by an experienced crew.

There were 19 men on board when the TW Lawson sank and local lifeboatmen scoured the rocks for survivors using the gig, Slippen.

Three men were rescued although only two survived long-term.

John Hicks wanted to produce this definitive account because of the 17 men involved in the rescue, 13 were Hicks and he’s related to that St Agnes family.

John’s grandfather was Israel Hicks.

John’s uncovered many interesting facts about the incident including businessman Lawson’s strong superstition. The vessel first got into difficulty in Scillonian waters on Friday 13th December 1907 although her loss was on the morning of 14th.

The book is available from St Mary’s paper shop and also obtainable from the author for £15, including postage and packing within the UK, at Flat 3, 17 Montagu Square, London W1H 2LE or john.hicks@montagusquare.net. (U.S. price $25 plus postage from UK).