Monday, January 22, 2007

Ship-wreckers' "sheer greed" - Time for the spirit of Hawker?

The Dorset Echo reports a local Branscombe policeman saying that "Around 50 BMW motorbikes were carried off the beach."

I have great sympathy with my old friend Mark Clark, who is spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The BBC reports:

MCA spokesman Mark Clark said had warnings not to touch the containers been followed, they would have been removed and the beach returned to normality quite soon.
"They have quadrupled our task," he said.
"People are lighting fires beside the containers, getting on top of them ripping stuff out, and not heeding our warnings.
Unwanted goods were left strewn over the World Heritage site
"The MCA is deeply upset and angry because all the stuff which has been ripped out of the containers will be swept out to sea and have an environmental impact," he said.
"In 11 years I have never seen anything like it, it is sheer greed."

It seems to me that it is time for the spirit of the Reverend Hawker to prevail. When he arrived at the cliff-top Cornish parish of Morwenstow in the nineteenth century, there were numerous wreckers in his parish who "allowed a fainting brother to perish in the sea without extending a hand of safety".

Stephen Hawker set a different example, moving his parishioners away from "sheer greed" to show some humanity in dealing with ship-wrecks. He looked after surviving sailors and gave a decent Christian burial to those who perished.

He was the man who wrote the words to "And shall Trelawny die?", often regarded as Cornwall's national anthem. "Hawker's hut" is a clifftop shack where he would observe the sea. It still survives today in the stewardship of the National Trust.

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