Postcard from... Cape Elizabeth

In December 1886 Captain Daniel O’Neil climbed aboard his ship, the “Annie Maguire” for a voyage north from Buenos Aires to Quebec. With him for the voyage were thirteen crew, two mates, his wife and his twelve year old son. Caught in bad weather just off the coast of Maine on Christmas Eve, O’Neil was aiming for Portland Harbour in order to take shelter and ride out the storm. On land, in the Portland Head Lighthouse atop the rocky cliffs of Cape Elizabeth, lighthouse keeper Joshua Strout was keeping watch as the clock approached midnight. It may have been Christmas Eve, but it would not be a quiet shift.

At around 11.30pm the Annie Maguire ran into the rocky ledges less than 100 feet from the lighthouse itself. Strout woke his son Joseph and his wife Mary, and they clambered down the rocks to help rescue the crew who had taken down the sails and lowered the anchors, and with the way to safety illuminated by kerosene-soaked blankets cut into strips and then set alight they managed to make it to shore. In the warmth and the safety of the lighthouse engine room, Mary Strout fed O’Neil and his family and crew the chickens that had been slaughtered for the Christmas feast. They ended up staying for three days as the Annie Maguire sat prone on the rocks. Roughly a week after the wreck the Annie Maguire broke apart, and that stormy Christmas Eve on its way north to Canada would prove to be its final journey

(Photo: Katrin Schönig)