The SS Fawn taking passengers from Liverpool to Rhyl, was disabled
Shortly after midnight on Monday [31 August 1891], the Rhyl Lifeboat, the Jane Dalton, was summoned to the assistance of a steamer showing signs of distress at the mouth of the Foryd River, and about 400 yards from shore. It was soon ascertained that the boat was the Rhyl steamer Fawn, which had started from Liverpool Landing-stage about 6.30 p.m. Soon after passing New Brighton, the Fawn commenced to feel the full force of the gale, and by the time the river Dee was entered, it had increased to almost a hurricane, heavy seas continuously breaking over the vessel. The passengers were in a great state of alarm, and the reassuring statements of the captain and others had but little effect in appeasing them. Rhyl Pier was passed about ten o'clock, and the Fawn made direct for the river, but apparently owing to the darkness of the night and the high wind, she missed her course, and was almost stranded on the Pebble Bank.
The captain, however, with admirable tact, avoided this catastrophe, and succeeded in directing the boat to her proper course, but in doing so she went too near the buoy fixed to mark the course, the chain of which became entangled in the propeller. All efforts to remove the encumbrance proved futile, and the boat became helpless on a most open and dangerous part of the coast. The excitement among the passengers, a great proportion of whom were women and children, now became terrible. The steamer's whistle was blown repeatedly, this appearing to be the only means those on board had of signalling for assistance. At ten minutes to twelve, the lifeboat guns were fired, and in a remarkably short time afterwards, the boat could be discerned, by the light she carried, making up the river at great speed.
A hearty cheer was sent forth from thousands of throats as the boat was seen struggling to get at the distressed ship. Owing to the breakers, it was some time before the lifeboat could be got alongside, and when it ultimately did so, the cheers of those on board could be distinctly heard by the people on shore. Shortly after this cheer, a rocket was sent up to apprise the excited spectators of the safety of a portion of the passengers. The boat was rowed right on to the shore, and hundreds of men went through the seething surf to carry the rescued ashore. Three times the lifeboat went to the Fawn, each time having to encounter a heavy sea, and at last succeeded in bringing the whole of the passengers - 50 in number - safely to terra firma, accomplishing this within an hour of the firing of the guns. The passengers, almost without exception, were in a most exhausted condition, and were profuse in their thanks to the Rhyl Lifeboat crew for rescuing them from so perilous and terrible a position. By the next tide, the Fawn was able to enter the Foryd, and to resume her advertised runnings.
A letter written by a survivor states: The first signal of distress shown by the Fawn on Monday night was between half past ten and a quarter to eleven o'clock, and no reply to the continued signals of distress were seen for more than an hour and a half from this time. Also there is criticism of men (rather than women and children) securing the available lifebelts and taking the first places in the rescue boat.
Fawn (ON 62212, reg Liverpool) was built by Georg Howaldt in Kiel, Holstein, in 1861: iron 91x17x8.6ft, 30/82 tons 40 hp screw. She was owned by the newly created Rhyl & Vale of Clwyd SS Co. This company aimed to restore Rhyl's steamer link with Liverpool, aided by the long pier built at Rhyl in 1867. They acquired the screw steamer Fawn which had previously operated from Southampton. The first service was in late 1890. This new venture lasted only a year before the company was wound up.
See also Company history; images of Fawn at Rhyl; Fawn history.