A lady today who was once a young girl living on a lighthouse is an eyewitness to
THE DEATH AND VIRTUAL RESURRECTION OF THE VINEYARD LIGHTSHIP
By Seamond (Ponsart) Roberts
As a young girl I grew up on Cuttyhunk Island at the lighthouse where my father was the keeper. We could see the Vineyard Lightship from our place.
It went down during the 1944 hurricane off the
island of Cuttyhunk. My father and I were in the Cuttyhunk Light tower,
vainly trying all night to keep the light going and were watching between gusts
of storm, the lights on the lightship. I was about five years old then and
my "duty" that night was running errands up and down the stairs, getting
Dad coffee and new mantles and rags to dry up the tower (which was drenched),
helping with the air vents and such. As I was always Dad's little helper,
I was right there beside him.
I was beside him when we saw the lights of the
lightship disappear and we knew that the brave men in their iron ship were
gone. They were all my "uncles" as they would stay with us at our
house between crew changes. It was a horrible, horrible feeling that I
have as an aching memory to this day.
A government board of inquiry was held and it was
concluded to be “an act of God” well beyond anyone's help. That was 55
years ago! Since then, the lightship sinking has been largely forgotten,
except by one survivor. He was from the exchange crew who came to the island
the next day thinking he was going aboard his vessel only to find no lightship
and no crewmembers left and I think myself. This crewman, Harold Flagg,
who now lives in Sagamore, Massachsetts, bless him, has lobbied for years to
have an appropriate memorial established and dedicated. At last this will
become a reality. On September 15, 1999 at 10 a.m. in the waterfront park in
New Bedford, MA, the ships bell that was recently retrieved by divers with the
use of sidescan sonar will be dedicated in a memorial with a service. The bell
will be rung for each of the drowned crewmen and their names called out once
again to the sea. An anthem and taps will be done, along with a memorial
tribute to that almost forgotten lightship that was lost 55 years
ago. Finally we shall have closure.
Do you believe sailors have ghosts? If they do, surely these forgotten men, some of the uncles of my childhood, will be among the witnesses to the ceremonies in the park.
Jack, Please reword this anyway you like. The public is certainly invited and I feel so happy that finally someone beside Harold and myself will remember these guys. I loved them all.
Thanks for whatever you can do.