Attempted Rescue of the SS Palme
The Kingstown lifeboat disaster occurred on Christmas Eve 1895 off Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) when the Kingstown lifeboat was capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the stricken SS Palme. The SS Palme, a 1,114-ton barque, was owned by the Erikson family of Mariehamn, Finland, then part of the Russian Empire. She sailed under the Russian flag of horizontal white, blue, and red. On the 18th of December she set sail from Liverpool bound for South America to import hardwood. She was commanded by Captain Wiren. He was accompanied by his wife and child. There was a crew of seventeen, three of whom spoke English.
A storm described as "the most severe of the century" developed. The Palme tried to seek shelter in Dublin Bay, but was driven south-east. It was mid-winter and extremely cold. The sea was so heavy that waves were crashing over the light house at the end of the East Pier of Dún Laoghaire. On Tuesday the 24th of December the Palme was seen dragging her anchor off Merrion strand. The Palme was in danger of being smashed on the rocks. She fired distress rockets. A new lifeboat, Civil Service Number One had recently been delivered to Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire). Under Coxswain Alexander Williams it went to assist the Palme. As she approached the Palme, the crew lowered the sails and rowed. Then, in full public view, the lifeboat was raised by a mighty wave and then capsized. Some of the lifeboat crew managed to climb onto the upturned hull. The crew of the Palme then tried to launch their longboat, in the hope of rescuing their rescuers. This longboat was smashed by the waves. The older lifeboat Hannah Pickard, under Coxswain Horner, then went to sea. She was also capsized, but righted herself and her crew all got back on board. She was driven ashore at Vance's Harbour, Blackrock. The Poolbeg lifeboat, under Coxswain Captain Dalton, was also launched. She found conditions ‘impossible’ and had to turn back. Two tugs, Flying Sprite and Flying Swallow also tried and failed. All hope of rescuing the Palme was now abandoned.
On St. Stephen's Day 26 December, the Irish Lights steamer Tearaght under Captain McCombie managed to reach the Palme and rescue all twenty on board. In addition, they rescued the ship's cat. By then eight bodies of the lifeboat men had been recovered. In time, all fifteen bodies were found.
Another two members of the Kingstown Lifeboat Crew who drowned in the attempted rescue of the crew of the "SS. Palme” were brothers Francis and George Saunders, they are buried side by side, George’s headstone shows the Lifeboat in rough seas while Francis’s shows the Lifeboat capsized. Tragedy at sea struck the family again when on the 10 of October 1918 Francis’s wife Frances Elizabeth drowned when the RMS Leinster was sunk by a German U-Boat, she was on her way to visit he sick daughter in the UK, her daughter died on the 13th of October 1918 and is buried in the same grave.