December 29th – The Festival of the Amnesiac Wreck

Apparently the lighthouse keeper didn’t spot the vessel until it was on the rocks, a fact that is less surprising than it sounds, given how rough the waters were that night, and how black the ocean was under the new moon. She raised the alarm pretty quickly when she did spot it, but by that time most of the crew were already dead. A gang of strong Buentoillitants ran down the coastline with ropes searching for survivors and pulling any they found to safety. Only five of them survived, all men in their late twenties. The rest were dashed on the rocks.

Seafaring has never been a safe practise, but back in the fourteenth century when life jackets weren’t invented, when lighthouses used braziers, when sea charts were inaccurate and navigational equipment was poor, it was particularly dangerous. There were plenty of nautical accidents in and around Buentoille that century, as many as fifty a year, so what made this wrecking, which is remembered today, quite so deserving of memorial? Well, it is less about the scale of the tragedy, the numbers who died, but about the legacy that it left behind; mostly it will be the descendants of those five survivors who gather to remember today.

By now there are thousands of living descendants of the survivors who can trace their lineage back that far. Whilst not all these Buentoillitants are interested or able to come to today’s festival, a good thousand-or-so will likely arrive at Sickle Rock Point today, where the wrecking originally took place. It is a tradition passed down through various families, so there are various ways of marking respect for the dead, and of expressing to the universe their thanks for those who survived. Some families release fish into the waters there, to swim free like the souls of those who perished. Many bring storm lanterns like those used in the rescue and hang them from the rusted metal hooks that were hammered into the rocks for that purpose long ago. Some write messages for the dead and fold the paper into boats that they float out into the frigid waters.

Yet the reason that so many people retain records of their relation to the five is because, at the time, they were essentially celebrities; people were fascinated by them. They weren’t Buentoillitants, nor were they obviously from any of the other Seven Cities, or for that matter any place known to Buentoille. And each survivor, too, had no idea of where they had come from, or where they were going when they hit the Point. They didn’t even know their own names, it was as if the water they fell into had washed all memory from their minds. Yet they could speak, although it was with strange, thick accents, and later two of them realised that they were excellent coopers, though they had no memory of learning those skills. The only thing that they remembered was a fragment of song, perhaps the song they were singing before they hit the rocks.

It wasn’t a song that any Buentoillitant had heard before, although it had similarities to many known sea-shanties. Tonight, at 7pm, the time that their unmarked vessel was thought to have been wrecked, their descendants will sing it all together, their voices swelling, roaring over the ocean and the wind, a declaration of survival. They sing:

Haul away, haul away,

Haul away in the morning,

Before the sun rises, the rising run,

Haul away in the morning!

Bury me at sea, my laddies, bury me at sea,

Haul away in the morning,

Where the darkness grows thick,

Away from the rising sun, from the morning.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Left Brood