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For a moment the air was filled with screams and the water with blood. The sailors, clinging as best they could to the shattered lifeboat — which still floated, thanks to its air compartments — worked their way around the ship and let the breakers carry them toward the beach. They found that two men had been killed outright, crushed against the Glenmorag’s iron hull, and four more — including William Begg — received injuries ranging from minor to severe.
Fortunately for the injured men, the waves quickly drove them almost straight onto the shore. The sailors found themselves on a broad sandy beach, a few miles north of Ilwaco on the Washington side of the river. They were able to find a local resident in a house nearby, and soon the alarm was out in the community and the exhausted, dripping sailors were being welcomed into warm firelit homes and plied with hot drinks.
As for Begg, his injuries were severe, and he needed more than a cup of cocoa. So he was taken to nearby Ocean Park and set up in the Taylor Hotel, where the hotel owner’s daughter, Maude, undertook to nurse him back to health.
And that was how William Begg met Maude Taylor, the love of his life. By the time he was back on his feet, it was clear that he had found a new home, and his seafaring days were over.
He and Maude were married a few months later; Begg built a home for them there on the peninsula, and the two of them settled into a long and happy life there, joined later by two daughters.
“Visiting their home is like stepping into the past,” writes historian James Gibbs Jr. in his book (published in 1950). “Such items as the dinner bell and kitchenware salvaged from the galley of the Glenmorag are still in use.”
All attempts to refloat the Glenmorag failed, and eventually it was salvaged as best it could be and left to bury itself in the sand like the Peter Iredale, a few miles south.
“When I was here in the early to mid-‘50s, part of the Glenmorag was still visible on the beach north of Bay Avenue,” recalled William and Maude’s great-grandson, Phil Allen, in an interview with Cate Gable of the Chinook Observer. “So we’d drive out there at low tide. And great-grandpa Begg would go to whatever was sticking out of the sand and he’d pace it off and say, ‘Dig here.’ Then I’d dig and we’d find the bow and the same thing again and we’d find the stern.”
It’s hard not to picture the pleasure William Begg must have taken in those excursions with young relatives — and to wonder how often he paused to think about the unexpected turn his life had taken on that foggy, terrifying afternoon, when the unluckiest day of his life had suddenly turned into the best thing that ever happened to him.