This is another one of those first sights that anyone walking along Douglas' waterfront cannot hope to miss. My first sighting was on a dull wet afternoon during July 2009 and I got to see it in better weather after that. The photo was captured on the last day of a visit during May 2010. Though the sky may look grey in the background, this was one of the sunnier days of my stay on the island.
The Tower of Refuge was built after a near-miss when the St. George, a packet steamer that had sailed from Liverpool with passengers and mail, nearly foundered while anchored there during a storm. The rescue saved everyone on board though its lifeboat leader, Sir William Hillary, did get injured in the process. He was later to found what became the RNLI and the tower offers shelter to anyone in peril on the waters of Douglas Bay.
The tower itself stands on a rocky reef that is partially submerged with the exception of spring tides. St. Mary's Isle is the highest part of the reef and also goes by the Manx names of Kione y Sker or Creg Voirrey. The first of those Manx names has become the origin of another title for the rocky prominence in the English tongue: Conister Rock. The eastern part of the same reef, called Conister Shoals, was blasted during the building of a harbour breaker during the 1980's.