Monday, 17 March 2014

Longhope Lifeboat tragedy

On this day, 17 March 1969, RNLI Longhope Lifeboat TGB, capsized while on service to the Irene, a Liberian registered cargo ship.

At the time the Longhope boat was lost, it would seem very likely that no boat could have survived in the conditions prevailing north of the Pentland Skerries at that time, with an immense wind against an even more immense tide which would produce seas up to 60ft high with correspondingly deep pits between them. It was believed that the TGB was turned end over end and then fell from a great height, either stunning the crew or creating such disarray that it would be beyond human capacity to handle the boat. This was the worst lifeboat disaster to ever strike the Orkneys, and indeed the whole of Britain. All eight crewmen lost their lives – and included two fathers both with two sons on board – and leaving behind seven widows and ten fatherless children; all of them were from the tiny village of Brims with a total population of 30. Almost a quarter of them, the most experienced in the ways of the sea, had been taken away in one bitter blow. “The Orcadian” (Orkney’s newspaper) commented: “All Orkney this week mourns over the tragic loss of the Longhope lifeboat with its crew of eight fine men. Right up until the last minute, everyone was hoping against hope that the lifeboat crew who had so often snatched others from what looked like certain death might still themselves have a chance. Then came the sad, final messages. There was no hope. The crew of the Longhope lifeboat were dead.”
Those that died were, as previously mentioned, Dan Kirkpatrick who was 59, the coxswain, together with two of his sons, Ray who was 29 and the bowman, and Jack, 26 a crewman. Both were married with a child. The engineer Robert R. Johnston, who was 61, and his two sons, James, the second coxswain at 34 and Robbie, a crewman at 31. Both sons were married and both had two children. Also to die was the assistant mechanic, Jim Swanson who left a wife. A single man of 24, Eric McFadyen, volunteered to go at the last minute, but didn't have to, as the lifeboat could have sailed with seven crewmen.

Today my candle is lit for everyone affected by this tragedy all those years ago


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