Local News

Longhope: 17th March 1969

Longhope Memorial Credit: N Morrison

It was on a dreadful night in 1969 that the Longhope lifeboat was launched to go to the aid of  the Liberian vessel ‘Irene’ . All eight of the lifeboat crew were lost.

The men who died on were:

Coxswain Daniel Kirkpatrick

Second Coxswain James Johnston (son of Mechanic)

Bowman Daniel R Kirkpatrick (son of Coxswain)

Mechanic Robert R. Johnston

Assistant Mechanic James Swanson

Crew Member Robert Johnston (son of Mechanic)

Crew Member John T Kirkpatrick (son of Coxswain)

Crew Member Eric McFadyen

The following day the capsized lifeboat was found. It was floating four miles south-west of Torness Point. Damage to the lifeboat indicated that it had been hit by a huge wave. The bodies of seven members of the crew were found on board the boat. All had died from drowning. The body of the eighth member, James Swanson, was never discovered. Scotland’s People

The Aberdeen Press and Journal reported what the lighthouse keepers of The Pentland Skerries station had described the weather as that night.

“It was a terrible night and the sea was coming right up the gulley where our landings are made and the spume was flying right over the lighthouse.”

Throughout the British Isles tributes were paid to the men of Hoy.

At Fraserburgh Magnus Robertson of the Harbours Commissioners said:

“These gallant lads were called out and had no hesitation in answering a distress signal. Their loss is mourned, not only in Hoy, but everywhere the danger of the sea is realised.”

In Walls, the church was packed to capacity for the funeral service and despite the biting wind many more stood outside to hear the service.

‘The coffin of the coxswain Dan Kirkpatrick was draped in front of the altar with the RNLI flag. His white cap lay on top of the coffin. On either side laid over the wooden church pews were his lifeboat team of six. The body of the eighth crew member, James Swanson (59), the second engineer has still not been found.

Aberdeen Press and Journal, 24th March 1969

A memorial service was held in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, attended by about 1200 people. Rev Cant, Cathedral Minister said:

“The possibility of death was with them all the time. They accepted without question that this life was a hazard. They knew every time the boat was launched they were in danger. They were ready to answer the call from those in peril on the sea.”

Throughout the British Isles services were held to remember the men who died that dreadful night on 17th March 1969 and donations came in from all over.

The local community on Hoy raised funds for the Longhope Lifeboat museum

” Built in 1906, the principle aim of this maritime museum, is to tell the historical story of the old lifeboat station, the powerful events and rescues at sea and to remember former crew members. “

The Inquiry into the disaster found that all crew had taken the necessary precautions and procedures in their attempt to help ‘Irene’. The loss of ‘Longhope’ led to the development of self-righting lifeboats.  The lifeboat was salvaged and refurbished and continued to save lives in Ireland, before retiring from service in 1979. It is now on permanent loan to the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine. Scotland’s People

Longhope Memorial Ian Balcombe
Longhope Memorial credit: Ian Balcombe

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