But ships and men have been lost, often without trace, leaving families and communities to grieve – and wonder what happened to their menfolk.
One such trawler failed to return at Christmas 1948. Families of 21 men waited in vain for news. A town mourned! Her name – the Goth – has gone into the history books.
We featured the Goth’s story in our ‘Trawler Tales’ four years ago but the story has not ended.
A miracle happened when the funnel of this 395 ton vessel was trawled up in the net of an Icelandic trawler nearly two years ago. The Goth – undetected on the sea bed off North West Iceland – had been found. Her resting place – a grave for the brave crew – is now known. Some small comfort for the relatives.
And the funnel has been brought home – back to Fleetwood – to become a lasting memorial.
A group of relatives have set up a Fund – to build a permanent reminder of the sacrifice of the port’s fishermen. The 17ft funnel encased in perspex will be incorporated into the structure.
Already over £2,000 has been raised and discussions are being held to find a suitable site. A member of the relatives group said the discovery of Goth’s final resting place had been very upsetting at first. But it was comforting to know where the grave was.
“It had been a mystery for 50 years. When we first saw the funnel there were tears and hugs. It was a very poignant moment.
“Now we just want to get the memorial situated,” he said and added the relatives group was grateful to everyone who had offered help and support.
Goth’s disappearance – as families prepared for Christmas – was a tragedy which devasted the town.
For over two weeks there had been neither sight nor sound of the vessel, owned by Wyre Steam Trawling Company.
She had left port on December 4th with a crew of 21. She carried radio and had enough provisions for 30 days. Goth was due home for christmas and she was last heard of on December 16th. A wireless message, picked up by the Hull trawler Lincoln City, revealed Goth was going into Adalvik (NW Iceland) for shelter. After that – silence!
A full scale air-sea search was launched – but nothing was found – and it was abandoned in January 1949.
With her fate unknown, the tragedy was felt deeply throughout the port. For many, Christmas 1948 passed without notice and presents for the Goth’s crew remained unopened.
An inquiry later gave the probable cause of her disappearance as heavy weather – with the area around Iceland, being lashed by gales of 100mph. Mountainous seas were believed to have swamped the Goth.
Lost with the Goth were;
Skipper Wilfred Elliott, aged 36, married of Warbreck Hill Road, Blackpool; Mate A E Plummer, 47, married, of Preston; Bosun W J Edwards, 35, married, Hathaway Road; Chief Engineer G H Knight, 52, married, Garfield Street; Second Engineer A J Patterson, 24, single, Dock Street; Wireless Operator, S Bowles, 19, single, Newton-le-Willows; Fireman T Dagger, 25, single, Springfield Terrace; H Ramsden, 24, single, Liverpool; Cook H P Blyth, 51, Bolton; Assistant Cook A Silcock, 20, single, Preston.
The deckhands, all from Fleetwood, were;
H Smith, 23, single, Heathfield Road; W Durbin, 26, Shakespeare Road; B Redman, 27, single, Blakiston Street; H Buckley, 24, married, Carr Road; N Grisenthwaite, 24, single, Heathfield Road; J Tandy, 27, married, Victoria Street; J Davis, 60, single, Gordon Road; R Rhimes, 16, single Broomfield Road; R Snasdell, 23, Single, Oak Street.
So let us remember the Goth and all trawlers which found a watery grave and all our fishermen who have gone down with their ship or been lost at sea.
The Goth’s funnel has returned home – let it form a fitting memorial and be a reminder to future generations of the price paid by the port’s fishing community – by men just doing their job!
Such is the demand for fresh fish!
The trawlermen are looking forward to new opportunities and a regular wage in an operation which will mean round-the-clock and round the year work.
This fish to order policy will take the industry into millenium – but it is based on centuries of experience and tradition.
And Fleetwood has played a major role in the development of the fishing trade – a town whose heritage is interwoven with the sea and its harvest.
Hundreds of ships, thousands of men and a variety of firms have all served on dockland.
Firms like Boston, Marr, Iago, Hewett, Dinas, T+T; New Docks, Wyre, Dalby, Cevic and Mason – the memories flood back!
Ships became legends and whole families were involved in either fishing or the ancillary shore trades.
Today we look at one firm – Hewett – prompted by reader John Bellwood and his father Tom sending in a brochure printed in 1964 to commemorate the company’s 200th anniversary.
The history of the Hewett empire – under the title ‘The Short Blue Fleet 1764-1964? was produced as a supplement to the Fishing News and Fish Merchant and Processor.
It makes fascinating reading and traces all aspects of the company’s life from the founder Scrymgeour Hewett in Barking, Essex in 1764 to the boom-time 1960s.
The booklet gives an insight into 18th and 19th century development of an enterprise which spread from its Barking beginnings to its coastal expansion.
An article by Captain Robert S Hewett CBE, Company Chairman, entitled ‘From a small beginning to the world’s largest fleet’, charts the progress, and there’s a review of fishing vessels of yesteryear.
The President of Fleetwood Fishing Vessel Owner’s Association, Mr W Wilkinson (a Company Director) traces Hewett’s progress through war and peace with reference to the formation of a new company Heward Trawlers Ltd in 1936. This was born from the de3mise of the Game Cock and Red Cross Fleets (the chairman of the owning company was Mr H F Hayward) and the purchasing of all the fleets ships.
Vessels like Coot, Tanager, Warbler, Grosbeak, Everton, Evesham and Esher were all part of the new operation and several went to war. Evesham became a casualty and was sunk in the North Sea – her crew were saved. But Lady Love was lost with her crew in 1941.
Tributes are also paid to Hewett’s skippers and crews with pen portraits of some of the skippers.
Marketing and distribution is also covered and there is a special feature on Billingsgate Market in the late 19th century.
The role of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen is portrayed – both in its early days with a mission smack – operating with the Short Blue Fleet of Hewett and Company to the development of its shore bases.
There is also a special article entitled ‘The Hewett Fleet Today – Five Impressive Vessels’.
In 1964 the Hewett company operated 5 trawlers from the Wyre Port. All were built at Beverley (Cook, Welton and Gemmell) and following tradition were registered at the Port of London.
Three distant water vessels all bore the Hewett name – Ella Hewett (567 tons, 164ft built in 1964); Robert Hewett (567 tons, 164ft, 1961); Samuel Hewett (589 tons, 170ft, 1956).
The homewater trawlers were the diesel-powered Royalist and London Town (both 228 tons, 108ft and built in 1960).
The oldest – Samuel Hewett – was named after one of the firm’s outstanding members who died in 1871. She became one of Fleetwood’s top ships.
London Town also proved a successful ship – although fishing on her maiden voyage lasted just one day due to teething problems with the winch.
The Robert Hewett was the second to bear the name. She was built within a year of her predecessor being scraped in 1960. The first Robert – built as Beachflower in 1930 at Selby spent a third of her career with the Royal Navy when she was named Lilac.
She worked as a minesweeper in the Suez Canal and later became a naval training ship before going on active service during the Second World War.
The vessel was bought by Heward Trawlers (part of the Hewett Group) from the Government after the war and became one of Fleetwood’s top ships.
In 1948 she was involved in towing a disabled trawler 300 miles in the North Atlantic until repairs could be completed. The Allen Water was 1,000 miles from Fleetwood in Icelandic waters when she broke down and drifted for 26 hours. With repairs effected the tow was slipped and she reached Fleetwood under her own power.
The second Robert Hewett was built expressly for Fleetwood.
In 1962 – during her first full year’s operation – she was the port’s highest earning vessel.
She had a brush with the 397 – ton Boston Seafoam the same year when they collided while manoeuvring towards the lockpits in Wyre Dock. Seafoam had to put back for repairs to her wheelhouse and hauling gear but the Hewett ship was able to continue to the fishing grounds with only slight damage to paint work when her bows scraped the stone wall of the pits.
Fleetwood was home to three ships bearing the Royalist name.
The first was launched before the turn of the century. Iron-built, she began her career sailing from Hull – later moving to be one of Hewett’s first trawlers sailing from Fleetwood.
The 74-ton vessel was scrapped in the mid 1930s and was succeeded by the second Royalist (originally named Alnmouth and then La Manche when she went to France).
Many local folk remember when under the command of Skipper Bert Jinks in 1939 she picked up a greyhound swimming 5 miles from the Mull of Galloway. The following year she was rescued by the Agnes Wickfield which was towed her 80 miles to Belfast after being disabled in a raging gale. In 1952 Royalist was involved in a crayfish fishing experiment.
Scrapped in 1960 she was quickly followed by the third Royalist – a continuity of service which demonstrated the company’s commitment to the port and industry.
The Ella Hewett was the second ship to bear the name.
The first was built in 1953 – and regarded as one of the finest vessels in port. She went to a watery grave after hitting a submerged wreck in Church Bay off Rathlin Island.
Ella Hewett – the second – was launched in December 1963 and began her service as the Hewett company was celebrating its 200th anniversary.
In the foreword, Captain Hewett describes the supplement as “a short account of the development of the fishing industry through the eyes of one company that has for two centuries experienced the triumphs and adversities of changing conditions culminating in the maiden voyage of the modern diesel side trawler Ella Hewett”.
Our informant tells us that the cause of the loss in 1943 remains unknown. He reveals that the S.T. Hondo (H565) was built by Cochranes Ltd at Selby in 1912 for H.L. Taylor LTD of Grimsby with her number being GY701. Ownership was later transferred to the Diamond Steam Fishing Company for their Hull fleet.
“In 1943 the ship’s registry was transferred to Hull and the Hondo given the number H565. – the registered owners being shown as Charleston – Smith Trawlers of Hull. Under wartime conditions she was sent to fish out of Fleetwood under the management of Boston Deep Sea Fisheries Ltd.
The last record of the Hondo was November 24th 1943 but it is not clear whether this is the date of the last reported sighting.
“Being overdue the ship was listed “missing” and on December 31st 1943 recorded as “Lost, off Barra Head”.
“The cause is not known. The ship may have foundered in heavy seas – common at that time of year off Scotland’s west coast or she may have been driven ashore on the rocks of the Hebridean Islands.
“This area was also one of the sectors where Fleetwood trawlers were lost during the war years through enemy action – sunk by U-boats operating in the area.”
Our reader suggests that the date and the place of Hondo’s loss may have been established by the finding of bodies and their identification as Hondo crewmen.
He goes on “Barra Head is the south point of the tiny island of Berneray, the most southerly of the Outer Hebrides and uninhabited. The next island is Mingulay – also uninhabited but which supported a small population up to the 1930s, and would almost certainly have a small church and burial ground.
“The nearest centre of population to these two islands would be Barra which can be reached by air, or ferry from Oban. “War time burials on all the islands would be registered there, probably at Castlebay, Barra.”
Our appeal was prompted by the family of Hondo’s skipper John (Jock) Nicholson, whose body was eventually found and buried in Scotland.
One of his sons – Kenneth – was only eight at the time and says information during the war was scant. He knew his father was buried on a Scottish island but is seeking the exact location and any news of the trawler’s last voyage.
Censorship during the war meant no details were given of missing vessels and the local paper – “The Fleetwood Chronicle” only printed reports of individual crew members – listed as “missing at sea” without identifying their ship.
But from reports at the time it would appear the Hondo was lost around the end of November. One crewman had been washed up and was buried on December 2nd.
The 229-ton Hondo carried a crew of 14.
REPORTED MISSING AT SEA
Skipper Nicholson was 43 and lived in Park-Avenue, Fleetwood. Born in Aberdeen he had sailed out of Fleetwood for 22 years.
It was his first trip in the Hondo and had planned to skipper her for only two trips.
He had served in the First World War in the Royal Scots Fusiliers and at 16 was taken a prisoner in France.
He was sent to Germany and remained a cative until the Armistice.
Skp. Nicholson was also at Dunkirk in the Fleetwood trawler Evelyn Rose and served in the Royal Naval Reserve.
Married he had 4 sons – John and Daniel were serving in the R.N.R., 15 year old Edward was working on the docks and 8-year-old Kenneth was at school.
It is believed his body was washed up off the Scottish coast and later buried on one of the islands.
A 19 year old deckhand, Mr Joseph Croft of Whinfield Avenue was buried at Fleetwood on December 10th after his body was washed ashore on the west scottish coast. Born in Fleetwood he had been going to sea four years. He was the second son of Mr and Mrs G.Croft.
The trawler cook was 43 year old Mr Bertie Lees of Shakespeare Road. He had lived in Fleetwood about 20 years and was married with 3 children. He was a member of the West End Social Club.
Trawler mate Norman Leach left his sick bed to go on the last voyage of Hondo.
His wife told reporters that he had been ill with flu but hadn’t wanted to let the skipper down.
Mr Leach was 39 and lived in Addison Road. Besides his wife he had left 3 children. He had moved to the Wyre Port from Hull and had skippered trawlers to Bear Island, the White Sea and Iceland. He was also buried in Scotland.
Another crewman was William Cameron – a native of Aberdeen. He was married and lived in Thornton.
Teenage Patrick Wilson – making only his third trip – was the youngest son of Mr and Mrs G.A. Wilson, of Gordon Road.
A former pupil at Bailey School he worked on the fish market before going to sea. He was 16. His brother George lost his life while serving in a minesweeper in the R.N.R. In December 1939.
Chief engineer Herbert Henry Scuffell had served in minesweepers in the First World War. A native of Norwich he was 49 and lodged in Seabank Road, Fleetwood. He went to sea from the age of 14 and moved to Fleetwood from Hull. He was a member of the R.A.O.B.
Fireman James Hill had previously survived several shipwrecks. A native of Kilmarnock he lived in Queens-Terrace and was 60 years old.
He had lived in the port 30 years and had served as a stoker in the Royal Navy in the first war and had been shipwrecked 3 times. In May 1940 he was the only surviver from a crew of nine when the Fleetwood trawler Oona Hall sank after a collison in the Irish sea.
Mr Sidney Beswick (or Bestwick) was a native of Scarborough. He said from Fleetwood as a second engineer for many years. Married with a daughter he lodged in Kemp Street, Fleetwood.
Bachelor Mr Frederick Mearns lived at the fishermen’s mission in Dock Street. A native of Hull, Mr Mearns was 38 and sailed from Fleetwood as a deckhand for several years.
His father and brother also lost their lives during the war.
Bosun Mr Norman Stirzaker was making his second trip in Hondo. Born in Fleetwood he lived in Radcliffe Road.
For 12 years he had sailed from Hull but returned to his home port in 1940. Mr Stirzaker who was 37 served at Dunkirk.
Other crewman were W.Harrison, S.Olsen and J Braunberch and as yet we have not been able to discover anything more about them.
The information provided by our anonymous reader has been passed to the Skipper Nicholson’s family.
“We are very grateful this is the most information we have received.
“At the time the two eldest sons were at war and any information which went to the family has been lost in time.
“In all the trawling stories over the years we never saw the Hondo mentioned – which is why we asked for your help.
“We will be able to pursue it further,” said a member of the family.
This dramatic description signalled the end of the Fleetwood trawler Ida Adams – but her 12 man crew (and a dog) were saved.
It was November 1930 that the vessel was on her way home from a successful fishing trip.
In thick fog and drizzling rain, the 125ft trawler was steaming home. It was 5.15am and the cook was preparing breakfast.
Suddenly the 125-ton Ida Adams hit the rocks and ran aground on Frenchman’s Rock in Sound of Islay on the west coast of Scotland.
There was a severe impact and the crew were thrown about in all directions. But there was no panic.
A blaze started in the galley as some fat from the fish on the stove was thrown into the fire. The cook put out the blaze and rushed on deck. But when he returned to collect his belongings he found himself wading thigh deep through murky seas.
Soon after striking the rocks the ship’s engineroom and bunkers filled with water and the lights went out.
With decks awash, the crew remained aboard for about an hour making desperate attempts to stem the flow of water. But the trawler was sinking and Skipper William Atkinson ordered his crew to grab what they could and take to the ship’s boat.
Difficulty was experienced with the boat which was being thrown against the trawler due to heavy swell.
The crew – and the skipper’s dog Bruce making his first voyage – got safety aboard.
As they watched, the Ida Adams rose and fell as the Atlantic rollers lifted and dropped her back on the jagged rocks.
Every bump tore open the iron hull plates and the ship eventually slipped into deeper water.
Returning home, the crew praised the people of Portna-haven for their hospitality. The fishermen had rowed four miles to reach land where they were taken into local cottages and given dry clothing and a hot meal.
Later they walked to the nearest village and were taken by car to Port Askraig where they were put up in a hotel before taking two steamer trips to reach Garnoch and complete their trip home by train.
The skipper stayed near his ship to help any salvage attempts but weather conditions prevented a rescue operation.
It was reported that the trawler which had sailed out of Fleetwood for several years, had sunk in 12 fathoms.
Ida Adams was owned by Messrs Noble Bros and was built in 1907.
It was September 14th 1960 when the drama involving the 397-ton Lord Lloyd began to unfold.
Water began to enter the engine room when the coal-burning trawler reached the fishing grounds.
The vessel began to sink in a 45mph gale some 30 miles from shore.
The men took two rubber liferafts – lashed together. First over the side was the youngest member of the crew, 16 year old Cliff Martin of Blakiston Street. His first trip in Lord Lloyd was a galley boy but on this – his second voyage – he was sailing as a “brassie”.
As the liferafts tossed and turned a Belgian trawler moved in to the rescue and took the men aboard.
The crew was led by Skipper Bill Spearpoint whose son was mate. As daylight broke the crew saw the Lord Llyod still afloat.
One said “It seemed that the old lady just wouldn’t die.” Soon on the scene was the Wyre Mariner Commanded by Skipper Percy Bedford. The rescued seamen were transferred to the Mariner – and the fight to save their ship continued.
She was taken in tow and Skipper Spearpoint and 3 others went back aboard for the trip to Seydisfjordur.
Fireman James Leader later described the state of the trawler.
“You could feel the water rushing under your feet when you stood in the galley. We counted the rungs on the engine room ladder to check the rise in the level.
The engines were covered in water – 30 tons of coal had been washed into the stokehold and the fish room was flooded.
“But it was probably the fact that she was so well ballasted that kept her afloat; “Luckily the gale died down during the night” said Mr Leader.
The tow lasted 11 hours but the drama had not ended…
for the British and Icelandic governments were still negotiating on fishing limits.
And as the Wyre Mariner reached Seydisfjordur Skipper Percy Bedford towing the crippled Lord Lloyd….was arrested.
Charged with illegal fishing inside Iceland’s self-imposed 12 mile limit some 2 months earlier he was fined £1,900….
Skipper Bedford pleaded not guilty and the Reuter News Agency reported Skipper Bedford as saying;
“If I had imagined anything like this I would have let that trawler sink to the bottom rather than tow it into Seydisfjordur .”
He told the court that he had no indications he was suspected of illegal fishing. He had obeyed orders to stay outside the limits since May.
It was alleged that on the day in question in July an aircraft had flown over the mariner for three and a half hours signalling it with rockets and flashing morse.
The coastguard plane took eight fixes showing the trawler was inside the limits. The vessel did not heed the signals.
Skipper Bedford said he hadn’t seen any aircraft. Wyre trawlers Ltd – owners of both the Lord Lloyd and Wyre Mariner – declined to comment about Iceland’s action.
A spokesman said, “The heroic service by Skipper Bedford and the crew of the Wyre Mariner to another trawler in distress – in the best tradition of the fellowship of the sea – still remains the main aspect of this matter.” But there was little trouble over fishing limits when the rescued crew landed at the Icelandic port.
There was some booing from a crowd on shore as the trawlers were escorted in by the Icelandic gunboat Thor.
“They probably thought we’d been nabbed for illegal fishing” said one deckhand.
But on the whole the crew got a friendly reception.
Skipper Bedford’s only comment on the court action when he reached Fleetwood was “It was a shabby trick.”
“I’d never have shown my face in Iceland if my conscience has not been clear.”
He said the Lord Lloyd had been on the verge of sinking when Mariner reached her.
Three weeks later the ship that refused to sink returned to Fleetwood.
She carried a crew of 13 – including a 16 year old deckie – and was commanded by Skipper Charles Singleton. A stark radio call – “Full of water – no steam – helpless” – signalled the fate of the 286–ton vessel. She vanished – in one of the worst gales recorded – south of Barra Head West Scotland.
It was on Thursday January 29th 1953, that families waved goodbye as the Michael Griffith left port.
Everything appeared normal as she headed down the channel at the start of her fishing trip. But a defective feed pump valve caused her to return to port. After repairs the trawler put back to sea. It was Friday January 30th – and she was last seen at 11.10pm by crew of the Fleetwood trawler Aigret.
The SOS was picked up on the following day. As other ships, a lifeboat, two planes and a destroyer joined the search the Michael Griffith vanished. In horrendous weather – with hurricane winds – she floundered and went down. Hour after hour the desperate search went on – but all in vain. A few days later two lifebuoys were found near Loch Foyler, Northern Ireland. They bore the trawler’s markings and with their discovery hopes faded.
At home, a town in shock once again faced the heartbreak of a fishing tragedy. Thirteen ordinary fishermen going about their dangerous jobs had paid the ultimate price. The close knit community mourned with the bereaved families. Eleven women were widowed and 20 children left fatherless. Teenager George Palin was making his second trip to sea!
Crew members were Skipper Singleton, Mate Leonard Grundy, Bosun J T Wilson, Chief engineer Harry Anderson, Second Engineer Thomas Burns, Firemen W Hargreaves and R Bodden, Deckhands J Tucker, S J Johns, J Cryson, C Murdoch and G Palin. Cook was A Bidle.
The following year a 3-day Ministry of Transport public enquiry was unable to find the exact cause of the trawler’s loss. It was believed that the exceptionally heavy weather with waves of 30ft was the probable reason.
The inquiry was satisfied that the ship was seaworthy, properly equipped and her radio apparatus was in a satisfactory condition. The court also found that the defective value which had caused Michael Griffith to return to port – two days before she was lost – had been satisfactorily repaired.
No, there was nothing “special” about the Michael Griffith – just a workhorse of the Wyre port’s trawling fleet. But her tragic loss has earned her and her crew a special place in Fleetwood’s heart – and history. Her crew were of course special – husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, – all “lost at sea”. Three little words which evoke a fearful image which time cannot diminishFleetwood has had to come to terms with many maritime disasters – and paid the price for her fishing heritage.
Our fishing industry has declined but memories remain and the Michael Griffith and her heroic crew are part of the port’s proud past!
It was on the morning of March the 8th, 1956, that the townsfolk of Ramsey first realised something was dreadfully amiss.
A body was seen floating off the Hydro (now the Grand Island Hotel). Lifeboat Thomas Corbett was about to be launched when news came that 4 other bodies had also been recovered.
It was sad news for the lifeboat crew as it was soon established that among the dead were Albert Cottier, the boat’s assistant motor mechanic and the cox’s brother Eric Lyall, who had been in the crew on a number of occasions and Arnold Brew, who frequently acted as a launcher.
The others were crew of the Fleetwood trawler Fleetwood Lady, which had anchored in the bay overnight.
Missing was the trawler’s Skipper – Mr Reginald Wright.
The tragedy is recalled in a history of Ramsey Lifeboats by W.N.Seybold.
He writes; It appeared that the crew members were being returned to their ship during the late evening of the 7th in a small local rowing boat when it capsized – unknown to anyone on shore.
“Once the tragedy unfolded a search was initiated for the missing skipper by the lifeboat and an air sea rescue launch.
It lasted all day – but to no avail.”
A Manx newspaper report is quoted and reads;
“The chain of incidents which culminated in disaster began when the Fleetwood trawler Fleetwood Lady came into the bay on Wednesday, 7th March.
“Robert Slapp of Fleetwood, mate of the trawler (belonging to Boston Deep Sea Fishing Co). States that the trawler left Fleetwood on Wednesday for the fishing grounds and anchored during the afternoon in Ramsey Bay. She carried a crew of 15.
“At about 4pm, seven members of the crew put off for the shore in the ship’s boat. This was primarily to allow three Manx members of the crew, the two Lyall brothers and Allan Bradford, to visit relatives in Ramsey.
“At about 7pm four of the crew members returned to the trawler, leaving Bradford, Eric Lyall and the skipper to return later.”
Around 10.30pm a small boat owned by the father-in-law of Mr Brew with the 6 men aboard began the trip back to the trawler.
“For most people in the town the first intimation that anything was amiss was the firing of the maroons summoning the crew of the lifeboat at about 8am.”
A little earlier police had been notified that a body was floating just off shore. Then the sad news came that 4 more bodies had been discovered on the beach.
“Coxswain Cottier did not know as he mustered his men that among the four was his own brother “Abby” Cottier.
“Abby was one of the most popular figures on the Ramsey quayside and ever since they were lads he and his brother have been fishing and operating their own boat.”
As the news spread an anxious group of people gathered at the lifeboat slipway – a husband stillness fell as the tragedy unfolded.
The Thomas Corbett was launched but only some bottom boards from the dinghy were found.
Coastguards searched the shore and an RAF air sea rescue launch was sent from peel.
The identity of the four bodies was established when they were brought to the motuary. Two had been found by the Hydro and two near Dog Mills.
First identified was Eric Lyall, senior, and his son Eric James, then Albert Cottier and Allan Bradford.
Later, at Dog Mills the body of Arnold Brew was washed up.
There were no sign of Skipper Wright. The 13ft rowing boat – which had carried the men the previous night – was washed up at Vollan Beach. It was minus its oars but was not badly damaged and there was no indication as to how the tragedy had happened.
Later, verdicts of misadventure were recorded at the inquests of five men whose bodies were recovered. The coroner was told the rowing boat had been “seriously overloaded”. The hearing was told that although the weather had been fine there was bound to be movement in the bay due to the wind. It would not have taken much movement to overturn the boat.
But exactly what happened remains a mystery!
The week before Christmas and the whole of Fleetwood waited.
A trawler was overdue… and a silence descended on the port.
For days the sea around Skerry – Vore in the South Minch was scoured for the 449-ton Red Falcon and her crew of 19 in a massive sea and air search.
Families waited with mounting anxiety – eyes scanning the horizon in vain and hope. But the Red Falcon was lost – presumed to have been overwhelmed in heavy seas as she made for home.
Wreckage – including a rocket container box, pieces of wood believed to be floorboards on a lifeboat and two lifebuoys stamped “Red Falcon” – was washed up 25 miles north of the vessel’s last known position.
Lost with all hands – leaving 25 children fatherless and a town too stunned to celebrate Christmas.
The Red Falcon – built in 1936 – was the last coal burning trawler in the lago Steam Trawler Co. Ltd. Fleet. She was formerly named Cape Barfleur.
Her last voyage started on November 25th 1959 when she sailed for the Icelandic fishing grounds, leaving on the same tide as the Red Sabre.
The two vessels fished together at Iceland for most of the trip and turned for home at the same time.
Red Falcon was skippered by Alexander Hardy, (45) of Broadway, Fleetwood. A most experienced skipper who undertook minesweeping duties during the war.
He was in contact with Sabre’s skipper (Tom McKernan) and the skipper of the Red Knight (John Mecklenburgh) during the voyage home. Both men later thought the falcon had been engulfed by a tidal wave.
Skipper McKernan had been about 70 miles ahead of the Falcon and Skipper Mecklenburgh about 150 miles behind. Both reported severe gales – with winds gusting to 100mph. Skipper McKernan advised the Falcon to avoid the tidal race off Islay which Skipper Hardy acknowledged.
The area was known to be treacherous with swirling tides.
But relatives had received wires from the ship saying she would be docking Monday night.
As was the custom, many went to meet her in on that Monday – December 14th. It was not unusual for ships to be delayed by bad weather and families again went down to meet Falcon on the Tuesday.
The radio silence from the vessel was ominous and anxiety mounted. “We fear the worst,” said Captain E.D.W. Lawford,
DSO, RN, managing director of the owners.
And as the terrible news began to sink in, the “mission men” continued their task of comforting the bereaved. The Superintendent of the Fleetwood branch of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, Mr Duncan Brown, and the Port Missioner Mr.G. Wright, visited homes.
All but one of the crew – Fireman Joseph Mair of Portsmouth – lived in Fleetwood.
The crew list was given as:
Skipper Alexander Hardy (45), Broadway, Mate George Gloss (59), Gordon Road, Chief Engineer Jim Carter (39), Macbeth Road, Second engineer William Irvine (45), Bramley Avenue, Bosun Jim Gorst, (38), Wingrove Road, Deckhands Joseph Blackburn (21), Radcliffe Road, Jack McDaid (27) North Street, Jim Read (26), Willow Street, Edward Archer (31), Belmont Road, George Harlin (24), Chatsworth Avenue, Joseph Riches (26), Knowsley Gate, Jim Morley (27), Heathfield Road, William Deery (36), Bold Street, Jack Preston (16), Radcliffe Road, Wireless Operator William Cooper (46), Heathfield Road, Cook George McLoughlin (44) Witton Grove, Assistant Cook John Coultas (20), Abbotts Walk, Fireman John Smith (33), Whinfield Avenue.
Within days an appeal fund for dependants was set up by the Mayor of Fleetwood (Councillor Jim Shaw,JP). Owners, lago, started it with a £1,000 donation and the fund eventually topped £20,000, with cash pouring in from all over the country.
A cheque for £10.10s. Was received from the Church of Scotland on the island of Tiree, Inner Hebrides. An accompanying letter said the loss of the Falcon so near their shores had made a deep impression on the community. It was on the rocky shores of isle of Mull and one from people in Oban.
Seven months after the loss an inquiry opened at Fleetwood Town Hall. It was revealed that the last radio contact with the Falcon was at 7am on December 14th. The Sabre’s skipper called up the Falcon and reported the wind as force 10 between Skerryvore and Rathlin Island. He said he had had a very rough passage but was now under the lee of Rathlin. Falcon’s skipper said he was abeam of Skerryvore Light and he would avoid the tide race.
A few minutes later the Red Knight had also been in radio contact with the Falcon and heard she was in bad weather with a “confused” sea.
The Sabre and Knight continued their homeward journey and no real anxiety was felt until Knight – which had been astern of the Falcon – docked at midnight on Tuesday, December 15th. A 3-day search was launched.
Both skippers thought a tidal wave had swamped the Falcon.
The inquiry believed it was difficult to ascertain the cause of the loss but the most probable cause was that the ship was “overwhelmed”.
And its loss left a town overwhelmed with shock and grief.