Disaster Strikes

Disaster Strikes

American lives lost in Scottish waters

DUE WEST beyond the shores of Islay, there is nothing between Scotland and America but the vast Atlantic Ocean. Towards the end of the First World War, two disasters off the coast of this small Hebridean island would unite the nations in tragedy.

Lockerbie and the worst Christmas imaginable

IT WAS 7pm on 21 December 1988, a wet and miserable winter evening. In the small Dumfriesshire market town of Lockerbie local people were looking forward to Christmas, some wrapping presents and others preparing their dinner. Fourteen-year-old Steven Flannigan had just braved the weather to go to a neighbour's house to set up his present of a new bicycle for his younger sister Joanne.

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Ibrox Park and the greatest loss of all

SPORT is meant to be a perfect pastime to put sharpness to our otherwise dull lives. While defeat of a favourite football club can lead to sadness for fans, the loss is only as brief as the "next time". Unless there is no next time.

Britain's worst sea disaster at home

MORE than 800 men died. Britain suffered the worst loss of life in a naval disaster on home shores. But even to this day little notice has been paid in historical circles to the sinking of HMS Vanguard in 1917.

Sudden sinking of a steamship

FOR MANY the River Clyde is the lifeblood of Glasgow. The shipbuilding industry provided thousands with work and was a major economic benefit to many lives - but tragically the river was also to claim the lives of many.

The passengers "precipitated into Eternity" when their steamship sank

THE NAME of Henry James Bell has its own special place in the annals of nautical history. The engineer, born in Torphichen, West Lothian, designed the world's first practical steamship, the Comet, and had it built in a shipyard in Port Glasgow. It was launched in 1812 and is one of Scotland's much-lauded inventions. Bell was a pioneer in his field in the early days of steamship transportation which were fraught with danger.

Blantyre and the blackness of darkness

THE LYRICS of the lament are agonisingly accurate. When the horror and the enormity of Scotland's worst mining disaster began to sink in to the relatives of those left behind in the dingy little town known as "Dirty Auld Blantyre", their cries of sorrow could be heard for many a mile. The hills around Blantyre truly echoed with their mourning.

Unthinkable oil-rig collapse and the few who survived

ABOUT 80 men gathered in the cinema aboard the oil rig Alexander Kielland on the evening of 26 March 1980, but as 60mph winds buffeted their North Sea home the true drama was far from entertaining.

Queen Mary's deadly drama at sea

PALM trees and a Russian submarine are the slightly incongruous sights that greet any onlookers from the captain's bridge of the RMS Queen Mary today. Berthed in Long Beach, California, the Queen Mary still boasts at its outlook point all manner of polished-brass navigational instruments that convey a feeling of what it would be like to pilot such a ship throughout its fantastic history.

Two nights when hell came to Clydebank

GERMAN reconnaissance photographs taken as early as 1939 showed that Clydebank was a perfect target for attack in the Second World War, and for the residents of the town north-west of Glasgow it must have seemed a question of when rather than if.

Bold attack that brought war to Scotland's shores

AS THE natural fireworks of the Northern Lights lit up the night sky on Friday, 13 October 1939, German submarine U-47 lay submerged and undetected in the darkness of the North Sea just off Orkney's east coast, poised to launch one of the most daring naval attacks of the Second World War.

Tragic loss of a princess and her people

ROLL-on, roll-off ferries have a long history of transporting people and cargo quickly and efficiently. Sadly, these so-called ro-ros also have a history of tragedy - and Scotland features prominently.

High-speed rail wreck with tragic consequences

MODERN commuters often complain about the disastrous effects of heavy snow on Britain's railways but are thankfully spared the catastrophes that befell earlier passengers in these conditions.

Worst military helicopter crash in peacetime Britain

ON THE evening of Thursday 2 June 1994, Mull of Kintyre lighthouse keeper David Murchie was preparing to go off duty. A thick fog had clung to the lighthouse on the Mull most of the day and the whole peninsula had been wreathed in mist.

Paisley's Black Hogmanay

ROBERT Pope was aged seven when he and his pals met on Paisley's Maxwell Street and, after collecting money at the local shop from exchanging jelly-bean jars given to him by his mother, walked to the nearby Glen Cinema to watch the Hogmanay matinee screening of The Dude Desperado.

Nightmare blast that shattered a dream

IT WAS the disaster everyone had predicted would happen - some even got the location correct. The ferocity and the images of the tragedy and the death toll were what truly shocked people.

Failed design triggers horrific Tay Bridge terror

THE TAY Bridge disaster of 1879 remains one of Scotland's most notorious and haunting events. The story has an almost gothic intensity: a great man-made structure, the pride of Victorian Britain and the longest bridge in the world at the time, is destroyed by the wild forces of nature one winter night, sending 75 people plunging to their deaths.

Boy's daring rescue in the veins below Scotland

IN THE wake of two American mining disasters which recently killed 14 miners in West Virginia, it seems fitting to be mindful of an early 20th century Scottish tragedy in which 19 people perished.

Doomed flight to Prestwick

AIRCRAFT crashes are rare, but when they do happen they are devastating. When the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) plane Nijmegen crashed into an Ayrshire field on 20 October 1948 the death toll was horrific.

Death and destruction in God's house

FOR THE people of Kirkcaldy, Fife, Sunday, 15 June 1828 was a day of great anticipation that turned to tragedy when the town's worst modern disaster struck, crushing the expectant hopes of those who had gathered in the parish church and leaving 29 people dead.

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