Crew to commemorate Arbroath lifeboat disaster

Arbroath lifeboat station. The disaster happened just yards from the harbour. Picture: Complimentary
Arbroath lifeboat station. The disaster happened just yards from the harbour. Picture: Complimentary
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THE 60th anniversary of one of the darkest days in the history of the RNLI in Scotland will be marked this weekend at the site of the Arbroath lifeboat disaster.

The current crew of the lifeboat of the Angus town will sail from Arbroath’s harbour on Sunday to lay a wreath at sea to commemorate the loss of the Robert Lindsay and the six members of her seven strong crew who drowned when the vessel was struck by a huge wave only minutes from the refuge of the harbour.

The tragedy will also be remembered at a a series of services at churches throughout the town.

Alex Smith, the lifeboat operations manager at Arbroath, said: “The crew will perform a wreath laying ceremony on Sunday to commemorate the loss of the Robert Lindsay and six crew members.

“It is the darkest day in our history here at Arbroath lifeboat station and the sacrifice of those lost has been and continues to be an inspiration to generations of crewmen. “

He added: “Unfortunately it also serves as a stark reminder of the risks that volunteer lifeboat crews face to help others at sea.”

The crew of the Robert Lindsay had been returning to Arbroath shortly before 6am on the morning of 27 October, 1953, following a fruitless search for a vessel in distress when disaster struck.

As it neared the harbour, it was hit by a series of huge waves, 20ft high, and swept along the side of the west breakwater before capsizing. Lifeboat officials and townspeople could only look on helplessly in horror as her lights disappeared beneath the waves.

Those who died were the coxswain David Bruce, whose body was discovered lashed to the wheel, mechanic Harry Swankie, his nephew, William Swankie, fisherman Thomas Adams, and brothers Charles and David Cargill.

The sole survivor was Archibald Smith who managed to grab hold on to a rope fired across the boat by rescue teams.

More than £35,000 raised by the local disaster fund. A commemorative bronze plaque was erected on the storm wall of the Fish Quay at Arbroath. A stained glass window was erected in St John’s Methodist Church to the memory of the coxswain gifted by his widow, and a memorial plaque was erected in the town’s Old Church to the six men, gifted by the parents of the Cargill brothers.