James Barrie

The Orcadian (4/69) wrote:                                                                                                                     Back to Archive


SINKS NEXT DAY WHEN ON TOW TO SCAPAThe James Barrie - photo from the Hull Daily MailThe 70ft lifeboat Grace Paterson Ritchie (70-002) - now based at Scapa since the Longhope Lifeboat Disaster - and the Wick lifeboat were called out on Thursday night when the 20 year old Hull trawler James Barrie, with 21 men on board, ran aground on one of the Pentland Skerries - the Louther - situated one mile south-east of Muckle Skerry, on which stands the three-man lighthouse. Standing by the stranded vessel was another Hull trawler, the Loch Doon.
The 70-002 was the first of the two lifeboats to arrive on the scene at about 10.45pm and staff coxswain Pegler immediately launched his rubber inshore dingy to investigate. The trawler had apparently driven at fast speed hard on to the rocks soon after 8pm on the south-east side of the Louther. She was well up with just her stern in the water. The trawler was on her port side and reported not to be making water.
At midnight, Kirkwall Coastguards stated that the crew were "in no immediate danger". The crew could get off at any time- their liferafts being on deck. High water would be eight o'clock on Friday morning when it was thought an attempt would be made to refloat the trawler. Both lifeboats stood by her all night as also the Loch Doon.
Later in the morning conditions began to worsen as the wind rose and the trawler began to rock and her keel was almost afloat. The skipper gave the order to abandon ship. Despite a fouled propeller and manoeuvring with one engine, Wick lifeboat (Coxswain Neil Stewart) closed in and the 21 trawlermen who had taken to their two rafts were picked up. The 21 men were landed at Wick at 10am by the lifeboat. Their ship had left Hull on Wednesday for the Icelandic grounds.


Skipper James Brocklesby (30) from Hull, said in Wick, "We saw the reef but were too late to avoid it and stuck fast. Shortly before six o'clock the ship began to rock as the wind rose. We went off in our two rafts and were picked up by the Wick lifeboat which came close into us." Second Engineer, Dennis Hamilton, (41), from Hull said "We abandoned ship at 6.05am. Water was coming into the engine room and she was leaking badly". Before returning to Scapa - she got back at 10.40am - the 70-002 collected life rafts around the casualty to avoid confusion. The Loch Doon went away about 8am.
Most of the trawler crew left for home by train the same afternoon.
The Mayday from the James Barrie was in fact the third call for help from vessels in distress in the Pentland Firth since the tragic loss of the Longhope Lifeboat.
The other two distress calls were from the Aberdeen trawler Ashlea which grounded at about four on Stroma on the morning of the Longhope drama and from the local fishing boat Girl Mina in trouble in the Firth on the afternoon of the funeral of the Longhope Lifeboatmen, (Saturday). The Ashlea was aground only half an hour and succeeded in refloating herself making for Scrabster and the Girl Mina was towed to Stromness by the 70-002 who had gone out to her assistance.

TRAWLER FOUNDERSOn Saturday morning the abandoned trawler James Barrie was observed by the Pentland Skerries lightkeepers to have suddenly refloated herself and to be drifting away from the rocks. Kirkwall Coastguard were informed and two Orkney fishing vessels Kildinguie (Skipper John Dennison) ands Achilles (Skipper Jas Pottinger), which were in the vicinity made for the trawler as also the 70ft lifeboat Grace Paterson Ritchie (70-002).
Once alongside, the lifeboat started to pump the water out of the James Barrie. Later the lifeboat took her in tow stern first and steered by the Kildinguie started on the slow journey to Scapa. But when the convey was nearly halfway to its destination, and half a mile or so off Hoxa Head, the trawler sank and disappeared in less than one minute in 20 fathoms of water. This was nearly six hours after she had come off by herself from the rocks.
The sinking was seen by a number of people on South Ronaldsay who had been watching the progress of the boats. The James Barrie is thought to have been holed in her net store for'ard.
The crew of the Grace Paterson Ritchie is not interested in salvage. This vessel was taken in tow to avoid a hazard to shipping in the Firth. Had she been saved any salvage awarded would have gone to the Longhope Disaster Fund.

These events took place just a week after the Longhope lifeboat disaster. She and all her crew were lost on their way to assist the crew of the Liberian registered cargo steamship Irene.
The Girl Mina is now a dive boat running charters in the Flow with the infamous skipper Terry Todd behind the wheel!

Also this week, "The Sound of Music" was playing at the Kirkwall cinema, truly a period of doom and gloom.

The James Barrie ran aground at Louther Rock, situated on the south end of Orkney, piercing the hull and forcing the crew to abandon ship. Two days later, on the 29 March 1969, she floated off the rocks and started to drift, unmanned in the Pentland Firth. The lifeboat Grace Paterson Richie took the James Barrie in tow and headed for Scapa. However the Barrie sank whilst under tow and this remarkable series of photographs shows the ships last death throws of the ship whilst the lifeboat stands by.

The James Barrie now lies in 45m of water on her starboard side and has remained remarkably intact. the visibility in Hoxa Sound is usually excellent so that the wreck can be seen from half way down the shot line. The area is tidal and she can only be dived at slack tide.

Our aim this winter is to take some decent photos of the Barrie on the bottom, so keep an eye on this page.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the James Barrie and to mark the occasion the Hull Daily Mail (27/2/99) ran an article about the event.

A Hull trawler sank on Saturday March 29, 30 years ago, but there was no loss of life among her crew of 21.

The Hull Daily Mail that day recorded the event by saying:

Hull trawler James Barrie sank today only hours after she cheated the Pentland Skerries, infamous as the graveyard of ships. The 666-ton trawler ran aground off Muckle Skerry, the largest of the group of islands, on Thursday night. Her crew of 21 were rescued by Wick lifeboat early the next day. But today as a bid to refloat her was being planned the James Barrie slid from the reef at high tide and began to drift eastwards. She was spotted by a lightkeeper on the Skerries. Shortly afterwards a lobster fishing boat from the island of Westray got a line aboard the runaway trawler. She was joined by another lobster boat and Kirkwall lifeboat. Together the two small boats towed the trawler, which was lying low in the water. Pumps put onboard the trawler were operated from the lifeboat, but the race to safety failed. A mile and a half from Hoxa Head on the west side of South Ronaldsay and 10 miles from Scapa Flow, where it was intended to beach her, the trawler went down. A coastguard said: 'The pumps seemed to be holding her and no more. It looks as if a plate somewhere in the ship's side burst and let in a flood of water'. Earlier as the trawler was being towed to Scapa Flow her skipper, James Brocklesby, who was landed at Wick with the rest of his crew, said how fortunate the James Barrie had been in being saved. Skipper Brocklesby and the James Barrie's two officers and chief engineer are staying in Scotland. The rest of the crew left Wick last night by train for York.

It was said that the crew were never in real danger. Both Wick and Kirkwall lifeboats stood by them all night before they abandoned ship. The same trawler had gone aground in the Faroes while seeking shelter during a storm about four years before. Then it had been holed and had been taken into port. The vessel was owned by Newington Trawlers, who hired a coach to take the crew direct from York to their homes after the sinking 30 years ago. They were returning only three days after leaving Hull for the Icelandic fishing grounds.