Lifeboat disaster anniversary

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ONE OF the most tragic events in Arbroath’s history was remembered on Wednesday, its 57th anniversary.

It was still dark at 6 a.m. on a cold, wet and stormy October 27, 1953, that the Arbroath lifeboat Robert Lindsay was lost just minutes away from a safe return to the harbour after searching in vain for a vessel in distress.

The lifeboat was sideswiped by a huge wave and cruelly flung on the rocky foreshore at Inchcape Park. Six brave members of the seven-strong crew perished.

The only survivor was Archibald Smith, who was able to hold on to a rope fired across the boat by the frantic watchers on land.

Those who perished were the coxswain, David Bruce, who was found lashed to the wheel. He had 30 years’ service, and was survived by his wife and daughter.

The mechanic, Harry Swankie, had 32 years’ service and was shortly due to retire from the lifeboat service. He left a wife and four daughters.

His nephew, William Swankie, also perished. He was survived by his wife and two young daughters.

Crewman Thomas Adams was a fishing boat owner, and he left a wife and two young daughters.

Charles and David Cargill were brothers, and both were engaged to be married. They operated a fishing boat with a third brother.

As daylight slowly broke, the boat could be seen upturned on the rocks, viewed in a silence whose intensity bore witness to the magnitude of the disaster.

Even 57 years later, the tragedy remains indelible in the minds of those who were present that day.