SLIDESHOW: Town will remember them

It was one of the darkest days in Arbroath’s history. Sixty years ago on Sunday seven brave crewman went to the aid of a reported distressed vessel on the town’s lifeboat but six never returned.

On Tuesday, October 27, 1953, the crew was called out after flares were reportedly seen off Fife Ness.

The Arbroath lifeboat disaster, October 27, 1953.

The Arbroath lifeboat disaster, October 27, 1953.

After a fruitless search, the RNLB Robert Lindsay was returning home on a dark, wet and stormy morning when the boat was sideswiped by a huge wave and cruelly flung on the rocky foreshore at Inchcape Park.

And as daylight broke, the realisation of the disaster, in which six men lost their lives, set in.

Those who died that fateful day were coxswain David Bruce; Harry Swankie, mechanic; Thomas Adams, bowman; as well as William Swankie, and brothers David Cargill and Charles Cargill.

The only crewman to survive the disaster was Archie Smith who caught a line fired in the direction of voices crying for help.

The Arbroath Herald dated Friday, October 30, 1953 recalled the tragedy. The report says: “It was with heavy hearts that fishermen carried their mates ashore. And as news of the tragedy spread like wildfire, they were joined by many more grief stricken folk on whom the disaster had made an impact never to be forgotten.

“Men spoke in whispers or were stunned into silence, and women wept not only in their homes, but openly and unashamedly outside their doors and on the street.

“They had known death before – cruel and sudden death too - but nothing to be compared with this shocking tragedy.”

The following Saturday, a funeral service for all six men took place with an estimated 10,000 people lining the route of the procession as shops closed for the afternoon.

The service took place within the Old Church before the six coffins were interred at the Eastern Cemetery, where hundreds of floral tributes had been laid.

In the weeks that followed over £17,000 was raised for a disaster fund, which had been set up.

The day after the funeral, sole survivor of the tragedy, second coxswain Archie Smith, was discharged from hospital.

And the Herald reported: “One of the first things he did on Monday was to call on Mr David Chapel, secretary to the local Lifeboat Committee, and again offer his services as a member of the crew.”