View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 15 April 2011

Friday 15 April

Today is a day of remembrance for several reasons. It was 99 years ago today that RMS Titanic sank after colliding with an iceberg. More than 1,500 passengers perished. Whilst not belittling the loss incurred in that tragedy, I never hear a word about other shipping disasters in peacetime, which claimed a heavy toll.

Nearest to my location was the sinking of the Norge, on 28 June 1904. The Norge was an emigrant ship which went down within 20 minutes of hitting Hazelwood Rock, just east of Rockall - 250 miles west of Scotland. The passengers were dirt poor migrants from eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia. Refugees from the persecution of the Jews in Poland and Russia, which nobody else wanted. The Norge was a workhorse of the Thingvalla shipping company for the previous 15 years, not a glamour boat with boastful claims of unsinkability. The death toll was 635, among them 225 Norwegians. The 160 survivors spent up to eight days in open lifeboats before rescue. Not all the lifeboats were finally accounted for. Some of the survivors were taken ashore at Stornoway, with 9 succumbing to the effects of their ordeal. An inquiry into the circumstances of the sinking revealed that there was insufficient life-saving apparatus on board for all the passengers and crew on the ship. If the recommendations of this Danish inquiry had been acted upon, the loss of life on the Titanic could have been much less.

Twenty-two years ago today, the English Football Association's Cup Final was taking place at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Liverpool FC were due to play Nottingham Forest. A crush of supporters occurred, resulted in 96 dead and 766 injured fans - all Liverpool fans. Twitter is full of references to this tragedy today, using the hashtag #YNWA [You'll Never Walk Alone, the Liverpool FC song].