Wick Coastguard Rescues. 


George Robb - "Death In The Boiling Sea"


As reported in  the "Daily Record" Tuesday 8th December 1959

Station Officer Eric Campbell


"Death In The Boiling Sea."

All twelve members of the crew are feared to have died on board the storm-battered wreck of a Scots trawler yesterday. And yesterday a 13th man died of exposure trying to reach them.

Last night their boat, the Aberdeen trawler George Robb, lay crushed and broken beneath the 200-foot needle-sharp Stacs of Duncansby, near John O'Groats. It is believed that some of the bodies may still be in the trawler's hulk.

For three hours the crew were trapped inside her by the raging seas within sight of a lifeboat and coastguards battling to reach them. Rescue workers saw lights flickering in the wheelhouse and heard the blast of her siren four times. But no-one could reach the vessel as she began to break-up. As horrified coastguards watched, the wheelhouse was crushed and swept away.

One of the crew is thought  have leapt overboard in a last desperate bid to escape. His half-naked body was found at the foot of the jagged rocks, 30 yds from the trawler.  The trawler ran aground about 11.30 p.m. on Sunday.

Betty Ham - The Daily Record

(Original picture reproduced  with kind permission.)

Mrs Betty Ham (left)

Mr. John Green (right.)

(Click on picture to enlarge.)

John Green  - The Daily Record

Less than an hour later coastguards were led to the spot by 28 year-old Betty Ham. Along with her husband, father and sister, ex-nurse Betty was the first to find the stricken boat.

One of the coastguards, Eric Campbell, 55 (this is wrong he was 50), of Wick, collapsed on his way across the cliff tops to the wreck. Other coastguards helped to carry him to Duncansby lighthouse, but he died on the way. Mr. Campbell, who was station officer at Wick and second-in-command of the Northern Area Coastguards is believed to have died from a heart attack brought on by exposure.

Mrs. Ham's father, crofter John Green, 58, New Houses, John O'Groats, told how they found the doomed trawler. He said: "My son-in-law, Willie, had picked up the trawler's Mayday call on his wireless trawler band. The boat was only on the air for about five minutes. All he heard was a call for immediate assistance, and the boat's position. We took the car so far then walked about three miles across the cliffs. The weather was terrible, I have never seen anything like it."

He went on: "We were near the Stacs when we caught a glimpse of the ship through the rain. We had no idea if she was abandoned. Then someone must have seen our light because they started sounding the ships' horn. We went back to the lighthouse to give them the trawler's position."

Mr. green added: "When the coastguards arrived from Wick and ScarfsSkerry we led them to the wreck. When we got there the Longhope lifeboat had arrived from Orkney but couldn't get near the trawler because of the seas. Some of the waves were shooting 30 to 40 feet over the fishing boat. The coastguards were trying to get a line on board her from shore but it kept being blown back by the wind. Even if it had reached the trawler, there was no one there to make it fast. The fishermen were pinned inside the boat. Then one colossal wave broke right over her and washed away the top of the wheelhouse."

George Robb - reproduced with kind permission od the Daily Record.

(Picture reproduced  from the original Daily Record newspaper - with kind permission.)

Like a scene from the Artic, the Aberdeen trawler George Robb is battered by heavy seas as she lies on the jagged rocks off Duncansby Head, Caithness.
Her entire crew is missing.

(Click on picture to enlarge.)

The dead fisherman was found soon after daylight by Mr. Green's son, John, 26, and a friend, 36-year-old Alex Sinclair. One of the coastguards who had been out all night with the rescue party said: "There absolutely nothing anyone could do. The poor devils must have been taken completely by surprise."


Further stories of the George Robb can be read 
(with picture's) as reported by:

Additional Reports:

 the "John O'Groat Journal" newspaper

The George Robb Skipper

the "Press & Journal" newspaper

What Went Wrong?

the "Scottish Daily Express" newspaper

Damage To Wick Harbour.

the "Bulletin & Scots Pictorial" newspaper

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