Sad events

Boat party 1873 :: 'Leslie' :: TS King George V :: Christina Dawn :: Tug Garnock

We ought also to record some sad events:

  • In June 1873 a party of nine men, mainly Irvine bricklayers, went off in a boat on a pleasure excursion to Troon on a Saturday afternoon, leaving at about 4.30 pm, and staying there till about 9pm. The boat was in the charge of Roderick McCafferty, an experienced boat man, but unfortunately some drink had been enjoyed at Troon. When, near Lappock Rocks, one of the party suggested he give the helm to his nephew, he refused, and there was some confusion, during which he turned the helm the wrong way - the sail was caught by the wind, and all nine were thrown into the sea. The helmsman and his nephew struck out for shore (two miles away) and the others clung to the boat which, with sail in the water, could not be righted. One after another succumbed, as did the would-be swimmers, leaving two who survived till the boat neared the shore, by which time rescuers saw what was happening and carried them ashore. The accident had not been noticed, otherwise help would have quickly reached them. The seven dead are recorded on a white obelisk near the back gate of Irvine Old Parish Churchyard. Details of the whole episode, including details of the nine men, were recounted in the 'Irvine Times' of April 9th, 2014, by historian Billy Kerr, whose account we acknowledge as the source of the details included here. On the following Wednesday, the harbour workmen (nearly 500 in number) and a similar number of local residents made up one of the largest known processions to the churchyard. Of the nine, eight had drunk no more than two tumblers of ale and a glass of whisky - this being recorded at the time to dispel the rumours of a drunken party.
  • In 1888, the 58-ton Glasgow schooner 'Leslie', carrying coal from Irvine destined for Killibegs, ran onto the Tor Beg Rocks, near Inishtrahull, Co. Donegal.
  • In Sept 1927 the pioneering passenger turbine steamer 'King George V' (built at Denny, 1926, and in use till 1981) was making its way to Irvine harbour, at the end of its summer season. Unfortunately, its water-tube boilers were thought to be safe to work at a pressure of 550 lb and at a toe-curling steam temperature of 750 degrees F, but this was not so, and the resulting accident scalded two engineers to death. A similar accident happened again in 1929, but luckily no lives were lost the second time.
  • The coaster SS 'Christina Dawn' of Gloucester ran aground on the north shore of Irvine bar in April 1949, with a crew of nine, carrying a cargo of carbide from Port Talbot to the Nobel munitions factory at Ardeer. The pilot house at Irvine contacted Troon lifeboat, who took off all the men. The ingress of salt water led to gas and, after all the crew were off, the drums of carbide exploded with tremendous force. See for more detail.
  • The tug 'Garnock' was busy depositing nitro-glycerine in the estuary off Irvine in 1984 (Feb.) when switching on the engine too soon (at the end of the working day) led to extensive damage to her aft end and to the Troon lifeboat having to tow her in - more details in the Dredgers and Tugs article.