james barrie

James Barrie

  • Type: Steam Trawler
  • Length: 55m
  • Beam: 9.3m
  • Formerly known as Benella (Whittaker, 1998), the fishing vessel James Barrie ran aground at Lother Rock near the south-west end of South Ronaldsay on 27 March 1969.

History of James Barrie

This is the actual report from the Orcadian Newspaper in 1969.

Hull Trawler Grounds on Skerries - Sinks Next Day when on Tow to Scapa

The 70ft lifeboat Grace Paterson Ritchie (70-002) - now based at Scapa since the Longhope Lifeboat Disaster - and the Wick lifeboat were called out on Thursday night when the 20 year old Hull trawler James Barrie, with 21 men on board, ran aground on one of the Pentland Skerries - the Louther - situated one mile South-East of Muckle Skerry, on which stands the three-man lighthouse. Standing by the stranded vessel was another Hull trawler, the Loch Doon.

The 70-002 was the first of the two lifeboats to arrive on the scene at about 10.45pm and staff coxswain Pegler immediately launched his rubber inshore dingy to investigate. The trawler had apparently driven at fast speed hard on to the rocks soon after 8:00pm on the South-East side of the Louther. She was well up with just her stern in the water. The trawler was on her port side and reported not to be taking? water.

At midnight, Kirkwall Coastguards stated that the crew were "in no immediate danger". The crew could get off at any time - their liferafts being on deck. High water would be 08:00am on Friday morning when it was thought an attempt would be made to refloat the trawler. Both lifeboats stood by her all night as did also the Loch Doon.

Later in the morning conditions began to worsen as the wind rose and the trawler began to rock and her keel was almost afloat. The skipper gave the order to abandon ship. Despite a fouled propeller and manoeuvring with one engine, Wick lifeboat (Coxswain Neil Stewart) closed in and the 21 trawlermen who had taken to their two rafts were picked up. The 21 men were landed at Wick at 10:00am by the lifeboat. Their ship had left Hull on Wednesday for the Icelandic grounds.


Skipper James Brocklesby (30) from Hull, said in Wick, "We saw the reef but were too late to avoid it and stuck fast. Shortly before 06.00am the ship began to rock as the wind rose. We went off in our two rafts and were picked up by the Wick lifeboat which came close into us." Second Engineer, Dennis Hamilton, (41), from Hull said "We abandoned ship at 6.05am. Water was coming into the engine room and she was leaking badly". Before returning to Scapa - she got back at 10.40am - the 70-002 collected liferafts around the casualty to avoid confusion. The Loch Doon went away at about 08:00am. Most of the trawler crew left for home by train the same afternoon.

The Mayday from the James Barrie was in fact the third call for help from vessels in distress in the Pentland Firth since the tragic loss of the Longhope Lifeboat. The other two distress calls were from the Aberdeen trawler Ashlea which grounded at about 04:00am on Stroma on the morning of the Longhope drama and from the local fishing boat Girl Mina in trouble in the Firth on the afternoon of the funeral of the Longhope Lifeboatmen, (Saturday). The Ashlea was aground only half an hour and succeeded in refloating herself making for Scrabster and the Girl Mina was towed to Stromness by the 70-002 who had gone out to her assistance.


On Saturday morning the abandoned trawler James Barrie was observed by the Pentland Skerries light-keepers to have suddenly refloated herself and to be drifting away from the rocks. Kirkwall Coastguard were informed and two Orkney fishing vessels - Kildinguie (Skipper John Dennison) and Achilles (Skipper Jas Pottinger) - which were in the vicinity made for the trawler as was also the 70ft lifeboat Grace Paterson Ritchie (70-002).

Once alongside, the lifeboat started to pump the water out of the James Barrie. Later the lifeboat took her in tow stern-first and, steered by the Kildinguie, started on the slow journey to Scapa. But when the convoy was nearly halfway to its destination, and half a mile or so off Hoxa Head, the trawler sank and disappeared in less than one minute in 20 fathoms of water. This was nearly six hours after she had come off by herself from the rocks.

The sinking was seen by a number of people on South Ronaldsay who had been watching the progress of the boats. The James Barrie is thought to have been holed in her net store for'ard. The crew of the Grace Paterson Ritchie is not interested in salvage. This vessel was taken in tow to avoid a hazard to shipping in the Firth. Had she been saved, any salvage awarded would have gone to the Longhope Disaster Fund.

  • Nationality: British
  • Date built: 1949
  • Type: Steam trawler
  • Builder: Lewis John & Sons Ltd, Aberdeen
  • Purpose: Fishing
  • Weight: 666 Tons
  • Length: 180.5ft (55m)
  • Beam: 30.0ft (9.3m)
  • Draught: 16ft (4.9m)
  • Cause Lost: Ran aground and started leaking
  • Date lost: 28/29 March 1969
  • Engine: Triple-expansion engine, one boiler, single shaft
  • Registration: Hull