Donaghadee Lifeboat

60th Anniversary of Princess Victoria Disaster

The sinking of the Princess Victoria on 31st January 1953 with the loss of 135 lives, was the worst maritime disaster in the waters of the British Isles.

The Donaghadee lifeboat, the Sir Samuel Kelly, rescued 34 from the disaster with its coxswain Hugh Nelson being awarded a Bronze Medal and the British Empire Medal for the skill, courage and initiative shown during the rescue.

The Sir Samuel Kelly still lies in Donaghdee and this weekend a number of events was  organised to raise funds and awareness of the need to find a permanent sheltered home for this historic lifeboat.

A marquee supplied by Ards B. C. had been placed next to the Kelly and a committee of local supporters organised a weekend of events. On Friday a talk to local school children was followed in the evening by a commemoration concert which featured the Donaghadee Male Voice choir and the Festival Brass band. On Saturday evening there was a film show with a Pathe news clip from 1953 showing the Kelly bringing in survivors followed by a 1953 film “Gentlemen prefer Blondes”.

Sunday saw Donaghadee RNLI Saxon crew going to sea to lay a wreath at the spot where the Princess Victoria sank. They were joined by lifeboats from Larne and Portpatrick and a short service of remembrance  was led by Donaghadee 1st Presbyterian minister Colin Anderson.

On returning to harbour the crews joined a combined church service  of remembrance in the marquee with over 350 people in attendance. All funds raised will go to the Sir Samuel Kelly Restoration Fund.

Phillip McNamara Donaghadee coxswain receiving the wreath from Hugh Nelson jnr who is the sole survivor of the crew of the Sir Samuel Kelly on that fateful day when his father was coxswain.