ABERDEEN 1958 - 1976
The Ramsay Dyce first saw service in Aberdeen replacing the RNLB Hilton Briggs The RNLI had not disregarded the comments of the Aberdeen crew and with a new lifeboat fitted with an enclosed wheelhouse already on order, the "Hilton Briggs" carried out her last two local services during 1958. Although detailed information is not now available, the Branch Committee had held a meeting to discuss a possible replacement, and to this the crew were invited as well as the Scottish Divisional Inspector of Lifeboats, Lt David Stogdon. The inspector had with him a model of the "Hilton Briggs", on which he pointed out the several features and equipment which made her an outstanding example of her class. The crew in their turn were not convinced. No doubt remembering their experiences during the long and exhausting services to the "Solskin", "Strindheim" and more recently, the "Amos". To reinforce their argument they too had a model with them, hidden beneath the table on the knees of Coxswain George Flett. This was a replica of the well-loved "Emma Constance", and it seems that the crew made it abundantly clear that they considered her a far more suitable vessel for use on the NE Scottish coast than the open "Hilton Briggs". A lady committee member, whose identify unfortunately remains unknown, is reported to have summed up the entire problem and its solution at the end of the meeting, by stating, "We have heard these gentlemen of the crew saying that they want a wheelhouse. They are the people who go to sea in the boat, so if that is what they want, then that is what they should have, and we should get it for them. ®
The day the Aberdeen crew had been waiting for - perhaps at times even praying for - came on 25 September 1958, with the arrival of the port's third RNLI lifeboat, the 52 foot "Ramsay Dyce" of the well-tried Barnett class. She had sailed from her builder's yard at Cowes on the Isle of Wight during the previous week, and spent 24 hours at Whitby on public display before resuming her delivery voyage. On arrival she was met by a civil party, including Lord Provost Stephen, who welcomed her to Aberdeen. The new vessel was of course fitted with the enclosed wheelhouse the crew had wanted, and this was provided with moveable, all-round windows for maximum visibility. Powered by twin Gardner diesels, each of 72HP, the "Ramsay Dyce" had a top speed of nine knots and a range of 180 nautical miles. Even in rough weather, she had a capacity of some 100 survivors. As a result, Aberdeen's life-boatmen now had the craft they had been asking for and as with her two predecessors, they did not have long to wait before the opportunity to test her in earnest arose. Image
Two fruitless searches marked the advent of 1959, the first on 18 January was in response to two reported sightings of red flares off the Bridge of Don, and the second, on 25 March, was to search in dense fog for the trawler "Cardorna". This vessel was reported to be broken down some three miles NE of the harbour entrance, and although not found by the lift-boat despite a six hour 40 minutes' search, was located and towed in by the tug Danny. ®
The "Ramsay Dyce's" official naming ceremony was held upriver on 1 August 1959, a special pontoon having been provided for the occasion. The vessel's cost had been defrayed from a legacy provided by a Mr William Ramsay of Dyce, and his niece, a Mrs. Evelyn Wellington of Stroud, Gloucestershire, carried out the actual christening. The President of the Aberdeen Committee, Lord Provost Stephen, accepted the new lifeboat on behalf of the Branch, and the proceedings ended with the dignitaries going for the by-now customary trip up-river. Image ®
At 11.15 pm on 27 October 1959, the trawler "David Ogilvie" broke her moorings in a force 8 NNE gale and drifted off into the harbour. Owned by the North Star Steam Fishing Company of Aberdeen, the vessel had been moored in the river, and her unauthorised movement into the tidal basin alerted the pilot cutter and the tug "Danny", both of whom unsuccessfully tried to put lines on board. The "David Ogilvie" came to rest, hard aground, on the south side of the channel. It is assumed at that time that no-one was aboard. Two pilots who were attempting to pass tow lines say no signs of life, and with the commotion and the pounding of the casualty on the bottom, it might have been expected that had anyone been on board, they would have been both visible and vocal! At 12.25 am on 28 October immediate attempts to refloat the trawler were temporarily suspended, and it was decided to make a fresh start at daybreak. However, at about 4.00 am the police, who had been attempting without success to trace the casualty's watchman, contacted the Hon. Secretary and requested that the lifeboat be called out to make a search of the stranded vessel. The "Ramsay Dyce" left her Pocra Quay moorings at 4.20 am, and ten minutes later ran through the heavy breaking swell to lie alongside the "David Ogilvie". Two lift-boatmen jumped on board and in the laconic words of the service report, "Discovered watchman sound asleep on top of cylinder heads in engine room." He was wakened, taken on board the lift-boat and returned ashore. The "Ramsay Dyce" was back on her moorings by 5.30 am. The gale had abated but little later that morning when the lift-boat returned to the trawler. This followed a decision that as the latter was a danger to navigation, and as the weather might cause her to break up and block the port for a considerable time, she would have to be re-floated as quickly as possible. At this time there were no local salvage companies and no vessels capable of maneuvering safely in the heavy breaking seas, so the life-boat was used to put five men, including two of the trawler's engineers, on board. The engineers started the big trawl winch and the "Ramsay Dyce" ran a warp across to the North Pier. The winch took up the slack, but the "David Goalie" stayed where she was and the wire parted under the strain. Again the life-boat moved in, and another warp was run across the navigation channel. With the flood tide this effort was eventually successful, and at 8.45 am the trawler pulled herself clear. The "Danny" took her in two, and with the life-boat's assistance, berthed her in the Torry Dock. Image ®
This service was in effect Coxswain George Flett's last rescue. ®
The Branch committee soon found their new Coxswain, and in the most unlikely place: Leo Clegg DSC was Lecturer-in-charge of the Sculpture Department of Gray=s School of Art in School hill. Image
Coxswain Clegg was not at all happy as he with his crew clustering around him, all fully accouurteed for a long service, stared in something approaching disbelief at the insistent young woman confronting them. Outside it was snowing gently, the flakes curiously muffling the deep rumble of the lifeboat's twin diesels. The girl spoke again, "Dr Leiper is on holiday, Dr Ross is not available, and I am his locum. The ship out there needs a doctor, and here I am!" Shaking their collective heads, the crew assisted Dr Myrtle Farquharson into a spare set of protective clothing, adjusted a life jacket to fit her smaller frame, and then took her on board. The crew were not lulled into a false sense of security by the calm waters of the harbour and undisturbed snowfall. They knew they had a long trip ahead of them that 14 November, 1962, well clear of the sheltering Aberdeenshire coast, and that they were going to take a pasting from the Northwesterly gale then blowing. As the "Ramsay Dyce" cleared the harbour and set an East-Northeasterly course, the ever-growing seas on her port quarter set up a sickening, corkscrewing motion, and many an anxious glance was directed at the brave young doctor on this, her first trip to sea. Eighty miles from the port the Danish fishing vessel "Poulann" pointed her bluff bows shoreward and made her best speed against the gale to meet the oncoming lifeboat. The reason for the mission lay in his tiny cabin. The skipper had lost three fingers severed in an accident some hours previously. By 10.30 pm the life-boatmen, expecting to sight the "Poulann" were at their stations all around the deck, searching for her lights, but without success. Dr Farquharson was not at all well by this time but insisted that when the time came she would be able to do her job. The life-boatmen in their turn mentally doffed their caps to her fortitude, and the search continued. Despite use of the searchlight, parachute flares and the radio direction-finding equipment, the "Ramsay Dyce" still failed to sight the Dane, and at 15 minutes past midnight Stonehaven radio called with a new position. This put the "Poulann" some ten miles astern (inshore) of the lifeboat, so the Coxswain put his vessel about and gave chase. However, he was unable to overtake, and the fishing vessel reached Aberdeen at 7.00 am, her injured skipper being immediately taken ashore for treatment. The "Ramsay Dyce" berthed an hour later, and Dr Myrtle Farquharson stepped thankfully ashore at the end of her first sea trip, accompanied by the admiration of the life-Aberdeen life-boatmen. ®
From the "Poulann" service until the end of 1965 the Aberdeen lifeboat had a fairly quiet time. True there were 18 services, totaling some 72 1/4 hours at sea, but in the main these were, as one crewman put it, "run of the mill stuff", with 29 persons being assisted during this period. Image
On 2 February, 1966, however, another real test of lifeboat and crew took place, this involving the Grimsby registered trawler "Ross Fortune". For Skipper Pat McCarthy in the year-old futuristic-looking fishing vessel it had already been a nightmare voyage, for on 26 January the propeller had been fouled by the trawl, and his 140' long command had been left helpless. Taken in tow by another Grimsby vessel, the "Ross Leopard", McCarthy had hoped that divers in Orkney might be able to clear the obstruction, but his hopes were in vain as locally-available equipment was inadequate for the task. Once again the tow was resumed, the two vessels making their way towards Aberdeen. The little convoy arrived in the Bay on the blustery afternoon of 2 February, 1966, and was met by the harbour tugs "Sea Griffon" and "Sea Trojan". Far from being over at this point, Skipper McCarthy's nightmare was only intensifying, for as the tugs manoeuvred to take over the tow from the "Ross Leopard", the line parted and the casualty went adrift in the rough seas just off the Donmouth. As his ship drifted helplessly shore wards McCarthy ordered the anchor dropped - at this point he estimated that there were just three or four feet of water under his keel, and that he was only 400 yards from the beach. As the stricken trawler was pounded by the rough breaking seas he feared that she would take the ground and turn over, and he knew that if that happened all would be lost. The Hon. Secretary, Captain Lindsay Trail, received the request for lifeboat assistance at about 3.20pm, and soon afterwards the "Ramsay Dyce" rounded the North Pier, making all possible speed for the scene. As she did so the tableau unfolded to the crew; the trawler amongst the white water, close in under the shore, and the two tugs standing by as close as they dared. As they pounded through seas which the Service Report described as "Very Rough", Coxswain Clegg spotted activity on the casualty's foredeck, and then saw in the water alongside the bright orange of a liferaft. Skipper McCarthy had been aware that his ship was slowly dragging her anchor in the soft sands, and ordered the raft launched as a precaution. However in the seas then running there was little hope for the tiny inflatable, and it was soon washed away and up the beach. When the "Ramsay Dyce" came up with the casualty, the latter advised that the fishermen did not want to leave their vessel. Because of their draft and the sea state the tugs were unable to close the crippled trawler to pass their lines, so Coxswain Clegg turned the "Ramsay Dyce" bow on to the surf and backed down towards the "Ross Fortune". As he battled to hold the lifeboat's head up, his crew readied the Schermuly line throwing Apparatus, and it was not long before a rocket, trailing its bright orange line, reached out over the trawler. Willing hands quickly bent on a heavier line, and the lifeboat's capstan began to pull it across the intervening gap of boiling sea. Before this messenger reached the "Ramsay Dyce" the two vessels surged apart and the thin rocket line parted. Thrice more Leo Clegg positioned the lifeboat close to the casualty, thrice more rockets were fired and lines bent on, but on each occasion they were parted by the motion. As the lifeboat manoeuvred for a fifth attempt, a radio message from the tugs changed the whole complexion of the operation. They had been holding as close as they dared in very shallow water. Their constant engine movements had stirred up the bottom so much that sand had entered both vessels' engine cooling systems and their diesels had overheated. As a result both tugs had to withdraw into deeper water, well beyond the scope of any towing possibility. At this point Skipper McCarthy called the lifeboat to ask, "Can you tow us?", and Coxswain Clegg immediately replied, "We'll give it a go, but we'll need a heavier line than before." Slowly the trawler hanging on to her anchor off the "Ramsay Dyce" backed in and once again a rocket flared. This time a six inch rope followed the messenger to the waiting lifeboat, and was made fast with considerable difficulty. In the surf the motion on board the "Ramsay Dyce" was unpredictable, but she was slowly eased ahead, constant helm and engine movements being necessary to keep her head to the seas. The weight came on the line, lifting it clear of the water, and almost reluctantly the "Ross Fortune" began to move away from the shore, her crew hauling in the anchor as she did so. Some 400 yards had been gained through the surf when the tow parted, right on the trawler's fairlead, and a thoroughly unhappy lifeboat crew struggled to recover the heavy hawser, flaking it down along both sides of the casing. By now it was dark and the lights of the two tugs were seen as they approached, engine temperatures having returned to something around normal. The "Ramsay Dyce" tried once more - "This is our last rocket", Skipper McCarthy was told, and shortly a light Dan wire was being winched across to the lifeboat. It was followed by one of the casualty's warps - as she was one of the first stern trawlers, this had to be brought forward through the accommodation from right aft. "Give us lots of slack," Leo Clegg told the trawler men over the radio, and the lifeboat moved slowly clear of the breakers towards the waiting "Sea Griffon". As soon as she could, the tug came alongside the "Ramsay Dyce", and, not without some difficulty, the heavy warp was transferred. Soon the "Ross Fortune" was on the move, her anchor home, and with the tugs firmly in charge, and the Coastguard, listening on their radio heard Coxswain Clegg's last service message to the casualty, "You're alright now, we're returning to harbour." By now it was 7.45pm, and by 8.30 the lifeboat was back on her mooring, the tugs and the "Ross Fortune" having entered harbour without further incident. Image ®
The big Kiel-registered trawler "Heikendorff" fought its way into Aberdeen Bay in the teeth of a whole Southeasterly gale during the evening of 12 December, 1966. Even in the lee of Girdleness sea conditions could only be described as "Very Rough", and the harbour itself had been closed to all shipping earlier in the day. The arrival of the German fishing vessel was not unexpected, for she radioed ahead to advise that she had a seaman with serious head injuries, and was making for the port to seek immediate medical assistance. As the harbour was closed the Port Medical Officer, Dr John Leiper, decided to go out to the "Heikendorff" in the lifeboat. Taking his medical bag he boarded the "Ramsay Dyce" at Pocra Quay, and at 5.45 pm Coxswain Leo Clegg steered the Barnett slowly down the navigation channel towards the wall of white water on the harbour bar. Once clear of the treacherous sea at the entrance, Coxswain Clegg headed for the trawler. It was immediately evident that it was going to be both difficult and dangerous to transfer the doctor in the prevailing weather conditions, but the lifeboat's crew were equally aware that it was vital for medical help to reach the injured man. Accordingly a full set of fenders were rigged, and the lifeboat came in towards the trawler, both vessels pitching and rolling wildly in the heavy seas. it was apparent that more than a quick "touch and transfer" was going to be required, and in the event it was more than an hour before the "Ramsay Dyce" was finally in a position where the 62-year old doctor could attempt to board the "Heikendorff". As the two vessels crashed together one of the life-boatmen boosted the doctor up on to the trawler's rail where he landed heavily on his chest, and teetering - threatening to fall back on board the "Ramsay Dyce". Suddenly a huge form materialised beside the precariously-balanced medic, and Dr Leiper found himself enveloped in the arms of a gigantic German fisherman, who lifted him effortlessly over the rail and set him gently on deck. While being led to the injured fisherman's bedside, "Dr John" felt a sharp pain in his chest and realised that he had not come unscathed through the transfer. Despite his discomfort the doctor remained with the injured man throughout the long night, for it was judged unwise to enter harbour until the wind and sea abated somewhat. The "Ramsay Dyce" meantime had worked clear of the German, and headed back towards the coast, the Coxswain setting his craft initially to the southward, and streaming the drogue to keep her stern on during the crossing of the bar. Crew members Bill Cowper and Francis Cruickshank sat in the stern compartment, tending the drogue lines. As they approached the breakwater a wall of broken water overtook the lifeboat and crashed on board. The two Footdee men aft were engulfed, and clung on for dear life as the flood rushed forward, smashing into the after wheelhouse ports. Such was the water's force that it snapped the lower securing pin of one of these, and flying upwards on its hinges the heavy pane struck Second Coxswain John Martin on the back of the head. The impact threw him bodily forwards to strike his face against the windows ahead of him, but fortunately without serious injury. The sea poured into the cockpit, drenching the Coxswain at the wheel and Mechanics lan Jack and George Walker as they crouched over their engine controls. It was the angry sea's last fling at the lifeboat, and with considerable relief they entered the somewhat calmer water of the tidal basin after the 3 1/2 hour service. The "Heikendorff" berthed around noon the following day, the injured fisherman quickly being taken to a hospital by ambulance. With him also went Dr Leiper, who found that the impact of his stormy transfer had broken several ribs. ®
The canoeing exercise on the lower part of the River Don was seen as being something of a change from the run of the mill of Army training activity at the nearby Barracks. Five canoes, ten junior soldiers, and their NCO instructors were taking part in waterborne instruction on the afternoon of 20 June, 1967, when, literally from a clear sky, tragedy struck. Coastguard Officer Mr Bill Edwards had noted similar activity near the Bridge of Don station during previous days, but as he started his patrol that afternoon, he was somewhat surprised to see the soldiers launching their small craft. A strong and gusty westerly wind was blowing the ebb tide seawards with a moderate sea kicking up quite a chop at the river mouth. As he walked further along the bank, he saw an overturned canoe lying by the south bank, with two men standing by it. Sensing instinctively that all was not well, the coastguard quickened his step and saw another canoe apparently capsized in the surf line at the river mouth. Two men were clinging to the craft's upturned hull, and the tide was rapidly carrying them out to sea. Mr Edwards turned and ran back to his station, grabbed a rocket pistol, and raced across the soft sand to find that the two men had reached a sandbank some 300 yards offshore, and were standing on it. He fired his line, but it fell short, and realising that there had been a more serious accident than he had at first suspected, he returned to call out the emergency services. The disaster, for such it had by now become, was also seen by holiday-makers along the beach, and they initially assumed that it was all part of the exercise. When they heard the shouting, whistle blasts and the discharge of the rocket pistol they quickly realised that something was amiss and a hush fell along the shore. Figures could be seen clinging to the salmon nets to the north of the Donmouth, but one by one they seemed to disappear until only a single head remained in view. Reaction to the Coastguard's call was immediate - first on the scene was the Pilot Cutter, which immediately ran into the shallow water and picked up the sole remaining survivor from his refuge. He was an exhausted 16-year-old Junior Drummer from the Highland Brigade Depot at the Barracks, and in view of his condition the Cutter made all possible speed back to port and a waiting ambulance. Hard on her heels came the "Ramsay Dyce", her crew tumbling into their gear as she reacted to the call. Close to the scene the lifeboat found and recovered three waterlogged canoes, two life jackets and two paddies, but of the trainees there was no sign. By this time, shore parties of police, army personnel and other helpers were spreading out along the beaches on both sides of the river mouth. Naval and RAF helicopters from Lossiemouth and Leuchars also arrived, and throughout the long summer afternoon and late into the evening the search went on. As the bright sunlight mocked the grim mood of all who took part, it became evident that two junior musicians were still missing, but apart from a further waterlogged and drifting canoe, nothing else was found. Ironically the wind went down with the sun, and as darkness fell the air search was called off. The "Ramsay Dyce" continued to search the almost-calm seas as far north as Belheivie, then, after 7 1/2 hours on service, she returned to her moorings, being met by police and army personnel who took away the recovered equipment. Although the search was resumed at first light the next morning the lifeboat was not initially involved, but her crew remained on standby whilst large shore parties continued their work. These later were backed up by a Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft from RAF Kinloss, and whilst scouring the water some six miles offshore a body was found. The "Ramsay Dyce" was launched to recover it, and having been directed to the spot by the aircraft, the body of one of the missing soldiers was taken on board. For a further period the lifeboat continued searching for his companion, but without success, and Coxswain Clegg returned his vessel to port after more than 4 1/2 hours at sea. Wrapped in a blanket her tragic burden was borne gently ashore, watched by a saddened and silent crew. ®
Johnny Martin, Senior, had spent all his adult life in the service of the RNLI, first as Assistance Mechanic in the old "Emma Constance" before taking over as Mechanic in the "George and Elizabeth Gow", where he remained until the No. 2 boat was withdrawn in 1962. John then returned to the No. 1 life-boat, the "Ramsay Dyce", as 2nd Coxswain with Leo Clegg. Now, in 1968, as Johnny Martin's long career drew to a close, another challenge was about to be presented to him, for after eight years as Coxswain Leo Clegg decided to resign. He was about to move house out to Methiick and wanted to devote his spare time to the restoration of his own boat, the Loch Fyne fishing vessel "Clan Gordon", which was built in 1911. During his eight years in command, Coxswain Clegg had launched on service on forty occasions amounting to 1591/4 hours at sea in all weather, and assisting 53 persons in distress.
The new Coxswain's first service in command was to the Aberdeen seine netter "Semnos 11", broken down some eight miles from the port in a South Westerly gale in the late afternoon of 12th October, 1968. Hearing the fishing vessel's call for help, the Norwegian tanker "Heros" altered course to her aid and took her in tow, while "Ramsay Dyce" hastened north to stand by. After towing for about 1 1/2 hours the tanker's towline parted in the steadily deteriorating weather and the lifeboat moved in to effect a connection, some five miles from Cruden Scaurs. At 8.05pm the "Ramsay Dyce's" line was finally secured - an extremely hazardous operation in the storm - and Coxswain Martin began the run to safety. He chose Peterhead, as it was obvious that to attempt to make Aberdeen against the fury of the gale would be bound to fail, with the drag of the seiner astern. The two ships duly entered the "Blue Toon", and the "Semnos 11" was made fast. The lifeboat then made the storm-tossed passage back to her station, entering harbour at 2.50am on the thirteenth. ®
To the end of the decade "Ramsay Dyce" and the relief lifeboat "Southern Africa" (provided by the donations of the South African Branch of the Institution) launched on six more occasions spending 21 hours at sea on service. During this period Motor Mechanic Iain Jack served as acting 2nd coxswain until, once again another boat officer was found from outside the crew. Albert Bird, manager of a George Street electrical appliance shop, was the final choice for the position. Some twelve years previously when in the Merchant Navy, his ship had capsized in the English channel. Albert was rescued after an hour by the Dungeness Lifeboat. Johnny Martin stayed on as coxswain until 1972 when he retired from the service he had served so faithfully for so long. Albert Bird was confirmed in the position of Coxswain. ®
The night of Friday, 4 January, 1974. was unpleasant even by local winter standards, with a near-storm force Southerly wind driving a huge sea along the Kincardine and Aberdeenshire coasts. Early that evening members of the Murcar Golf Club were enjoying a drink in the warmth of the bar when they were startled by the sudden arrival of two bedraggled seamen who literally fell through the door. Their lack of English made explanations difficult, but it very soon became obvious that a ship was ashore on the nearby sands, and the word was quickly passed via the police to the emergency services. The Lifeboat's Hon. Secretary, Captain Brian Atkinson, was informed at around 6.15pm, and he immediately began calling out the crew. The life of a harbour boatman can be extremely unpleasant, and may entail waiting in all weathers for the slow approach of an inbound vessel, handling cold and sodden lines, or moving around the port in an open boat. One such occasion was this night of 4 January, with the lifeboat's Assistant Mechanic George Walker, and Bowman William Cowper having just moored a large Polish trawler. The pilot was still on board, and as the two boatmen, heads bowed against the storm-driven rain, passed him he called down, "George, Billy, there's another Pole aground at Murcar - the Skipper here's just heard it on the VHF!" Realising that the lifeboat was almost certain to be involved, the two ran for their boat and made all possible speed across the tidal basin to the "Ramsay Dyce". Remaining crew members soon tumbled on board, and at 6.40 pm the big Barnett, with Coxswain Albert Bird at the wheel, left her moorings. The Polish steam trawler "Nurzec" had apparently earlier been waiting to enter harbour, dodging up and down, and falling too far back had been driven bodily ashore by the sheer force of the wind. Two crew members then launched a dinghy, but had covered less than 200 of the 400 yards of boiling surf to the beach when their little craft was capsized and they were forced to swim and wade the rest of the way. It was their dramatic arrival at the Murcar club which provided the first indication of the late-afternoon drama. The various rescue services quickly swung into action, but it was at this point, as help was on its way to the scene by land and sea, that fate took a hand and tragedy struck. Possibly unaware of British rescue facilities and procedures, or perhaps as Eastern Bloc shipping is wont to do by keeping incidents "in the family", the Russian tug "Gordiy" arrived to seaward of the casualty. She then launched one of her open lifeboat=s into the raging seas with a crew of five seamen, and they did very well to reach the stranded trawler. No less than 18 of the remaining Polish fishermen scrambled into the frail craft, but within minutes it was capsized and all 23 occupants were thrown into the sea. The "Ramsay Dyce" arrived on the scene at 6.40 pm, but owing to the huge breaking seas and the lack of water inshore, was unable to approach the "Nurzec" without joining her on the sands. At about the same time a British Airways Sikorsky S-61 N helicopter was scrambled from Dyce airport on the company's first night SAR mission. Albert Bird took the lifeboat across to the Russian tug, intending to discover exactly what was going on, and as he tried to make contact across the heaving waters, the wind began to ease off somewhat. However, no-one on the tug made any response to repeated radio or loudhailer calls, and this continued even when the "Ramsay Dyce" took the risky course of going alongside the Soviet vessel. On the beach, meanwhile, men were scrambling from the water, with nine actually making it to the Murcar club house, where the rescue agencies had established a temporary command centre. Five more were dragged out of the sea and rushed by ambulance to the Royal Infirmary, and another four were found to be dead in the upturned lifeboat as it lay in the surf. The use of the helicopter to search along the coast proved totally successful as its crew spotted and recovered a single survivor about a mile distant from the scene. The aircraft's lights went on to illuminate the more remote parts of the sand dunes for any other castaways, whilst the lifeboat's crew sent up parachute flares to help the shore parties. Although the Coastguard eventually managed to fire a rocket line on board, no further response was obtained from the casualty. In consequence, and after some discussion, it was decided that there was no point in the "Ramsay Dyce" remaining at sea, so she thankfully made her way back to port, being refueled and ready for further service by 1.05 am on 5 January. However, she was not required later that day when the remaining Poles were winched from the stranded trawler by helicopter. ®
By 1975 the "Ramsay Dyce" was 15 years old, and with word of the RNLI having developed newer and faster vessels, it was inevitable that local thoughts began to turn towards a replacement. Perhaps with this in mind, the visit to the port that year of the first "Arun" class lifeboat aroused more than a passing interest. Most of the Aberdeen crew took the opportunity of going to sea in the new vessel and they must have been impressed, for a movement to provide an "Arun" for Aberdeen was soon in full swing. Driving force behind the fund-raising effort was then Branch Hon. Secretary (Finance) Ron Addison, who faced the enormous challenge of raising some ,240,000 to defray building costs. In the interim the RNLI allocated the fifth "Arun" (54-05) to the Aberdeen station, and early in 1976 Motor Mechanic Iain Jack went to Littlehampton to standby the vessel during the latter part of her construction.
Whilst he was thus engaged, the "Ramsay Dyce" was again on service, this time as a bystander whilst the helicopter element of the local rescue "partnership" carried out the textbook recovery of 17 men from one of Richard lrvine's trawlers, the "Ben Guivain", which had stranded some 200 yards offshore the 15th fairway of the Royal Aberdeen Club's course at the Bridge of Don. The lifeboat launched into the teeth of a Force 9 SE gale and very rough seas just after 12.45pm on 29 January, 1976. The big trawler had suffered engine failure shortly after sailing from Aberdeen and her distress call was initially answered by the harbour tug "Sea Griffon". However, there was only time for one pass before the casualty took the ground and the line parted almost immediately. At this point the tug's propeller began to kick up sand from the bottom and she was forced to withdraw to deeper water. The "Ben Guivain" lay with her bows up the beach and her stern taking the full force of the big, breaking seas. Although she was well aground and with no sign of a list, her crew launched two life rafts into the surf, only to be told on the radio by Coxswain Albert Bird to stay on board and not to risk the wildly-tossing inflatables. The Coastguard agreed, and indicated that the trawler men would be brought ashore by breeches buoy. Attempts to fire rocket lines across the stranded trawler were unsuccessful due to the wind, and eventually the now familiar British Airways S-61N helicopter was called out. It was not long before the trawler men were being winched to safety and taken, several at a time, to the golf course car park. The "Ramsay Dyce" was stood down and returned to her station at 4.30pm. "Ben Guivain" was eventually refloated and towed down to Anstruther in Fife to be part of the museum there. Unfortunately she broke loose in a storm, doing a great deal of damage to vessels and the surrounding quays. Following this episode, the ill-fated trawler was scrapped. ®
Efforts were in the meantime continuing to raise money for the new lifeboat, and on 20 February, 1976, the local press reported that British Petroleum had agreed to donate the huge sum of ,100,000 towards part of the cost. It was also announced that, in recognition of the company=s generosity, the new vessel would be named "RNLB BP Forties". A further ,7,000 was later donated by the 1976 Student Charities Campaign to defray some of the cost of the new lifeboat's electrical equipment. Delivery was promised for the Summer of 1976, but Aberdeen had not yet finished with the "Ramsay Dyce" for on 12 March she performed an outstanding service which was to earn a well-deserved Bronze Medal for her Second Coxswain.
The duty officer at Aberdeen Harbour's Roundhouse watched the sturdy fishing vessel pass his position during the early evening of 12 March, 1976. As he followed her course down the navigation channel, he saw her start to lift to the moderate swell running into the port, and as her lights moved away eastwards, he entered her details in his departure log. "Karemma", of Leith, outward bound after bunkering. From Claybank, 70 boxes on board, now bound Granton, Sailed Aberdeen . . ." He glanced up to see the trawler was taking some time to clear the bar, and then the radio crackled, "Harbour Radio, Karemma. I've got a problem, our steering has packed up and we're out of control His log forgotten, the duty officer acknowledged the trawler's call and reached urgently for the telephone. In seconds he was through to the Coastguard, and shortly thereafter he heard their Duty Controller talking to the casualty on the radio. Notified by the Roundhouse, the harbour tug "Sea Trojan" proceeded down-channel in pursuit of the "Karemma', by now being swept to the northwards as had the "Ben Guivain" only some six weeks earlier. Meanwhile the lifeboat crew had been called out, and at 6.55pm the "Ramsay Dyce" slipped her mooring and in turn hastened out to sea. It had not been possible to contact Coxswain Albert Bird as he was in transit between his office and his home, so Second Coxswain Charles Begg was at the wheel. In the interim the tug had managed to get a heaving line on board the crippled trawler, but before the towline could be passed the lighter rope parted. An attempt to come alongside was now made, but the heavy seas set the casualty heavily down on the tug, to carry away most of the trawler's main deck guardrails. At this point the "Sea Trojan" drew off, and Second Coxswain Begg brought the lifeboat in for his first look at the situation. Assistant Motor Mechanic George Walker described the scene, "It was like an empty oil drum being driven by the seas, rolling her right over, then she'd come up again great big white seas sweeping right across the Bay. I remember wondering. How are we going to get close enough to that thing to do any good?" The trawler's skipper, 27-year old Ernest Watt Jnr, contacted the "Ramsay Dyce" on the radio, and asked for a line to turn his vessel into the sea. Coxswain Begg explained that the lifeboat would very likely be in peril of being dragged over by the "Karemma" if this were to be attempted and suggested that the crew should come off before the trawler stranded. The Skipper agreed, and the "Ramsay Dyce" approached; as she slid under the casualty's lee a huge rolling sea swept the trawler down on to the lifeboat. A wall of water poured on board, into both the wheelhouse and cabin, to put all the radios out of action. Clear of the "Karemma", by now very close to the shore, and without communications of any kind, the lifeboat squared up down sea from the trawler. On the latter came, swept before the swell, and hurtling down on the lifeboat. Just as it seemed as if the "Ramsay Dyce " would be run down, a "cushion" of water rose between the two vessels, and for a moment they lay together. Two fishermen scrambled on board and as they were taken to the shelter of the cabin, the craft were thrown apart once more. Only Skipper Watt was left on board the "Karemma", and his 61 year old father, who had been sailing with his son on this fateful trip watched anxiously as the lifeboat made yet another approach, touched, and backed off with the last man on board. As the "Ramsay Dyce" worked her way clear of the surf the trawler finally struck, not more than five minutes after her skipper had been snatched to safety. With the drogue streamed to keep her stern on to the seas breaking on the bar, the "Ramsay Dyce" entered port, and was back on her moorings by 8.10 pm. Skipper Watt and his crew went off to the Fishermen's Mission for a hot meal, and having completed refueling, it was not long before the life-boatmen were also back at their homes. ®
In recognising the difficulties of this service the RNLI announced that Acting Coxswain Charles Begg had been awarded the Institution's Bronze Medal for Gallantry, for "Showing great courage, determination and seamanship in overcoming the hazardous conditions to effect a successful rescue." In addition, the Institution's Thanks on Vellum was awarded to Motor Mechanic lan Jack, whilst medal certificates were given to Assistant Motor Mechanic George Walker, Bowman William Cowper and crew members Francis Cruickshank and Andrew Walker. ®
Tuesday, 1 June, 1976, began as an untypical early summer day, with heavy rain in the morning, patchy fog, and below-average temperatures. However, the early afternoon saw the beginnings of a clearance, and by teatime conditions were perfect. Large crowds began to gather on both sides of the navigation channel to watch as a cavalcade of vessels put to sea in line astern - the lifeboat "Ramsay Dyce", the ILB, the two harbour tugs, the pilot cutter, and in a much-appreciated gesture, Aberdeen University RN Unit's inshore minesweeper, HMS Thornham, carrying many members of life-boatmen's families. The flotilla altered course to the southward, and as they rounded Girdleness, they saw another vessel, an enormous bow wave on each side of her deep blue hull as she approached. The bright orange superstructure caught the sun as Coxswain Albert Bird brought Aberdeen's new "Arun" class lifeboat to join the waiting vessels, and there was a brief pause whilst the "Ramsay Dyce" carefully went alongside to transfer the city's Lord and Lady Provost. The vessels again formed into line ahead, and with the brand-new "BP Forties" in the lead, they shaped up for the navigation channel. As part of the welcome, Coastguards had stationed themselves along the approach road and North Pier, and the sky was soon full of parachute flares of all colours as they burst overhead in salute. Whilst the crowd may not have been as large as that on hand to greet the Royal Yacht Britannia, the local police reported that thousands of people turned out.
With the arrival of ABP Forties@ the Ramsay Dyce was placed in the reserve fleet serving in Aith, Lerwick, Aberdeen, and Buckie from 1977 - 1978. ®
The Text and images of this text come from the book "The Lifeline" a history of the Aberdeen Lifeboat Station 1925-1985. written by Norman Trewren. Image