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John Scouler, Whithorn hotelier
"The skipper was a fine seaman who brought jobs to this community"
 real 28k

BBC Scotland's Reevel Alderson
"Fishing communities have had to become used to facing up to tragedy"
 real 28k

Fish wholesaler John King
"Contact was lost when she was heading for Ramsey Bay to take shelter"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 21:16 GMT
Fishing community faces up to loss

Whithorn A cold dawn breaks over the Isle of Whithorn

A Scottish fishing community awoke to the worst possible news - seven of its sons were missing in the Irish Sea.

As dawn broke on the south-west coast, the news only got worse and hopes that the Solway Harvester's lights would be seen on the horizon at Kirkcudbright dimmed as coastguards reported that a second unopened liferaft had been found.

Somebody standing next to me said 'I just want to see that boat coming round the corner with the lights on'
Alastair Murray
There was shock, distress and a sense of bewilderment as people in the port and in the crew's home area of the Isle of Whithorn wondered how the well-equipped trawler, built to withstand the ravages of the seas, could get into trouble.

As the search continued and was then scaled down, the tragedy provoked not-so-distant and painful memories for a fishing community already scarred by tragedy.

It was only 15 years ago when the Kirkcudbright-registered scallop trawler Mhari-L went down in the Solway Firth.

John Scouler John Scouler: "Beyond words"
The wreck was later found but the bodies of the 15 souls on board were never recovered.

For one man, standing on the quayside in the darkness, the realisation of an impending tragedy was clearly becoming too much to bear.

The family of James Gorman, of Garlieston, in Dalloway, said he was too upset to talk and their thoughts were with the families of the men from nearby Whithorn, three of whom were still in their teens.

'Everybody is shocked'

A neighbour said: "James didn't sail and he was supposed to meet the crew today. His family, everybody else, is just shocked.

"They really don't want to talk. Everyone in the village here is devastated. We all knew the men."

People gathered, heads bowed, as they tried to take in the enormity of what had befallen their small community and the loss of sons, brothers, fathers and friends.

I will remember the skipper who both man and boy loved the sea - he worked at the sea
John Scouler
Isle of Whithorn hotelier John Scouler, who knew many of the men, said: "Four of that crew worked for men in one way or another, either as schoolboys, or they were married or related to people who worked for me.

"I will remember the skipper who both man and boy loved the sea - he worked at the sea.

"He went to the sea for pleasure at the weekends as well as for work.

"He was a fine seaman who did his best to bring a lot of jobs and prosperity to this community."

'Severe tragedy'

"It goes beyond anything I can say I'm afraid."

Tony Wood, of Kirkcudbright coastguard, said the tragedy would be felt across the community and most poignantly on the Isle of Whithorn with its population of just 500.

He said: "It's a severe tragedy for this area. There's some young lads on that boat and they're all from a very small village.

"I know the families personally and the loss will affect many people."

John King John King: "It's a disaster"
John King, owner of West Coast Sea products, who was due to buy in the Solway Harvester's catch, said local people were facing a "disaster" which they would struggle to cope with.

He said: "You don't really come to terms with it - you can't.

"It's the mystery behind the whole thing, it should never have happened to a vessel of that size."

Ex-fisherman Alastair Murray said: "Somebody standing next to me earlier said 'I just want to see that boat coming round the corner with the lights on'."

It may have been little comfort but, as hope gave way to despair on the Isle of Whithorn, there was an almost reflex reaction to the tragedy among local people who had tasted bitter tragedy in the past.

Eddie McGuire Eddie McGuire: "People will try to help"
Resident Eddie McGuire said: "If there's anything people can do to alleviate or help with the tragedy they will, they certainly will. But it's difficult to know what to do in a situation like this."

The disappearance of the Solway Harvester was likely to fuel speculation that it had come to grief in the so-called Manx Triangle, south east of the Isle of Man, where other fishing vessels have sunk, including the Mhari-L.

A inquiry into the Mhari-L tragedy found that the vessels capsized when its nets became snagged on an underwater cable.

Further tragedy struck the west coast in 1990 when the nuclear-powered submarine Trenchant came into contact with nets from the Carradale-registered trawler Antares and pulled it under with the loss of all four crew.

Two men died near Troon harbour in 1993 when the fishing boat Copia sank in heavy seas and four crew were lost when the clam dredger Equinox capsized off the Heads of Ayr.

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See also:
13 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Trawler sinking inquiry begins
11 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Trawler wreckage located
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
PM's sympathy for fishing community
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Fishing safety back in the spotlight
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Solway Harvester tragedy in pictures
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Fishing safety back in the spotlight
28 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Go-ahead for sea safety system
13 Aug 99 |  UK Politics
MSPs to fight Coastguard closures

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