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BBC Scotland's Willie Johnston
"The family of Martin Milligan have been speaking about their loss"
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Rev. Alex Currie
"The community has to be as strong as it can for the families of the victims"
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John Thorne on the Isle of Whithorn
"The parish minister tried to comfort the bereaved families"
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Joanne Macaulay reports
"One of the blackest days in the Isle of Whithorn's history"
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Thursday, 13 January, 2000, 21:46 GMT
Trawler tragedy village gathers in prayer

Candle In memory: A special candle with a heart and the figure 7 etched on it

The community of the Isle of Whithorn gathered on Thursday evening to say prayers for the victims of the Solway Harvester tragedy.

The Rev Alex Currie, Church of Scotland Minister, said the loss of the seven men was a devastating blow.

"'These things happen elsewhere - they don't happen here', that's constantly been the reaction of the families I have visited over the last 36 hours."

The family of one of the victims, Martin Milligan, have told of their loss of a fun-loving "family guy".

Martin Milligan Family man Martin Milligan with girlfriend Allison McIlwraith
A spokesperson for the Milligans said on Thursday: "Martin was an everyday family guy - he liked to drink, he liked to put on a bet and he loved his Rangers."

The personal tribute comes in the wake of news that the cause of the sinking will be investigated by the Manx authorities and is likely to be established by underwater inspection, rather than the wreck being raised.

A spokesman for the government's Marine Accident Investigation Branch said it was not usual practice to lift sunken boats.

Instead, surveys using remote-controlled underwater cameras were normally deployed to establish the cause. However, bad weather is preventing cameras from being sent down.

The sea is an honourable and peaceful final resting place for those whose lives it has claimed
MAIB spokesman
The MAIB spokesman also said such a survey would be needed to establish if there were any bodies on board the trawler, which is believed to be lying in 40 metres (130 feet) of water about 11 miles south-east of the Isle of Man.

But if the bodies of any of the seven men lost when the vessel sank are on board, there is no official policy about recovering them.

Consultation paper

Ministers are still considering the responses to a consultation paper on the issue which was published in July 1998.

The spokesman said: "Government has traditionally taken the view, supported by the marine industry, that the sea is an honourable and peaceful final resting place for those whose lives it has claimed.

Solway Harvester crew
Skipper Craig Mills
His brother Robin Mills
David Mills, 18, cousin of the skipper
Martin Milligan
David Lyons, 17
John Murphy, 22
Wesley Jolly, 17
"Of those who responded to the consultation paper, the majority still support this view."

The consultation paper appeared following the sinking of the fishing vessel Sapphire with the loss of four lives off Peterhead in October 1997.

In that case, the government refused an appeal from the bereaved families to recover their bodies.

The families themselves then successfully arranged for the sunken vessel to be salvaged and the bodies to be recovered with a public appeal that raised hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Responsibility for the investigation has been passed to authorities on the Isle of Man, in whose waters the boat is thought to lie.

Liaising with families

The investigators' top priority is to establish how the modern and well-equipped vessel was apparently overcome so quickly in heavy seas.

Dumfries and Galloway Police Sergeant Mike Kneeshaw said: "We will continue primarily to liase with the families to keep them in touch with the investigation and any developments that happen today."

Martin Milligan Family man Martin Milligan with girlfriend Allison McIlwraith
A team of trained counsellors remained on stand-by for the three small communities and social workers were also ready to help the devastated villagers.

The lost vessel's sister ship, Torbach-N, docked at Kirkcudbright early on Wednesday.

Scotland's Fisheries Minister, John Home Robertson, said a full investigation would take place and would mean that "any lessons that can be drawn from this tragedy will be learned".

It was neither appropriate nor sensitive to speculate about what went wrong, he added.

Flowers laid in tribute

Flowers have been laid in tribute to skipper Skipper Craig Mills and his six crew who drowned when they hit problems about 1800GMT on Tuesday.

His brother Robin, who also died, was due to become a father for the second time in March.

Police officer on quayside Police are keeping families up to date
The flowers were placed on a memorial in Kirkcudbright commemorating the loss of the Mhairi-L, the scallop trawler lost almost 15 years ago with the lives of four men.

The figure depicts a woman hugging a child close to her chest.

A candle, etched with a heart and the figure seven, burned in memory to the men and a card placed by mourners said simply: "Our thoughts are with the families of the seven lost fishermen."

Fishermen along the Solway coast are anxious to know what might have caused the sudden overwhelming of the Kirkcudbright vessel.

Captain John Niblock, with nearly 40 years' experience of the sea, said: "That is a well-found boat that can go anywhere in just about any type of weather.

'Damn good skipper'

"The Irish Sea is notorious for its weather pattern ... boats like that should be able to withstand that sort of weather.

Andrew Johnston, from the Isle of Whithorn Sailing Club, said: "There's obviously something unexpected has happened here.

"I knew Craig and he was a damn good skipper and the lads were all good lads.

"Really I would just like to see an answer to all this. It's been very upsetting for the entire village."

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Solway Harvester: In pictures

See also:
13 Jan 00 |  Scotland
'It could have been me'
13 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Solway Harvester: The crew
11 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Trawler wreckage located
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
PM's sympathy for fishing community
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Fishing community faces up to loss
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Fishing safety back in the spotlight
13 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Scallop ban claim in fishing tragedy

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