Newcastle RNLI Coxwain at Princess Victoria Wreath-Laying
THE coxswain of Newcastle lifeboat, Mark Poland, played a key role in the recent sixtieth anniversary commemoration of the Princess Victoria ferry disaster.
The Princess Victoria sank on 31 January 1953 with the loss of 135 lives as it was making passage in stormy seas from Stranraer to Larne. The disaster was one of the worst in the waters of the British Isles in modern times.
The Donaghadee lifeboat Sir Samuel Kelly played a crucial role in bringing survivors ashore after the ferry went down, and at the ceremony marking the sixtieth anniversary of the tragedy Newcastle man Mark joined the current coxswain of the Donaghadee boat, Phillip McNamara, in laying commemorative wreaths on the waters off the Ards Peninsula.
The volunteer RNLI crew of the Sir Samuel Kelly rescued 34 people from the sinking in 1953 and the coxswain Hugh Nelson was later awarded the institution’s bronze medal and the British Empire Medal for his courage and initiative during the difficult operation.
Wreaths carried aboard the current Donaghadee lifeboat were laid on the sea at the spot where the Princess Victoria sank. The vessel was accompanied by RNLI rescue craft from Portpatrick and Larne and a short service was conducted by the minister of Donaghadee First Presbyterian Church, Rev Colin Anderson. A larger commemorative service was held ashore.
Speaking after the service, Mark said: “I was proud to be part of such a poignant ceremony.”
Newcastle lifeboat coxswain Mark Poland (left) with Donaghadee coxswain Phillip McNamara at the wreath-laying ceremony at sea for those who lost their lives during the sinking of the Princess Victoria in January 1953