Montrose Lifeboat book launch timed to coincide with centenary of WW1 rescue

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Montrose is the latest Lifeboat Station to feature in an RNLI series of books of stations around the UK coast.

It was written and compiled by Montrose resident and shipping expert John Aitken, and ‘launched’ on Wednesday at the town’s lifeboat station.

The lavishly illustrated project took two years of hard work by Mr Aitken and his team of contributors, and the 17 chapters cover topics such as previous lifeboats at Montrose, the early years of the lifeboat in the town and Ferryden, the first ‘shout’, more recent shouts, financing the RNLI and the current crew and office-bearers.

In recent years the building of a new Station and the delivery of a new boat, the RNLB Ian Grant Smith, from the Shannon class, the newest type of boat in the RNLI’s fleet and the first to be based in Scotland.

On Wednesday the Station chairman, Jim Calder described the realisation that the previous book was in need of being updated and given a contemporary look; and that Mr Aitken was the obvious man to have at the helm.

Mr Aitken told the company that on October 18, 2013, a general edict went out from RNLI headquarters at Poole, asking for stations with a great story to tell to contribute to a series of lifeboat station history books. Montrose, one of the oldest in the UK with more than 200 years of service, obviously answered with a resounding ‘yes!’

Sources of material were many and varied, from libraries, locations as far apart as Peterhead and Poole, local paper files, and the Lifeboat Enthusiasts’ Society.

The launch of the book was timed to coincide with two things - one was a training night for the crew, but the other was the centenary, to the day, of the Montrose Lifeboat going to the aid of the Norwegian steamship SS Egenaes which had been sunk off Peterhead by a German submarine, SM UC-45.

SS Egenaes was built in 1894, was of 399 tons, and was travelling from Haugesund to Hull with a cargo of herring.

The Montrose Review reported: “About four o’clock on Thursday afternoon last week, a small boat was descried two miles off Montrose, and as there was a pretty heavy sea running the lifeboatmen were summoned.

Retrieving the lifeboat in days long gone - but how was this accomplished in stormy seas?

Retrieving the lifeboat in days long gone - but how was this accomplished in stormy seas?

“The lifeboat Marianne Atherstone was launched and proceeded to the small boat, which was found to contain the crew of a Norwegian vessel bound for an English port, which had been torpedoed [in fact, she was sunk by gunfire - torpedoes were very expensive! - editor] and sunk in the North Sea.

“The crew, after taking to the boat, drifted southwards for eight hours, and when rescued were suffering severely from cold.

“When landed every attention was paid to them. They left Montrose on Friday.”

However, five crew members were lost during the attack.

In 1983, during a survey in connection with the St Fergus pipeline, evidence was found of a possible wreck in the area where SS Egenaes is thought to have been sunk.

The SM UC-45 had a varied career: commissioned into the German Imperial Navy on November 18, 1916, sank 12 ships, herself sank in a diving accident on September 17, 1917, salvaged and re-entered service on October 24, 1918. She surrendered a month later and was broken up at Preston between 1919 and 1920.

Mr Aitken concluded his remarks by saying that he would be donating all 11 ring binders relating to the book to the lifeboat station - “To give the next author a flying start!”

‘Montrose Lifeboat Station’ is the second in the series to focus on Scotland - the other concerns Anstruther.

The Montrose book is priced very reasonably at £8.95 and can be obtained at the lifeboat station, Hogg’s bookshop. High Street, and other outlets.

The old lifeboat station, down river of the new one, with the Glaxo factory in the background.

The old lifeboat station, down river of the new one, with the Glaxo factory in the background.