Fraserburgh lifeboat hero remembered

Nathan Whyte with the parchment (Picture: Billy Watson)
Nathan Whyte with the parchment (Picture: Billy Watson)

A man from Fraserburgh has told the story of how his grandfather heroically risked his life to save others as a member of the RNLI over 50 years ago.

It wasn’t until Nathan Whyte told his grandfather Dennis Morris (Denny) that he was thinking of joining the Royal National Lifeboat Institution that Denny recalled his personal involvement in a tragedy.

On February 9, 1953, the Fraserburgh Lifeboat ‘John and Charles Kennedy’ had been assisting boats into the harbour when it capsized, killing all but one volunteer on-board.

The 63rd anniversary of the accident recently passed of the Fraserburgh Lifeboat Disaster, when coxswain Andrew Noble Ritchie, motor mechanic George Duthie, assistant mechanic James Noble and crewmen John Crawford, Charles Tait Snr and John Buchan all lost their lives.

Denny was working night-shift at the local Toolworks as part of an apprenticeship when the disaster happened.

Hundreds of people rushed to the South Breakwater and watched in helpless frustration as seven lifeboat crew struggled for their lives in the stormy seas.

Denny dived into the freezing waters and helped take out three crew members.

Unfortunately, they did not survive. In the pandemonium that followed, Denny slipped away quietly.

It wasn’t until the police arrived to get a statement that Denny’s parents knew about his heroics.

Tragically, just a few weeks after telling his grandson the story, Denny died in a car accident.

Nathan joined the lifeboat a few months later. He has since found a parchment to his grandfather from the Royal Humane Society for his bravery.

He also found a letter expressing the town council’s pride in his achievement and the arrangements for the public presentation of the parchment.

Nathan made arrangements to have them framed.

Denny received his award from Harold Milne, then Provost of Fraserburgh, on October 9, 1953 along with two other young men, George West and Ian Munro, who also jumped into the sea in an attempt to save the lifeboat crew.

Nathan, 29, said: “He never spoke about it. He never thought he did anything to warrant recognition, because the boy he rescued didn’t make it.

“Then I spoke to him, just before he died, and I told him I was thinking about joining the lifeboat. That’s when he spoke about it - that was the first he’s ever spoken about it.

“That encouraged me to join, and I’ve been here for 17 months now. It’s always a bit of a shock when people her the story, because it has never really been talked about in the town.”