Princess Royal to attend Fraserburgh Lifeboat memorial service

Crowds will gather at the Old Parish Church on Sunday, January 19 to remember those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
Crowds will gather at the Old Parish Church on Sunday, January 19 to remember those who lost their lives in the tragedy.

The Princess Royal is to attend the 50th anniversary of the Fraserburgh Lifeboat disaster which will be marked with a commemorative service this weekend.

Crowds will gather at the Old Parish Church on Sunday, January 19, to join in a special service to mark 50 years since the Fraserburgh Lifeboat, the Duchess of Kent, capsized while on service with the loss of five crew members - Coxswain John Stephen, mechanic Fred Kirkness, William Hadden, James Buchan and James RS Buchan.

Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal will be in attendance at Sunday’s service while members of Buckie, Macduff and Peterhead lifeboat crews will also be participating.

The service will be held at 2pm and all are invited to attend. Refreshments will be served in the leisure centre following the service.

If you are attending, please note that parking will be restricted. It is suggested that people use the parking facility at the leisure centre where shuttle buses will be available to and from the church. All attending are asked to be seated by 1.50pm.

Two days later, on Tuesday, January 21, there will be a short service held at Fraserburgh Lifeboat Station to mark the actual date of the disaster.

“Everyone who has an interest in Fraserburgh Lifeboat is invited to the service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the disaster,” said Broch lifeboat coxswain Victor Sutherland.

“Unfortunately over the years the contact details of many of the people who we would like to invite to attend the service haven’t been updated. So we are hoping we can let them know through social and other media channels.”

During her period of service, the Duchess of Kent lifeboat launched 23 times and saved 13 lives.

The lifeboat had been called out in the early hours of January 21, 1970, to go to the aid of the Danish vessel, Opal, which had reported taking on water and in danger of sinking 38 miles offshore.

It made contact with the Opal just after midday and at 12.35pm she was escorting the Danish boat back to shore, but just three minutes later, at 12.38pm, she was lost.

Five of the six crew perished in the disaster, the only survivor being John (Jackson) Buchan who had been flung clear and pulled to safety by a Russian crew member from the Opal.

Some 13,000 people attended the joint funeral of the crew members in a mass public outpouring of grief.