Glasgow & West Scotland

Campbeltown marine disaster commemorated

Press cutting
Image caption Press reports from 50 years ago praised the crew of the Moira for rescuing 10 men

A memorial cairn has been unveiled in Campbeltown later, marking 50 years since the loss of the MV Quesada.

Eight men died when the vessel, which was on a pleasure cruise, sank as it returned to the Argyll port.

The official report into the sinking found the Quesada was not certified to carry more than 12 passengers and had inadequate safety equipment.

The memorial was erected after a campaign by Willie MacCallum, whose father Jack was one of those killed.

Ten others were saved when the crew of a local fishing boat, the Moira, went to their aid.

The official unveiling of the cairn will follow a remembrance service at Campbeltown's Highland Parish Church.

Mr MacCallum said: "This started four years ago. I thought it was terrible the town had no memorial to the Quesada.

"I am really pleased how it has all come together."

Gale warning

The Quesada went down four miles south east of Davaar Island in the Firth of Clyde in the early hours of Monday 23 May, 1966.

It had set off the previous morning. The original plan was to sail to Northern Ireland but a weather report warning of gales persuaded owner and skipper John McMillan to make for Lochranza on Arran instead.

Ten of the passengers on board worked at Paterson's garage in Campbeltown and the trip was arranged by John Paterson, the garage owner's son.

After they put ashore at Lochranza, the vessel sailed to Rothesay on Bute and then Tighnabruaich, with the passengers spending time in local hotels at each stop.

The Quesada eventually set off for Campbeltown at 20:30 on Sunday evening.

Between Carradale and Campbeltown, the official inquiry notes "the wind rose steadily to gale force 8".

Image copyright Steve Partridge
Image caption The Quesada went down near Davaar Island at the mouth of Campbeltown Loch

Just north of Davaar Island Archibald Stewart, a 77-year-old fisherman who was at the helm, found he could not turn the vessel into Campbeltown Loch.

At about the same time, the port engine failed and the Quesada veered east and south of the island and away from the safety of the loch.

Ten minutes later the second engine failed and the vessel was "down by the stern and drifting".

The inquiry noted that "what life-saving equipment there was on board was being issued".

It added: "It is not clear how many lifejackets were aboard, but not all received one."

The veteran fisherman Archibald Stewart, still at the helm, advised everyone on board to "stick to the boat".

Not everyone took his advice. Some men tried to escape, three or four lashing themselves to a liferaft.

Everyone who listened to Archibald Stewart survived, including Mr Stewart himself.

A group of fishermen were resting on the fishing boat Moira, in Campbeltown harbour.

Within three minutes of seeing an emergency flare they had put to sea.

Their actions in rescuing 10 men from the sinking Quesada in a full gale was, said the inquiry, "deserving of the highest praise and commendation".

Lifesaving equipment

The inquiry's report was critical of the condition of the vessel and the owner John McMillan.

It said he was "at fault in that he carried more than twelve passengers without there being in force a certificate as to survey... that the said yacht (MV Quesada) had not been surveyed... and that the life saving equipment on board did not comply with The Merchant Shipping (Life Saving Appliances) Rules 1965".

The inquiry also found that additional lifejackets had been ordered by Mr McMillan but never collected.

It's report said: "There can be no doubt that the lifesaving equipment aboard was inadequate and did not conform to the regulations.

"It appears that the owner had ordered on 30th March 1966, twelve Ministry of Transport lifejackets, with other equipment, through Bridport Gundry Limited, Campbeltown.

"On 9th April that firm received ten lifejackets stamped 'Ministry of Transport' and Mr. McMillan was so informed, but he failed to collect."

It concluded that the primary cause of the sinking was not established from the evidence but "the failure of the owner... to comply with the regulations must be held as contributing to the loss of life".

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