A fundraising appeal has been launched to support plans to maintain the Longhope Lifeboat Museum in Orkney, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Longhope Lifeboat disaster.
As the anniversary approaches next year, the charitable trust which is responsible for the Longhope Lifeboat Museum has launched a fundraising appeal, which will, it is hoped, raise £30,000 for essential maintenance and improvement work in the lead up to events commemorating the tragedy, the memory of which still resonates in the community, and far beyond Orkney's shores.
The Longhope Lifeboat Museum Appeal will run until the end of the year with all money raised going towards direct to the urgent work required at the building.
The appeal is being backed by Orkney’s newspaper, The Orcadian, which will provide regular updates on the fundraising effort for the duration of the appeal, which will run until the end of this year.
It was on March 17, 1969, that the Longhope Lifeboat T.G.B. capsized in mountainous seas while on service to the Liberian vessel Irene. The lifeboat's entire crew of eight lost their lives as they selflessly headed towards the cargo ship.
Over years of dedicated service, coxswain Dan Kirkpatrick and his crew, who lost their lives that terrible night, were involved in numerous dramatic rescues, earning them bravery awards, as had crews who served before them since Longhope RNLI was established back in 1874.
The bravery of those in the tight knit community continued to shine through the dark days following the disaster however, and a new crew stepped forward to once again man a lifeboat based in Longhope, all relatives and friends of those who perished that fateful night.
At that time, and for many years before, the lifeboat was based in the building which is now preserved as the Longhope Lifeboat Museum at Brims, the lifeboat these days now stationed afloat at Longhope Pier.
Now, Longhope RNLI and Longhope Lifeboat Museum Trust are in the process of preparing for the commemorative events marking 50 years since the loss of the T.G.B. and her gallant crew, events which will take place both at land and at sea on March 17 next year, with further details to follow in the New Year.
Kevin Kirkpatrick is the grandson of the late Dan Kirkpatrick, and followed in the RNLI tradition in his family. He is the current coxswain of Longhope Lifeboat, and chairman of the museum trust.
He explained: "We at the trust are trying to raise funds to help us restore and maintain the Longhope Lifeboat Museum, which was the lifeboat station at the time of the disaster. Built in 1906, the principle aim of this maritime museum, is to tell the historical story of the old lifeboat station, the powerful events and rescues at sea and to remember former crew members.
“The museum is also home to the Thomas McCunn, a Watson class lifeboat, which was in service from 1933-1962. She launched 101 times and saved 308 lives. Incredibly, 80 years on, she is still launched down the slipway on special occasions and is the only slipway launched vintage lifeboat in the country.”
"The museum hosts an interesting mixture of old artefacts, literature and information associated with former Longhope lifeboats and past crew members, which are displayed around the museum. From an old sou-wester, thigh boots and oilskins left hanging on a hook, to newspaper cuttings, medals, vellums, photographs, letters etc.
“There are some remarkable poems on display, some of them about the disaster. These were written by people who wanted to express their deepest feelings of sorrow, show respect for those who were lost and sympathise with those loved ones left behind.
"There is also a striking display of large oil paintings by Harry Berry. These powerful paintings illustrate some of the past rescues undertaken by the lifeboats and emphasise the perilous nature of the sea."
Kevin added: "The museum was founded in 1999 and is run by The Longhope Lifeboat Museum Trust, a group of local volunteer enthusiasts. It relies solely on public donations and entry is free. We need to carry out essential maintenance to ensure the survival of these precious items and prepare it for the commemoration next March.
"We appeal for your help to make this possible and sincerely thank you in advance for any donations offered."
Craig Taylor is The Orcadian sub-editor and writes a two page ‘Marine Scene’ section each week, he said that the paper is giving its wholehearted support to the campaign, giving regular updates in his marine section, as well as online.
He said: “I really hope that this appeal is supported throughout the Orkney community and beyond, it is such a great cause. The museum stands as a tribute to bravery the lifeboat crews of Longhope over the years, whose stories are told between its walls. Credit should be given to the trust for preserving this important part of Orkney’s maritime heritage. I wish their campaign every success.”
Donations can be made online and the trust can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
RNLI Longhope and Longhope Lifeboat Museum Trust are also looking to gain an idea of the number of people who are interested in attending the commemorations, which begin at 10.15am on March 17 next year.
Kevin added: "If you are interested in joining us to remember those we lost, please reply before the end of October with names and total number of guests via email at email@example.com or ring the lifeboat station at 01856 701 333."