Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Half a Century on, a Loss Still So Hard to Bear

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Half a Century on, a Loss Still So Hard to Bear

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVE ROBSON dave.robson@reachplc.com @Daverobson_gaz

TEARS were shed at an emotional seafront service as the victims of a shipwreck off Redcar were remembered - 50 years to the day of the disaster.

And to add poignancy to an already charged occasion, a tragically unused lifebuoy from the cargo ship Lairdsfield - which sank on February 6, 1970, with the loss of all 10 crew - was brought along.

About 100 people gathered for the service, held at the Birger memorial on Redcar Esplanade.

Among those attending were several family members of the crew, including 90-year-old Betty Williamson of Great Ayton - eldest child of one of the victims, Captain William Hood - and Cptn Hood's granddaughter, Annette Woolfson. It was Annette who, conscious the 50th anniversary was looming, set about arranging the memorial service.

But she admits she was astonished by how much Redcar rallied round the idea.

And when Ray Preston brought the lifebuoy along from Coastwatch Redcar's nearby lookout, it was an incredibly powerful moment.

An emotional Annette, who travelled down from Northumberland, said: "I'm amazed that so many people have turned up for this. Whether it's in recognition of the men that were lost or the work the rescue people do, it's just humbling.

"To me, it was a family tragedy but when you realise how much it affected the lifeboatmen and the community, it's a huge thing."

Ten years ago, Betty went out in a lifeboat to lay a wreath to mark the 40th anniversary.

Yesterday, however, while she stayed on dry land, her heart was at sea - a sea that was millpond-calm but, on that fateful February night in 1970, claimed the lives of her father and his nine crewmates.

A subsequent inquiry ruled the ship had been incorrectly loaded.

Betty told The Gazette: "This is absolutely wonderful - I never thought I would see this.

"I remember on that night, my late husband and myself came down to the lifeboat station here and they verified that it was the Lairdsfield that had gone down. …

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