The MV Princess Victoria was lost on January 31 1953, after leaving Stranraer for her regular crossing to Larne in Northern Ireland. She encountered 80 mph gale force winds and waves over 50 feet high Despite the valiant efforts of her crew, lifeboatmen and other seafarers, the ferry foundered off the coast of Northern Ireland, within sight of the Copeland Islands, near the entrance to Belfast Lough.
It is thought that 133 people died; while 44 men were rescued alive but no woman or child survived the sinking. Meanwhile, this year, following research by local historian Liam Kelly and the Ulster Historical Foundation, an additional plaque will be unveiled, commemorating two more people who are now known to have perished in the disaster: Thomas Saunders and Gordon Wright, both servicemen.
The tragedy was the worst peacetime maritime incident in British coastal waters, the worst ferry disaster to occur in British coastal waters and the world’s first known sinking of a roll-on-roll-off ferry. Every year it is commemorated by local people on both sides of the Irish Sea, along with representatives of organisations, including Dumfries and Galloway Council, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Royal British Legion, Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, and ferry operators.
Dumfries and Galloway Council leader Elaine Murray, pictured, this week said: “The loss of the MV Princess Victoria still resonates, particularly in the towns of Dumfries and Stranraer. As each year since, we will gather to remember those who died, pay our tributes, and offer heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved. We still admire the valiant efforts of the crew and their fellow seafarers, who risked and in some cases sacrificed their own lives to save others. For those who lost loved ones, whether a partner, a parent, a son or a daughter, the consequences are still keenly felt.”