On the 30th January 1953, the MV Clan Macquarrie was on passage from Dundee to Glasgow, having completed a voyage from India with a cargo of jute. As they set out northabout to Glasgow, severe weather and sea conditions in the Minch prompted the captain to alter course, proceeding to the Butt of Lewis and west of the island. The weather became worse, with hurricane wind speeds and seas that grew mountainous as the night drew on.
Now unable to make headway through these terrifying conditions, the vessel came to rest on the fairly-level shore at Borve, luckily bypassing the treacherous rocks and reefs which form part of much of the western seaboard south of the Butt. Having lost the lights, 66 men gathered together in the pitch dark to ensure all were accounted for. Describing the incident in 2003 at a packed event in the Ness Hall, Douglas Buchan, one of the crewmembers, described the incident as “quite alarming, not knowing what was going to happen.”
A valiant rescue attempt was made by the coastguard and local volunteers, but this had to be postponed until the weather moderated. The next day, the shipwrecked mariners were brought ashore by breeches buoy apparatus, and were warmly welcomed into local homes after their ordeal in one of the worst storms in living memory. “We were dragged through the sea from the ship to the shore,” Mr Buchan described, “and I remember being taken to a nearby house. It was a blackhouse with a loom in one end and when I sat down in the room I realised how quiet it was after the violent storm outside. It was a very cosy place and obviously the ideal structure to shut out the elements. We had a very welcome meal of fish and potatoes and later that afternoon we were taken to Stornoway and spent the night in the Caledonian Hotel.”
The Board of Trade subsequently awarded its Wreck Shield to the coastguard team, in recognition of the brave efforts of those onshore
As told by the Galson Estate Trust
The full story is told in the issue 10 of the Ness - Barvas Community Newsletter
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