WARTIME Clyde Tug Tragedy Remembered 75 Years On

THE 75th anniversary of the sinking of a tug at Gourock has been marked by the nephew of one of the 16 crewmen who died in the tragedy, at the virtually unmarked grave in a local cemetery where his uncle and two other victims were buried. 

Finlay MacKenzie's uncle Roddy, who was 25 years old and engaged to be married, was one of 20 crew on board the Romsey when it was struck by a ship on the Clyde just before midnight on 4 September 1942

The Romsey had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy as a rescue tug and was based at the old Admiralty Pier in Cardwell Bay. The vessel had been sitting just off Gourock Pier when she appears to have dragged her anchor, with a strong wind carrying her into the shipping channel.

Being war-time, blackout regulations required her to carry minimal lighting and she was run down by a mail ship, the SS Lairdsburn, which was sailing from Glasgow to Belfast. The Romsey sank within minutes; there were only four survivors. The vessel was lifted a month later and the bodies recovered. 

Most of the crew hailed from the villages of Ullapool and Gairloch in Wester Ross with others from Southampton, Merseyside and Wales. 

Finlay, who lives in Gourock, said: "Three of the bodies could not be identified and their families decided to bury them together in Gourock Cemetery. 

"There is no headstone but a shrub was planted to mark lair number 40 in section F; one of those interred there was my uncle Roddy from Ullapool.

"There was no-one from Inverclyde on board which is probably why so few people are now aware of the sinking."

Finlay's father, also from Ullapool was based on the rescue tugs as well. He met a local woman while based on the Clyde and they moved to Ullpaool when they married. However, when Finlay was 16 years old, his father died and his mother decided to move back to Gourock with Finlay.

He has made a point of finding and visiting his uncle's grave and laid a wreath there to mark the 75th anniversary.

The Romsey, which was built by Ferguson Bros, Port Glasgow in 1930, was repaired and put back into service. After the war she was returned to her owners and continued working until she was broken up in 1962.

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