I got a piano from ship drama

THE Northern Daily Mail's first report of the Heronspool drama
THE Northern Daily Mail's first report of the Heronspool drama

A DRAMATIC ship rescue which happened on the other side of the world had a profound effect on Anne Robertson - because she got a piano out of it.

The Hartlepool woman got in touch after we told the story of the Heronspool, the 7,174 tonne Hartlepool vessel which rescued the Stanfirth off the coast of Australia.

Ann was only a child at the time of the rescue in 1951, but her father Leonard Boden McPhie was the chief engineer on the Heronspool.

She recalled: “After it was all over, he came home and got a bonus. I was eight or nine at the time and I think the bonus that he got was £100. That was a lot of money in those days and we got the piano out of it.

“My dad played the piano by ear but as soon as he bought this one, I was sent to get piano lessons.

“I sat quite a few exams and got certificates, and I think I only packed in when my teacher passed away.

“I never really continued after that”.

Ann recalls that her father did not often talk about the drama off Australia, but she added: “I remember him saying that they threw a line to the other ship and it kept missing”.

Last month, we told how Heronspool’s captain, Master Cameron, reported he had never known such bad conditions for a towing operation.

Time and again, she tried to tow the Stanfirth to safety. Time and again, the conditions made life difficult yet eventually, the Heronspool succeeded, even though the Hartlepool vessel was left with a bad list as she took on water herself.

The Stanfirth was a big vessel. She had a crew of 42 and was filled with a cargo of phosphates. After her rescue, the Heronspool’s crew and captain were later praised by the Stanfirth’s captain J. Davies who said he had never seen seamanship than that shown by the men of the Hartlepool ship.