Memories of a drama at sea

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

IN our final Family Roots of 2014, we take a last look at our biggest story of the year.

The tale which prompted the biggest response was that of the Stanfirth. In August, we told how an Antarctic freeze gripped the seas off southern Australia, and the crew of the 7,200 tonne vessel Stanfirth needed urgent help.

It was a 7,174 tonne Hartlepool vessel the Heronspool which overcame the odds, stood by the Stanfirth and stayed there for four days.

We wanted to know if anyone remembered the 1951 drama and the response we got was superb.

George Blackwood was part of the crew of the Heronspool and his son got in touch to tell us: “My dad was a Heronspool engineer at the time of the incident. I received the newspapers after my dad’s death in 1996.”

They tell a story of a crew which never gave up.

Anne Robertson remembers the rescue well because she got a piano out of it.

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.”

Amelia Jackson’s husband Gordon spent many a year at sea. But perhaps the most memorable adventure for this Horden lad was the day his ship was rescued in a typhoon 10,000 miles away in Australia.

He was part of the Stanfirth crew and Amelia told us: “They had no refrigeration and had to throw all the food overboard.”

Thanks to everyone who contributed to stories this year and we want more genealogists to get in touch in 2015.

Contact Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk