Survivor William attends commemoration service

William McAllister (right), one of the survivors of the Princess Victoria tragedy, pictured at last year's memorial service in Larne, along with George Bouma.  INLT 05-999-PR
William McAllister (right), one of the survivors of the Princess Victoria tragedy, pictured at last year's memorial service in Larne, along with George Bouma. INLT 05-999-PR
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A SERVICE commemorating those who died in the Princess Victoria disaster 60 years ago was held in Donaghadee on Sunday.

The car ferry sank off the Co Down coast after being caught up in a raging storm during a routine crossing from Stranraer to Larne on January 31, 1953.

Just 44 people survived, owing their lives to the efforts of the Sir Samuel Kelly lifeboat launched from Donaghadee, as well as other lifeboats.

And one of the few remaining survivors, Larne man William McAllister, was in attendance at the ceremony to pay tribute to those who lost their lives that terrible day.

William, who was just a teenager at the time of the sinking, was working on board the ship as a pantry boy along with his cousin William Hooper.

He was among those rescued by the Sir Samuel Kelly, but his cousin was not so fortunate – his body was recovered from the sea the day after the disaster.

Now in his late 70s, the Larne man went on to have six children and, despite his ordeal, spent the rest of his working life at sea. By the time he retired at the age of 60, he had advanced to the rank of second steward.

Prior to the service on Sunday, a lifeboat sailed out to the site of the wreck and laid a wreath. The Rev Colin Anderson of First Presbyterian Church, Donaghadee, took the service in a marquee overlooking the Sir Samuel Kelly.