Mayor’s condolences after death of Princess Victoria survivor

William (Billy) McAllister at the 2016 Princess Victoria anniversary service in Larne . INLT 05-206-AM
William (Billy) McAllister at the 2016 Princess Victoria anniversary service in Larne . INLT 05-206-AM

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim has expressed his condolences following the death of one of the last remaining survivors of the Princess Victoria ferry disaster.

William McAllister, known as Billy, passed away on Friday July 28.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Cllr. Paul Reid.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Cllr. Paul Reid.

The sea disaster, regarded as one of the worst in peacetime maritime history, claimed the lives of 133 people.

The Larne man, known as Billy, was a 17-year-old galley boy on the ship when it sank between Stranraer and Larne in January 1953.

His funeral took place at St. MacNissi’s Church, in Larne, on Monday morning, followed by burial at Larne Cemetery.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said: “I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of William McAllister.

“The sinking of the Princess Victoria devastated families and communities here, in Stranraer and further afield.

“More than six decades may have passed, but the pain and sense of loss is still felt.

“Mr McAllister attended a number of poignant services in memory of all those who perished and bravely recalled the horrors that unfolded on that fateful journey.

“He managed to rebuild his life, but told how we was haunted by the almost unimaginable ordeal he and so many others endured.

“Mr McAllister said it was extremely difficult for him to recall the Princess Victoria tragedy, but that he felt it vital to do so in order to keep the memories of the victims alive. That is testament to the type of man he was.

“I offer my deepest sympathies and prayers to Mr McAllister’s family and friends at this sad time.”

Mr. McAllister spoke to the Larne Times a few years ago at an anniversary service held annually in Larne, recalling his memories of the fateful journey in January 1953.

He said: “I got up at six o’clock that morning and the ship was due to set sail at seven.

“When we got out to the open sea, the ship was hammered about by large waves, and the stern gates to the car deck burst open. The crew couldn’t get them shut, water flooded into the ship and as the cargo shifted, the ferry listed onto her side.”

Billy was eventually rescued by the RNLI lifeboat the Sir Samuel Kelly, from Donaghadee, County Down.

However, his cousin William Hooper was not so fortunate - his body was recovered from the sea the following day.

“The memories of that day are as fresh in my mind today as they were in the days after the sinking.”

Mr. McAllister emphasised the importance of commemorating those who died that day.

A memorial is located at Chaine Memorial Road where a commemoration service is held annually on January 31.

Billy added: “These commemoration services are very poignant for me, but they are important as they help to keep alive the memory of those who died that day.”

Mr. McAllister is survived by sons Stephen, Brendan, Kieran, Patrick and Michael and daughter Patricia.