Princess Victoria disaster anniversary

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The loss of the Princess Victoria ferry is to be marked at a commemoration service on the shores of Larne on Friday, January 31.

The sinking of the ship during a severe weather storm 61 years ago was a great tragedy for the towns of Larne and Stranraer, and is considered to be one of the UK’s worst peacetime sea disasters.

The Princess Victoria, one of the first roll-on roll-off ferries, set sail at 7.45am on January 31, 1953 on her 745th sailing.

After leaving the relative shelter of Loch Ryan, off Corsewell Point, the ship encountered the full fury of a gale; struggling against winds, with recorded gusts of over 80mph, and mountainous seas more than 50ft high.

Despite the valiant efforts of her crew, lifeboat men and other seafarers, the Princess Victoria foundered off the coast of Northern Ireland, within sight of the Copeland Islands near the entrance of Belfast Lough.

As was usual for ferries, no passenger manifest was kept so it is not possible to state with certainty how many people were on board when she set sail.

It is thought that some 177 people were on board, including 49 members of crew, and that the disaster claimed the lives of 134 people; not a single woman or child survived.

The tragedy had a huge impact on Larne, with 27 of the victims from the town.

Each year the disaster is commemorated at the Princess Victoria Memorial on Chaine Memorial Road.

The event is organised by the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes MV Princess Victoria Lodge in conjunction with Larne Borough

This will be the 61st commemoration service, which will take place at 11am.

Members of the public are welcome to return to Larne Leisure Centre for light refreshments following the commemoration service.

For more information, contact Larne Tourist Information Centre on 028 2826 0088.