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The Orinsay Drownings
The Orinsay Drownings
On the fateful morning of 13 February 1945, the four Orinsay men left home early and joined a number of other vessels fishing in the area. One by one, the other boats returned to shore and the crew of four was left behind still hauling their nets. Although the weather was deteriorating, with the wind gusting strongly, no anxiety was felt for them till late afternoon. As the wind increased and the sea began to rise, their families in Orinsay took refuge in the belief that the boat had sought shelter in Lemreway Bay. Eventually a search was organised for the missing men and despite heavy weather and gathering darkness, the upturned boat was found drifting near the nets. The men lost were:
Louis Macmillan (70) of 14 Orinsay, and his brother,
Murdo Macmillan (Am Buitealair), 11 Orinsay. Both were experienced fishermen; they were found close to the nets.
Murdo Kennedy (Murchadh 'an Cheanadaidh) (62), 13 Orinsay. After service during the Great War, Murdo crewed fishing boats and later established a coach service from Pairc to Stornoway in the 1930s. His body was not recovered.
John Kennedy, Iain Choinnich Cheanadaidh (47), 10 Orinsay. John had served in the Merchant Navy. His body was discovered closer to shore, as he had managed to free himself from his seaboots and had tried to swim to shore.
Less than a month later, on 11 March 1945, further tragedy struck. It was a grey, cloudy day, with a calm sea and a light west-south-westerly, but March weather can easily change its mood. To the fishermen of the time, it was the season for the great lines. Such was the thought in the minds of these seasoned mariners. As they headed into Loch Shell, the wind was picking up and suddenly a cold, eerie, violent force hit the sail from the bow. It pressed down on the boat and she went under by the stern. The four men clung to the upturned boat, but as it pitched in the swirling seas, it threw them off again. Once crew member eventually got ashore and crawled up the slope towards 1 Orinsay to raise the alarm. A boat was launched but it was too late. All they found were boards and oars tossing on the drift, and finally the boat itself riding low in the water. The lost lives:
Kenneth Kennedy, Coinneach Sgiathanach (68), 5 Orinsay. Kenneth had worked as a gillie on the Eishken Estate.
John Carmichael, Seonaidh 'an a Phiobair (63), 3 Orinsay.
Donald Nicolson, Donald Ruadh Choinnich (54), 7 Orinsay.
Donald's brother Angus Nicolson, Aonghas an Nogaich (55), 9 Orinsay was the only survivor.