Tuesday, 19 January 2010


" At four o'clock on the morning of Friday 19 January 1912, the Norwegian barque Adele with eleven of a crew, and bound for Hull with a cargo of pit props, struck a rock-bound point of the island lying open to the full fury of the North Sea. Such was the strength of the gale and the state of the sea at the time that only a few waves were required to shatter in pieces and render unrecognisable all that was left of the ship. On the coming of daylight, the position of matters was clearly revealed - a portion of the after-deck, to which the crew were hanging for dear life, was all that could be seen of the wreck from the land... Providentially the part of the wreck on which the men were had gradually swung in to the south side of the point of rocks on which the vessel had first struck, thus presenting the vague possibility of a rescue being attempted from the shore.

After hours of waiting, and seas continually sweeping over them, four of the men plunged into the sea on the chance of reaching the land; two of them miraculously reached the shore, the other two were either killed or drowned.

At this juncture, Skipper William Sinclair, Constable James Cruickshank and William Wards, fisherman, volunteered to make the attempt to rescue the men still on the piece of wreck. A small open boat was obtained, and carried to the best position, from which it was resolved to make the attempt and from which the three men started.

The danger was not only from the breakers, but also from the great mass of cargo and wreckage which was being tossed hither and thither. They, however, reached the wreck to which seven of the men were still clinging. The getting of them into the boat was no easy matter, owing to the enormous seas and the frenzied haste of the shipwrecked sailors, but this was managed successfully after a time, when, watching their chance of a 'smooth' at imminent risk to their now overloaded boat, they made for the rocks from which they started and arrived there is safety."

The three brave rescuers received Bronze Medallions and £20 each from the Carnegie Hero fund which was founded in 1908. The image above shows their entries in the Carnegie Roll of Honour. The book is kept in the Andrew Carnegie birthplace museum in Dunfermline and contains over 6000 names. The medallion is the trust's highest honour and less than 200 have been awarded to date. This Andrew Carnegie is the same man who helped build libraries all over the world including the Orkney Library and Archive's previous home in Laing Street.

Information taken from Orkney Archive reference D1/980

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