RNLB Mona (ON 775)

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Career RNLI FLAG.png
Operator: Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Builder: J. Samuel White
In service: 1935–-
Official Number: ON 775
General characteristics
Class & type: Watson-class
Length: 45 ft 6 in (13.87 m)

RNLB Mona (ON 775) was a Watson-Class lifeboat based at Broughty Ferry in Scotland, that capsized during a rescue attempt, with the loss of her entire crew of eight men. The Mona was built in 1935, and, in her time, saved 118 lives.

The loss of the Mona[edit]

At 0313 hours on 8 December 1959, the Mona was launched to assist the North Carr Lightship which was reported adrift in St Andrews Bay.[1] Weather conditions were exceptionally severe with a strong south-easterly gale and the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat was the only boat in the area able to launch. The Mona was seen clearing the Tay and heading south into St Andrews Bay. Her last radio message was at 4.48am, and after a helicopter search she was found capsized on Buddon Sands. Her crew of eight were all drowned. The North Carr reef is off the coast of Fife. The lightvessel, later replaced by a beacon, is now berthed at Victoria Dock, Dundee harbour.

As The Mona was struggling to reach the North Carr, the Lightship's crew of six were able to drop their spare anchor. They were all rescued alive and well by a helicopter the next morning, 24 hours after the first call for help had gone out.

The Mona disaster was the subject of an official investigation, in which the boat was described as having been 100% seaworthy at the time of the accident.

According to a letter to the Dundee Evening Telegraph, in January 2006, "Among some seamen, it was believed the vessel was tainted with evil, and they resolved to exorcise the boat in a 'viking ritual'". The Mona was taken to Cockenzie harbour on the river Forth in the dead of night, stripped of anything of value, chained to the sea wall, and burnt. The burning was done with the knowledge and permission of Lord Saltoun, the chairman of the Scottish Lifeboat Council. Questions were raised in the House of Commons about the destruction of a lifeboat built with public subscription.

The incident was immortalised in song by Peggy Seeger entitled The Lifeboat Mona, which is sung by The Dubliners, commemorating its great achievements and the hardships the crew endured.

Names of crewmen[edit]

  • Ronald Grant
  • George Smith
  • Alexander Gall
  • John Grieve
  • George Watson
  • James Ferrier
  • John T Grieve
  • David Anderson

The scale of the tragedy stunned the local community, and a disaster fund raised more than £77,000 in less than a month.

By the time a relief lifeboat arrived at Broughty Ferry two weeks after the disaster, 38 volunteers had signed up to form a new crew.[2]

The names of the men who died are commemorated on a plaque on the side of the present day boat house.[3]

Local newspaper the Dundee Courier and Evening Telegraph was at the forefront of coverage of the disaster. In 2006, on his retirement, deputy chief reporter Ron Skelton told regional journalism website HoldTheFrontPage that it was his work in covering The Lifeboat Mona disaster that convinced him his future lay in hard news.[4]

The 50th anniversary of the disaster, in 2009, saw a number of memorial events organised to mark the occasion. These included a memorial concert on the actual anniversary date [5] and talks entitled The Mona Remembered at the local church on 23 and 25 November.[6] [7]

There was also an appeal for relatives of the lost crew to come forward.[2]


External links[edit]