An island museum hopes to raise £30,000 for essential maintenance to keep alive the stories of the many men and women who have lived – and died – on the seas around the north of Scotland.
The campaign will also raise cash to mark 50 years since a tragic event that saw the loss of its entire RNLI crew.
Longhope RNLI and Longhope Lifeboat Museum Trust in Hoy, Orkney are planning commemorative events for March 17 next year.
The group hopes to have brought its building, a former RNLI station, up to modern standards in time for the events.
Next March will mark half a century since the loss of eight members of the volunteer crew – an event that is remembered alongside many others in the popular island museum.
Kevin Kirkpatrick, the coxswain of RNLI Longhope lifeboat and chairman of the museum trust, has a strong family connection with the tragedy, as his grandfather, the late Dan Kirkpatrick, was lost on the fateful night.
Mr Kirkpatrick said: “We at the Trust are trying to raise funds to help us restore and maintain the Longhope Lifeboat Museum, which was the lifeboat station at the time of the disaster.”
The Longhope Lifeboat Museum tells the story of the old lifeboat station through the powerful events and rescues at sea, while also remembering former crew members.
There are some remarkable poems on display, some of them about the disaster in 1969.
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These were written by people who wanted to express their deepest feelings of sorrow, show respect for those who were lost, and sympathise with those loved ones left behind.
Alongside a full-size lifeboat, on display are an interesting mixture of old artefacts, literature and information associated with former Longhope lifeboats and past crew members, which are displayed around the museum.
Mr Kirkpatrick added: “The museum was founded in 1999 and is run by the Longhope Lifeboat Museum Trust, a group of local volunteer enthusiasts.
“It relies solely on public donations and entry is free.
“We need to carry out essential maintenance to ensure the survival of these precious items and prepare it for the commemoration next March.
“We appeal for your help to make this possible and sincerely thank you in advance for any donations offered.”
Donations can be made online at www.gofundme.com/longhope-lifeboat-museum.
Lifeboat crew perished while on rescue call-out
On the night of March 17, 1969, shortly after 8pm, Longhope lifeboat was launched under the experienced control of coxswain, Dan Kirkpatrick, from the small village of Brims.
It was responding to a mayday call by the captain of the 2,300 ton Liberian cargo steamer, “Irene” which was drifting out of control in a force nine, south-easterly gale.
The captain of the “Irene” gave her position as 18 miles off South Ronaldsay, but she was actually only three miles off the east coast.
At 9.30pm, the TGB was sighted by lighthouse keepers in a new position at Pentland Skerries in line with Lother Rock, about four miles south-east of her last reported position.
The TGB was now in an almost deadly situation on a treacherous sea, in the middle of a storm.
The last reported signal was picked up by the Coastguard at 9.35pm, and a few minutes later she was seen for the last time, again from Pentland Skerries, in Brough Sound, between the lighthouse and Brough Ness.
At 11.05pm, Kirkwall Coastguard was asked to search the coast of South Ronaldsay south-wards for the TGB.
At 11.15pm the Kirkwall boat fired a parachute flare, but there was no answering signal.
Nothing more was seen of the Longhope lifeboat until at 1.15pm the following afternoon, when the Thurso lifeboat made the tragic discovery of her floating upside down, four miles south-west of Torness, fifteen miles away at the western entrance to the Pentland Firth.
Seven bodies were found on board, six in the cabin, the seventh, that of the coxswain, at the wheel, the eighth member of the crew, the motor mechanic, was never found.
The 17 crew of the “Irene” were rescued from the shore, where she had drifted, near Grim Ness.