HeadLine: AN OCEAN OF TEARS
Daily Record, 13/01/2000, p1
by VIVIENNE AITKEN, SHAUN MILNE & STEVE SMITH
THREE tiny fishing villages were linked by a seven-mile road of tears
yesterday – a mile for every man lost on the Solway Harvester.
As the wreck of the scallop trawler was located on the seabed off the
Isle of Man last night, the families of her crew saw their last hopes
Among the dead, all from the Whithorn area of Dumfries and Galloway,
are three men from the same family – including two brothers – and three
The tragedy has also devastated a young wife, widowed while pregnant
with her second child.
And two regular crewmen, who missed the doomed trip because of flu, are
mourning their lost friends.
The Kirkcudbright-based dredger sank as it battled through ferocious
storms 11 miles east of the Isle of Man on Tuesday night.
Rescuers believe the 70ft vessel may have toppled over after being
swamped by a massive wave as it struggled home to Scotland after
fishing for scallops in the Irish Sea.
Among those lost in the tragedy were skipper Craig Mills, 29, of
Tonderghie Road, Isle of Whithorn; his brother Robin, 33, of
Castlehill, Whithorn, and his cousin David, 18, also of Tonderghie
Also dead are auxilliary coastguard David Lyons, 17, of Glasserton
Street, Wesley Jolly, 17, of George Street, and John Murphy, 22, of
Isle Street, all Whithorn, and Martin Milligan, 26, of Forteviot
Robin Mills and David Mills had only joined the trip at the last minute
as replacements for the two crewmen who had flu.
Last night, coastguards scaled down their air and sea search as all
hopes of finding any survivors disappeared.
But talks are already under way about raising the boat.
On every corner around the dead men’s villages, people huddled in
stunned silence yesterday. They tried to speak of the loss but their
grief was too great.
Fisherman Paul Turner, who worked on the boat until a year ago, choked
back tears as he said: “Craig’s my best friend and Robin and the others
are good mates. I just can’t talk about it just now.”
Newton Stewart police sergeant Mike Kneeshaw said: “This is a
tight-knit community and they are devastated. There will be very few
families not affected by this.”
Local minister Alexander Currie broke down in tears as he told of how
he faced heartbreaking visits to the families of all the victims.
He buried his face in his hands and had to be helped away by police.
Local councillor Alistair Geddes said: “The community is numb with
shock and grief.”
He paid tribute to Craig Mills as “a superb skipper” and said the boat
was comparatively modern.
He added: “These men were the lifeblood and future of the community.”
Jim Judge, head of Douglas Ewart High School, which all seven victims
had attended, said: “Four of the young men only recently left this
school. They were lively and fun and all four were enthusiastic about
their chosen career in fishing and looking forward to life.
“The school is proud to have known and cared for them.”
Pupils at the school were being offered counselling from support staff
and Dumfries and Galloway Council said social workers were on standby
to help the communities through the tragedy.
Senior officials were due to go to the villages today to see what help
the council could offer.
In the Commons yesterday, Tony Blair led the nation’s thoughts for the
families of the dead men. He said: “Our profound sympathy is with them
Shadow Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead said: “This is the news we
all dread as fishermen head out to sea to make their living.”This
tragedy brings home to us all the ultimate price our fishing
communities can pay to put fish on our tables.
“All fishing communities live in the shadow of potential tragedy but
that does not make things easier for the families who face losing their
Scottish Fisheries Minister John Home Robertson also expressed his
He said: “My thoughts are with the families of the crewmen at what is a
very distressing time.