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Introduction / The Island

Accidents and Wrecks

Island life inevitably has its risks and there were a number of accidents and wrecks over the years, which included loss of life. Some of these were caused crossing to and from the Pharay Holm when it had ebbed dry and the sea was then flowing through again.

There were a number of shipwrecks on the Holm. There is the story of an old ship wreck on the south end, a small smack that was carrying a load of bere meal in its hold. One man was left on the Holm to guard the ship. A small house was built for him to stay in. He used to go around the point there and say to himself “Dog’s bones”. It was a poor place, like the dried bones of a dog. The “Point of Dog’s Bones” can be seen on the map to this day.

A big ship, the “Earl of Bute” went ashore at one time. This was at the south end of Pharay in a heavy storm. One of the square sails blew out and apparently the bolt ropes went right over the island. The locals ran to the shore to see what they could do but the crew thought that they were “savages”. Two jumped into the sea and were lost. The rest got ashore. It is said that the old captain went up to Holland where an old lady was spinning. He seized the spinning wheel and threw it on the fire to get heat.

Perhaps the most well documented wreck was that of the trawler “Hope”, which went ashore on the Holm in December 1908 and resulted in medals for bravery being awarded by the King at Balmoral.

The sea particularly hit some families. John Groat from Lakequoy, the son of Robert Groat and Elizabeth Harcus, was drowned on 16th September 1857 in Fersness Bay, Eday. He was a fisherman and just fifteen. An older brother Stewart Groat drowned in 1865 and a younger sister, Agnes Groat in 1880.

John Harcus from Doggerboat was drowned on 25th June 1884. He’d been across to the Pharay Holm at the sheep clipping. He’d crossed when the tide was out but it was flowing by the time that he came back and it swept him off his feet. A boat couldn’t reach him in time. The body was recovered. This was what had happened to Agnes Groat, just four years previously.

John Harcus’s son, Peter Harcus, and James Allan, Holland were lost in 1887 when a cow being transported to Eday put its hoof through a plank. James’s father (also James Allan), and brother Robert Allan were rescued.

Robert Burgar from Cott lost his life in Lavey Sound in 1895 when coming back to Pharay, having taken the factor’s clerk over to Westray.

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