The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Lord Percy and other Swona shipwrecks

Swona was notorious for shipwrecks owing to its position in the Pentland Firth.

In 1930 a Grimsby trawler, Lord Percy, was heading home when she struck the rocks on the west side of the island. The skipper drowned while they were laying out an anchor. The crew were later rescued by fishermen on Swona. The trawler slid off the rocks and sank into deep water.

The following year the Pennsylvania, from Copenhagen, struck the west side of the island during fog. The crew were rescued and some of the cargo salvaged by the Danish tug Gorm. The vessel was bought by the men of Stroma and the rest of the cargo was salvaged before the ship broke up.

In 1937 Johanna Thorden, a 3,223grt Finnish ship homeward bound with a general cargo on her maiden voyage, ran ashore on the Tarf Tail, Swona, in a haze and south-east gale, having mistaken the new Tor Ness light for the south Swona light. Her distress signals were not seen and her master thought they were on Little Skerry. The lifeboats were launched and 25 people left in the first one. Soon after, the ship broke in two and the remaining 12 crew left in the second boat.

The gale had increased with a very heavy sea and the flood tide swept the boats eastward past the Pentland Skerries. The second lifeboat was driven into Newark Bay, South Ronaldsay, where she capsized with the loss of four of the survivors. The remaining eight were rescued from the shore.

There is more about the Johanna Thorden - and a survivor's account - elsewhere in this section of the website.