The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

The loss of the Dorbie

On 9 January 1932, an SOS signal shot into the sky. This was the last act from the Dorbie, a trawler from Hull.

As soon as the signal was seen, the men from Brims, Hoy answered the call. The wind so was fierce that one of the men had to crawl on all fours to reach the lifeboat.

Coxswain John Swanson steered the boat into the crashing waves and sea spray. Visibility was very poor and it was only signalling by the keepers of the Dunnet Head Lighthouse that showed the crew that the wreck lay on the Orkney side of the Pentland Firth, eight miles away.

A huge bonfire that was set alight on the cliffs gave an indication of where the Dorbie had been driven by the tides. Three of her crew had jumped overboard and had been pulled ashore. The remainder were perched precariously on the rigging and expected at any moment to be thrown into the sea.

The lifeboat managed to reach the men in time and eight lives were saved. A Silver Medal was awarded to John Swanson for this brave rescue.