The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

The Manchester City

On 31 October 1898 a new 9,000-tonne ship called the Manchester City was on her maiden voyage.

She was sailing from Shields to St John's, New Brunswick when she met such stormy seas in the Pentland Firth that the quadrant of her steering gear was carried away. Both her anchors were lost in the flood tide about a mile north of Dunnet Head.

The Manchester City from an old newspaper article

Helpless, this new vessel was carried east and west by the angry currents. It looked as though she would end up being thrown against the rocks and destroyed. The crew sent out signals of distress and the Longhope Lifeboat answered the call.

The Coxswain was Benjamin Stout, who is reported to have said, "We'll try to save the ship as well as the crew".

He managed to steer the lifeboat within jumping distance of the ship and, with one leap, Bill Mowat jumped onto the ship's ladder. Like a gymnast, he sprung onto the deck. It was said that his boots had to be cut from his swollen feet days afterwards.

Mowat took control of the ship and rigged up a temporary steering gear. He then piloted the ship out of the Firth and sailed her down the east coast to Noss Head. Two tugs from Shields towed her away.