The 70th anniversary of the sinking of the MV Princess Victoria in the mouth of Belfast Lough, with the loss of 137 souls, was commemorated at a special service in Belfast Cathedral on Sunday, January 29, 2023.
The Princess Victoria, a roll-on roll-off ferry which sailed the crossing from Stranraer to Larne, floundered off the Copeland Islands on January 31, 1953.
Many of those lost at sea that day were residents of Belfast, along with the many crew members whose homes were in the port towns of Larne and Stranraer in Scotland.
The dead included the Deputy Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Maynard Sinclair, and the MP for North Down, Sir Walter Smiles. There were no women or children among the survivors.
The service at Belfast Cathedral was organised by the Rev Mark Reid, Belfast and Northern Ireland Chaplain to the Mission to Seafarers, with involvement from the Flying Angel Centre, the port authorities and the Harbour Commissioners.
The King’s Chorale choir lead the singing and Dean Stephen Forde, who was rector of Larne for 18 years, was the preacher.
The service included Victoria, a unique musical elegy created by composer Ivan Black in tribute to the Princess Victoria, incorporating accordions, percussion, SOS messages and the melody of ‘Eternal Father Strong To Save.’
The service commemorated the worst post-war loss of life in British coastal waters.
Dean Forde said: “The 70th anniversary of the loss of the MV Princess Victoria may be the last occasion when significant numbers of those who were present, and even those who remember 31st of January 1953, were able to gather to recall their personal experiences of that day. Those who were in their 20s in 1953 are now in their 90s.
“This 70th anniversary service was an important moment. It allowed the memories of the last of those who were directly involved with that unforgettable day to pass on to others the call to remember, for the loss of the MV Princess Victoria remains the occasion of the greatest loss of life at sea in British waters since the end of the Second World War.”
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