so much to sea

Gloup Disaster

The Gloup Disaster Memorial is a statue of a woman looking out to sea with a child held in her arms.

On the 20th July 1881 this depicted the scene all along the coast at Gloup, and other coastal communities in Shetland. Women waited, and hoped that their husbands and children would return. But sadly many did not. Some believe the the Gloup Disaster was the beginning of the end for the Haaf Fishing. It could have been the point where it was realised that going so far to sea in relatively small boats, was just too big a risk, and cost in terms of lives lost.

The day of 20th July 1881, started as what is referred to as a "day atween wadders", there had been strong winds for days and the boats had been kept ashore, but the morning of the 20th dawned clear with light winds, and although there was still a heavy sea running, the men were keen to get to sea.

Going over 40 miles to the fishing grounds, using simple landmarks for navigation, the boats had no idea of what was to happen. The crews were happy that the bad weather was over. If only they could have had the benefit of modern forecasts. A fast moving depression which had formed to the west near Iceland rushed in with hurricane force winds. The crews were taken by surprise, and made every effort to reach shore, but for some crews that was impossible. Some of the boats which made shore were to report seeing boats overturned, and with no sign of life, there was nothing they could do, they had to consider the survival of their own crew. The heroism of the skippers who managed to reach shore in that storm should never be forgotten.

58 fishermen were killed and 10 boats, mainly sixareens, were lost in the storm. The coastal community was devastated and many families were destitute. There were 34 widows and 85 orphans left behind.