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Delting Disaster

In 1900, 4 boats and 22 local fishermen were lost during a storm which came on in the space of five minutes.

On the morning of 21st December 1900, seven small open boats from Firth, Mossbank and Toft set off for the winter haddock fishing. They were some 32 kilometres (20 miles) away, between the Horse of Burravpoe and Da Snap, when they were caught in a sudden and severe gale from the north-west. Many were lost during the storm which came on in the space of five minutes. The fleet were scattered. One made it to Whalsay, Skerries and Lunning but the rest were lost.

22 men were drowned, leaving 15 widows (5 of whom were pregnant), and 51 children. Firth was hit the hardest. Many of the men were great fishermen and the disaster devastated the Delting fishing industry, which never recovered. The women continued to work the crofts. Children grew up and moved away, leading to a rapid decline in population.

The plight of the families left destitute led to a lot of publicity in local and national press. The Delting Disaster Fund was set up to help those affected and it was one of Queen Victoria’s last public acts to appeal for support, making a personal donation of £20 two weeks before her death on 22nd January 1901.

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