The steel steam trawler Benella was launched from the yard of John Lewis and Sons Ltd., Aberdeen (Yard No 213) on 20th October 1948. She measured 180.5′ x 30.1′ x 16.0′ and her tonnage was 666 gross tons, 235 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by J Lewis delivering 1050 indicated horse power. Built for the Active Steam Fishing Co Ltd she was sold three years later to the Newington Steam Trawling Co Ltd., Hull who changed her name to James Barrie registered in Hull H15.
On 26th March 1969 the James Barrie set off from Hull destined for the Icelandic fishing grounds. She was skippered by James Brocklesby who had a crew of twenty men aboard. By midnight on 27th she was off Rattray Head and a new bearing was set to take them towards Duncansby Head. By 5pm they were approaching Duncansby Head with the skipper on the bridge. As the end of his watch at 6:30 approached he placed the third hand Alexander Laing at the wheel with instructions to call him when they were abreast of Duncansby Head and went below. At 8:45 Laing saw a light ahead which he believed to be Duncansby Head and altered course to starboard intending to give the vessel more leeway to pass Duncansby Head. Soon after the James Barrie ran aground on Louther Skerry despite desperate attempts to avoid the rocks by placing the engines at full speed in reverse.
However, the story of the wreck of the James Barrie does not finish there. Some efforts to refloat her were made but, at 06:30am on 29th March she floated off on the rising spring tide and was drifting south east in the current. A call to the Kirkwall lifeboat brought her to the drifting trawler which pulled alongside. The James Barrie was upright but down by the bow with the foot of the forecastle almost under water. They managed to rig a pump from the lifeboat and began to pump out the water from her but this had little effect so it was decided to try to tow her in to Orkney where more effective pumps could be attached. With some difficulty a line was attached and the lifeboat began to tow the James Barrie stern first towards Widewall Bay where they intended to beach her. However, as they passed Swona and entered Hoxa Sound, they encountered some rough water and, rolling badly in the swell, she finally succumbed and sank beneath the surface.
The wreck of the James Barrie lies in position 58° 48.757’N, 003° 02.296’W in 40 metres of water with a least depth clearance of 29 metres. She lies on her starboard side with the bows pointing south east and is still fairly in tact. The superstructure and bridge is still mostly in place and the engine is visible through the skylight openings. The stern section is also in tact rising from the shingle sand seabed.