This vessel was launched as the Admiralty Round Table class trawler Sir Galahad in 1942 by Hall Russell & Co in Aberdeen (Yard No. 763). She had dimensions of 126.2’ x 23.7’x 14.0’ and a nett tonnage of 103 tons. She served as a minesweeper during WWII after which she was sold to Walker Steam Trawlers of Aberdeen in 1947 and a change of name to Star of Freedom (A283). In March 1956 she was again sold to Milford Fisheries Ltd of Milford Haven and renamed the Robert Limbrick.
The storm that hit the Scottish west coast on the 5th February, 1957 was the worst in living memory with hurricane force winds gusting to 120 mph. On land many roads were blocked by fallen trees, communications were cut as telephone lines came down and there was widespread damage to buildings across the country. For two Milford Haven trawlers caught off the west coast of Mull in mountainous seas, it was a living nightmare. They kept in continuous radio contact as they headed towards the relative shelter of the Sound of Mull but they could not see each other, as the stinging spray, ripped from the crests of the huge breakers by the howling wind, reduced visibility to almost nil.
The skippers of the trawlers, the Westcar and the Robert Limbrick were friends and encouraged each other through the night but it was clear that to attempt to enter the Sound in the dark was too dangerous and they concluded that they would have to ride it out in open water until daybreak. Both vessels were off the north west coast of Mull waiting for daylight when around 05.10am William Robson, skipper of the Westcar was shaken by a shout from the radio – ” Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Robert Limbrick hard aground. He heard an order to get out the rubber dinghy then ominous silence. No further contact with the Robert Limbrick was ever made. The position of the twelve unfortunate crewmen aboard can only be imagined as she was swept by huge waves beating against the exposed west coast of Mull.
An extensive search was immediately set-in motion and by first light trawlers, lifeboats and aircraft were en route to the last know position which was thought to be off Ardmore Bay, Mull. Trawlers Westcar, Samuel Hewett and Ocean Harvest scoured the coastline and eventually located the wreck of the Robert Limbrick at Quinish Point, 4 miles south west of Ardmore Bay.
Two local men; John Farquharson and Archie MacDougall from Dervaig who had been listening to the drama unfold on the radio, found the remains of the trawler hard aground on the rocks at Quinish Point. An initial inspection found the bodies of two crew ashore with the remains of the ships boat and a rubber dinghy but there was no sign of the rest of the crew. All twelve crew members perished that night, some of their bodies were washed ashore along the west coast of Mull over the next few days. The trawler became a total wreck. Examination of the wreckage revealed that the propeller blades were stripped from the shaft but this almost certainly happened when she ran aground. The bridge telegraph indicated engine stopped but no mechanical fault could be found. It was concluded that the loss of the ship was entirely due to the horrendous weather conditions that night.
The stark loss of life to the Welsh port shocked the community. Twelve lives lost, twenty children lost their fathers, families left grief stricken. This tragedy put in context the real price of the fish that trawler crews risked their lives to catch.
We have not been able to establish if there was any attempt to salvage the vessel. Based on experience of most shipwrecks in shallow water, some salvage will have taken place both at the time of to wrecking and then later once the vessel had been written off or sold. Based on the aerial photograph of the Robert Limbrick ashore and additional historical information, we believe that whatever remains of the Robert Limbrick will lie close to position 56°37.834’N, 006°13.835’W in depths of 3-5 metres. This position is shown on the wreck chart below where the prominent inlet in the rock platform can be seen and we have positioned a shape to reflect where the hull of the vessel would have been at loss. Due to the exposure of the site, it is likely that some small debris lies on top of the rock platform and towards the HW line, while pieces of engine and hull may lie among the kelp covered reefs in shallow water.