The 70th anniversary of the sinking of the MV Princess Victoria in the mouth of Belfast Lough with the loss of 137 souls will be commemorated at a special service in Belfast Cathedral on January 29.
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 to the sea that day were residents of Belfast, along with the many crew members whose homes were in 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 is being 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 will lead the singing and Dean Stephen Forde, who was rector of Larne for 18 years, will be preacher. All are invited to this 3.30pm service, which will be one of a number held to commemorate 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, will 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 is an important moment. It allows 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 Princess Victoria remains the occasion of the greatest loss of life at sea in British waters since the end of the Second World War.”
The Dean added: “I very much hope that anyone who has a personal link with those who were lost, or rescued or involved in that day, and especially those with a Belfast connection, will join us for this service of reflection and remembering.
“We also look forward to welcoming those who are involved in today’s maritime trade in shipping, and those whose work is in the ports of this province.”