WATCH: Heroic sacrifice remembered 20 years after Green Lily rescue

Two services were held simultaneously on Sunday afternoon to remember Coastguard winchman Bill Deacon, who died 20 years ago following the courageous rescue of crew members from stricken cargo vessel Green Lily.

At a cairn, built by Bressay residents in memory of Mr Deacon’s heroism, members of the Coastguard laid one wreath whilst at sea – near where the Green Lily was lost – the winchman’s son Alan Deacon and lifeboat coxswain on the day Hewitt Clark laid two more wreaths.

The dramatic rescue, one of the most memorable in Shetland’s history, saw a force 11 storm and 12-metre high seas batter the ship off the coast of Bressay after the vessel’s engine failed.

Coastguard helicopters, the Lerwick lifeboat and three tugs responded to the ship’s mayday call as it drifted towards the shore at speeds of up to two knots per hour.

Members of the RNLI and Coastguard raced to rescue the crew from the ship before she hit the rocks. The incredible seamanship shown by Mr Clark, one of the most decorated coxswain in RNLI history, resulted in five crew being rescued from the ship and earned him the RNLI Gold Medal.

Photo courtesy of RNLI

An hour later, as daylight faded, Mr Deacon was tragically swept to sea after saving the lives of the remaining ten crew aboard the ship.

A wreath laid at the cairn constructed by Bressay residents in memory of Bill Deacon’s heoic sacrifice. Photo: Keegan Murray

Among those who attended the service on Sunday were Coastguard helicopter pilot Norman Leask and David Manson, a Bressay resident and former Coastguard member, who was part of the group of residents form the island who built the cairn in memory of Mr Deacon.

Also in attendance was Bressay resident Jonathan Wills, who was an eye-witness to the tragic events.

He said: “The winchman was a hero. The conditions were terrifying, particularly after the ship hit the rocks. But he stayed on board until he’d made sure everyone else was safe. He really did give his life for those crewmen.”

The wreath laying commemorations were followed by a service of remembrance at the Shetland Museum and Archives conducted by Aubrey Jamieson of the Fishermen’s Mission. A two week exhibition in the same venue runs until 25th November.

• More in next Friday’s Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment

Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.