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.
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.
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.