Lu­ing re­calls tragedy that claimed sailors

The Oban Times - - LEISURE -

THE peo­ple of Lu­ing com­mem­o­rated the 80th an­niver­sary last Wed­nes­day of the tragic loss of 15 Lat­vian sea­men when the SS He­lena Faul baums was wrecked on the rocks of Bel­nahua, a nearby isle, on Oc­to­ber 26, 1936.

The Lat­vian am­bas­sador in Lon­don sent red roses and a let­ter of thanks to Lu­ing Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, which laid them at the grave­stones and read out the let­ter to the as­sem­bled mem­bers of the com­mu­nity on the an­niver­sary on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. The Lat­vian flag was hung on the Cul­lipool flag­pole in sight of Bel­nahua as a mark of re­spect.

The Lu­ing His­tory Group has an ex­hi­bi­tion at the At­lantic Is­lands Cen­tre on Lu­ing, which tells the full story of the tragedy and the links be­tween Latvia and Lu­ing which fol­lowed. The cen­tre’s café served spe­cial Lat­vian-style dishes, such as the tra­di­tional hunter’s stew bi­gos, all week. The ex­hi­bi­tion will con­tinue in fu­ture weeks to give ev­ery­one who wishes to see it a chance to do so.

Lu­ing His­tory Group sec­re­tary Zoë Flem­ing said: ‘The ship­wreck of the SS He­lena Faulbaums is an im­por­tant part of Lu­ing’s his­tory and the tragic loss of these Lat­vian sea­men will al­ways be re­mem­bered by the peo­ple of Lu­ing.

‘On the night of Oc­to­ber 26, 1936, a se­vere gale was blow­ing and the ship foundered with just four sur­vivors who swam and scram­bled on to Bel­nahua, from where they were res­cued next day by the Is­lay lifeboat. They were taken to the Cri­nan Ho­tel and then to a Glas­gow hos­pi­tal for treat­ment. The cap­tain was re­turned to Latvia for burial but the other 14 men were buried to­gether on Lu­ing in the grave­yard,’ she said.

‘The search for the sea­men, fol­lowed by their fu­neral ser­vice and buri­als on the is­land, was car­ried out by the com­mu­nity on Lu­ing, and this marked the start of a long con­nec­tion with Latvia that con­tin­ues to this day. In 1938, the first visit by a group from Latvia brought two memo­rial grave­stones and medals of hon­our were awarded by the Lat­vian min­is­ter in Lon­don to sev­eral men for their lead­er­ship dur­ing the res­cue and search. Gifts of a com­mu­nion plate and cup and a wooden lectern were made to Kilchat­tan Church on Lu­ing,’ she con­tin­ued.

‘By 1940, Latvia was oc­cu­pied by the Soviet Union and no vis­i­tors from there could tend the graves but the Lu­ing peo­ple kept their mem­o­ries alive. A small group of Lat­vian ex­iles ar­rived in 1983 and this was fol­lowed in 1986 for the 50th an­niver­sary by a large group of ex­iles.

‘This visit was or­gan­ised by a Lu­ing man and the com­mu­nity wel­comed them with sev­eral events on the is­land. A small flotilla of boats went to the site of the wreck where wreaths of flow­ers were thrown into the sea. Since then more vis­its be­tween Lat­vians and lo­cals have been made, in­clud­ing one of the sur­vivors and his grand­son re­vis­it­ing Bel­nahua to tell his mov­ing story,’ she con­cluded.

The Lat­vian flag flies in com­mem­o­ra­tion on Oc­to­ber 26, 2016, with the scene of the tragedy, Bel­nahua, be­hind.

Lu­ing is­landers laid a wreath at the memo­rial stone ded­i­cated to 15 Lat­vian sailors who died on Oc­to­ber 26, ex­actly 80 years ago.

The fu­neral of the Lat­vian sailors in 1936.

Lat­vian vis­i­tors on the 50th an­niver­sary in 1986.

A flotilla laid wreaths in the water on the 50th an­niver­sary of the tragedy.

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