Girdleness and the river mouth there is the Greyhope Bay, memorable as the
scene of the most disastrous shipwreck ever recorded in our local annals.
On the morning of the 1st of April, 1813, five whaling vessels were riding
at anchor in the roads when a sudden tempest came on from the SE. Two of
the ships weighed and stood out to sea; but as part of the crew of one,
the ill-fated "Oscar," had been left ashore, she was obliged to put about
and keep near the land. By the time that all her men were on board she was
far inshore. Meantime the wind had died away, and from the heavy roll of
the sea, and a strong tide setting in, she was unable to clear the
Girdleness. Soon after the gale sprang up with increased violence; it was
accompanied with a dense shower of snow, and now blew from the NE. The
vessel in vain endeavoured to ride it out; and after dragging her anchor
she was driven ashore in the Greyhope on a large reef. The tremendous sea
which broke over her threatened instant destruction, and the only hope of
safety for the crew was that of effecting a communication with the land.
For this purpose the mainmast was hewed down in such a manner as that it
might fall towards the beach; but it dropped alongside the vessel. A
number of the seamen who had clung to the rigging were hurled into the sea
along with it, many were swept from the deck, and others who attempted to
swim to the land were borne down by the floating wreck or overwhelmed by
the fury of the surf. Only the forecastle now remained above water, and
for a a short time the master and three sailors were observed upon it,
imploring the assistance which none could give. Of a crew of forty-four
men only two were saved.
The bodies recovered from the sea were laid in one
long grave at the east end of St Fittick's Churchyard. Old folks still
living in Torry recall the figure of a broken old woman wandering among
the fisher huts and seeking alms at their doors. Her "all" went down in
the "Oscar," which carried her husband and three sons, and the poor
fisher folk who had seen them done to death, almost within arm's length
of help, never refused to share their crust with the lone woman.
The Book of St Fittick
By T W Ogilivie