By the 1930’s communications had greatly improved and more information was available to the Press when reporting on any newsworthy story. In December of this year the Gourdon yawl, Branch, was caught in a storm off Findon Ness when fishing their lines and the headings in the Press and Journal literally screamed “Ordeal in Storm”, “Aberdeen Lifeboat Called Out”, and “Gourdon Yawl in Peril”. All of this about a small fishing vessel that had been caught in stormy weather off the North Kincardineshire coast but which had managed to fight its way back to Stonehaven harbour unaided. The following paragraphs form part of the report filed in the Press and Journal on Monday 5th December 1938.
“Caught in a gale off the Kincardineshire coast yesterday afternoon, the crew of the Gourdon yawl, Branch, had a perilous journey in stormy seas before reaching the shelter of Stonehaven harbour. ‘At times I thought we would be dashed against the rocks’ said Mr John Cargill, the skipper to a Press and Journal representative. ‘If our engines had failed we would have drifted helplessly before the gale’. Unknown to the crew of the yawl, the Aberdeen lifeboat Emma Constance, put to sea to their aid in response to a call from coastguards who saw the small vessel’s plight. The services of the lifeboat were not required however.
The other members of the crew of the Gourdon yawl are Mr. D. Cargill, the skipper’s brother, Mr James Middleton and Mr. A. Mowat. They were drenched by the mountainous sea which swept the deck. The boat was half filled with water when it arrived in Stonehaven. It took the vessel two and a half hours to cover a distance of eight miles from Findon Ness.
The vessel had left Stonehaven harbour about midday for the fishing grounds to pull in three lines which they had laid on Saturday. The crew recovered two of the lines, but the south-easterly gale which had swept along the coast all day increased in violence. Visibility was poor on account of the rain, and the skipper of the Branch decided to make for Stonehaven. The perilous position of the boat had been observed from the shore and an SOS was sent from Girdleness for the Aberdeen lifeboat.
Battling against a string southerly wind, heavy rain and mountainous seas, the lifeboat made its way to two miles off Findon, where the yawl was reported to be in difficulties. After a thorough search of the waters around Findon the lifeboat made for Stonehaven. Then came the signal from the shore that the yawl was safe in port.
The Branch had a fair catch of fish which was unloaded at Stonehaven. Afterwards the crew returned to Gourdon by bus. They intend returning to Findon Ness today to recover their other line”.
If this incident had happened 100 years earlier the chances are that all four crew members would have perished and the only notification that we would have had of the tragedy would have been a couple of lines in the Aberdeen Journal. We have travelled quite a journey in the previous hundred years in terms of safety and the reporting of such occurrences in the local press.