7th February 1950

A cargo ship sinks, killing its crew

The MV Killurin was a 565-ton cargo ship, which ran aground and was wrecked on the Sillette reef, close to Noirmont Point. At 4am on 7 February 1950, she had been approaching St Helier with a cargo of slag from Hull. Three of her nine crew were killed, including the captain, 47-year-old Leo Kirwan, who had stayed on the bridge until the bitter end. The other six were rescued by the lifeboat and a nearby fishing boat.

The crew of the fishing boat had watched the collision, having realised some time before it occurred that the Killurin was doomed if she continued on the heading she had taken. They tried to warn the crew by flashing their lights, but the ship continued regardless, eventually striking the rocks with her bow.

Lifeboats capsized

The crew launched one of the lifeboats and three of them boarded it, but the sea was so rough it turned it over, tipping them out and forcing them to hang on until rescue arrived. The men then spent up to a fortnight in hospital before they could return to homes in Ireland.

The bodies of the boatswain and captain were repatriated one week after the collision for burial in Wexford and Dublin respectively.

Captain Kirwan’s son, Tom, visited Jersey in 2005 to present the St Helier lifeboat, which had recovered the body of the drowned boatswain, with a donation in memory of his lost father.

The MV Killurin had been built in 1946 by the Clelands Shipbuilding company in Wallsend, now Swan & Hunter, so was still a young boat when she sank.


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