In the early morning of 24 March 1927, the boats, Lerwick and Margory, left Berwick harbour to fish off the coast to the south. As the weather began to deteriorate they set out to return to Berwick. The Margory returned to the harbour, facing very rough seas as it crossed the entrance. As it reached safety the skipper, Robert Tait, heard a cry from the shore that a boat was in difficulty at the harbour entrance. The Lerwick was swamped by huge waves. Despite the extreme seas, Tait returned to attempt a rescue of the four men from the floundering boat.
Under very difficult conditions, the crew of the Margory rescued Robert Borthwick. The other three on board the Lerwick: the skipper, Robert Cowe Burgon, aged 74, retired fisherman and ex-coxswain of the local lifeboat; Robert Bruce Leith, 29, motor mechanic, and William Payne, 19, all lost their lives. Their bodies washed ashore at Spittal, a few days later.
Details of the inquest were reported in the Berwick Advertiser of 31 March 1927.
The coroner, Mr H R Peters, praised the courage the crew of the Margery and the recognised the dangers regularly faced by the local fishing community. The Advertiser also reported the huge crowds that gathered at the funerals of Robert Burgon, Robert Leith and William Payne, including many members of their extended families.
Robert Burgon, skipper of the Lerwick, and Peter Dixon and his son Peter, crew of the Margory, were related by marriage.
The crew of the ‘Margory’, skipper Robert Tait, Stephen Tait. Peter Dixon senior and Peter Dixon junior, were all honoured at a civic ceremony in May 1927 and received recognition from the RNLI.
From Berwick Advertiser May 12 1927:
Berwick Fishermen honoured
Public Testimonial to Margory Crew
A thrilling story of the brave conduct of the crew of the Berwick fishing yawl ‘Margory’ was recounted by Councillor P Spowart at a Public Meeting in the Town hall on Thursday evening when silver watches, suitably inscribed, with silver guards, cheques also as a result of public subscription, an illuminated scroll giving a list of the subscribers, and a cheque from the R.N.L.I. were presented amid applause to Skipper Robert Tait, Stephen Tait, Peter Dixon, senr and Peter Dixon junr. There was a very large attendance of local people, who after the meeting, waited outside the Town hall and raised a hearty cheer when the crew descended the steps and proceeded home.
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