On Monday 2nd April at 2.05pm BBC Radio Scotland will broadcast the story of the shipwreck of the SS Norge in June 1904. The SS Norge sank off Rockall with a loss of over 635 people, mostly European and Russian emigrants, who were on their way to America in search of a better life. The disaster preceded the loss of the Titanic by 8 years, yet the lessons that could have been learned from the SS Norge shipwreck were not heeded. As with the Titanic, the SS Norge did not have enough lifeboats to rescue all those aboard, and due to poor design, not all the lifeboats could be successfully launched.
The survivors spent several days at sea before five of the lifeboats were rescued. Many of those rescued were brought to Stornoway. The Stornoway Poorhouse Minutes of September 1904 records:
“During this quarter we had a very busy time with the ship wrecked folk from the ‘SS Norge’ – this having reference to the admission to house on 4th July of 52 men, women and children as some of the survivors of from the Scandinavian- American emigrant SS Norge lost at Rockhall on 28th June.”
The minute book also records a letter written by the captain of the SS Norge:
“Allow me to convey the sincerest and warmest thanks to you and all the inhabitants of Stornoway for your kindness, hospitality and goodwill to all of us poor shipwrecked and sick persons. We all feel deeply indebted and thankful. I cannot find words to explain my gratitude to all. Everyone (rich and poor) have done so much, and been so kind to us foreigners. The children and sick have been nursed as careful by your ladies as if they were children of their own. Everyone had a kind word to us. I think no other place in the world would have done what you have done to us. All my life I will think of you with the highest esteem, gratitude and thankfulness. God reward you for all.
With sincerest of high estimation and thankfulness for the survivors of SS Norge landed at Stornoway.
V Gundel, late Master SS Norge”
The people of Stornoway generously donated shelter, clothes, food and money to the survivors, though sadly a few still perished having made it to land, and were interred in Sandwick Cemetery.
The photo above shows some of the survivors outside Coulregrein Poorhouse. The image below is of more survivors, and Provost Anderson, who was instrumental in the care of those who made it to Stornoway.