Remembering the Crew of the Premier

The Premier INS 121 - Photo courtesy of Derek Main.


An image of the Campbeltown-built Kestrel INS 121 (Yard No. 018) during her sea trials in Campbeltown. Published in the Campbeltown Courier on 16th May, 1974. Courtesy of Campbeltown Library.

The Premier INS 121 (formerly the Kestrel INS 121). Photo courtesy of Derk Main.

Today is the the 29th anniversary of the sinking of the Premier INS 121 with the tragic loss of all 6 hands. The Premier was originally built at Campbeltown Shipyard in 1974 as the Kestrel INS 121 for Ian Sutherland & Partners of Hopeman and was renamed the Solan in 1978 and then the Premier in 1985. She capsized, engulfed by a huge wave and sank during atrocious weather, 30 miles east of Lerwick, on 12th December 1990. The crew members who lost their lives were:

John “Ned” Edwards (36 years).

Joe Edwards (34 years).

Neil Edwards (24 years)

Sandy Main (26 years).

Billy Main (33 years).

John Ross (45 years).

They left behind them devastated communities in Burghead, Hopeman and Lossiemouth. Our thoughts are with their families and friends, today and always.

Six lost as sea fury swamps Moray boat – newspaper cutting courtesy of Bob Anderson.

Filed for The Guardian, 12 December 1990 by Rob Edwards

Six fishermen, including three brothers, were feared drowned yesterday after their trawler capsized 30 miles east of Shetland in appalling weather conditions.

The upturned hull of the Premier, which came from the small Morayshire fishing village of Hopeman near Lossiemouth, and one of its empty life rafts, were seen by rescuers yesterday morning. By the evening the 74-foot boat had sunk and no survivors or bodies had been found despite an intensive air and sea rescue operation.

Winds were reported to be gusting up to 90 miles an hour and waves reaching 80 feet high. Conditions on floating oil platforms in the same part of the North Sea were so dangerous that over 200 non-essential personnel were airlifted to safety.

The search for the missing fishermen, which had involved an RAF Nimrod, three helicopters and at least two rescue boats, was called off at dusk yesterday. The hope of any of the men now being found alive is extremely remote.

The missing men include skipper John Edwards and his younger brothers, Joe and Neil. The youngest, Neil Edwards, only joined the trip – the Premier’s last before Christmas – as a last-minute replacement.

Twenty-six year old Sandy Main from Burghead near Hopeman is also missing. His father, a retired fisherman also called Sandy, said it would have happened in the “blink of an eye” as the sea swamped the boat. The other men missing are believed to be John Ross and Billy Main.

Hopeman’s baptist minister, Bill Orr, said that the first reaction of the close-knit fishing community was disbelief that such a tragedy could have happened. Then came shock, numbness and trauma “at the thought of so many families being bereaved at Christmas”.

In 1978 another Hopeman boat, the Acacia Wood, capsized in bad weather with the loss of nine crewmen after encountering freak waves. Nearly 150 lives have been lost in Scottish seas in the past 20 years.

Last month, the fishing boat Antares sank in the Clyde after its nets were snagged by one of the Royal Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines. The wreck, which led to the deaths of four men, was raised from the seabed by the navy earlier this week.

The loss of the Premier was raised in the House of Commons yesterday by the local MP, Scottish Nationalist Margaret Ewing. She said that grief had engulfed Hopeman and its neighbouring communities of Burghead and Lossiemouth and called for an early statement to be made to the house.

She was supported by Conservative backbencher, Alick Buchanan Smith MP (Kincardine and Deeside) and Labour MP Dr Norman Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow). The Speaker, Bernard Weatherill, said the matter could be raised in the fisheries debate scheduled for today.

“In just two tragic incidents in a period of three weeks Scotland has lost more fishermen, I think I’m correct in saying, than we lost in the whole of last year”, Dr Godman said.

You can read the MAIB report here.

Daily Record report on the the loss of the Premier’s crew members. [Page 1] – published on the 13th Dec 1990. Courtesy of Danny McGeachy.

Daily Record report on the the loss of the Premier’s crew members. [Pages 2 and 3] – published on the 13th Dec 1990. Courtesy of Danny McGeachy.

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  1. The worst nightmare I’ve ever felt. The families were absolutely heartbroken I can’t even begin to imagine the pain they went through. My cousin Sandy was aboard the premier I will never forget hearing what had happened on the Grampian news. Sandy was a kind young man and was always smiling, I used to dance to a song at the former red Craig hotel disco. Genesis turn it on again. He was a good cousin and I know we will meet again rip Sandy xx

    • Hi Julie, so sorry for your loss – it was a terrible tragedy – devastating for such a close knit community. My thoughts are with you and the families… Jan, Project Coordinator.


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