Tuesday, August 03, 2021

The sea tragedy the day after England won the World Cup

Old newspapers and newsreels can bring back to life tragedies and scandals that have long dropped out of public memory. 

I remember my shock at discovering that the death of a child on a farm under the Stiperstones in 1945 had driven war news off the front pages and led to changes in childcare law. At least the story of Dennis O'Neill is now known more widely than it was.

So here is another forgotten tragedy. In 1966, the day after England won the World Cup, 31 people lost their lives when a pleasure cruise went wrong.

The MV Darlwyne, which was hardly fit for the open sea, sailed from Falmouth to Fowey. Despite bad weather, it set off on the return voyage and was never seen again.

Twelve bodies were retrieved in the following days, along with some fragments of the boat, but it was not until 2016 that its final resting place was located off Dodman Point.

Accounts of the tragedy suggest it received less prominence than would be expected because the country was busy celebrating victory in the World Cup.

Peter Bessell, then Liberal MP for Bodmin, spoke in the Commons some days after the Darlwyne disappeared and claimed that the searches for it had lacked urgency.

He even suggested that the 31 passengers and crew, eight children among them, might still be alive. Sadly, that proved to be the nonsense it must have sounded at the time.

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