Information and photographs about the wrecking of HMS Sturdy in 1940
Printed email from the son of a woman who was holidaying on Tiree in October 1940 when HMS Sturdy ran aground at Sandaig with the loss of four lives. Tells of how she and her friend rallied round to help the survivors and how they in turn gave her thank-you gifts of a spoon from the mess and the ship`s badge. Message also mentions the MacArthur family particularly Archie MacArthur, `Big` Katie MacArthur and `Wee` Callum MacArthur. Spoon, badge and photos accessioned separately 2012.94.2->.
18 July 2012: “My name is Henry Howland and I live in Herefordshire. I was born in 1945 at Bellshill, Lanarkshire. My mother (b.1918), now sadly deceased, was Scottish, my father, also now long dead, English. They met in 1941 when my father who was undergoing military training in Perthshire was hospitalised in Glasgow with a skin complaint (allergy to heather!). My mother nursed him. They married in England in 1943. A wartime romance.
The part of the story that I hope may be of interest to you took place in 1940. My mother, Elizabeth (“Bessie”) Barr as she then was, was nursing in a Glasgow hospital, Stobb Hill or Lennox Castle, I think. She had a very good friend from Tiree also nursing with her. I think that the family name was MacArthur. I have certainly got three photos of her labelled “ Tiree 1939 “. One shows her with a young man (early 20’s) labelled “Archie MacArthur “, another is labelled “MacArthur family including Big Katie“. The third shows my mother and a friend, Jane Morrow with a boy of about 6/7 called “wee Callum.” There is an another name in my memory from her nursing days, Betty Bryson. It may or may not have any relevance to the Tiree story, but I offer it up just in case. Oh, why don’t we ask these questions when people are around to answer them!
Anyway, my mother was again on holiday on Tiree with her friend in October 1940. She told me the story of the storm and wreck of HMS Sturdy and how she and the family she was with rallied round to take in the men from the wreck and give them shelter and food. It must have been handy to have had at least two nurses on the scene that night. My mother was a very self- effacing person and I don’t remember her making a great deal of the event or of her part in it and I would very interested to learn more.
The story has been with me since childhood and I had not given it a great deal of thought until the other evening when I ventured onto Google and read about Sturdy, the memorial, the commemoration in 2010 and your museum.
Which brings me to the “punch line” of this tale. Some of the rescued sailors of Sturdy were so grateful for the help received that they went back to the wreck when the weather had calmed and “rescued” two items which they presented to my mother as souveniers. The first is a chrome plated serving spoon from the mess. The second is the ship’s badge from the bridge! “On a field Silver. A pine tree proper”, although all the original paint has gone and we are left with the natural bronze. Are these the only remaining parts of Sturdy? I think the time has come for these items to return to Tiree and if your museum would like them they shall be yours!”
23 July 2012: “A further recollection about the badge and spoon. After returning from Tiree in 1940 they were both taken to my mother’s then home at Larkhall, Lanarkshire. The spoon eventually ended up in the family cutlery box where it dished out many a vegetable until my my grandparents’ deaths in the late 1950’s when it was retrieved by my mother and taken South to our home in Bromley, Kent. The badge had a similarly useful life as a stand for my grandmother’s hot stove heated flat irons, which probably accounts for the loss of the original paint! I remember them both in use in this way during childhood visits to Scotland in the 40’s and 50’s. Since the 1980’s they have been in my possession and on display.”