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Faith in Our Lady Star of the Sea

On Sea Sunday, EUAN MCARTHUR examines the many challenges of life on the ocean waves - By Euan McArthur

SEA Sunday is a time when the invaluable role of seafarers and their families is remembered for bringing everyday goods which can sometimes be taken for granted.

It can also evoke the kind of strong memories that will never be forgotten especially when taking time to look back on a loved one who has been lost at sea.

For one seafaring family from Argyll and the Isles, it’s more than 50 years since they endured the heartbreak of losing one such member some miles across the water from their hometown.

Bobby Watters, aged just 22, had been fishing aboard the Harvest Hope in May 1966 when he drowned after being caught between two boats at Ayr Harbour where she was berthed.

Bobby had been finishing off at the end of another hard week and preparing to return home to Campbeltown in Kintyre when he slipped going back on board the vessel. It all happened so quickly that were was little the crew could do to prevent such a tragedy, which Eileen McArthur, Bobby’s older sister who comes from a rich seafaring background, only now feels comfortable talking about.

Eileen said: “Bobby was the second eldest of our family of five and had been at the fishing for a few years after leaving school when it happened. It shook the whole community as soon as news filtered back home.

“My father, Bob Watters, who had been in the Royal Navy for many years and was awarded the

Distinguished Service Medal, received the phone call saying Bobby had been lost over in Ayr.

“It was such a tragedy for someone so young and so dedicated to his job.

“The Harvest Hope was a beautiful name for the boat. In the same way as a farmer hopes for a harvest when he goes to work, a fisherman is counting on a catch to make his own harvest.

“It’s probably even tougher these days to earn a living at the fishing but above all, the families hope and pray to Our Lady Star of the Sea for a safe return for their loved ones because we all know the perils of the sea.

“There’s never a Sea Sunday that goes past when I don’t think of our Bobby and Archie, my late husband, who passed away the day after Sea Sunday in 2005.” Archie McArthur had spent all his working days in the fishing industry on board the Remembrance—a

Carradale boat—fishing throughout the different coasts of Scotland and often even further beyond.

Back in 1968, he suffered a horrific injury to his arm when the winch on the boat suddenly came down on him, requiring 88 stitches to heal the gaping wound.


It was a stark reminder of how fishermen are exposed to such dangers, and fishing remains the most dangerous peacetime occupation in the UK.

Eileen recalled: “We weren’t long married when Archie got the 88 stitches while working one afternoon at the pier in Campbeltown and was off for a while.

“Needless to say it was quite a worrying time and even back then, the skipper of the boat was reluctant to pay him his divide. Archie was regularly away for weeks at a time while fishing in places such as the Isle of Man or in the Isles like Barra. Like many fishermen, his Faith would keep him going.”

For some, there is within them a calling to embrace the sea even when other ways of making a living can be much easier and potentially far more profitable, and with that comes an underlying respect.

Eileen said: “At Archie’s funeral in 2005, there was a tremendous turnout of fishermen both past and present.

“There is a strong bond between those who go to sea that faced by such dangers they stick together through everything and remain very close-knit.

“Seafarers from all denominations attended St Kieran’s Church for the funeral which told its own story as far as the respect each one has for the kind of job they do. Archie always said it was in him to go to sea and he did so at the age of just 14.

“He had been very clever at school and the headteacher at the time pleaded with him and his mother for him not to go to sea because they had forecast a brilliant career for him in languages.

“But there was no stopping him. That’s just what he wanted to do having grown up in a small fishing town and, of course, there was the economic necessity of it all too having lost his own father in the war.”

Parishes across Scotland will celebrate Sea Sunday today, and a spokesman for Apostleship of the Sea, said the charity was extremely grateful for all their support.

He said: “We exist to help seafarers both practically and spiritually and the fishing industry can be fraught with danger. Sea Sunday is such a special occasion when we pray for those who don’t always get the recognition they deserve and their families for all their support. Parishioners are very generous when it comes to supporting us and that’s something we appreciate very much.”

Around 95 per cent of trade still comes from sea and a large percentage of seafarers today are Catholics, working to provide for their families back home, often for low wages and amid harsh conditions.


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