Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The day I watched the sunrise over the Marchioness disaster

I'd like to talk about something that happened twenty-five years ago and most people outside the UK will probably never have heard about.

On August 20th 1989 fifty-one people died when the Marchioness pleasure boat sank in the Thames after it collided with the dredger, Bowbelle. The dead were young people, on the Marchioness for a party.

That day, I was staying at my dad's flat. I think it was the only time I stayed there and my ex-husband was expecting his best friend over. His BF and I did not see eye to eye. I took the opportunity to stay away and spend some time with my father and my step-mum.

My dad had a one-bedroom flat so I was sleeping on the sofa. Some time in the night I got woken by my father talking extremely loudly and very calmly. I couldn't really process what he was saying but I know he was telling someone to be sensible and to calm down. The next door neighbour was drunk out of his skull and had decided to throw his furniture through (not out - through) the window and was then threatening to throw himself after the furniture. He had family issues. They were six floors up. It would have been messy.

The rest of the night is a matter of snapshots in my brain. I made tea - lots and lots of tea. The police arrived in the lift. I swear I remember them wearing riot gear and getting stuck as they tried to get out of the lift with all their shields. Drunk guy's mum stood at the bottom of the building begging him not jump.

The mood of the police changed when the guy threw a large bladed knife through the letter box. They had little patience with him and it's only afterwards we found out why. At five in the morning we made them tea. These police officers had spent the night at the Marchioness disaster, dealing with the dead and injured. They were exhausted and numb.

They left, only to return half an hour later for the knife. After all the excitement I gave up trying to sleep and watched the sunrise over the Thames with yet more tea, watching the helicopters circle around the site of the disaster.

That date is etched in my memory and one of the times I was so proud of my father as he tried to stop a drunk guy from making a big mistake.


  1. Your dad was a hero that day & probably many more. I'm proud to say my dad is cut from the same cloth. Thanks for the info cause you're right I had not heard of this tragedy. On August 20, 1989 I was enjoying the summer after my high school graduation. I was a typical teen, only interested in my little world & what affected me directly.

  2. I remember this in minute detail... they were all so young, and young adults attending a party, a tragedy...