A FIREFIGHTER in Arrochar has launched a bid to create a permanent memorial to the people who lost their lives in a tragedy on Loch Lomond nearly 200 years ago.

Eleven people drowned when a boat taking people out to meet a pleasure steamer, Lady of the Lake, on the loch overturned as it approached Tarbet pier on August 29, 1828.

Jamie MacTavish says he hopes that a lasting memorial, perhaps in the form of a statue or plaque, can be created at the site – not only to remember the victims of the tragedy, but also to act as a reminder to present-day visitors of the danger posed by the water at the popular beauty spot.

A newspaper cutting held in the archives of the National Library of Scotland tells the story of the disaster – but that apart, Jamie says the tragedy is not as well known as it ought to be.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Tarbet Bay and pierTarbet Bay and pier (Image: Google Street View)

Jamie, a firefighter in Arrochar for the last 27 years, said: “It is a sad story I had only heard rumours of, despite being involved in the Arrochar and Tarbet Heritage Group since its inception.

“I would like to try to get a permanent reminder put in place, in the form of a small statue or a brass plaque.

“I thought this could be unveiled on August 29, 2028 to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the event.”

The NLS archive cutting – which doesn’t say where the report of the tragedy was originally published – gives a detailed report of how the “heavily laden” boat, with 21 people on board, was on its way out to meet the Lady of the Lake

The original report states: “The lake was as smooth as glass, and the steamer only about thirty or forty yards from the beach; but owing to the boat being heavily laden, and her equilibrium exceedingly delicate, the unfortunate individuals on board were naturally apprehensive of some disaster.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Tarbet is still a popular stopping point for Loch Lomond cruises todayTarbet is still a popular stopping point for Loch Lomond cruises today (Image: Graham Christie)

“A person, who was standing on the beach, described the boat as " wabbling" on from one side to the other, till it had nearly reached the steamer, when it made a " creen" so alarming that a number of the passengers started up and clustered to the higher side, when she instantly heeled over, and turned keel uppermost.

“So suddenly were the whole of the unfortunates engulphed, that only one or two shrieks were heard by the crowd on the deck of the steamer.”

A rescue boat was launched from the Lady of the Lake itself, and other boats set off from the shore, and 10 of those who had been on board the boat were rescued.

Three of those who died were later identified in a letter written by the church minister in Arrochar, a Reverend Mr Proudfoot - namely Andrew McFarlane of Tarbet, boatman William Brown, and John Brock, described as “a fine young boy”.

Other victims were identified only by the clothes they were wearing or by belongings found on them after their bodies were recovered.

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Jamie continued: “I am a resident of this area with ancestors who would have been here at the time.

“Can you help raise awareness of this? Can you help to find sponsors and supporters? I have done more than 27 years as a firefighter in Arrochar and have been to water rescues on the Loch.

“If we can start now, we have five years and two months to get something in place. It would even act as a reminder of water safety and the dangers at this popular beauty spot on our world-famous loch.”

Anyone who has information or would like to give their support to Jamie’s idea is asked to email him on scotduck2001@googlemail.com.