Remembering the Great Storm of 1987 as ‘Ophelia’ approaches the Irish Coast

Photo: Tommy Dover

The motor vessel Sumnia is seen approaching Wicklow harbour on the 7th October 1987, to load a cargo of Quarry stone from the nearby Belleece Quarry in Rathdrum. The cargo was destined for Barking Creek near London. The ship loaded the cargo and sailed on the tide the following day for the river Thames.
She was built at Goole in 1972 as the Summity for FT Everard & Sons. In 1987 she was sold to new operators and renamed Sumnia.
The cargo was delivered to London and the ship was heading to Shoreham when it lost power and went to anchor as a great storm tracked along the UK south coast, high winds caused loss of life and widespread damage along its path.
The ship put out a mayday call in the early hours of Thursday 16th October 1987, as it hit the south breakwater near the entrance to Dover harbour. The Dover RNLI lifeboat and a port tug went to the assistance of the sailors in horrendous conditions. Two crew lost their lives as the ship broke up and sank. The remaining four crew were rescued by the lifeboat and tug boat that morning. The Sealink ferry Hengist broke her moorings and was driven ashore at Folkestone around the same time, luckily there were no casualties.
The storm claimed 22 lives that day and while weather forecasters predicted strong winds -nobody was expecting hurricane conditions. Thirty years to the day the Met office have issued a serious weather warning as Ireland is set to feel the tail end of hurricane Ophelia, which is moving eastwards over the Atlantic and is expected to pass close to the country on Monday morning. For more details of the weather alert visit www.met.ie for updates.