Witness to Tragedy in Loch Erisort

On 7th December 19061 witnessed a drowning tragedy in Loch Erisort. It was during the mid-day interval at Kershader School as we gathered on the hill in between the school and the shore to watch the “TRANSIT” steaming up the Loch against a strong westerly gale force wind.
The “Transit” was a paddle driven steam pleasure-boat owned and used exclusively by the shooting tenants of Park Deer Forest and their guests. A small boat was launched from the “Transit” and it came ashore at the small jetty at the foot of the school playground One of the boatmen came ashore and called at the school-house while the other two chatted to the children.
In a few minutes the third man returned from his visit and the boat moved away from the shore to return to the “Transit”. Meanwhile, the “Transit” was slowly running before the wind heading out the loch, but the small boat was making up ground fast, driven by the strong winds.
For a few minutes we watched it tossing and diving among the waves until suddenly it disappeared out of sight. Shortly afterwards we saw an upturned boat drifting close by the steamer. Almost simultaneously we saw three men running towards the shore, carrying a pair of oars. When they arrived at the inlet where the boat was berthed they surprised the fisherman owner who was mending his nets and was unaware of the accident that had just happened out in the Loch.
The boat was launched and soon arrived at the scene of the disaster. They were able to save one of the crew while another man was rescued by a lifebelt thrown from the steamer. Despite a thorough search of the area no trace was found of the third man and it became apparent that he did not surface after the boat overturned.
During the time the searches for the men were taking place the strong winds blew the boats down the coast, past Ravenspoint and out of view of the children and adults gathered in the school playground. We followed them for a while but eventually returned late to school, although we were not punished in view of the sad and tragic event we had just witnessed.
It is ironic that of the four men who went to the aid of the stricken boatmen, only one, Donald Macleod, remained in Europe at New Year, four weeks later. John Mackay was farming in Prince Albert, Canada; Allan Macdonald was a shepherd in Patagonia and Duncan Mackay was living in Dunedin, New Zealand.
It was established later that the disaster had been caused by the boat colliding with the steamer paddles.