A fisherman who lost four colleagues at sea in a tragedy and found he couldn’t step back on a boat has just taken up a new post – at Anstruther lifeboat station.
Tam Fyall’s (59) love affair with the sea started aged 11. Little did he know that the very thing he fell in love with would take his friends and colleagues in the cruellest of ways.
Battling force 10 and 11 gales one October night in 2006, pair trawlers The Meridian and Duthies II were on duty guarding a section of pipeline under construction.
Tam was aboard the Duthies II but normally sailed aboard The Meridian however that night was covering a crew member’s holiday.
Around 10.30pm and with the boats approximately 12 miles apart, Tam received a call from the Coastguard to say that The Meridian’s Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon (EPIRB) had been activated and they could not make contact.
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Tam tried to reach his colleagues on the radio but to no avail. He and his crew proceeded immediately to their last known position.
An intensive search took place throughout the night with search and rescue personnel from the air and sea swarming to the scene to help locate the trawler and her four crew members.
Tam and his crew were stood down and sent back to Peterhead harbour. As they embarked on the long sail back, the news they all had dreaded sadly filtered through – a body had been recovered.
On arrival back in the harbour, Tam knew his confidence had been shattered and dumped his gear in a skip vowing never to set sail again.
Tam battled Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and struggled to overcome the loss. In 2007, he felt the time was right to get back into work. The role of Harbour Master in Pittenweem came up and Tam was successful.
It was soon after Tam got to grips with this new career that his cousin and former lifeboatman Alex Purves discussed Tam volunteering in shore based roles for Anstruther RNLI. This was a real challenge as it meant talking about safety on the seas that claimed those closest to him.
After a couple of years Tam was asked if he would apply his knowledge of the sea as a crew member. Realising he had the chance to make a difference, Tam took the immensely brave decision to join as a crew member aboard Anstruther lifeboat.
Talking about his decision, Tam said: “I want to help and make a difference as I have seen how perilous the sea can be. The RNLI is important in the local community and is a very close team. Being part of that was what I was used to.”
“We had such a great team aboard the Meridian and Duthies II that was sadly taken from us. I will never forget Martin, Edward, Ian and Sidney and I am sure they would support me in taking up a role with the RNLI.”
Tam has since moved jobs to work in Anstruther where he oversees a busy leisure port and has progressed to deputy second coxswain at Anstruther Lifeboat Station.
“On coming back into Peterhead that morning in 2006, I never envisaged I would take charge of a lifeboat at the drop of a hat,” he said.
“The RNLI has helped me overcome my fears and I get my confidence back. What happened that night in 2006 will always live with me and I take the memories of my former crew mates with me as I board the lifeboat to help those in peril.”