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The Lakonia – 50 Years on: The Survivors

December 20, 2013 – 3:06 pm Lakonia, Gibraltar (From left) John Hynes, Carol Woolnoth and Philip McGovern at the Lakonia Commemoration cememony on 6 December in Gibraltar.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that we at have been closely involved in marking the 50th anniversary of the Lakonia tragedy, when over 100 people died in a cruise ship fire in December 1963 off Madeira. Many of the bodies were subsequently brought to Gibraltar.

On Friday 6 December, a ceremony was held in Gibraltar Cemetery, where 14 victims are still buried. This was the first time the disaster has been commemorated officially – and permanently. You can see a video of the speeches and unveiling of the plaque below. Those in attendance included three survivors of the tragedy: Carol Woolnoth, John Hynes, and Philip McGovern – the latter two both spoke at the ceremony – and one who recovered the bodies, Gordon Holmes. Carol, who was aged just 10 at the time and had made friends with John’s young sister, met John at the ceremony for the first time since the tragedy 50 years ago.

All those who attended, including survivors and their families, rescuers, and religious leaders from the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faiths. Group picture of all those who attended, including survivors and their families, rescuers, and religious leaders from the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faiths. Chris Chaplow, MD, is in the centre at the back.

The ceremony was also attended by MD of, Chris Chaplow – the website’s Forum thread about the Lakonia, started by Gordon, first gave rise to the idea for the plaque; and by Dr Keith Farrell of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust. Three religious leaders – Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, to cover the three faiths represented by the remaining victims’ graves – gave blessings.

Soon we will be publishing new pages on of Survivors’ Stories, where Carol, John, Philip and others recount in their own words, their memories of what happened that fateful night – 22/23 December 1963.

  1. 2 Responses to “The Lakonia – 50 Years on: The Survivors”

  2. Nice to see the people together from the forum who have been around a long long time as more and more people researched the Lakonia.
    I have learnt things which horrified me, as in my family Mr & Mrs Roy Wilkinson, who aren’t the ones mentioned as they both survived and ended up living in Vancouver but they lost their two sons who were asleep in their cabins. Happily, they went on to have a daughter and although my Aunty is in contact via christmas cards (how ironic) , I have never made contact with her.
    My interest in this ship began with my ten year old son coming home from his C of E school and with Christmas being high on the agenda there, they had been doing a little project about the ‘Christmas cruise’ where people had gone away to celebrate and then the fire and people never living to see christmas. I was pretty horrified for a ten year old sensitive boy to be learning this but it stoked my own inner fire of interest as I knew my Gt Uncle had lost 2 boys in a foreign ship fire. Many discrepancies had been added in by my ‘former mother’ (a woman banished from my family for various evil deeds) and so I was unsure and had thought that my Gt Uncles Cruise had been lot longer ago than 1963 which was just 7 years before my birth. However, I asked my dearest Aunty who gave me lots of information although she said it was started by a cigarette. My son made a fantastic project and broke up from school on Friday having won a class award in their assembly and he was thrilled with information I had acquired from the forum, my aunty and the book called Lakonia which I haven’t reached the end of.

    I was disappointed to hear the constant beep whilst the first man was talking. It sounded like a building site which was a shame on the video.
    I haven’t reached my book about the Lakonia yet so unsure if it’s included but is there an accident report anywhere regarding the Lakonia. Obviously the book was written by the author having spoken to many people and crossed referenced what had been said but I’d like to see a proper legal document, if so, would I be able to get a copy or is it strictly private in a vault somewhere or is it allowed out in the public doman after a period of time?
    Can anyone help?
    Genie x

    By GeneGenie on Dec 23, 2013

  3. Fiona,
    We have added your interview with John Hynes, Carol Woolnoth and Philip McGovern, the three survivors mentioned in your blog plus Joseph Benveniste the Hairdresser. You can find them here

    By Chris on Jan 8, 2014

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