Raith Rovers Shipwrecked
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Raith Rovers Shipwrecked

There are not many football teams around the world who can claim a shipwreck as part of their history. One team that can though is the Scottish club Raith Rovers. Here is the story behind it.

There are not many football teams around the world who can claim a shipwreck as part of their history. One team that can though is the Scottish club Raith Rovers. Here is the story behind it.

Season 1921-22 had been an impressive campaign for the Kirkcaldy club Raith Rovers. They had finished third in the First Division Chamipionship, behind Celtic and Rangers. With the ‘Old Firm’ normally being there or thereabouts, any team finishing third had the right to call themselves the best of the rest. The Raith Rovers board of directors were so proud of such a high finish that they decided to reward the team with a tour to the Canary Islands.

Such foreign travel was rare for Scottish football clubs and no one could have predicted how it would turn out. A total of 13 players and 7 officials from Raith Rovers boarded the steamer Highland Loch and set off on their journey across the North Atlantic.

After dinner on 30th June 1922, the players were in high spirits, card playing and singing was the order of the day, but before too long, the manager (and trainers), knowing that the team had some matches to play in the coming days, sent the players to their bed to get a good nights sleep.

Any chances of that were soon put to a stop. In the very early hours of the morning, the Highland Loch became grounded on some rocks just off the port of Currubedo. The captain raised the alarm and the cry went up for everyone to get into the lifeboats. The Raith Rovers players joined the people waiting to go down the rope ladders to the lifeboats below; many were still wearing their pyjamas, having had no time to change, or grab any of their belongings.

All aboard were safely taken to shore. As for the steamer itself – it somehow limped into the port of Vigo. Back in Scotland, newspapers made light of the incident, saying it was much ado about nothing really. However, when divers examined the vessel for damage, they found that the forepeak had received the worst blow; part of the bulkhead was broken to a length of 18 yards and several feet wide; the port bilge keels had been torn away. All in all, it had been a lucky escape for all involved.

All the passengers were safely taken to Vigo. On the 2nd of July, the Raith Rovers contingency were picked up by a P&O liner that took them to the Canary islands. The players did not seem to have been too affected by being involved in a ‘shipwreck’, they won all four of their matches on the tour, beating Vigo (3-1), Victoria Las Palmas (4-0), Grand Canaria (5-1) and Marino (2-1).

Just like their results on the tour, their return trip to Scotland was plain sailing all the way.

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