Two sisters whose family was evacuated from Europe by Mona’s Queen during World War Two made an emotional visit to the Island to see the resting place of the ship’s anchor.
Three weeks before the ship was lost at Dunkirk, the family of sisters Anita Turpin and Cecilia Duggan were among many rescued from Belgium by Mona’s Queen. Their mother Christine was among those rescued.
The sisters had never been to the Isle of Man before – and if it hadn’t been for a chance encounter at a pub quiz in Norfolk, they may never have made the journey.
Anita said: ‘I live in Norfolk and two years ago I was at a pub quiz when I heard that one of the teams was called “Mona’s Queen”. I couldn’t believe it, because I knew it was the name of the ship that had saved my family.
‘I went over to speak to the team members and asked why they had chosen that name. It was a team from Wirral YMCA, which operates two motor cruisers on the Norfolk Broads – one is called Mona’s Queen, and the other is Manxman. I told them our story and stayed in contact with their Chief Executive, Nigel Hughes, who helped me learn more about the memorial.’
Mona’s Queen was one of three Steam Packet Company vessels sunk at Dunkirk in the space of 24 hours in May 1940. The anchor was raised in 2010 before returning to the Island after being restored at Cammell Laird shipyard, where the ship was built. The anchor was unveiled last year as the focal point of a memorial at Kallow Point, Port St Mary, in honour of all Steam Packet Company employees who served during war-time and particularly those who lost their lives.
Anita and her sister travelled to the Island on board Manannan, visiting the bridge during the journey at the invitation of Captain Alan Weston, and then met Steam Packet Company representatives at Kallow Point, including Marine Manager Captain Kane Taha and former Managing Director Captain Hamish Ross.
‘It was incredibly moving to visit the memorial and to have so many of the Captains there. It was very special,’ said Anita. ‘It was something we’d wanted to do ever since we learned that the anchor had been raised.
‘Everyone was so kind and generous to us during our visit to the Island and hopefully we can return another year with other members of the family when the memorial service is held at the end of in May.’
Another twist to the story is that the sisters’ family name is Duggan – and it was Captain Radcliffe Duggan who was the Master of Mona’s Queen, although he wasn’t on board when she was lost at Dunkirk, and present at Kallow Point to meet the sisters was his grandson, retired Captain Colin Duggan.
Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘It was a remarkable coincidence that led to the sisters visiting the Island and we were only too happy to help make their visit that extra bit special. It’s wonderful to know that the names of Mona’s Queen and Manxman live on in the guise of the motor cruisers on the Norfolk Broads.’
Pictured at the Mona’s Queen memorial at Kallow Point, Port St Mary - (Left to right) Retired Captain Jack Ronan, Terry Kelly, whose father lost his life on Mona’s Queen and who campaigned with Captain Ronan to have the memorial sited at Kallow Point, sisters Cecilia Duggan and Anita Turpin, Retired Captain Colin Duggan, Captain Kane Taha and former Steam Packet Company Managing Director Captain Hamish Ross.