Ashes - Unplanned events

Edward Roy Kissack wanted his ashes to be scattered with his brother Alan's at Sloc on the west coast of the Isle of Man, so in July 2010 members for the family gathered to carry out his wishes. The preceding days were very overcast and unsuitable for the hour's walk from the established footpath to the site of Alan's ashes (believed to be an ancient cairn in the vicinity of a known one at 'Keeil Lag ny Keeilley'). We visited Niarbyl the day before and visibility was so poor that we could barely see our planned destination to the south. The day of the planned trip however turned out to be a warm windless day with good visibility. So we departed from Port Erin, passing the turn off for Fleshwick Beach (a favourite skin diving venue of Roy's), and arrived at Sloc car park in the sun.

Boots on, we were off! Setting off towards what we know as 'sloc' (the stacks on the OS map) we turned right and, heading north, traversed the slopes of Cronk ny Arrey Laa (Hill of the rising sun). My Uncle Ian and Auntie Anne had been to the site many times, as had Roy, and even myself a couple of times (it is not an easy walk and at the mercy of the gorse and heather). We knew where we were heading but despite the good weather the route was tough, the gorse had obviously fared well in the preceding months and was very unforgiving if you stumbled into it (highly likely as we worked around the 45 degree gradient of the hill). Those who hadn't been before, were perhaps wondering what they had let themselves in for, but perhaps spurred on by the reason for the walk and in knowledge that Roy himself had done this not too many years before - we pressed on. Looking south we caught site of Sloc (the stacks) itself and recounted how generations of the family had fished thee (in what now seems an impossible location).

As we made our way down slight valleys filled with fern (a relief from the never ending gorse), we stretched out in a long line of walkers and enjoyed the view. However it was during this stage that Lynda Horsman (Roy's daughter, my sister) took a bad fall and broke her ankle! We were perhaps some 300m from first to last walker, and those nearest her agreed that it would be unwise for her to continue as she was in great pain. The seriousness of the situation didn't really became know to us until later. Gary, Lynda's husband, stopped with her, resting on the westerly slope of Cronk ny Arrey Laa as the rest of us pushed forward to our goal. And so we arrived at the cairn and successfully scattered Roy's ashes. After a brief pause and with a traditional raising of glasses to Roy and Alan, we began our return south,

When we eventually met up with Lynda and Gary it became clear to all of the pain she was in and her inability to walk back to the car park. There was nothing else for it but to call the coastguard rescue team, from Port Erin, out. Problem was, there was no mobile signal this side of the hill. So I stopped with Lynda and Gary whilst the others returned to the car park and phoned for help.

Some time later we where very relieved to see the Port Erin Coastguard coming to meet us. A fantastic team of around 10 men, complete with medical kit and stretcher. The assessed Lynda's injury and reported back to HQ in Douglas (from where they'd been tasked). Just like our mobile phones, their radios could not reach Douglas! Instead Belfast coastguard relayed their situation report back to Douglas. Having decided that Lynda may (and did) have a broken ankle, and conscious of the severe pain she was in, they decided that a stretcher carry on the steep and uneven terrain was out of the question. So a call was but in, via Belfast again, for a helicopter rescue! That request was sent to RAF Valley in Anglesey, Wales where the Search and Rescue Force sprung into action. Call sign 'Rescue 122' from 22 Sqn, in its Sea king helicopter was soon en-route. Whilst we waited, we had an opportunity to chat to the Port Erin Coastguard Team and realised what a special group of people they were. No hint of any criticism of our trip, off the recognised footpath, but instead they where focused on getting Lynda safely off the hill and in making the wait as pleasant as possible. We talked of many things, not least the fishing trips to Sloc and the rumoured smugglers cave nearby.

Eventually, and thankfully, the peace and quite was broken by the unmistakable sound of the RAF's Sea king helicopter. Gary and I moved away from the immediate area (for safety), but had an up close view of the rescue in progress. The winch man was lowered after the coastguard let off smoke (so they could judge the wind). Whilst he was updated, the helicopter circuited the area, and eventually it returned in to lift Lynda up and transport her to Noble's Hospital in Douglas.

A day of memories! Of carrying out Dad's wishes and of the misfortune of Lynda, sadly still felt by her today!. Not ones to seek publicity, the events were covered in The Manx Independent newspaper.

Our very heartfelt thanks to:

  • Port Erin Coastguard - for everything
  • The Royal Air Force Search & Rescue Team
  • Staff at Noble's Hospital, Douglas
  • The Isle of Man Steam packet Company (for being flexible in altering our return sailings)

Allan Kissack