30th Anniversary Marchioness Disaster

  • Preacher

    Sub Dean - Revd Canon Michael Rawson

‘Many waters cannot quench love,’ are words from the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament and they are inscribed around the Marchioness memorial at the west end of the Cathedral, holding the names of those loved ones who died and the memories of that early morning 30 years ago

I would like you to try and hang on to those words during this service and in the coming weeks and months.

The clock stopped for 51 people in the early hours of Sunday 20 August, and for many of you grieving the loss of your beloved or as survivors, it continues to be a long and difficult struggle on the journey to recovery. Life could never be the same again with so much potential, so many plans and dreams destroyed. For many of you the pain must feel like it all happened just yesterday.

Your experience of the past thirty years might be echoed in the words of the book of Lamentations which Linda read for us,

‘My soul is bereft of peace;

I have forgotten what happiness is;

so I say, ‘Gone is my glory,

and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.’

When a loved one is snatched from us, or we ourselves experience extreme trauma it can feel like life as we know it has come to a standstill. We can look back on our memories but it’s hard to see a way forward into the future.

The same was true too for the first followers of Jesus we heard about in the Gospel reading when ‘darkness came over the whole land’ as Jesus suffered on the cross. With Jesus you might want to cry out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

The wounds of grief and trauma can begin to heal over time and yet the scars remain and the pain can return afresh on anniversaries like today. In the East Window, above the High Altar, Jesus is depicted in glory after his crucifixion and resurrection, but the wounds from the nails in his hands and his feet are clearly visible. They are the wounds of love; evidence of Christ’s love for the world, for you and me.

The emptiness and pain described in our first reading ends with the promise that ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.’  In the midst of pain and darkness we are given hope. Hope that ‘many waters cannot quench love.’ Christians believe that it is love that has the last say in our lives and not death and our precious memories can never be taken from us. The legacy of those who died that night lives on in our hearts and in our actions; and in the work of charities like the Yellow Heart Trust.

During the First World War, an army Chaplain Timothy Rees wrote a hymn about the devastation he experienced on the battlefields of France. He believed that God did not stand at a distance, indifferent to the suffering of humanity. Rather, God’s heart was broken too in sharing the pain. These are the words that Rees wrote,


God is Love: and he enfoldeth

all the world in one embrace;

with unfailing grasp he holdeth

every child of every race.


And when human hearts are breaking

under sorrow's iron rod,

then they find that selfsame aching

deep within the heart of God.


I pray that today and every day, God will continue to journey by your side bringing you hope and healing, sharing your pain and wiping ever tear from your eyes.

‘Many waters cannot quench love.’