For almost a hundred years Portpatrick Radio Station was a vital defence for shipping between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Radio messages from ships were received here and passed on. It’s main job however was to listen for distress calls from ships and to alert the lifeboats. Now this job has been replaced by satellites and automated systems so the building is left empty. The mast is still used as a part of the navtex system which sends weather information to ships.
The radio station was probably never more important than in 1953 when the Princess Victoria sank with the loss of 133 lives. The ship was one of the first roll on roll off vehicle ferries. It operated between Stranraer and Larne carrying cars and passengers. On 31st January 1953 she got into difficulty in gale force winds near Corsewall point. The radio operator contacted Portpatrick Radio Station by morse code asking for assistance. Lifeboats from Portpatrick and Donaghadee were launched to assist along with HMS Contest, a Royal Navy Destroyer based in the area. The Princess Victoria however still had engines running and in the poor visibility did not realise that the ship was slowly heading towards the coast of Northern Ireland. The rescue vessels searched the position given off the coast of Scotland but the stricken ship sunk several hours later just a few miles outside Belfast Lough. 135 lives were lost. and there were only 44 survivors.