Islington People: Author tells story of surviving Marchioness disaster

�A writer who survived a boat disaster that claimed 51 lives has published the first ever book on the subject.

Magda Allani, of Hanley Road, Finsbury Park, was aboard the Marchioness on the River Thames when the boat sank in the early hours of August 20, 1989, after a collision with the Bowbelle.

She was good friends with many of those who perished, including host Antonio de Vasconcellos, a financier who was celebrating his 26th birthday.

Twenty-two years on and Magda has published Dark Waters, her personal account of the tragedy. She says: “I always had the intention of writing a book as a tribute to my friends, but it was a very difficult topic to face up to and deal with. When I finally wrote the book, it felt really good to have done it.”

Magda survived after clinging to a beer barrel in the water for 40 minutes, unable to swim to safety after being swept away by a powerful undercurrent, before she was spotted by another survivor and rescued.


“Over the years, I was never quite clear what happened,” she adds. “I always felt we were waiting for an answer that never came.

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“There were some unusual circumstances. The original investigation didn’t even meet the standards of procedures for a minor road collision.

“At the public inquiry that was held after 11 years of campaigning, the judge concluded we may never know the exact location of the collision.

“The book raises lots of questions. I am not qualified to answer them, but my research gave me the satisfaction of feeling my questions are valid – and need answering.”

The glamorous party guests were mostly in their mid-20s and included models and high-flying Cambridge University graduates, while the older sister of future England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio was among the victims.

Despite the tragic topic, Magda insists she has not written a “misery memoir”.

She says: “People might see it’s about a disaster and think ‘this is a misery memoir’, but it really isn’t.

“It was unusual that we were all friends, and a lot of those friendships survived the disaster and survived the years.

“It’s life-affirming – and it’s written with the pace of a mystery. I’m told it’s a page turner.”

n Dark Waters: Chronicle of a Story Untold is available now. Magda Allani will be signing books at Coffee Circus in Crouch Hill all day on Sunday, October 30.