1972 – Canoe Rescue

Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Friday 27 July 1973

On 17th September 1972 Tom Murray, aged 28, from Drumbryden, Edinburgh, went out canoeing in Coldingham Bay in a moderately rough sea. Tom’s canoe overturned, and he was left clinging to it in seven foot waves for nearly 90 minutes. His friend Douglas Duguid aged 26, of 27 Comley Bank, Edinburgh, paddled out to assist him, but he too got into difficulties and his canoe overturned.

Holidaymakers on the beach saw the two canoeists in difficulties and notified Eyemouth Coastguards, who called out the St Abbs lifeboat, Jane Hay, which was due to be retired in 1973.

One of those on the beach recalls: “I was at the beach that day (12 years old) and remember watching the rescue. If it was the same incident, it was off the rocks between the bay and Milldown Beach. There was a heavy swell and the canoeists were fighting to keep off the rocks. They were exhausted and clinging to their canoes. I was impressed by the seamanship of the lifeboat crew.”

Coxwain James Wilson and his crew of six men carried out a daring rescue at low tide, in a heavy swell, taking the lifeboat to within ten feet of the treacherous rocks to pick up the casualties. The crew were:

  • Coxwain James Wilson (far right)
  • 2nd Coxwain William Mills
  • Mechanic Fred Hardwick
  • Crew Member Ian Aitchison (not pictured)
  • Crew Member Alistair Crowe (far left)
  • Crew Member Alistair C. Wilson (second from left)
  • Crew Member Alexander Cairns Hood Crowe

The cox said, “It was a tricky operation. It was after low water, and although there was a heavy swell we went within a few inches of the rocks to pick up the man. It was a question of getting in and out quickly.”

Tom and Douglas were taken to Berwick infirmary. Douglas was discharged after treatment. Tom was kept in overnight.

Ten months later, Lord Saltoun presented the crew with framed letters of appreciation from the RNLI (see photo). He praised the crew for their skill and seamanship and said that were it not for the crew’s actions, Tom was within minutes of losing his life.


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