More Bathing Accidents at St Abbs

December 1903 – Unknown

A visitor from Edinburgh drowned at Coldingham Sands Bay in December 1903. The incident was mentioned briefly in the Berwick Advertiser on Friday 01 January 1904. The snippet only reads:

Bathing fatality at St Abbs. A visitor from Edinburgh drowned in the Sands Bay.

The Berwick Advertiser, Friday 01 January 1904

Aug 19th 1921 – James Latto Fergus

The circumstances attending the gallant rescue of a young lad from drowning in the sea near St.Abbs Aug 19th last, reported in the Berwickshire News at the time, were recalled on Saturday week when a large company assembled in the Public Hall, St Abbs, to honour the heroine, Miss Rena Mitchell. It will be remembered that at a point where the cliffs are steep and rugged, Miss Mitchell, who at the time was spending a holiday in the village, dived fully dressed into 20 feet of water to the rescue of a boy, James Latto Fergus, 13 years of age, also native of Edinburgh, on holiday in the district, who had fallen over the cliffs into the sea. Miss Mitchell’s heroic action was reported to the Royal Humane Society by the county paper, Berwickshire News, and to the Carnegie Hero Fund Trustees by Rev. G. McGregor, St Abbs, with the gratifying result that the former unanimously awarded Miss Mitchell the Society’s Testimonial on vellum, while the latter decided to inscribe Miss Mitchell’s name on their roll of heroes and to award her a gold wristlet watch. The gallant recipient having expressed a wish that the public presentation of the awards should made in St Abba, arrangements were made accordingly. After a sumptuous tea served by a willing band of ladies of the village, the following short musical programme was tastefully rendered: Song, ‘Down the Burn’, Mrs Crawford (encore, ‘My ain house’); song, ‘The Auld Scotch Sangs’, Miss M E Wilson; song, ‘Love was once a little Boy,’ Miss J A Nisbet; song, ‘Come, Birdie, Come’, Miss A D Wilson (encore, ‘Dublin Bay’); song, ‘The Road that Leads You’, Mrs Crawford (encore “Braw, Braw Lads’.) Thereafter the Chairman, Rev. G McGregor, briefly recalled the circumstances attending the rescue, and the steps taken to secure recognition of Miss Mitchell’s gallant action, and in handing over the awards complimented the brave recipient. The gold watch, which is of chaste design with gold expanding bangle, bears the following inscription: ‘Presented by the Trustees of the Carnegie Hero Fund to Rena Mitchell, Edinburgh, for Heroism in saving Human Life. 19th August, 1921. Miss Mitchell, in neat little speech, suitably returned thanks. A very enjoyable dance followed.

Berwickshire News and General Advertiser, Tuesday 22 November 1921

See also Berwickshire News and General Advertiser – Tuesday 25 October 1921.

August 1929 – James Faulds

GLASGOW VISITOR DROWNED AT ST ABBS. A sad bathing accident occurred St Abbs Sands on Monday afternoon, 19th August, when Mr James Faulds, aged 31, lost his life. The fatality happened during the lunch hour when the beach was less crowded than usual. News reached the village by phone that someone had been drowned, and that a boat was required to recover the body. Two motor boats went with all speed to the scene of the tragedy, but their services were not needed. After being twenty minutes in the water, the body was recovered few yards out from the beach. Medical aid was at hand, and artificial respiration waa carried on for over hour, but without success. It was first thought that the man had been seized with cramp, but the doctors pronounced death be due to heart failure. Mr Faulds, who was Excise Officer and much respected by his colleagues, belonged to Glasgow, and was spending a holiday with friends in Coldingham. The tragedy cast a gloom over the village, where, fortunately, drowning accidents are few.

The accident was reported in the Berwick Advertiser on Thursday 29 August 1929.

July 1932 – Miss Guthrie

COLDINGHAM VISITOR’S NARROW ESCAPE. A thrilling rescue of a girl swimmer who was in great peril was effected by a young man at St Abbs. Miss Guthrie, visitor to Coldingham, went to bathe with her two sisters. She was swimming a short distance from the shore when she was carried out of her depth by an under current caused by the heavy seas running at the time. Her cries for help were heard by two young men, Thomas Hood Wilson and James Nisbet, both of St Abbs, who were on the Sands. Nisbet ran for a life-belt, while Wilson went the aid of the girl, who was by this time a considerable distance from the shore. Clad in shirt and flannels, Wilson plunged into the water and swam out to the girl. He caught her and commenced to swim ashore, but when about 30 yards out, a big wave separated the two, and only after some difffctilty did Wilson manage to regain hold of the girl. They were then thrown on to a rock by big wave. Wilson held on for little while, then, when another wave came, he slid into the water with the exhausted girl and struggled with her until he reached the beach. Nisbet by this time was beside them with the life-belt, and together they got Miss Guthrie ashore. She was in an exhausted condition, but conscious. Wilson, who is a native of St Abbs, is home on holiday, being a student at Heriot Watt College, Edinburgh.

Berwickshire News and General Advertiser, Tuesday 26 July 1932

1936 – Colin MacNaughton

ST ABBS BATHING TRAGEDY. A bathing tragedy occurred at Coldingham Sands, near St Abbs, on Tuesday afternoon, the victim being a young Edinburgh man, Mr Colin Macnaughton, who was assistant art master at George Watson’s College, Edinburgh. The tragedy cast a gloom over the very large number of visitors at Coldingham and St Abbs. Mr Macuaughton was bathing along with two male companions when the accident occurred. A ground swell was running, and the three bathers got into difficulties. Mr Fred Kaesley, Galashiels policeman, on holiday, swam out to assist the bathers, but was unable to reach them, and found himself in difficulties. Miss Dorothy Tait, Alnmouth, and Miss Olive Jackson, visitors to St Abbs, swam out with a lifebuoy and line to Kaesley’s assistance. An eye-witness informs us that while Miss Tait held the line and lifebuoy, Miss Jackson swam out to Kaesley and brought him back to the line. Meanwhile Macnaughton and the other bathers drifted out to sea. Word was communicated to St Abbs, and the local life-boat and two fishing yawls, the Laurel and the Sea Nymph, hurried to their assistance. A number of people on the shore also went their aid and succeeded in bringing two of them ashore. The crew of the Laurel got Macnaughton aboard, and artificial respiration was carried out on the way to St Abbs, and on arrival at the life-boat house, for several hours, but without success. It is a tragic coincidence that at the Society of Scottish Artists’ exhibition of 1935, Mr Macnaughton exhibited an oil painting, ‘Coldingham Sands’, the scene of the fatality on Tuesday. It was exhibited as the property of Mrs lan Murdoch. St Abbs, where he was on holiday at the time of the tragedy, was favourite resort of Macnaughton’s. Mr Macnaughton exhibited at the R.S.A. and the S.S.A.. Mr Macnaughton, who was 33 years of age, studied at Edinburgh College of Art, where he received his diploma. His work in commercial design was distinguished, and he produced several wood-block engravings of note. It was in this medium and in water-colour that he worked chiefly. The appointment to George Watson’s College came almost immediately after he left the College of Art. A colleague stated, on Tuesday night, that he was a young man who was much appreciated in the school. He would be greatly missed. Mr Macnaughton was unmarried. His widowed mother was, Tuesday night, on her way to Stornoway, and an attempt was made to communicate with her.

Berwickshire News and General Advertiser, Tuesday 11 August 1936

In December 1936 the two women were honoured for their bravery.

The bathing tragedy at Coldingham Sands, St Abbs, in August last, where Mr Colin Macnaughton, an assistant art master at George Watson’ s College, Edinburgh, lost his life, is recalled by an announcement by the Royal Humane Society, of the issue of awards to those who took part in the rescue attempts. Mr Macnaughton, it will be recalled, was accompanied at the time by a friend, Mr Robert Jack , and both were caught in a current and unable to return to the shore. Jack was rescued by Miss Dorothy Tate, assistant schoolmistress, Begonia House, Alnmouth, and another young woman, Miss Jean Stops. Miss Tate, along with Mr James Thorn, a Forestry Commission employee, afterwards swam out with a buoy and line and rescued Constable F Caseley of Glasgow City Police, who had got into difficulties after attempting to rescue Macnaughton. The bronze award has been made to Miss Tate and to Miss Stops, and vellum awards to Constable Caseley and Mr Thorn .

The Scotsman, Friday 18 December 1936

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