Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Boating Disaster at Millport

Six Lives lost

The following tragic tale had been transcribed from subsequent issues of
The Glasgow Herald

Monday, June 17th 1907

Millport on Saturday (15th June) was the source of a lamentable boating accident involving the loss of six lives. Mr. William Barclay, a Glasgow gentleman and a party of friends hired a lugsail boat from Mr. William Wallace, a well-known local owner and in the afternoon set out for a sail round the Greater Cumbrae.

The sea was rather rough and a stiff south-westerly wind prevailed. All went well with the party for a time and the little boat reached along the shore at a fair pace. As she neared Figgitioch Pier, a lonely part of the island near Fintry Bay, the craft became unmanageable and capsized, the occupants being drowned before assistance reached them. A visitor, who happened to be on the beach opposite the scene of the occurance, informed the police, who drove over to the spot with medical aid.

The occupants of the boat were Mr. William Barclay, 19 Kelvinside Gardens East, his son, Mr. John Barclay; his daughter Mrs Waterston and two of her children, William age four and Agnes age two; and Miss Jenny Blair, Dalry.

It is not definitely known how the accident occurred. Mr. Barclay was familiar with the handling of boats and frequently sailed about Millport Bay. For the last three summers he spent his holidays at Millport where he was well known and highly respected. On this occasion he arrived at the resort at the beginning of the present month.

A sad feature of the affair is that arrangements were being made for the marriage of Mr. John Barclay and Miss Blair.

The accident created a painful reaction in Millport and when the news reached Glasgow and Dalry, words failed to express adequately the grief of the friends and acquaintances of the unfortunate party. In Dalry the information was received through Rev. Mr. Glass, to whom a telegram was addressed from Millport.

Reference was made to the accident in several of the Millport Churches yesterday.

So far, only four bodies have been recovered – those of Mr. William Barclay, Mr. John Barclay, Miss Blair and William Waterston.

Mr. William Barclay was a native of Kilbirnie. In his early days he came to Glasgow and worked at his trade as a cabinet maker. Model yachting was, however, his favourite pastime. He built a number of noteable miniature boats and was a familiar figure on the banks of the artificial pond in Maxwell Park. His wife predeceased him several years ago and for some time he resided with his son-in-law, Mr. John Waterston at 19 Kelvinside Gardens East.

Mr. John Barclay, his son, was only thirty-one years of age. About ten years ago he was employed with Messrs Arthur & Co., Queen Street, Glasgow; but on receiving an appointment in South Africa, he left the country and worked in the colony until recently, returning to get married.

Miss Jenny Blair, the young lady to whom he was engaged, was the daughter of Mr. Thomas Blair, baker, Dalry.

Mrs. Waterston was the only daughter of Mr. William Barclay. She was the wife of John Waterston, pawnbroker, 35 Fernie Street, Maryhill. William Waterston, her son, was a bright little boy of four and her daughter Agnes Waterston was two years of age.

The Death Notices of William Law Barclay, John Barclay and Miss Jenny Allan Blair appeared in the Glasgow Herald in the 18th, 19th, 20th  June 1907 editions.

(Note that John Barclay appears in both)

Tuesday, June 18th 1907

The bodies of two victims of the Millport boating disaster – Mrs. Waterston and one of her children – are still unrecovered. Dredging operations for their recovery were carried out on an extensive scale yesterday, but without success.

The bodies of Miss Blair and Mr. John Barclay, the young couple who were engaged to be married, were removed last night to Dalry, where the interment will take place tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 18th 1907

The Millport Disaster

Two bodies still missing – search operations

The distressing disaster off the Cumbrae coast on Saturday differs in some respects from many boating fatalities which have marred holiday seasons. Mishaps of the kind have been chiefly due to inexperience or carelessness, but on this occasion the craft which foundered was in charge of a man who had had large experience in the management of lugsail boats. How the accident was caused will probably never be ascertained with accuracy, but there seems little doubt that the boat was caught by one of the sudden squalls which are frequently experienced on the West Coast. It is supposed that when the boat keeled over, Mrs. Waterston, with the child in her arms, may have become entangled in the gear of the yacht.

The calamity was the sole topic of conversation on the island yesterday and it was generally agreed that the handling of the boat could not have been at fault as Mr. William Barclay, who was at the rudder when the lugger disappeared round Farland Point, was a keen yachtsman and had, during the past two or three seasons, sailed round the Cumbraes in vaious yachts.

Story of Eye-Witness

The ill-fated boat was names ‘Rover’. She measured about twenty one feet over all, was broad of beam and seaworthy in every respect. Mr. Barclay had sailed her frequently. Moreover, he knew the currents of the narrow channel. On Saturday the sea was rather rough and a stiff south-westerly wind was driving up the fairway when the party set out on their fatal journey. The boat slipped out of Millport Bay and reached rapidly along the coast. Rounding the Point she brought the wind abaft, the eye-witnesses state that she dipped frequently, burying her bows and shipping considerable quantities of water. Those on board took the precaution of reefing the lugsail, but the craft seemed to make little headway. The boat rose and fell with every gust of wind, and at times went off in the trough of the sea. She was about 200 yards off the land, in a freshening wind her difficulties increased. There was an awkward jabble of a sea. No other vessels were in sight and no sound came from the boat. The man at the tiller was the only one visible from the beach, the others apparently seeking shelter under the bulwarks. Suddenly the boat leaped forward, shipped a huge wave and after staggering for a minute or two was engulfed in the sea.

A young man named Joseph Walmsley Hardman, a draughtsman in the employment of Messrs Alley and Maclellan, engineers, Polmadie, Glasgow, who was on a walk round the island saw the boat disappear. He was powerless to render assistance. Setting a large stone to mark the spot on the beach, he hastened to Millport and informed the police authorities. Mr. Hardman times the accident as happening at ten minutes to five o’clock, and corroboration was furnished by the watch found on the body of Mr. William Barclay, which had stopped at 4.48. The police authorities proceeded to the place indicated by Mr. Hardman and on arriving at Figgitoch Port, a stone slip over a mile north of Fintry Bay, they found the bodies of four of the excursion party already washed ashore by the tide.

The bodies were those of Mr. William Barclay, Mr. John Barclay, Miss Jenny Blair and Willie Waterston and they lay within a few yards of each other. They were removed to Millport Town Hall, the mournful procession being witnessed by a large number of people. During Sunday and yesterday, the tiller and other parts of the gear of the boat drifted ashore.

Efforts to recover Bodies

Search has been mad for the two remaining bodies, but up till last night they had not been recovered. In order that the best possible results might be obtained by trawling Bailie Reid, Millport, wired to Provost Watson, Largs, who is secretary of the Sweep Trawling Association, asking him to send to the island a staff of men along with the sweep trawls. The men arrived on Sunday forenoon but owing to the heavy sea running it was not thought advisable to go round to the spot. During the night however, the wind lessened and about three o’clock on Sunday morning, a start was made by Largs fishermen as well as by several boats manned by local crews. For some time the operations were carried on without result but in two hours the lugger was located about 250 yards from the shore at a depth of sixteen fathoms. At an early hour yesterday morning, the dragging operations were resumed and these were continued until six in the evening. It is understood that should the trawlers meet with no success today, Mr Gush, the well-known Clyde diver, who is at present engaged with his vessel, the ‘Beamer’, in Lamlash Bay (Arran), will be asked to give his services with the view of raising the sunk vessel.

Breaking the News

Mr. Barclay senior was well known in Millport, to which he had gone for a number of years to spend the summer holidays. On this occasion he had resided at 25 Glasgow Street since the beginning of the month. At one time Mr. Barclay was a joiner in Glasgow, but some years ago he retired, and on the death of his wife, resided with his daughter, Mrs. Waterston, at 19 Kelvinside Gardens. The husband of the latter is Mr. John Waterston, pawnbroker, Maryhill, who has also been in residence with other members of the family in Millport since the beginning of the month. It was his custom to travel daily to and from the city. As usual, he returned from Glasgow on Saturday night by the train connecting with the last boat to Millport, When he landed at the pier, he was met by Provost Rowatt and a personal friend named Mr. White, who took him into the private room on the quay and broke the melancholy news. The tidings gave him a great shock.

The young man John Barclay had arrived home only last week from South Africa, where he had been employed as a book-keeper with Messrs Arthur and Co., (Limited). He was thirty one years of age and was a man of fine physique. His principal object in returning home from the Cape was to be married to Miss Janet Blair, another of the victims. The latter was the daughter of Mr. Thomas Blair of Dalry, and as she was well known and popular in that town, considerable interest was manifested in her approaching marriage. There also stayed with Mr. Barclay another son, aged seven years, of Mr. Waterston. But for a fortunate circumstance, he might also have been among the drowned. It was the intention of the mother to take her three children along with hr for the sail, but at the moment of departure from the house, the little fellow could not be found. He had apparently gone away for a ramble by himself and consequently the others had left without him.

Victim’s Ayrshire Friends

The Barclay family formerly lived in Kilbirnie and many of their relatives are still resident in that town. On receipt of the news on Sunday, a large number of relatives and intimate friends of Mr. William Barclay and his son drove from Kilbirnie to Largs with the intention of going across to the island. When they arrived at the Ayrshire seaport in the forenoon, they were unable to find a boatman who was inclined to risk his craft owing to the exceptionally high sea running in the channel. About seven o’clock, however, the wind moderated a little and a motor boat proprietor was prevailed upon to take three male cousins of young Mr. Barclay across to Millport in his launch. In conversations with a ‘Herald’ representative, one of the young men, who was also a cousin of Miss Blair as well as of Mr. John Barclay, said the wire received in Kilbirnie did not give them any indication that Mr. William Barclay was one of the unfortunate party and it was a great shock to all three of them to learn when they arrived at Mr. Waterston’s house that their uncle William was also enumbered among the drowned. They were under the impression that the sixth victim of the calamity was a boatman. The cousins visited the mortuary where they saw the bodies of their relatives and they afterwards left Millport with the intention of breaking the news to those who were anxiously waiting for their return on the mainland.

Funeral Arrangements

The bodies of Mr. John Barclay and Miss Janet Blair were conveyed to Largs last evening by the 6.30 p.m. Caledonian steamer. Coaches were in waiting at Largs and the coffins were placed in a hearse and conveyed by road to Dalry. The couple are to be buried together in Dalry Cemetery and the funeral is to be a public one. The bodies of Mr. William Waterston and the four year old boy William Waterston will remain in Millport until another effort is made to recover those of Mrs. Waterston and her younger child. Should they not be found by Thursday, the bodies of Mr Barclay, senior, and his grandchild will be taken in the forenoon boat to Weymss Bay whence they will be conveyed by train to Glasgow for interment in Craigton Cemetery.

Wednesday, June 19th 1907

Sunken Craft Raised – No Trace of Missing Bodies

Millport, Tuesday Night

The boating disaster which occurred off the northern shores of the Greater Cumbrae on Saturday evening and the efforts still being made for the recovery of the bodies of Mrs. Waterston and her two year old daughter, continue to furnish the chief topics of conversation in Millport. In the forenoon, the outlook from the town was depressing. A strong south-westerly gale swept across the waters of the firth and for several hours a thick mist lay upon the sea and land. It was early evident that in the face of such a turbulent sea, it would be impossible to resume the trawling operations. It was decided, therefore, by the crews of the boats to remain ashore until the storm showed some signs of abating. After the fruitless efforts of the trawlers yesterday, Bailie James Watson Reid, who all along has rendered signal service in organising the trawling parties, felt that it would be a wide thing to have the sunken vessel searched in case the bodies might have become entangled in the gear and still remained on board. He accordingly got into communication with Mr. Gush, the Clyde diver, with the view of securing his services. A telegram was despatched to Mr. Gush, who had been for some time engaged with his lighter, the ‘Beamer’ at Lamlash Bay, asking him if he could find it convenient to visit the wreck bringing his steamer and diving apparatus with him. Early yesterday afternoon a reply was received to the effect that if required he could come, whereupon Bailie Reid telegraphed again requesting him to come at once. Meanwhile the gale had been gradually moderating until about two o’clock a change in the direction of the wind had the effect of bringing a reduction in its strength to that of a fresh westerly breeze. With the improvement in the weather the trawlers, uncertain whether the services of the  diver had been secured, were making preparations to resume their self-imposed task and were in the act of joining a conveyance which would take them to where their craft lay at Fintry Bay, when the ‘Beamer’ was observed steering a course past Cumbrae Head and into Millport Bay. It was then decided to postpone all further trawling operations until the diver had had an opportunity of viewing the wreck. Bailie Reid joined the ‘Beamer’ which left immediately for Fintry Bay where the scene of the wreck was marked by a floating buoy. It was then high water and as the craft lay at that period of the tide at a depth of nearly 150 feet, Mr Gush determined to delay making his descent until the currents were less strong and the water had receded somewhat. The work of arranging the plant and the position of the steamer took up a considerable time and consequently it was late in the evening ere the diver could proceed with his search.

All was excitement on board the lighter when the grim figure prepared to enter the water. He descended slowly and after he had been a few minutes below, those above were given the signal that he desired to return to the surface. When he made his appearance it was to inform the anxious waiters that he had examined the craft and that neither of the bodies was on board. It was a great disappointment to everyone.
Arrangements were at once proceeded with for the raising of the lugsail and this was soon accomplished by means of a powerful winch on board the ‘Beamer’, the ballast in the shell of the yacht having been first removed. After she was brought to the surface she was pumped dry and then lashed to the side of the ‘Beamer’ in which position she was taken to Millport. Throughout the evening a large crowd had assembled in the vicinity of the pier on the outlook for the return of the diver and his vessel and when she made her appearance round Buttery Point people flocked from all parts of the town, eager to know the result of their mission. The ‘Beamer’ was moored alongside the pier and hundreds willingly parted with their pennies in order to get past the barricade and obtain a closer view.

The news that the two bodies were still unrecovered spread rapidly and the greatest sympathy was expressed on all hands for the sorrowing relatives. The little craft which had foundered and taken to their deaths so many valuable lives came in for close scrutiny. It was, of course, badly damaged, especially on the bottom which was severely ripped. This was to be expected, looking to the fact that she carried a fair quantity of ballast which would roll heavily about her bottom with the movement of the waves.

A large number of people hung about the quay till a late hour, discussing the affair in all its aspects, the prevailing opinion that after the stormy weather of the past few days, the chances of recovering the bodies are very remote.

Mr Waterston, who since his arrival on the island on Saturday, might have been the guest of Dr. Sinclair, is bearing up well under the sad blow which robbed him of his wife and two of his children. He has been following with anxious interest the attempts made to recover the missing bodies and throughout the day remained hopeful that the search would eventually prove successful. His surviving son, Knox, a bright lad of nine, is with him.

The bodies of Mr. Barclay senior and his grandchild William Waterston have been placed in coffins and will be removed for interment at Craigton Cemetery, Glasgow on Thursday.

Thursday, June 20th 1907

Another Day’s Fruitless Search

Millport, Wednesday Night

A note of sorrow still pervades the community of Millport. Even the amusements provided by a troupe of minstrels had been temporarily abandoned, the performances remaining in abeyance until this evening out of respect to the mourning relatives of the persons who were drowned.

After the non-success which attended the efforts of the diver yesterday, it was generally felt that there was little use of a search for the bodies being continued, at least through the medium of trawling. The crews of the Largs boats, conscious that while they had failed, they had at least done their best, returned home. With the Millport men it was different. Although far from hopeful of success, they resolved today to make another search. Accordingly, shortly before eleven o’clock, Wilson McNeil and a crew of four left Millport Bay for the scene of the disaster.

Instead of prosecuting the search near the spots where the ‘Rover’ foundered, they directed their efforts to the waters to he east and to the south and by systematic trawling several hundred yards were covered on each side.

Throughout the day and up till seven o’clock in the evening, they continued hard at their self-imposed task in a choppy sea, but with night-fall coming on and the weather growing more boisterous, they had at length to return disappointed at their failure.

During the day, large crowds of visitors watched the plucky trawlers from the shores. Other parties made a circuit of the island and searched the shore, but they likewise failed to find any trace of the body of Mrs. Waterston or of her little daughter and it may perhaps be assumed that the bodies have now been removed by he action of the currents from the immediate vicinity of the accident. Bearing in mind he possibility that the bodies may be cast ashore at some other part of the firth, the police have caused notice to be printed containing a description of the bodies and this will be issued to he various authorities along the estuary of the Clyde.

The condition of the ill-fated little craft when discovered by Diver Gush was made the subject of much talk today among the seafaring population of Millport. From the position in which the vessel was found, it seems clear that at the time she sank, she was running free, as the lugsail shoes (?) was well out, and so consequently was the sail. It was seen also that, contrary to the general assumption, the whole sail was set, the impression up till then being that at least one reef had been taken in. A remarkable fact, too, was that the sheet was fastened, which seems to indicate clearly that the steer-man of the party had not been apprehensive that his craft was in danger. Not only was the sheet entwined on the gunwale pin, but it was is addition fastened on a pin beneath. It is impossible even now to account with any certainty for the accident, but there is a possibility that a hard squall struck the sail, and that the helmsman was unable to throw her off to the wind in time by releasing the lugsail sheet. The damaged yacht remained at Millport Pier during the forenoon, but later in the day it was removed to a yard in the town where it will likely be repaired.

The funeral of Mr. Barclay senior and his grandson William Waterston takes place tomorrow and a large number of relatives and friends are expected to attend.

Funeral of Miss Blair and Mr. John Barclay

The funeral of Miss Blair and Mr. John Barclay, two of the victims of he disaster took place at Dalry yesterday, from the house of Miss Blair’s father in New Street. The tragic circumstances under which the young people met their death just when arrangements for their wedding had been completed caused a painful sensation in the town, and the interment of the bodies yesterday aroused much public sympathy. All places of business were closed and crowds lined the thoroughfare. The remains were conveyed in two hearses and were interred in the one grave. Amongst others who followed the remains to the cemetery, besides the relatives and friends of the deceased, were representatives from all the public bodies in the town.

Friday, June 21st 1907

The Millport Boating Disaster

Funeral of two of the victims

The funeral of Mr. William Law Barclay, aged sixty-two years and his four-year old grandson William Waterston, two of the six persons who lost their lives through the foundering of the lugsail yacht ‘Rover’ off Cumbrae on Saturday last, took place yesterday from Millport to Craigton Cemetery, Glasgow.

A funeral service was conducted shortly after 10 a.m. by Rev. Alexander Walker, East United Free Church, in the Town Hall, Millport, where the bodies had remained since Sunday. There was a large attendance of the general public. On the completion of the service, which was short and impressive, the remains, contained in handsome oak coffins, were placed in a hearse and the procession was formed in the quiet little street outside the Town Hall. There was a numerous company of mourners, several of the relatives of the deceased having arrived in Millport overnight, while in addition to these, a number of towns-people, including Provost Rowatt, Rev. Alexander Walker, Rev. James Frame (West United Free Church), Bailie James Watson Reid and Mr. Charles Wallace, took part in the obsequies. As the cortege took its way slowly along Guildford Street and Stuart Street there were many signs of mourning. The shops, hotels, and all places of business were closed while the cortege was passing slowly towards the pier, most of the window blinds in the houses were drawn and the burgh flag was flown at half-mast.

The progress of the funeral procession was watched with sympathetic interest by large crowds of people who had lined the streets and afterwards assembled on the pier. A the pier the wreath-covered coffins were removed from the hearse and placed in wooden cases upon the deck of the Caledonian Seam Packet Company’s steamer ‘Marchioness of Breadalbane’, the cases being afterwards with a large piece of waterproof sheeting. The weather was dull and cheerless and the rain began to fall in a thin drizzle as the steamer left Millport for Weymss Bay at 10.45. A Weymss Bay, the coffins were taken from the steamer and placed in the train for Glasgow.

The time of the funeral being widely known in Glasgow, a crowd of the general public waited along with the mourners, the arrival at the Central Station of the train from Weymss Bay. When the train drew alongside the platform at a quarter to one o’clock, the coffins were borne to the waiting hearse amid the silent, respectful sympathy of the beholders. Men raised their hats, and there were tears in the eyes of many of the women. Both coffins arrived covered with flowers – wreaths on those of Mr. Barclay and sprays of lilies of the valley on those of his grandson. Numerous other wreaths had been sent to the station and these were placed inside the hearse along with the coffins. Among the senders of the floral tributes of sympathy were the relatives and friends of the deceased, the Blair family, Dalry, the Glasgow and District Pawnbrokers’ Protective Association, the Glasgow and District Assistant Pawnbrokers’ Association and he office-bearers and members of the Maxwell Model Yacht Club. A service was conducted in the Central Station Hotel by the Rev. W. M. Clow, of the Stevenson Memorial Church of which Mr John Waterston, the bereaved husband and father is a member, and with which the late Mr. Barclay was also connected, and by the Rev. Alexander Brown of Pollokshields East United Free Church of which Mr. Waterston’s father is a member. At the close of the service, the hearse, followed by eighteen carriages containing the mourners, drive off, amid tokens of sympathy by the crowd to Craigton Cemetery. There, grandfather and grandchild were laid in one grave, that in Mr. Barclay’s own ground. The pall-bearers were Messrs John Waterston senior and junior, Knox Waterston, the brother of the drowned children and Messrs James Barclay senior and junior, John Barclay senior and junior and Alexander Waterston. Among the mourners were Mr. Andrew Gemmell, representative in Scotland of the National Pawnbrokers’ Association of Great Britain and Ireland, and Messrs James Miller, chairman, John Mackie, treasurer, and John Stevenson, secretary of the Glasgow branch of that association.

The bodies of Agnes Masterton and that of her two year old daughter
were never found.

Both mother and child’s deaths can be found in the Statutory Death Registrations giving their date of death as 15th June 1907

Agnes (in some documentation listed as having the middle name of Darroch) was the daughter of William Law Barclay and his first wife Annie Darroch.

Her daughter, although previously referred to as Agnes, is listed as Nan, and had the middle name of Chapman.

They both have an R.C.E. attached to their recorded deaths in the Register of the Parish of Cumbraes, County of Bute.
This was signed by R. L. Macmillan, Procurator Fiscal
Rothesay, 22nd July 1907 and at Millport 23rd July 1907
confirming that neither body was found.

Scotland’s People website explains an R.C.E. as follows:

RCE stands for Register of Corrected Entries.
Since 1965, it has been known as the Register of Corrections, Etc.
“Once an entry in a statutory register had been completed, the orginal entry could not be altered if an error was later discovered or an amendment was required as a result of new information. Instead, each registrar kept a register of corrected entries in which such amendments were written, originally after they had been approved by a sheriff. The original statutory register entry was then marked RCE, Register of Corrected Entries or Reg. Cor. Ent. in the left margin, followed by the volume number, page number and date of the correction.

Corrections to birth entries might be to name, residence, identity, or as a result of a sheriffs finding in a paternity case, with the fathers name being added as directed by the sheriff, or as a result of an illegitimate child being legitimised by the subsequent marriage of the parents. Corrections to marriage entries may relate to name, residence or identity, bigamy or divorce. Corrections to death entries may relate to name, residence, identity or sudden or accidental death.

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