Hamilton Advertiser

Issue: Saturday, 27th July, 1908

(transcribed by Bob Currie)

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SAD BOATING FATALITY ON THE

CLYDE

THREE STRATHAVEN YOUTHS DROWNED

Through the capsizing of a lugsail boat on the Clyde of Kilcreggan on Monday evening four of the five occupants lost their lives. The boat set out from Gourock about half-past three o’clock having on board James Crickmore, coastguardsman, and four brothers - Robert Cummings (22), William Cummings (19), John and James Cummings, twins, 15 years of age, sons of Robert Cummings, junior, Strathaven, who were staying at Gourock for the month of July. The boat is a Government craft, about 18 feet in length, heavy and sound in the umber, and used officially when necessary by the coastguardsmen in boarding ships arriving in the firth. It must be said that at the time of departure from the station, which is immediately to the west of Gourock pier, the weather was not altogether favourable for a pleasure sail. The wind was from the north-west, blowing strong and gustily out of the lochs and obviously squally, with a nasty sea over the shallows inside the shoals buoy near the Kilcreggan shore. The character of the wind and water was observed by more than one person on shore when the boat, carrying lugsail and jib passed out on a board across the mouth of Gourock Bay., and afterwards as it was brought about to head over the channel. There did not, however, appear to be any absolute danger on the near side of the firth and on the outward passage. Although they found conditions much worse closer on the Argyllshire shore, they were successful in reaching their destination. It was on the trip home, begun not long afterwards, that the disaster happened. They were then before the wind, still breaking in squalls and raising dangerous looking seas. When about 200 yards out from land the boat was struck suddenly by a heavy wave, which sent it over on its beam ends, and then capsized it, all the occupants being thrown into the water. So just as can be learned, the Coastguardsman, Crick more was unfortunate in getting so entangled in the gear and sails that he had literally no chance of saving himself, and he sank from sight long before any help could reach the scene. The eldest of the four, Robert Cummings, who is a capable swimmer, set himself the brave task of assisting by arm and words of encouragement to keep his brothers afloat. His strength at length gave out, and having managed to bring William, 19 years, back to the upturned boat, he found himself unable to do more, and from that point of time the younger two, twins of 15 years, were not seen again. During the struggles of the four young fellows the boat turned over no fewer than three times in the heavy surge of the squall. The calamity occurred almost opposite Portkil Fort, where are encamped 100 men of the 2nd Lanark Clyde Fortress Company; and as the men were returning from camp work to their tents they were appalled at what was passing before their eyes. Alarms had been raised along the shore towards Kilcreggan, and boats were manned and pulled off as speedily as could be. Four young boys who were rowing about in the vicinity, pulled to the help of the brothers, who were clinging to the upturned craft, and were fortunate in catching hold of them and keeping them up until the arrival of further help. Another boat, in which were Mr McKellar, boat builder, Kilcreggan, and Mr Preston, Inspector of Govan School Board, was next to appear, and into this the brothers were safely taken, after having been half-an-hour in the water. They were conveyed with speed on shore to the camp, where Mr Preston rendered first aid until the arrival of a medical man Dr. Macartney, from Partick, on holiday at Kilcreggan. The lads were naturally very much exhausted when brought ashore. William so much so that little hope was entertained from the first of his recovery, and notwithstanding all efforts to resuscitate him he succumbed in the course of the evening. Robert, the eldest and surviving brother, regained his strength very shortly, and was able to leave for Gourock with the late steamer at half-past nine o’clock. The mother of Mr Adam, yacht builder, Gourock, went over to Kilcreggan and towed the unfortunate lugsail boat to Gourock Bay. The drowned are:- James Crickmore, 45 years of age, coastguardsman and clerk to the divisional officer at Gourock Station; William Cummings, 19; John Cummings and James Cummings, twins, 15 years. Crickmore has left a widow (who is delicate) and five children. The Cummings family arrived in Gourock a few days before from Strathaven on holiday, and the boys were residing with their mother and sister in a house in Shore Street. The father is a master joiner in Strathaven, and Robert is engaged with him in the business. William was learning ship construction at Clydebank, and the twins were at school. The family is well known and respected in Strathaven. On learning of the calamity at Gourock the relatives telegraphed for Mr Cummings, who left home at once. The bodies of Coastguardsman Crickmore and the twins have not been recovered. It was only by the merest chance that the girls of the family did not accompany the unfortunate party. Had they done so, the probability is that the whole family would have been wiped out. The sad affair caused widespread sorrow on both sides of the Firth.

A HEROIC STRUGGLE

Mr Robert Cummings, a fine sturdy young fellow, in relating his experience, said the boating party left Gourock in a lug-sail belonging to their friend, the coastguardsman, at 3.15. There was a fine sailing breeze, and they had a quick passage, Sergeant Crickmore being a good sailor. On reaching the point where the accident happened Robert was at the tiller, and Crickmore was doing something at the sail. He was turning the boat round when through some unaccountable reason she capsized. No squall struck her. On coming to the surface they all clung to the overturned boat. She canted from one side to the other, and they were thrown off three different times. On the third occasion, when coming to the surface, the coastguardsman and his brother John were away from the boat some distance. Knowing the coastguardsman was a strong swimmer, having secured the Humane Society’s medal, he did not leave the boat, feeling sure he would look after John. He saw them both floating in the water, and said a word to John. After that he saw no more of either of John or the coastguardsman. On having to leave go the boat for the fourth time, and on coming to the surface, William had disappeared, and James was apparently unconscious. He saw William floating underneath the boat. Throwing James across the gunwale he dived for William, and managed to bring him to the surface. James had slipped from his position, and was floating some yards away. Placing his unconscious brother William across the gunwale he was afraid to leave him, and realising the hopelessness of trying to save both said good-bye to James, who was just able to answer with a murmur before disappearing beneath the waves. The boat heeled over again while he was supporting his brother William and himself. At this stage the rescuing parties arrived on the scene, and they were taken ashore after a 20 minutes struggle with death, to be intensified some hours later when the only remaining brother followed those who had so shortly gone before.

RECEPTION OF THE NEWS IN STRATHAVEN

News of the disaster reached Strathaven on Monday evening, and for hours groups of people could be seen everywhere discussing the sad tidings. On the arrival home of the family on Wednesday a large crowd of sympathisers met them at the station. A hearse was in waiting for the coffin, but a number of men insisted on carrying it to the house on their shoulders as a mark of sympathy. The funeral of William takes place today at three o’clock.