Celebrations quickly turns to tragedy

1938 Bothwell Bridge from Blantyre (PV)

1938 Bothwell Bridge from Blantyre (PV)

Saturday 22nd June 1935 was a hot, warm Summer’s day in Blantyre and also a day where small crowds had gathered near the Lido , at Bothwell Bridge. Whilst a growing rising threat brewed in Europe, this Summer celebration was a commemoration service to mark the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. The service took place in the field where the Covenanters monument stands.

As families sat in the park, and played at the river side, a tragedy unfolded when Peter Murray, the 14 year old son of John Murray of 178 Glasgow Road, Blantyre drowned before the very eyes of the crowd. Along with some friends, John had been bathing in the river , accessed from the Lido beach. In front of the bridge, he had swum over to the other side and was on his way back, when midway he got into difficulties. It is unknown if this was due to exhaustion, the heat of the day or if the strong currents around the bridge piers had affected him. He disappeared under the river, and amongst his yells, several people scrambled to his aid. However, it was too late and he had vanished before anybody could get to him, the fast flowing river causing further confusion as to where his body would be. Men in a boat carried out grappling operations and Blantyre swimmers took part in a search diving bravely into many deep part of the turbulent river. The search continued all the next day , but was abandoned and given up at 10.30pm on the Sunday when light had vanished.

Wanting to know more, it took me a while to search subsequent newspaper reports, where i found John’s body was eventually recovered. A week later on Friday 28th June 1935 three Village boys were playing near the River Clyde dam at the suspension bridge. Their attention was drawn to a body dammed up and against the sluice gates of the lade. Shocked and panicked, they ran for help and with the assistance of some nearby men the body was brought to the bank, and later removed to the Blantyre Police Office mortuary. The body had been carried down the river almost three quarters of a mile from where the drowning had happened.

This story is yet another reminder of the dangers of the river Clyde at Blantyre, even in Summer. I have now lost count of the amount of fatalities on this stretch of the water through the decades. The postcard attached is from a few years after, with notable tram electric standards now gone from the bridge but is the exact scene of the accident and puts this story fully in context.

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