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Home: Surnames: Fairbairn Family Genealogy Forum

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Re: James Fairbairn - Cockburnspath
Posted by: John L. Fairbairn Date: January 10, 2002 at 14:39:16
In Reply to: Re: James Fairbairn - Cockburnspath by Norman Peters of 540

Mr. Peters -

The version of htis story is the one handed down in my family. I grant that it may have been embellished. I have had no way to personally check it, since I know none of the family in the area and I live in the Upper Midwest in the USA.

As I got the story, my GGGrandgather was the acknowledged 'Captain of the Fleet'. It was on his say that the fleet left harbour, with him being persuaded by a contingent of the youngest captains. They were antsey and champing at the bit about being restricted to harbor on what, family stories reported the youngest as saying, was "a perfectly bonnie day faer fishin'". His wife and his daughter, my great grand-Aunt Catherine, watched from the rocks through the night as boat after boat capsized or smashed.

In particular, she and her mother watched her father's boat capsize and go down in seconds within 30 feet of the pier when a sudden sharp gust of wind caught the sail as they turned broadside to come about on the last leg into port and safety. One was injured in the overturn and drowned almost immediately. One was caught in the rigging and pulled under. The third was caught by the undertow and exhausted himself trying to fight his way to shore. Mere minutes later, they saw her brother's vessel try the same maneuver, but with the sail dropped. That one was driven sideways on the rocks. According to her account, none of the men from the fleet survived and the screams and pleas of the dying men were pitiful and heartbreaking.

She wrote in her diary (which is now lost, but from which she wrote a school paper that one of the members of my family had until her recent death) that one man clung to a rock about 20 feet out beyond shoulder depth for almost two hours before cold and buffeting by waves tore him away. A small group of women got a line to him four or five times, but he would not let go and trust them to haul him in through the raging undertow. He said he was afraid they would be sucked in. His final cries were to his wife and daughters, telling them how much he loved them.

Sadly, I have no direct confirmation for any of this.

Regards -


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