The Cellardyke Echo – 29/10/21 – Issue 311


THE LOSS OF THE SLOOP “THE WATSONS.”— The following letter regarding the loss of this vessel appeared in Tuesday’s ” Scotsman” :- -” Sir, I take notice of this day week’s ” Scotsman” about the wreck of the Watsons of Thurso, which was wrecked between Anstruther and Crail. We were bound from Shields to St Andrews, laden with coal. We got the length of the May Island, when the gale overtook us. We lost our canvas, and drove abreast of Caiplie farm-house. A Cellardyke fisherman observed the smack -one hour before we struck. They say the Anstruther lifeboat was in readiness. Could she not have come a distance of two miles in one hour, and have saved all the crew of the ill-fated vessel?—l am the only survivor of the crew,— JOHN BLACKIE, Leith.” [It is almost necessary to say that had the lifeboat been of any use at the spot where ” The Watsons” went ashore, an attempt would have been made to have taken her there. Instead of there being an hour to spare after the lifeboat was in readiness, it was hardly that time from the vessel being seen by a fisherman at the east end of Cellardyke and her being ashore; and the fisherman had to come to Anstruther and give the alarm, so that by the time the lifeboat was in readiness it was impossible to reach the vessel before she was among the rocks, where the lifeboat would have been of no use.


Anstruther New Town HALL.—This building is now rapidly progressing towards completion. …………….In alluding to the town hall, it may not be out of place to refer to a suggestion which has been made regarding the space of ground between the new town hall and the brewery. A movement is said to be making at present to provide a more suitable lock-up than the damp and unhealthy one below the town hall of West Anstruther. Now, at very little expense, a lock-up could be erected on the space of ground above alluded to. It would be a most fitting and central place for such an adjunct to the town hall and the courts of justice which may be held in it. The present lock-up serves for the three burghs of East and West Anstruther and Kilrenny; and West Anstruther is rather distant at any rate from Cellardyke, from whence sometimes a good many offenders against law have to be conveyed. Towards the expense of erection, which would be very little, the three burghs and the county would contribute; and it would be as well to get the thing done now while the new town hall is building. Two walls and a roof is all that would be required. The suggestion is worth taking note of by our civic authorities.


About eight o’clock on Wednesday night, a fire broke out in a stable occupied by Mr Alex. Myles, it appears that a boy had gone in to supper the horse, and while doing so had laid the lantern on the floor, when by some means or other the straw got ignited. The alarm was at once given, and in a few minutes a large number of persons turned out, by whose assistance a part of the roof was taken off, and the fire soon subdued. The horse was got out of the stable immediately after the fire commenced, but some pigs which were also in it received a slight scorching. The stable, which was insured, is not very seriously damaged.


Intelligence has reached Liverpool, by telegraph, from Hong Kong, of the total loss of the celebrated China tea clipper ship Taeping, for many years the favourite ship in the great race from China. Crushed out of the tea freights to England, in consequence of the competition of steamers via the Suez Canal, even the celebrated clippers have been forced to take “cross freights” and at the time of her loss the Taeping was going from Amoy to New York, with a full cargo of tea. She is reported lost on Lord Reef—a dangerous reef in the China Seas. The master and 11 men had been landed at Saigon; remainder of crew (officers and 13 men) missing. Her Majesty’s ship Teaser had left Saigon to look for them, and to see if any cargo could be saved. The Taeping was a composite ship of 767 tons, was built by Steele, of Greenock, in 1863, and owned by Rodger & Co., of Glasgow. She was built to almost faultless lines, and her dimensions, according to official returns, were :—Length, 183 ft. 7in. ; breadth, 31ft. lin. ; and depth, 19ft. 9itt. She was commanded by Captain J. Dowdy, who has commanded her since 1867. We understand that a telegram was received in Cellardyke on Wednesday from Alex. Rodger, Esq., Glasgow stating that of the three boats in which the crew of the Taeping had taken refuge, one had arrived at Saigon and the other at Batavia. A young lad named John Watson, son of Mr James Watson (Salter), formed one of the crew, and as it is not known whether he is in any of the boats which have turned up or in the one still missing, some anxiety is naturally felt for his safety.


Cellardyke Fishing Boat ashore at Yarmouth

Last Thursday afternoon, as the fishing bout belonging to Skipper Robert Keay, of Cellardyke, was proceeding to sea with a strong breeze blowing, she struck the ground at the side of the river. Fearing that they were in danger, the sail was let go, and the boat made fast to the side of the quay. The crew then made fast thick ropes aft and forward to the shore, in order to keep the boat from being driven down by the tide, which runs very fast. While in this position, one of the beachmen let go the stern rope, and immediately ran off, and the boat then went down the river until she went on shore at the north bank. The sea was running pretty high at the time, and breaking over the boat; which soon filled with water. The assistance of other Scotch fishermen at present at Yarmouth was obtained, and the boat hauled up as far as possible, but it was not until four o’clock next morning that she was got up at the back of the quay, with her ‘ gibber strikes’ split, and her bilge ropes off. It is to be hoped that the beachman who played the dastardly trick to the crew will be discovered, and receive the reward he so richly deserves.


The intelligence from Yarmouth and Lowestoft is to the effect that only a few of the Cellardyke crews have fished well, and that the majority have not been so successful as they were last year. The fleet is expected home before the end of next month.


The Chairman said he had to report a very strong exercise of authority as an individual member of the Board, and it would be for them to approve or disapprove of what had been done. It was pretty well known that scarlatina was prevalent to a considerable extent in Cellardyke, and it had occurred to him that it might be a question to be seriously considered whether under the circumstances it would not be a proper thing temporarily to close the schools. He had taken counsel with Dr Macarther, and, as that gentleman had approved of the suggestion, he (the Chairman), taking the whole responsibility upon himself, and deeming the matter urgent, had gone round and shut up the schools on last Tuesday afternoon. He had not felt any hesitation in his own mind as to the propriety of the step. He had called upon a great many of the families where the fever prevailed, and in nearly every case the parents attributed the infection to have been caught at the schools. They all knew the great danger that might occur in that way, and that one child, carrying the infection in his or her clothes, might spread disease in 50 families ; and it was only as a sanitary precaution that he had taken the liberty of ordering the schools to be closed. He knew there was to be a meeting of the Board in the end of the week, and at the worst, if they disapproved of what he had done, it was only the loss of two or three days.

Rev. Mr Smith did not think the fever would be stamped out any quicker by the closing of the schools. In a place like Cellardyke, they could not keep the children out of each other’s houses, and he knew many cases where be supposed fever turned out to be only a cold from which the children recovered in a day or two. He thought it was too much, even for a Chairman, to shut the schools on his own responsibility, because there were several things to be taken into consideration. Miss England, for instance, would lose the week’s school fees. There was only a third of the scholars at the Infant School away, and it Dr Macarthur thought it was right to close the schools, he should have given the same advice in Anstruther. There were as many pupils in proportion absent front the East School in Anstruther, and he knew that the teacher there had told the Dr that he had given instructions that in those families where the fever had broken out the other children should remain away, and that plan Dr Macarthur had approved of.

The Chairman said he had consulted none of the other members of the Board on the subject, and be took the whole responsibility upon himself. If it was a proper thing to do, he considered the sooner it was done the better. Mr Oliphant said he took a very different view from that of Mr Smith. He had had occasion more than once to consult Dr Bonthrone about these matters, and his advice was that when any skin disease, whether small-pox or scarlet fever, broke out, the proper plan to adopt was to shut the schools at once, not only on account of those who had taken it, but also as a measure of precaution against those who had recovered and were able to go back to school, because for a fortnight or three weeks afterwards they were more apt to spread the disease than when confined to bed. He certainly thought the schools should be closed, and was very glad when he heard what the Chairman had done. It might be an excess of power on his part–he did not doubt that—but still it had been done as a precautionary measure, and he believed the fever would be more readily stamped out than by keeping the schools open.

There was another consideration, which, though not immediately before the Board, ought to be kept in view. If they allowed the schools to remain open, attended probably by only one half the usual number, it would reduce the average attendance, and consequently the emoluments of the Board, besides lowering the character of the teachers. For his own part, he thought the schools should always be shut when skin disease was prevalent, and probably the churches also. (A laugh.)

Rev. G. Smith said there must be a certain number of attendances, and they would lose the capitation grant if the schools were to remain shut, which would amount to as much as the loss on account of the reduced average attendance. He would like to know if the schools were to remain shut in the event of the epidemic continuing six months. In Buckhaven the fever had been prevalent for the last twelve months, and the schools there had continued open.

Mr Oliphant said Mr Smith was arguing very admirably in favour of the Chairman’s action, because if the schools there had been closed, the disease would in all probability have been stamped’ out long ago.

Rev. Mr Smith—That has to be tried.

Mr Oliphant—Better to try it than allow the fever to spread.

Rev. Mr Smith said although the fever was raging in Glasgow the schools there were not shut, and he never heard of schools being closed for an epidemic except in one case, where measles had reduced the attendance to about 20

The Chairman said he was extensively acquainted with schools elsewhere, and it has been the universal practice to close the schools. In the case of measles, if one child took them, nearly the whole of the scholars were sure to be ill in a few days.

Rev. Mr Smith said he never heard of that practice being adopted.

The Chairman said he saw Dr Macarthur on the previous evening, who had informed him that there was no use in having the schools closed for less than a fortnight. That was not the only means for checking the epidemic, but it was one very obvious means, and within their power. The sanitary condition of Cellardyke was far from being what was desirable, and he had taken the step under a very strong sense of duty, to the safety of the community. Although it seemed not to have been the practice in the district, to his mind he keeping open of the schools appeared to be an indirect way of spreading disease and death in the community.

Rev. Mr Grant said he had no doubt the Chairman acted from the best motives in shutting the schools. The question came to be, was it the best plan to cause the epidemic to abate!

Mr Oliphant said the only complaint be had heard with reference to the closing of the schools was that the parents could not send their children to school immediately after they had recovered, which was the worst time they could do so.

The Chairman instanced the case of a child which was at school on the Thursday and died on the following Tuesday, and said that they did not know when the disease was hanging over the children. Pupils sitting crushed up in a close school for several hours were far more apt to catch the infection than by merely being beside one who had the disease for a few minutes in the open air. One thing he might point out, and that was where schools were shut up for an epidemic, it was reckoned as if there had been a regular attendance, so that there was no danger of losing the capitation grant. But really for the sake of putting a few shillings into Miss England’s, or Any other teacher’s pocket, it was not worthwhile risking the health of the community. None of them had any desire to abut the schools unless it were absolutely necessary.

Rev. Mr Grant said he thought the Board should suffer the loss, and not the teachers.

The Chairman then said they could approve or disapprove of his conduct.

Rev. Mr Grant said they had nothing to do with what the Chairman had done, and the question to be settled was whether or not the schools should continue closed.

Mr Oliphant said it was a common thing in Presbyteries and other courts, when a moderator had called a special meeting or done some unusual thing, for him to submit his conduct for approval or disapproval.

The Chairman had done something beyond; the ordinary power, and he now said, ‘ I wish you either to approve or disapprove of what I have done, and act accordingly.’ (A laugh.) There was not the least doubt that was the ordinary mode of procedure, although some reverend gentlemen might laugh because they did not know better.

Rev. Mr Smith said he thought the teachers had no right to close the schools on the authority of one member of the Board. It was a dereliction of duty on their part, and if a teacher knew his place, he would not do it. Even in the days of parish schools, a teacher would not have done so, even for the parish minister.

The Chairman said the practice was entirely different whatever the law might have been.

Rev. Mr Smith-Then the teachers did not know their place.

Mr Oliphant-According to that, the teachers must be all very ignorant and Mr Smith very learned.

Rev. Mr Smith—We don’t want any of that, Mr Oliphant.

Mr Oliphant said he would move that they approve of what had been done, and that it be remitted to the Chairman to consult Dr Macarthur as to when the schools should be re-opened.

Mr Gray seconded the motion.

The Clerk asked if there was any countermotion.

Rev. Mr Grant said it was no use to move an amendment they all approved of the Chairman’s motives. He did not say they liked his stretch of power. The motion was then agreed to, and after passing some accounts, the Board adjourned.

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