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More Leaves from the Journal
The “Spate” 11 June 1872


Tuesday, June 11, 1872

Brown came in soon after four o’clock, saying he had been down at the waterside, for a child had fallen into the water, and the whole district was out to try and recover it—but it must be drowned long before this time. I was dreadfully shocked. It was the child of a man named Rattray, who lives at Cairn-na Craig, just above where the new wood-merchant has built a house, and quite close to the keeper Abercrombie’s house, not far from Monaltrie Farmhouse in the street. At a little before five, set off in the waggonette with Beatrice and Janie Ely, and drove along the north side of the river. We stopped a little way beyond Tynebaich, and saw the people wandering along the riverside. Two women told us that two children had fallen in (how terrible!), and that one “had been gotten—the little een” (as the people pronounce “one”), but not the eldest. They were searching everywhere. While we were there, the old grandmother, Catenach by name, who lives at Scatter Hole, came running along in a great state of distress. She is Rattray’s mother. We drove on a little way, and then turned round.

We heard from the people that the two boys, one of ten or eleven and the other only three, were at Mona!trie Burn, which comes down close to the farmhouse and below Mrs. Patterson’s shop, passing under a little bridge and running into the Dee. This burn is generally very low and small, but had risen to a great height—the Dee itself being tremendously high—not a stone to be seen. The little child fell in while the eldest was fishing; the other jumped in after him, trying to save his little brother; and before any one could come out to save them (though the screams of Abercrombie’s children, who were with them, were heard) they were carried away and swept by the violence of the current into the Dee, and carried along. Too dreadful! It seems, from what I heard coming back, that the poor mother was away from home, having gone to see her own mother, who was dying, and that she purposely kept this eldest boy back from school to watch the little one.

We drove back and up to Mrs. Grant’s, where we took tea, and then walked up along the riverside, and heard that nothing had been found and that the boat had gone back; but as we approached nearer to the castle we saw people on the banks and rocks with sticks searching: amongst them was the poor father—a sad and piteous sight—crying and looking so anxiously for his poor child’s body.

Wednesday. June 12

Drove up to the Bush to warn Mrs. William Brown never to let dear little Albert run about alone, or near to the burn, of the danger of which she was quite aware. She said her husband, William, had started off early at three this morning. Some people went down to Abergeldie and as far as the Girnoch to search, and others were up and below the castle.

No word of the poor child being found. All were to start early to search.

At half-past ten drove out in the waggonette with Beatrice and Janie Ely, and drove beyond Mrs. Patterson’s “shoppie” a little way, and turned up to the right off the road behind the wood-merchant’s new cottage, and got out just below Abercrombie the keeper’s house, and walked a few paces on to the small cottage called Cairn-na- Craig, at the foot of Craig Noerdie, in a lovely position, sheltered under the hill, yet high, with a beautiful view of Lochnagar. Brown went in first, and was received by the old grandmother ; and then we went in, and on a table in the kitchen covered with a sheet, which they lifted up, lay the poor sweet innocent “bairnie,” only three years old, a fine plump child, and looking just as though it slept, with quite a pink colour, and very little scratched, in its last clothes—with its little hands joined—a most touching sight. I let Beatrice see it, and was glad she should see death for the first time in so touching and pleasing a form.

Then the poor mother came in, calm and quiet, though she cried a little at first when I took her hand and said how much I felt for her, and how dreadful it was. She checked herself, and said, with that great resignation and trust which it is so edifying to witness, and which you see so strongly here, “We must try to bear it; we must trust to the Almighty.”

The poor little thing was called Sandy. She herself is a thin, pale, dark, very good and respectable-looking woman. She had no wish to go away that day, as the old grandmother told us, but her husband wished her to see her mother. She has one boy and two girls left, and the eldest and youngest are taken.

They were playing at the burnside, but some way above the road, where there is a small bridge. As we were leaving I gave her something, and she was quite overcome, and blessed me for it.

We walked down again, and then drove back, and walked at once past the stables to the riverside, where, on both sides, every one was assembled, four in the boat (Donald Stewart and Jemmie Brown amongst them), and all with sticks, and up and down they went, searching under every stone. They had been up to the boat pool and back, but nothing appeared. I remained watching till one o’clock, feeling unable to tear myself away from this terrible sight. The poor father was on our side, William Brown amongst the others on the other side. I sat on the bank with Janie Ely for some time (Beatrice having gone in earlier than I), Grant as well as Brown standing near me. When they came to that very deep pool, where twenty-two years ago a man wras nearly drowned when they were leistering for salmon, they held a piece of red cloth on a pole over the water, which enabled them to see down to the bottom. But all in vain. The river, though lower, was still very high.

At four took a short drive in the single pony carriage with Janie Ely, and back before five. Saw and talked to the schoolmaster, Mr. Lubban, a very nice little man, and he said that this poor child, Jemmie, the eldest, was such a good, clever boy. Every one shows so much feeling and kindness. It is quite beautiful to see the way in which every one turned out to help to find this poor child, from the first thing in the morning till the last at night—which, during these long days, was very hard work—and all seemed to feel the calamity deeply. We heard by telegraph during dinner that the poor boy’s body had been found on an island opposite Pannanich, below Ballater, and that steps would be taken at once to recover it.

Saturday, June 15

After luncheon, at a quarter to three, drove with the two children up as far as the West Lodge, and just then descried the sad funeral procession slowly and sadly wending its way along the road ; so we drove back again, catching glimpses of it as we went along, and drove on a little way beyond the bridge, when, seeing the first people not far off, we turned and drove back, stopping close to the bridge, and here we waited to see them pass. There were about thirty people, I should say, including the poor father, Jemmie and Willie Brown, Francie’s brother, Alick Leys, Farmer Patterson, etc. The poor father walked in front of one of the coffins both covered with white, and so small. It was a very sad sight. Dr. Taylor walked last with another gentleman. He had of course been up to the house and performed the service there, as is always done throughout Scotland by all the Protestant denominations except the Episcopalian, and no service whatever near the grave. [A change has taken place since this was written, and now (1883) a prayer is sometimes said as well at the grave.] We watched the sad procession as long as we could, and drove home again.


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