Down Memory Lane, May 7 2021

Clare Frith, centre, has been researching her McNab ancestors, including her great, great grandfather, Alexander McNab, left and her great grandmother, Grace McNab Bridge, right.
Clare Frith, centre, has been researching her McNab ancestors, including her great, great grandfather, Alexander McNab, left and her great grandmother, Grace McNab Bridge, right.

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Family research uncovers tragedy on Loch Awe

Last week’s Down Memory Lane told of Tees-side woman Clare Frith’s quest to learn more about her Argyll heritage.

While researching her maternal great-great grandfather, Alexander McNab, Clare learned of a 19th century tragedy in the family.

During a discussion about the family’s McNab heritage, her cousin mentioned a drowning on Loch Awe involving Donald McNab, elder brother by four years of Alexander.

Parliamentary records reveal that Donald, a boatman, drowned on the morning of June 28 1886.

Hansard records that Sir Charles Cameron, Liberal MP for Glasgow College, asked the Lord Advocate Mr J H A MacDonald about the incident in the House of Commons during September that year.

He pointed out that Donald’s body was not found where his companions in the boat alleged he had fallen overboard and, when found floating weeks afterwards, it bore marks on the head and hand.

Given those circumstances and ‘considering the anxiety of McNab’s family to have the case investigated’, he asked the Lord Advocate whether he would direct the procurator fiscal ‘to order such post mortem examination as may show whether the marks referred to had been caused before or after death or, if such an examination has been made, he will allow MacNab’s family to inspect the medical report and any depositions in the case?’.

The Lord Advocate replied that the people who were with him in the boat gave information at once to the police.

He added: ‘The body was not recovered until August 22 and was, of course, in an advanced state of decomposition and had been injured from being in that state.

‘It was examined by a competent medical man who reported there was no sign of any injury having been inflicted before death.

‘It was not the practice to make public the particulars in cases where those responsible for criminal investigation were satisfied that no crime had been committed but he might mention, for the satisfaction of the honourable member and those on whose behalf the question was put, that on recovery of the body what was observed tended strongly to confirm the accuracy of the statements which had been made at the time by those who were with the deceased when the accident took place.’

Anyone with any other information on Clare’s McNab ancestors can email editor@campbeltowncourier.co.uk and this will be passed on.