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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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Half a century ago Colin saved a girl from drowning; today he wants to find out what happened to her

Colin Wilde has always wondered what happened to the girl whose life he saved 50 years ago.

The old Bridge at North Beach in Greystones.
The old Bridge at North Beach in Greystones.

This story was updated on 10/10/16

COLIN WILDE SAVED a young girl’s life 50 years ago, but he never learned her name.

In the summer of 1967, when Colin was 12, he travelled from his hometown of Kippax, West Yorkshire, on a school trip to Greystones in Wicklow.

Colin remembers the trip fondly.

On a bright summer’s day, the group headed to nearby Bray to go for a swim. As Colin remembers, the weather was fine but the sea was freezing – too cold to go swimming.

He recalls that after tea at the youth hostel where they were staying, the group had walked down Main Street towards the beach.

“There was a metal bridge over the railway lines to the beach,” Colin told TheJournal.ie over the phone from his home in England.

“I was walking over there and then I just heard this horrible screaming – gurgling screaming,” he said.

“I looked towards the sea and I saw this young girl drowning, no two ways about it she was just drowning.

“So I raced over the bridge to the beach, took my clothes off – luckily I had my swimming trunks on – I swam out and I pulled her back in.

I never even thought about it, I just went in and grabbed her arm and got back out.
And that’s the last I ever saw of her.

FullSizeRender Colin Wilde

Memory

Colin never found out the girl’s name or what happened to her after that day.

“Some adults that were there and they turned her on her side and got the sea water out of her lungs,” he said.

The last I saw of her she was getting sick up water on the beach. I just picked my clothes up and went back to the youth hostel.

He remembers that she was fully clothed when he rescued her, wearing a big duffel jacket. He doesn’t know how she got into the water.

He recalls the walk back to the hostel. He was stripped down to his trunks and shivering and an elderly woman brought him back to her house to warm him up with a cup of tea.

Church-Road-Main-Street-Beetle-Harry-Acheson-1024x676 Greystones main street 1960s. Source: Harry Acheson via Greystones Guide

When he got back to the hostel, Colin said he was interviewed by a local paper (he can’t remember which paper), and a story appeared the next day about the event.

“I don’t know whether it was the coldness of the water or the shock of what had happened, but I’d lost my voice, I couldn’t even talk,” he said.

“I had a friend with me and he told the newspaper what had happened.

The only way I know she survived is because the newspaper clipping said I had saved her life.

The newspaper in question was the Irish Press. An article that appeared on Saturday, 20 May 1967, detailed Colin’s rescue:

Colin news# The original article detailing Colin's rescue. Source: Irish Press

Colin returned to England a few days after the rescue, and his life continued as normal.

Shortly after, he received a certificate from Dublin commending him for saving the girl’s life, which gave her age as 16, but no name.

A report from Tuesday, 12 December mentions Colin again as being awarded a certificate of bravery from Leinster House.

colin2 Source: Irish Press

The years passed and Colin grew up, became a sheet metal fabricator by trade and worked most of his life as a site manager.

Today he is retired and living in Kippax, the same small village where he grew up. He is married with three children and two grandchildren.

Ladies Fashions, Kippax A shopfront in Kippax. Source: Alan Burnett via Flickr

Recently, when he was telling his grandchildren about the day, he realised that he had lost the newspaper clipping.

“I just don’t know what’s happened to it. I’ve looked everywhere now.”

Appeal

Colin is an avid fisherman. He has returned to Ireland on many occasions over the years on trips and holidays.

“I’ve always had an affinity with Ireland, I can’t really explain it,” he said.

I’ve just always really like it there.

Throughout his life he has often thought of the girl he saved that day in Greystones and what had happened to her.

“I still remember that horrible gurgling sound. The sound of trying to scream but your lungs are full of water… I’ll never forget it,” he said.

“I’ve always wondered what happened to her… what she was doing in the water that day.

I don’t want any adoration or anything I was just curious to know whether she’d had a good life.

Do you know anything about this story or the people involved? Contact cormac@thejournal.ie to get in touch. 

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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