Father couldn’t save drowning son

1903 – Grazier Andrew Muir was unable to save his son when he got caught in the surf off the south western Australian coast. In fact, he had to be rescued himself.

. Albany cemetery. Image Sharyn Moodie 2020

Mr Muir, his third son Melville and another man George Arber, all of Mt Barker had gone to visit his cattle run at Quarramup Boat Harbor, about 25 miles from Denmark.

It was a Tuesday morning, and after attending to their business, they fished, lunched and then went for a swim.

Melville went about 15 yards away from the adults, where the waves were breaking on a sandy stretch of beach.

A little later the men lost sight of Melville, until Arber saw him struggling in the water.

They rushed to him. Muir was unable to swim and Arber was “little better qualified to go to the rescue’’.

The newspapers reported that Melville’s father

“in his anxiety, rushed into the sea, and being caught by the backwash he would have been carried away but for the assistance his companion was able to render him’’

– in other words Arber had to rescue the rescuer.

The men could see the body about 50 or 60 yards away floating in shallow water. Muir and Arber went in and carried the body to the shore.

The bereaved father spent more than an hour carrying out artificial respiration “but all efforts in that direction proved futile”.

When the duo accepted that Melville was gone, they put him on a packhorse and started out for Denmark. It was about 3 o’clock by then.

But progress was slow, and they were forced to spend the night in the thick scrub.

They reached Denmark about 9 o’clock the next morning. Melville’s body was put on to a train to Albany, where an inquest was duly held at the Court House.

Melville’s father told the inquest he could not swim, but that he considered the area safe for bathing.

Detail from Melvile’s gravestone in the Albany cemetery

Sources:  The Albany Advertiser, Saturday 17 January 1903, p4

The Evening Star, Saturday 17 January 1903, p3

Albany, WA

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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