In the summer of 1932 a recently married couple travelled from the west end of Newcastle to spend their honeymoon in Beadnell Bay. The young man, a keen swimmer, set out for an afternoon dip. He got into some difficulties and began gesticulating and flailing his arms in the direction of his new bride. Admiring his physical prowess the woman waved back to her husband; happy and in love, she watched as he swam in the bay. The couple were my maternal grandparents and the family story goes that my grandfather nearly drowned. If he had lost his life in the waters off Beadnell Bay that July afternoon then my mother would not exist, and neither would I. And so the family story goes. I have no idea if my grandfather managed to save himself or if there was a rescue operation.
Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as we’ve all been led to believe but rather over the years, time – as it has a way of doing – shaped and coloured the events into something greater than they were. Whatever the truth Beadnell has always played an important part in my family history and as this project develops I would like to find out if there is any record of the near drowning of my grandfather in 1932.
As well as the near-death incident I have another family connection with this bit of Northumberland. The same grandfather who took that dip in Beadnell – William Robertson and a descendent of the Cockburn-Robertsons of Alnwick – lived near the borders (I don’t know where) and was taken in a pony and trap to his “rich relative’s house in Alnwick”. Again, I have few details about this part of the family tree though the Alnwick pant has one of the Robertson’s names on it. My mother, as a child, recalls a commemorative vase in their home dedicated to one of the Cockburn-Robertsons (she can’t remember exactly which one). She and her sister, my aunt, broken the glass vase while throwing satsumas in the house. There was hell to pay for that.
The Cockburn-Robertsons and Robertsons seem to figure in quite a bit of Alnwick’s history and although AYearInBeadnell isn’t a genealogy project I would like to know more about my Northumbrian heritage. Hopefully over the course of the year I might hear from a friendly historian who can help me fill in some of the gaps.