Argyllshire Advertiser

Research unveils tragic story of 19th century drowning


It was while talking with a cousin about the family’s McNab heritage that Clare learned of a 19th-century tragedy in the family.

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.’

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