Ceremony to hear of rescues as Borderers collect bravery awards

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A MUM and daughter from Melrose who helped prevent a man jumping from a notorious suicide spot will be acknowledged today with a Lothian and Borders Police Meritorious award.

The ceremony at the force’s HQ at Fettes will hear how Catriona Thomson and her daughter Lucy were driving towards Galashiels on May 10 this year when they noticed that a man had climbed over the railings of the Galafoot Bridge on the busy A6091 trunk road.

Mrs Thomson immediately stopped the vehicle and told Lucy to call the emergency services. Lucy calmly explained the situation, making the call-taker fully aware of the incident, while her mother approached the man and chatted with him, reassuring him and managing to persuade him to climb back to the right side of the bridge, high above the River Tweed.

The Fettes gathering will be told that while this was happening, Mrs Thomson had been joined by an off-duty police sergeant who helped the man back over the railings. Mrs Thomson stayed with the man until the police arrived.

“Catriona and Lucy’s calm approach to a situation charged with emotion save this man’s life and we are please to recognise this today,” states the narrative which accompanies their citation.

Today’s ceremony will see many civilians and serving officers from throughout the force area receive meritorious awards or commendations from Chief Constable David Strang who will make the presentations.

Another bridge – the one carrying the Melrose bypass over the town’s Dingleton Road – featured in an incident which has earned commendations for PC Barry Taylor (based in Galashiels) and his female colleague PC Terrie Ray (Jedburgh), and a meritorious award for Melrose resident Bruce Dodds.

It occured in May 2009, when Mr Dodds was out walking and noticed a man standing outside the bridge railings. As he waited for the police to arrive, Mr Dodds chatted to the man in an attempt to talk him to safety, a task taken over by PC Rae who quickly established a rapport with the man.

After about half an hour, the man lost his grip of the railings but, before he fell, he was grabbed by Mr Dodds, PC Rae and PC Taylor, who had been “biding his time” because the man did not want anyone in uniform to approach him, and hauled him to safety.

“Without Bruce’s initial intervention and the effective actions of the two officers, this incident may well have had a tragic outcome,” the ceremony will hear.

There will be commendations for three constables – Michael Burgher, Graham Wilson and Stuart Little – and special constable Conal McEwan, all based in Hawick, for their actions in June last year when they successfully restrained a violent man.

The incident occurred at a house in the town’s Laing Terrace after police received reports that a window had been smashed. The officers were confronted by the occupant who was brandishing a hammer and continued to lash out even after PCs McEwan and Little used their CS spray. PC Burgher and SC Wilson then grabbed the assailant, pulled him to the ground and disarmed him, but, during the arrest, PC Burgher was struck on the head with the hammer and PC McEwan struck on the hand. The other officers sustained minor injuries.

The commendation, noting that “the man did not attack anyone else that night” praises the officers’ “professionalism and bravery”.

There will be meritorious awards, too, for Bonnyrigg brothers Billy and Kenny Clark, and Peebles resident Rhona Mackay who, along with PCs Nicola Craig and Helen Spence, helped rescue an injured man from the River Tweed in February last year.

The gathering will hear how Bill and Kenny had been walking along the bank near Neidpath Castle when they saw a man, who appeared to be injured, in the river which was in spate at the time.

Rhona Mackay, walking on the opposite bank, followed the man as he was swept downstream and directed the brothers to him as they waded in above their knees before successfully dragging him to the bank. PCs Craig and Spence were quickly on the scene having run a mile on a treacherous track to reach the man who was seriously injured. The pair tended to him before a helicopter rescue took place, PC Craig having to stand in the water to stop the victim, who had been immersed in the river for 15 minutes and went on to make a full recovery, falling back in.

“They are all commended for their bravery, particularly Billy and Kenny for wading into such fast-flowing water.”

Finally, Angus Blackburn, formerly of Ancrum and now living in Penicuik, will receive not only a meritorious award, but also a certificate from the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire.

Both accolades acknowledge his bravery in entering a burning house in the Midlothian town in November 2009, after hearing shouts from the female occupant that her six-year-old son was trapped in an upstairs bedroom.

She had tried to get him out but had been overcome by smoke. Without hesitation, Mr Blackburn, a former Southern photographer, went into the fume-filled property and, at his second attempt, managed to climb the stairs to rescue the youngster.

Along with the woman and her son, he was treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

The citation records: “The fact Angus made more than one attempt to get up the stairs and rescue the boy without any concern for his own safety is admirable.”