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Tribute to Aberdeenshire heroine who waded into North Sea to save sailors

Scores of people attended a ceremony to honour the memory of New Aberdour heroine Jane Whyte on the 102nd anniversary of her daring rescue of 15 crewmen from a grounded ship in Aberdour Bay
Scores of people attended a ceremony to honour the memory of New Aberdour heroine Jane Whyte on the 102nd anniversary of her daring rescue of 15 crewmen from a grounded ship in Aberdour Bay

A special tribute will immortalise the Aberdeenshire heroine who waded into the North Sea to save 15 lives in a daring rescue.

It will tell the amazing story of mother-of-nine, Jane Whyte, who risked life and limb to save the crew of a stricken Dundee steamer.

The William Hope suffered engine failure and began drifting towards jagged rocks off Aberdour Bay, Morayshire, in October 1844.

It seemed the sailors’ fates were sealed when the anchor cable snapped, leaving them at the mercy of the terrible conditions.

Fortunately their plight was spotted by Mrs Whyte, who was out walking her dog on the shoreline.

She waded into the freezing North Sea to catch a rope flung towards her by the desperate sailors, which she duly wrapped round her body.

She then struggled to return to shore and made a lifeline by which the sailors were able to reach dry land.

Fifteen men from the Dundee steamer safely made shore due to her actions, for which she received the silver medal and £10 from the RNLI.

She used her £10 reward to buy the farm her family lived on and to give all of her children an education.

There is currently a plaque at the site of her old cottage at Waulkmill to mark her bravery.

However, the local community council hopes to create story interpretation boards at the beach to tell her story.

There will be an event held later in the summer on the exact date of Jane’s death, which will showcase the boards.

The group is also working with Aberdeenshire Council to put the project together.

Chairman of New Aberdour, Tyrie and Pennan Community Council, Bill Pitt said: “Presently there is a memorial and plaque that were dedicated to Jane Whyte for saving the lives of the men aboard the vessel William Hope.

“The community council feel there is scope to place a storyboard that will further describe the events with text and historic images of Jane Whyte and the vessel William Hope.

“The 100th anniversary of Jane Whyte’s passing will be this August.

“She was indeed a very brave and strong person.

“Her actions on October 28, 1884, were nothing short of heroic.

“We would welcome anyone, especially the family/descendants of Jane Whyte that would like to be a part of this project, to please contact the community council.

“We are asking the community if they want to be involved with it as far as providing other images or have any information about Jane Whyte.”

A meeting of the Local Marine Board was held in Aberdeen in recognition of her conduct when Mrs Whyte received a reward for gallantry from the Board of Trade.

The Lord Provost of the time said: “This was an act which would have been honourable to any man, but being the act of a woman it deserves the highest honour and the highest reward than can be given for gallantry in saving life.”

The William Hope, an iron steamship built in 1883, was wrecked as a result of the accident.

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