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‘I want to thank the man who saved my life’

Elizabeth Fleming and her sister

Elizabeth Fleming and her sister

Advertiser readers are being asked to help trace a Berwick man and former customs officer who saved a girl’s life more than half a century ago.

Elizabeth Fleming, now 66, is hoping to locate William Martin, who pulled her out of the sea at Montrose on July 17, 1958.

She wants to say thank you to Mr Martin, who rescued her from fast-flowing water when she was 10-years-old.

“I think the town gave him a medal, but I came from a very poor family and we weren’t invited,” Ms Fleming told the Advertiser. “I have never said thank you.”

Mr Martin, who was 26 at the time, lived in Berwick but was doing relief work in Montrose. He was nearby when Elizabeth fell from steps near the dock house into the River South Esk.

“It was a Thursday,” Ms Fleming remembers. “I’d been playing at the harbour with my sister and a friend, and I fell in. I couldn’t swim - I still can’t. I was being washed out to sea.”

The dock gateman, a Mr Lazzotti, threw Elizabeth a lifebelt but it fell short. He then went to a rowing boat and set out to try and reach her along with a young boy, James Baxter.

Meanwhile Ms Fleming’s friend Roberto told Mr Martin that her friend was in the water.

The local paper in Montrose reported at the time that William Martin “immediately stripped off, save for his wristlet watch, and dived in”. By the time he reached Elizabeth she was floating face downwards and “just conscious”.

“It was quite traumatic,” Ms Fleming said. “It’s something that has stayed with me. I had nightmares about drowning until well into my 30s and I still have a total fear of water.”

Fifty-five years later, Ms Fleming is hoping to trace her hero with the help of modern technology.

“He saved my life, and I want to say thank you,” she said. “It’s something I have been meaning to do for years, but life takes over. I have recently been getting used to the computer so I’ve started looking. He’ll be 82 if he’s still alive.”

Anyone who can help Ms Fleming is kindly asked to contact her through the Advertiser.

 

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