Orders, Decorations and Medals (21 September 2007)

Date of Auction: 21st September 2007

Sold for £400

Estimate: £400 - £500

Moray Floods Medal 1829, obv. a view of the Bridge over the Spey at Fochabers, partially destroyed by the river in a raging flood; rev. inscription in raised lettering (name of recipient and fishing-boat impressed), ‘Presented by the Central Committee for the Flood Fund to James Smith / Findhorn as an Honorary Reward for his Courage and Humanity shewn at the Great Flood August 4th 1829’, silver, with loop suspension; together with An Account of The Great Floods of August 1829, in the province of Moray and adjoining districts, by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Bart., 350pp, 3rd Edition, Elgin 1873, good condition, the medal very fine £400-500

Footnote

During the night of 3/4 August 1829, over a considerable part of the north-east of Scotland, from the river Findhorn in Morayshire to the river Dee at Aberdeen, and even to a certain extent further south, the night became very dark, a storm of unprecedented fury arose, followed by a perfect deluge of rain, the result being widespread flooding of the area.

Rivers burst their banks, many bridges were broken and washed away, whole fields of crops and soil disappeared, acres of trees were uprooted and floated away to join the great amount of debris, dead cattle, hares and rats. Houses were washed away and whole families were marooned either on higher ground or in their homes. Luckily the loss of life was minimal. Twenty square miles of the plain of Forres was inundated.

During the night, when such a deluge descended, the amount of rain that fell was equal to one sixth of a normal year's downfall. The height of the water reached forty feet above the normal in some places.

Among the bridges destroyed was the handsome iron bridge over the Spey near Fochabers. This very fast flowing river is noted for its salmon. It is also noted for the number of small streams that flow into it, streams which supply the water which is used in the making of Highland Malt Whisky. The bridge consisted of four arches, with a total watering of 340 feet. When the water was seventeen feet up on the bridge a narrow crack suddenly appeared on its surface. This rapidly widened and down came the two arches nearest to the left bank.

As the direct result of all this flooding, the salmon fishers manned their cobles and set sail from the mouth of the river Fmdhom in appalling conditions to the rescue of the many crofters and farmers marooned in their homes and facing the steadily rising waters. They rescued a considerable number after surmounting formidable obstacles. One man who helped in the rescue was the local doctor in one of the cobles.

Subsequently money was raised by local subscription to give expression of their gratitude to all those gallant men who set sail in their cobles to the rescue of the local population. It was decided that a medal be given to each man, about forty in all.

In his lengthy account of the floods Lauder describes the part played by the five fishing-boats that sailed from Findhorn on their gallant and charitable voyage, namely Nancy of Findhorn, Bounty, Lovey, Findhorn, and Star:

‘The fourth boat was the Findhorn; Thomas MacDonald, officer of the fishery, skipper; crew, James Storm, John Munro, Hugh Wright, William Wright, John Masson, James Smith, John Elder. This boat was nearly carried into a strong current and swamped irrecoverably, but was saved by three of the crew jumping up to their necks and dragging her into stiller water. Having got among the corn, one of them spied a large salmon by the root of a tree, seized it by the tail, but the creature escaped; and, in the struggle, the man was laid on his back in the water. They touched at Tannachy, and, some time afterwards, saw a man, near a corn-yard, holding up a hat on a long pole - made toward him - and discovered it to be Mr Williamson of Westerton, and his men-servants, who were in great distress about 200 sheep that were drowning in a clover field. The boat went to their rescue, and carried them, by 25 or 30 at a time, to a place of safety. On their way home, they killed some hares with their sticks on the sea embankment, and picked up a large hog, which had swam all the way from Edgefield, above 3 miles. The water between Tannachy and Findhorn was literally covered with wreck, furniture, cradles, saddles, cattle, and sheep, and 4 inches of fine black mould was left on the beach. None of the sandbanks of the bay were seen, as usual, at low tide; and, at full tide, not one drop of salt water was admitted within the bar ! All the mussel-scalps were swept away, and the crops of bait destroyed for two or three years to come.’