The Unknown Bairn

12308810_188278521514238_6711145226608945076_n Nothing strikes a body like the tragic loss of a child. But when that child is never identified nor claimed it seems particularly sad.

On 23rd May 1971, local postman John Robertson, ‘Ian the Postie’ was walking along the beach in the small village of Tayport, which butts up to one side of the Tay Estuary facing onto Dundee across the river. He had his young son with him. Up front, he saw something laying still on the sand and on approach found it to be a young boy aged two to four years of age. Sadly the little chap had no signs of life.

Examination revealed the boy appeared to have died of natural causes. Extensive enquiries were launched to find out his identity; who he was and where he was from. Possibilities included that he may have been from one of the visiting ships in the Port across the water. Or that he was the child of some other person just passing through.

A migrant gypsy couple were heard in the town talking about a child they had lost, they were brought in for questioning, at which the woman became quite distraught when pushed. The man reacted angrily and told her to be quiet and say no more. With no evidence to go on, and as a result of her distress, they had no reason to hold the couple and they were released. They disappeared and were not seen again.

On the 27th of May, the little boy was laid to rest in the small cemetery at Tayport, close to where he was found. Appeals were made for funds to buy a marker for the little guy’s grave. Donations poured in from all over Scotland. His headstone, erected in July 1971, read, “Erected in memory of the ‘Unknown Bairn’, a wee boy aged between two and four years, found on the beach at Tayport, May 23rd 1971. ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’”12316220_188278571514233_1180616288046834362_n

The local Council sent flowers every year for the little boy’s grave, feeling that someone ought to remember him. ‘Ian the Postie’ continued to visit and tend the wee bairn’s grave until he passed away a few years ago, in 2007, after being taken ill at home. His wife said John had become wrapped up in the story of the little boy. His son has taken up the duty of caring for the wee bairn’s grave, as with that of his father, who is now buried alongside of the little boy he found on the beach nearly 45 years ago.

Phoebe