THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Tragic end to holiday as young man drowns in the sea off Portstewart Strand

From the News Letter, August 28, 1937

Friday, 28th August 2020, 6:00 am
Portstewart Strand, looking west to the Barmouth and Mussenden Temple beyond. Portstewart, Co Londonderry. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
Portstewart Strand, looking west to the Barmouth and Mussenden Temple beyond. Portstewart, Co Londonderry. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Mr Gerald Cecil F Heighway, aged 28, a commercial traveller from St John’s Park of the Ormeau Road in Belfast had tragically drowned on Portstewart Strand the previous day, reported the News Letter on this day in 1937.

It was reported how Mr Heighway and his wife, accompanied by Mr and Mrs Lyttle of Knockbreda Park in the city, and Mrs Lyttle’s sister, Miss Elaine Burrows, had gone to bathe at a point about a quarter of a mile from the entrance of the Strand.

Several members of the party were about to leave the water when it was noticed that Mr Heighway, “who had got out of his depth” in a strong current, was in difficulties some 70 yards from the shore.

Mr Lyttle, “a good swimmer”, immediately went to the assistance of his friend, “a well-built, robust man”, and managed to bring him 30 yards nearer the shore.

Meanwhile, in response to cries for help, Mr T C Graham of Ashfield Drive in Belfast rushed into the water. Mr Graham who was also a strong swimmer soon reached Mr Lyttle who by this stage was himself becoming distressed in the water.

Mr Graham then saw the body of Mr Heighway floating face downwards in the water.

Once Mr Heighway had been taken out of the water artificial resuscitation was carried out by Mr Graham and five doctors but sadly Mr Heighway could not be revived.

A verdict of death from drowning was returned by Dr W A Shannon at in inquest held in Portstewart Town Hall later that day.

Dr Shannon expressed his deepest sympathies to the deceased’s widow and praised those who had attempted to save him from the water.