George Barclay was born in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1885. On completion of his education, he became a porter with the Highland Railway at Keith, Banffshire.
In 1910 or 1911, he had immigrated to Canada, and although he was married, he travelled alone. In the spring of 1915, he decided to return home, reportedly with the intention of returning to Canada with his wife following a short holiday.
Consequently, he joined the Lusitania as a third class passenger on the morning of 1st May 1915 - the day she left New York harbour for the very last time.
Six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, when she was in sight of the coast of southern Ireland and only hours away from her Liverpool destination, she was torpedoed and sunk, but George Barclay was counted amongst the survivors.
Having been rescued from an upturned lifeboat in the sea and landed at Queenstown, he eventually made it back to his native Glasgow, where he spoke to a reporter from
The Dumfries and Galloway Standard. The newspaper printed the conversation in the edition of 12th May 1915: -
Mr. Barclay, another Glasgow survivor states that from a boat not far away from the upturned boat on which he found safety, a woman of about 30 was found swimming out and bringing back any person in need of assistance whom she could reach. He saw her rescue eight people in this way, and he thought it more than probable that that was not the full record of her heroism. She was an especially powerful swimmer, and although none of her journeys was long, her courage was great.
It has not been possible to identify the woman whose heroism had so impressed George Barclay.
Keith and District Heritage Group, Cunard Records, Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Graham Maddocks.
Copyright © Peter Kelly