The heart-breaking discovery of Tayport’s Unknown Bairn has been marked in a poignant ceremony 50 years on.
Tayport postman Ian Robertson found the body of a young boy washed up on the beach on May 23, 1971 but half a century on his identity has still not been established.
Ian’s daughter Avril Paul said her family, but especially her dad, took the youngster to their hearts and came to think of him as one of their own.
Her father tended his grave until he died some years ago and, at his family’s request, is buried close to the Unknown Bairn.
It’s incredible but to this day no parent, grandparent, or any relative has come forward to claim this wee soul.”
The people of Scotland, shocked by the story of the grim find, clubbed together to pay for a headstone for the little boy, thought to be between two and four-years-old.
Many people attended his funeral and several tears were shed.
But despite a nationwide enquiry and numerous theories, no-one knows who the youngster was.
On Sunday, Rev David Scott led a service attended by Mr Robertson’s family and the Tayport community to mark the anniversary.
A lone piper played a lament as flowers were laid and prayers said.
Avril told how her father was out walking with her five-year-old brother Neil when he saw the body in the water.
“My dad spotted a multi-coloured object bobbing in the waves. He thought it was a big plastic doll,” she said.
“He waded into the water and turned over the object.
“This was to turn into a very dark day indeed and one he would remember all his days.”
Ian told Neil to run home and went to a nearby boating pond for help.
“It was the body of a child wearing only a shirt covered over by what looked like a pyjama top,” said Avril.
The entire community waited for the boys’ parents to arrive but no-one came.
Avril added: “It’s incredible but to this day no parent, grandparent, or any relative has come forward to claim this wee soul.”
Youngster was never forgotten
However, the community decided to look after him and the youngster was never forgotten.
People lay flowers, including bridal bouquets, and children still leave toy cars and bears at his graveside.
“It unimaginable that 50 years have passed,” said Avril.
“I was only 13 at the time. I attended the grave with my dad and my dad went with his grandchildren to lay flowers.”
While the boy was dubbed the Unknown Bairn, the people of Tayport and further afield feel close to him.
“We remember, not just today and not just in May but all year,” Avril added.
“We can’t keep him to ourselves as a family.
“He’s not just our bairn, he’s Tayport’s bairn, and hopefully he’s the bairn of people throughout Scotland.”
The darkness was challenged
Mr Scott said the people of Tayport chose the right name for the child.
“The Unknown Bairn…it’s an endearing term. It’s of the heart,” he said.
“But no matter how we look at the tale of the Unknown Bairn, there’s darkness in it.”
Mr Scott said that while the darkness had been challenged by Ian Robertson and the people of Tayport and beyond, children were still being mistreated the world over.
“The truth is there are many more on the shores of the Mediterranean than on the banks of the Tay,” he said.
“Only last week, 60 children were killed in conflict in what we used to call the Holy Land.”