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‘It breaks my heart’: Mother of drowned Fife teenager warns of water dangers ahead of warm weekend

Gillian Barclay on a pier near open water
Gillian Barclay at the launch of Water Safety Scotland's drowning prevention strategy.

“Mucking about near water can have real, long-term devastating effects.”

That’s the stark warning from Fife woman Gillian Barclay, whose 18-year-old son Cameron Lancaster drowned in a local quarry seven years ago.

Gillian Barclay with favourite pic of her son Cameron Lancaster
Gillian Barclay with favourite pic of her son Cameron Lancaster when he was three.

Gillian was horrified by news of Scotland’s “worst weekend” which saw six people die in four separate incidents last week.

She has never got over Cameron’s death and is determined to do all she can to stop other families from going through the same agony.

Cameron Lancaster - one of Scotland's drowning deaths
Cameron Lancaster.

“It’s not just immediate family that’s affected,” she said.

“Cameron was such a loved member of the community so it’s not just us who are suffering – and we’re still suffering. All his friends are really devastated.

“It’s been seven years and it never goes away.

“It breaks my heart.”

Three deaths in three years

Cameron died in a tragic tombstoning accident at Prestonhill Quarry in 2014.

His was the first of three deaths in just three years there.

Ten months later teenager John McKay from Kirkcaldy died at the same spot.

And in 2017, diver Kelda Henderson, 36, from Edinburgh, also drowned.

A danger sign warning of swimming in a loch
Prestonhill Quarry.

Gillian now works with campaign group Water Safety Scotland, which aims to reduce accidental drowning deaths by 50% by 2026.

The group includes the fire service, the RNLI, Swim Safe and a number of other agencies and works to promote awareness of water-related risks.

It breaks my heart.”

Gillian Barclay.

“The sum of our voices together is greater than individual messages,” Gillian said.

“We don’t want other families to get that knock at the door. We want people to be safe.”

‘This is really dangerous’

As part of her role she and daughter Anna, 20, go into schools to warn children of the dangers of open water.

They have visited almost all Fife schools and are now focusing on other areas, although it is all done online at the moment.

Gillian Barclay speaking at a safety conference in 2017
Gillian was a keynote speaker at a safety conference in 2017.

“We do a lot but there’s always more to be done to persuade people,” she said.

“We’re on social media just now trying to warn people of the unseen dangers.

“For example, if you’re going into a river you don’t know what’s at the bottom or how deep it is.

“It’s important to understand this is really dangerous.”

Gillian agreed the water looked inviting on a hot and sunny day.

But she added: “There are so many hidden dangers so just tread carefully.”

Loch Lomond deaths

Meanwhile, police have also urged people to exercise extreme caution when swimming in lochs and rivers following last weekend’s tragedies.

Six people, including four young boys, drowned in a devastating weekend across Scotland.

Edina Olahova, 29, and her nine-year-old son Rana Haris died along with family friend Mohammad Asim Raza after getting into difficulties near Pulpit Rock in Loch Lomond on Saturday evening.

Waris Ali
Waris Ali. Credit: Sky News.

Ms Olahova’s husband Waris Ali, who was also present, described his son as “the loveliest boy”.

Their deaths followed three other incidents in Scotland’s waters.

On Saturday, 11-year-old Dean Irvine died in the Avon Water at Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, and two hours later a 13-year-old’s body was recovered from the River Clyde.

The previous day Connor Markward, 16, from Glasgow, died in Loch Lomond near Balloch.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the deaths as heartbreaking.

Coastwatch Tay warning as interactive map pinpoints lifeguarded beaches in Tayside and Fife

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