Friday, 4 January 2013

Tragedy on St Columb's Cathedral Choir Outing

The year was 1889. The date was 29th June. Foyle College had broken up the previous day for the summer vacation. One of the pupils, the seventeen year old Hervey Bruce, had been invited by the clergy of St. Columb's Cathedral to join them and the other cathedral choristers on an outing to Ness Woods.

It is reported that at about four in the afternoon certain of the boys and Mr Pettipice went to bathe in the pool below the waterfall. Bruce and Pettipice jumped in. Bruce clambered out complaining of having hurt his foot ,but then dived in again. The other boys' attention was drawn to Pettipice who was under the waterfall. It was a few minutes before it was realised that Bruce had not surfaced. Rather surprisingly nothing is said of Pettipice attempting any rescue.

The boys apparently ran to bring Canon Boyton and Rev Olphert and Rev Hayes to the scene of the unfolding tragedy. All three of them jumped in but were unable to find Bruce. Using a hammock ,which the party had brought with them, the clergymen dragged the pool, but again with no result. A local resident by the name of Alexander Gallagher then used a long pole to try to locate the body. This he eventually did and Canon Boyton dived in again to retrieve Bruce's body. The boy's remains were transported back to the City in The Lord Bishop's carriage.

Hervey Bruce was a son of Major Stewart Hervey Bruce a grandson of Rev. Sir Henry Hervey Aston Bruce, 1st Bt Downhill. Major Bruce resided at Crawford Square Londonderry and held the office of Governor of Londonderry County Gaol. He had gained the rank of Major with the 102 Royal Madras Fusiliers. Whilst I have not worked out the actual relationship, the deceased chorister would be related, albeit far out, to Lady Victoria Hervey and her sister Lady Isabella.

Sources: "Our School Times," September 1889; "The Peerage."

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