THE FOLLOWING TWO ARTICLES are from the Galloway News of the late 1940’s. They pay tribute to two of Kirkcudbright’s well remembered citizens, Mr. & Mrs. John Poland. John, who was better known as ‘Hubby’ Poland, was a fisherman to trade, and was often to be found around the harbour where he was a popular figure. He was a crew member of Kirkcudbright lifeboat from 1902 to 1949 which, up until 1928 with the introduction of the motorised “Priscilla MacBean,” was a ‘pulling’, or rowing boat. John’s wife, Sarah Poland (maiden name Clark) was bellringer at the Tolbooth for 52 years, a historic position now sadly discontinued.
Local lifeboatman honoured.
47 years’ service recognised.
Presentations to Mr. & Mrs. John Poland.
As briefly mentioned in our last issue, an interesting little function was enacted at the Royal Hotel, Kirkcudbright, last Friday afternoon, when the R.N.L.I. certificate of service and annuity was presented to Mr. John Poland, coxswain of the local lifeboat since 1945, and a member of the crew since 1902.
Mrs. Poland was also made the recipient of a gift in recognition of her long and weary vigils while her husband was at sea on lifeboat duty, and tributes were made to the many humanitarian services rendered to the lifeboat cause over such a long period by the principal guest of honour.
In the absence of Sir Charles Hope-Dunbar, the president of the branch, from whom an apology was intimated, Lieut.-Commander R.B. Clark Hutchinson, Castlesod, presided, and in addition to Mr. and Mrs. Poland, the guests included – Mrs. Clark Hutchinson, Mrs. Cathcart, Mr. and Mrs. James Williamson, ex-Provost and Mrs. W. Mackenzie, Miss Montgomery, Mrs. Charlton, Mr. J. Finlay, Ross; Mr. T.R. Collin, the secretary; Mrs. Collin, Mrs. Carlos, Mr. Angus Fairweather, the new coxswain and Mrs. Fairweather; Commander P.E. Vaux, chief inspector of British lifeboats; Commander E.W. Middleton, Western District inspector; Lieut.-Commander W.L.G. Dutton, Irish District inspector; and the other members of the crew, Messrs Donald Rudd, J.F. Corcoran, W. McKie, Hugh and Alexander Poland.
Commander Clark Hutchison said the purpose of the gathering was to present to their old friend, Mr. Poland, his certificate of service for the splendid work he had rendered on behalf of the local lifeboat. If they read the official magazine of the Institution they would see the names of lifeboats in many parts of Britain coming in for special praise. The Kirkcudbright boat was never very much in the news, but he did not think that ought to detract in any way from the self-sacrificing labours of Mr. Poland and the crew, who had willingly gone out in all weathers and in all sorts of conditions on their life-saving missions. It was the spirit behind the lifeboat service that counted more than anything else.
It was so very easy for some of them to say that on a nice morning they would go for a trip on the lifeboat, perhaps out to the Ross Lighthouse, but it was a far different thing to go out in the middle of the night in a raging storm to a vessel in distress. It required courage and determination to do that, but Mr. Poland and his crew had never once flinched from doing their duty, no matter what the conditions at the time were.
Handing over the certificate, Commander Vaux said he was delighted to be able to perform that function on behalf of his old shipmate. In point of fact the presentation ceremony ought to have been of a much more imposing nature, with His Grace, the Duke of Montrose making the award in Glasgow, but Mr. Poland did not like any unnecessary fuss, and so they had been compelled to hold the ceremony locally. He personally was extremely sorry that their guest of honour had come to the end of his duties as coxswain of the Kirkcudbright lifeboat, and he would greatly miss his cheery personality, his wit, and his humour. Mr. Poland had been connected with the lifeboat nearly all his life, while he had been an officer for the ten and three-quarter years, and he had never once shirked his duty, in summer or winter, in fair weather or foul.
He recalled going out many years ago in the Kirkcudbright lifeboat, which was then an old pulling boat with sails, and he remembered a very pleasant trip they had across to Maryport, when they brought the first motor lifeboat back to Kirkcudbright. In these various cruises Mr. Poland had been the life and soul of the party, while other members of the crew at the time were the late Mr. George Parkhill, the then coxswain, ex-Provost W. Mackenzie (bowman), and Mr. William Robson, High Street.
Commander Vaux then read out the terms of the illuminated certificate of service, which were “Royal National Lifeboat Institution, for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck: At a meeting held at their office in London, on 15th September 1949, the committee of management ordered the following minute to be recorded in the books of the Institution – Resolved that the grateful thanks of the R.N.L.I. be presented to John Poland on his retirement from the post of Coxswain of the Kirkcudbright lifeboat after ten and three-quarter years’ service as an officer of the boat, during which period he performed his duties to the entire satisfaction of the committee.”
They as a branch, were also deeply grateful to him for all the outstanding work he had performed during his four and a half years as coxswain, two and a half years as second coxswain, four years as bowman, and 37 years as a member of the crew. They wished him the best of health and happiness in his retirement, and they trusted he would have many years still to spend by the side of the sea, which he so much loved.
Mr. Poland briefly acknowledge the tribute, and Mr. Finlay said that the committee felt that Mrs. Poland was also deserving of some tangible recognition for enabling the coxswain to go out unhindered on his lifesaving journeys. It could have been no fun for her on many stormy nights wondering whether her husband was ashore or afloat, after he and the crew had been called out to go to some vessel in distress. Many a time he had watched the boat plough its way through angry seas, when less capable men would surely have drowned, and he never saw the lifeboat out on its mission of mercy without having the greatest possible admiration for the pluck and hardiness of the coxswain and crew. It had often been said that love and charity were the two great Christian attributes of life, but the thought that the pluck and hardiness of lifeboat crews in going to the rescue of sailors in a sinking ship came near the very best that the best could do. He had much pleasure in handing over a suitably inscribed timepiece to Mrs. Poland, and well did she deserve such an honour for the long and weary vigils she had throughout many nights while Mr. Poland was at sea.
During the proceedings the following telegram was read from Mrs. Jan D. Paton, organising secretary of the Scottish Lifeboat Institution – “Hearty congratulations from the Scottish Council on well-merited award. Warmest good wishes to Mr. Poland and the crew.”
The ceremony concluded with votes of thanks by Mr. Collin to the chairman, Commander Vaux, Mr. Finlay, and all who had assisted in making the function possible.
The company was thereafter hospitably entertained when the many guests took the opportunity of congratulating Mr. Poland personally on his achievements, and wishing him all success in the future.
It is interesting to note that Mrs. Poland only retired last year from the post of burgh bellringer, which she had continuously held for the long period of 52 years.
Bell ringer for 52 years.
Kirkcudbright Woman’s Long Service.
Ladysmith and Mafeking recalled.
From time immemorial no public ceremony in Kirkcudbright has been complete without the ringing of the bell at the Old Tolbooth, and for the past half-century – 52 years to be exact – the bell ringer has been Mrs. J. Poland of 18 Dovecroft.
At the Remembrance Service in the burgh on Sunday, Mrs. Poland, with the help of her 16 year old grand-daughter assistant, Sadie Poland, officiated for the last time at a public occasion. She has decided to relinquish the office which she has held since 1896 and at the Town Council meeting later in the month, at which a successor will be appointed, Mrs. Poland’s long and faithful service will be officially recognised.
Mrs. Poland was 12 years of age when she first took on the duties of bell ringer, succeeding her father, the late Mr. Alexander Clark, who acted in that capacity for the previous eight years. Prior to Mr. Clark’s death (appointment?) the bell had been rung by the Craith family for over a century, so that two families have held the office for more than 160 years.
Outstanding occasions in Mrs. Poland’s life as a bell ringer were the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria and the Boer War victories at Ladysmith, Mafeking and Pretoria. She has a vivid memory of the night in 1902 when she was awakened by Provost Wallace in the middle of the night. “We have won the Boer War. Ring the bells,” shouted the Provost. The bell rang out its glad tidings whereupon the people of Kirkcudbright lit torches and marched to St Mary’s Isle where they were welcomed by the Hon. John Hope, R.N., father of Sir Charles D Hope-Dunbar, who had given valiant service in the Boer War. Other occasions calling for special peals were the two armistice days, and royal deaths, births and coronations.
When Mrs. Poland first performed her duties there were three daily ringings – 6pm, 8pm and 10pm – in addition to the church services. In later years however, the 10pm ringing was discontinued.