Adrian Utley, Simon McLaren and James Beveridge, Gordonstoun 1972 Kurt Hahn Prize Winner

By James Beveridge on 14/02/2017

Adrian Utley, Simon McLaren and James Beveridge from Gordonstoun in the UK were awarded the Kurt Hahn Prize in 1972 for quick thinking and rescuing a baby from a potential house fire and putting out a pan fire.

"At the time I would have been 15 and in Duffus House, which I liked. Simon was in Round Square and I can't be sure which house Adrian was in, but I think was Altyre." Reflects James Beveridge

"I was close chums with Adrian and Simon - we were all in the same year and we would pretty much do everywhere together, in and out of school. It was the week of our seamanship training at Hopeman harbour and to get there in those days, we had to cycle there and back along the Hopeman Road. I vividly remember that there were some days it would be tough going because the wind, and often rain, would be pushing hard against us, making cycling slow work. On some days by the time we arrived at the harbour, we were soaked through - and that was before we got out to sea on that heavy old cutter!

On this particular morning (forgive me but I cannot remember the exact day or month) we were cycling along and had just arrived on the outskirts of Hopeman, when we noticed smoke coming out of a window of a white bungalow to our right. We stopped to look and that's when we heard a woman's voice crying for help. We threw down our bikes and ran to the house to see what we could do, not knowing what we were going to find.

When we got to the house, we all rushed inside to find a fire coming from a frying pan on the cooker in the kitchen. The room was starting to fill with smoke and then we saw a small child in a high-chair, and the mother screaming for help. Thinking quickly, we needed to get the baby out and fast, so Simon rushed outside and went round to the back window, whilst I pulled the baby out of the high-chair, and handed it to Simon through the window and out of harm’s way. At the same time Adrian was behind me, and he whipped a wet towel over the frying pan, promptly stopping the fire. It was all over in a flash and I remember that once the fire was out, Simon bought the baby back inside and gave it to the mother, who started sobbing and saying 'thank you, thank you, you've saved my baby'. It was all pretty dramatic.

It seems funny to say it now, but by this time we realised we were going to be late for seamanship, so we double checked the fire was out and everything was all ok, said our goodbyes and cycled off to the harbour as fast as we could go. Being late for seamanship in those days was a punishable offence, and the punishment was running round the harbour with a gigantic oar for 10 minutes. I remember it weighed a ton! I'm pretty sure that even though we said what had happened on the way, the Harbour Master netted out the oar punishment to us when we eventually got there, late that day!

Later on we thought no more about the fire, and after completing our course that week, we all went back to school and classes as normal. It was only a week or so later, one morning in chapel, that after the service the Headmaster, Mr Kempe, asked if the 3 boys who put out a fire two weeks ago on the Hopeman Road, could come and see him afterwards.

The three us went up to see him, and he told us that the mother had got in touch with the school to tell them what we had done, and how grateful she was even though she didn't know our names. It was only then the enormity of what we'd done stuck us, and I remember the three us saying 'Wow we've saved a baby's life'.

Shortly after this Mr Kempe called us in again to tell us we were going to be awarded the Kurt Hann Prize for what we had done and our act of bravery. I don't remember much about the ceremony, but I do remember being given a big bronze medal, and featured in the local newspaper.

We were also sent to Gordonstouns’ sister school Salem, to meet Kurt Hann in person and spend a week there as a special reward. It was very special to meet Kurt Hann and I have a feeling it was he who gave each our medals in a little ceremony.

The three us had great fun in Salem - it had a fairy-tale castle and we didn't have to attend classes for a whole week!

I am now an Executive Creative Director for an international brand agency, Fleishman Hillard Fishburn, and I work and live in London and Suffolk with my wife and two sons."


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