The identity of a toddler, whose body washed up on a Scottish beach 50 years ago, remains a heart-wrenching mystery.
A touching ceremony marked half a century since the grim discovery of Tayport’s Unknown Bairn, who was found by local postman Ian Robertson washed up on the beach on May 23 1971.
Ian’s daughter Avril Paul said her family, especially her dad, took the youngster to their hearts and came to think of him as one of their own.
Her father even tended his grave until his own death some years ago and, at his family’s request, was buried close to the Unknown Bairn.
Scots were shocked by the story of the disturbing find and banded together to pay for a headstone for the little boy at the time. It’s thought he was between the ages of two and four-years-old.
However, despite a nationwide inquiry and numerous theories, the tragic toddler’s identity remains a mystery to this day.
The local Reverend David Scott led a service on Sunday, which saw Mr Robertson’s family and the Tayport community gather to mark the dark anniversary.
Recalling her dad’s account, Avril said her father had been 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.
“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”, she said.
Ian had instructed his son 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 community waited anxiously for the boy’s parents to come forward – but in all the years since the incident, no one ever claimed him.
Avril added: “It’s incredible but to this day no parent, grandparent or any relative has come forward to claim this wee soul.”
However, there was an outpouring of grief from strangers who attended his funeral and the community ensured the youngster was never forgotten.
To this day, locals lay flowers, including bridal bouquets, and children still leave toy cars and bears at his graveside.
“It is unimaginable that 50 years have passed.
“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, he has been adopted by the community who see him as “Tayport’s bairn”, said Avril.
She continued: “We remember, not just today and not just in May but all year. 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.”
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.
Did you know you can keep up to date with the latest news by signing up to our daily newsletter?
We send a morning and lunchtime newsletter covering the latest headlines every day.
We also send coronavirus updates at 5pm on weekdays, and a round up of the week’s must-read stories on Sunday afternoons.
Signing up is simple, easy and free.
You can pop your email address into the sign up box above, hit Subscribe and we’ll do the rest.
Alternatively, you can sign up and check out the rest of our newsletters here.
“But no matter how we look at the tale of the Unknown Bairn, there’s darkness in it”, he said.
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.
He added: “The truth is there are many more on the shores of the Mediterranean than on the banks of the Tay.
“Only last week, 60 children were killed in conflict in what we used to call the Holy Land.”