James Anderson Cooper, was born 14th Sept 1899 in Bothwellhaugh, Lanarkshire which was a mining village near Motherwell and Hamilton. James was a Scout in No 3 troop (Palace Colliery) Motherwell (1st Bothwellhaugh). His granddaughter Elaine Wernsing told me that he was very proud to be a Scout throughout his life until his death in 1977. Scouting was booming at this time with 1200 Boy Scouts in the County of Lanarkshire with 45 Scoutmasters.
James was awarded the Silver medal for “saving the life of a child from drowning in the River Calder on 20th February 1910″ on 27th April 1910. His act of bravery would have gone unnoticed if it had not been seen by a fellow Scout whose elder brother was a Scout master. James, a non swimmer, jumped into the river to rescue five year old Hugh Graham, and on saving his life took him home to his parents. Soaked to the skin he hid his wet Sunday clothes for fear of reprisal from his parents !
James was awarded the Silver medal and certificate signed by BP by a Col Ralston of the 6th Cameronians in St Andrews Church, Motherwell. As one of 7 children sending him to London was not possible, but in 1911 Lord Newlands learned of his deed and funded his trip to the Windsor Parade where he met King George V and Baden Powell. For a young lad from Lanarkshire this must have been quite an expedition and quite an experience. When BP visited Lanarkshire, James was present as part of the honour guard in Motherwell. He was a bit of a Scouting celebrity as one of the earliest Scottish recipients of the Silver Medal, and at such a young age.
This photo shows five year old Hugh, James and his Scoutmaster Kerr proudly wearing his medal and complete with Scout stave. James A Jeffrey later recounted his appreciation in verse, published in the 1910 – 11 Lanarkshire Christmas and New Year Annual describing James as “the little hero boy”.
But the story did not end there.
In 1970 both men were re-united for a press piece recounting that day recorded above (James is on the left).
He remained a Scout for the rest of his life and regularly attended local events. In the 1970’s he met then Chief Scout Sir William Gladstone (below).
As per the wishes of his family, an account of his heroism and the family photographs will be placed in the Scottish Scouting Archive, and the Archive at Gilwell.
A remarkable man.
With much thanks to his granddaughter Elaine Wernsing, granddaughter of James Cooper, for bringing this story to my attention and providing the background information and photographs.