DRIVERS approaching the Rest and Be Thankful usually have their minds fixed on the vagaries of the two landslip affected roads and the weather.

But three miles west of Arrochar on the A83, just before they reach the two roads, they pass over a picturesque river bridge in Glen Croe called the Honeymoon Bridge - little realising that, despite its romantic name, there is a tragic story associated with the bridge.

It is a story that the Arrochar, Tarbet and Ardlui Heritage Group would like to see more widely known, and the group’s ever active chairperson, Mary Haggarty, is hoping that a story board can be created and erected in the adjacent Honeymoon Bridge car park.

“We have decided that we could maybe fund - and I am sure I can attract match funding for - a story board at the car park ourselves. So now the group is looking at obtaining permission from Forestry and Land Scotland,” she said.

The tragic tale of the bridge and a young couple who lost their lives has been researched by group secretary and IT specialist Jamie MacTavish, and I am very grateful to him for the details which follow.

“On a cold overcast January day in 1950, the cortege of Andrew and Hannah Donaldson left Atlee Avenue, Clydebank, for Kilbowie Cemetery,” he said.

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“The funeral service was taken by Rev John A. MacKay, MA., of St James Parish Church, Clydebank who had married the couple four years earlier.

“The story has always fascinated me, as my mother would never drive over the bridge without recounting to her passengers the sad story from her younger years.”

This is Jamie’s account...

On Christmas day 1949, the young couple left the home of Mrs Donaldson’s parents Mr and Mrs McCann, Attlee Avenue, Clydebank, having spoken of visiting a friend, William McCall, who lived in Old Kilpatrick, before travelling to Renfrew for a Christmas dinner with Andrew’s parents.

They never arrived.

Four years earlier Mr Donaldson, a marine engineer aged 26, less than a fortnight into the marriage sailed to take up the post of an engineer, with the Chinese Navigation Company.

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His new bride stayed behind with her parents to carry on working as a machinist in the Singer factory at Clydebank. As Andrew only returned in September 1949 they were looking on this trip as being a second honeymoon.

At first there was no great concern about their whereabouts, until they did not turn up to celebrate Hogmanay with the family, as it was thought they were just touring about enjoying time together, having been parted for so long.

Worries grew when they had not been in touch with family or friends who they had arranged to meet up with.

Mrs McCann was concerned when mail for Mr Donaldson built up, including a passport and air ticket for a flight from London to Singapore on Monday, January 9 to take up an appointment in a Malayan tin mine.

The car they hired for their tour was a Standard Vanguard. Its disappearance was reported to the police when it was five days overdue.

It turned out that a council roadman had found a wooden parapet near the bridge damaged, and he repaired it on Boxing Day. This action initially prevented any connection between the accident and a body found on the shore at Ardgartan on Sunday, January 8.

Helensburgh Advertiser: A council workman examines the remains of the carA council workman examines the remains of the car

William Rose, the 12-year-old son of a forester who lived at Craigneuk Cottage, Ardgartan, found a woman’s body on the shore of Loch Long near the mouth of the river Croe.

He asked for help from Elias Grant, warden at the nearby Ardgartan Youth Hostel, and together they recovered the body. The woman had been badly injured by rocks and had other physical trauma because of the force of the river current.

It was immediately suspected that this could be 23-year-old Hannah Donaldson. The body was taken to Lochgoilhead, where it was identified and an examination was performed by Dr William Birnie of Tarbet.

He found injuries to the head and legs consistent with buffeting on rocks or in a car accident, and thought her body had been in water for at least five days.

Her body was then taken to Dunoon for a full post-mortem performed by Dr Allison of Glasgow, assisted by Dr James Smart of Dunoon.

BBC News photographer and cameraman Peter Leddy from Alexandria, who was covering the story, was curious that although the body was on the shore of Loch Long it was also at the mouth of the River Croe.

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He decided to have a quick search of the river. It was not long before he found the boot of a Standard Vanguard car - the model hired by the Donaldsons.

The following morning, Monday, January 9, a thorough search of the River Croe started. Two newspaper representatives helping with the search found a sun-visor, part of the roof, a luggage grid, a bumper, a side window and a wheel.

That afternoon, using steel hooks, the car itself was located right beside the bridge in a 20 feet deep pothole.

On the Tuesday morning police and Argyll County Council employees recovered from the same pool the rest of the roof, the rear of the car, the back seat with cushion, and a door.

It was still believed by police at this stage that Mr Donaldson’s body may have been pinned in the driver’s seat of the submerged vehicle.

The Lochgoilhead policeman, Archibald MacDonald, was the local policeman covering the search as at the time Glen Croe was covered by the Lochgoilhead police. The case got so big that Superintendent John MacCalman, Deputy Chief Constable of Argyll, took charge.

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On the Wednesday, the car was raised a little off the bottom with grappling hooks.

Council road foreman James Munro was lowered down with a safety rope tied round his waist, to attach two heavy wire hawsers round the chassis. On a signal from county road engineer George Smith, two heavy lorries took the strain and pulled the wreck up from the pool.

The car was examined, but there was no sign of a body or of clothes.

Closer examination showed that it was in second gear, the clock had stopped at 4.15 and the speedometer at 40 mph.

A blue-grey tweed coat was found in the river on the Tuesday by 23-year-old railway fireman Walter McCrae of Glen Croe. Two days later he went back to do a quick search before going to work.

He found the body of Andrew Donaldson trapped in the roots of a tree one and a half miles from the wreck of the car. He was wearing a blue shirt and trousers. His overcoat was 300 yards away.

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Jamie said: “Singer/song writer Duncan McCrone has paid tribute to the Donaldsons on his album Land of Gold. He sings of the sadness in the story of the young couple lost during a long-delayed honeymoon.

“Hannah Donaldson’s living relatives have thanked the Heritage Group for keeping the couple’s memory alive.

“I am sure that they would welcome a story board at the bridge car park so others can find out what happened.”

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