A KEEN historian from Dunbar is looking to track down people who were at the “scene of a strange tragedy” 64 years ago.

In May 1950, 147 whales were stranded on Thorntonloch Beach, near Dunbar.

It was a scene that, according to the then Haddingtonshire Courier, attracted “thousands of sightseers from the Lothians and the North of England”.

Dr James Herring, from Roxburghe Court in Dunbar, is researching the town’s history in the early 1950s and is looking to find out more about the tragedy.

He said: “I’d like to talk to people who can remember going to Thorntonloch [on that day].

“I’ve already spoken to one man who was 11 at the time and cycled from West Barns with his pals to see the whales.

“I’m sure that there must be a good number of people in East Lothian e.g. people aged 80 and over who would be 16+ years at the time.” Sixty-five-year-old Dr Herring is aiming to create an oral history of the “striking event” 64 years ago.

He added: “Oral history accounts provide the historian with the recollections of people from across society and can often give an extra flavour of an event, in addition to that recorded in newspapers.” Newspaper reports at the time told how “hundreds of vehicles, including specially chartered buses, parked on the highway and the side roads from Skateraw to Dunglass Bridge, a distance of about two-and-a-half miles”.

Police were on duty and motorcycles controlled the traffic.

The Courier also reported: “The beauty spot was transformed into a scene of strange tragedy as the whales, in their death throes, lashed the shallow water.” Lorries from the county council and commercial firms were brought in to transport the whales to companies across Scotland and the north of England.

Dr Herring said: “It’s for my own research project and it is going to be an oral history project, interviewing people in the town.

“I’m looking for people from across the county as opposed to just in Dunbar.

“There were 33,000 people who went out by bus or by car or whatever to see this.

“It was the whole of East Lothian and I’ve already interviewed a couple of people but I’m wanting to speak to more.” The reports in the Courier in May 1950 described the event but did not include interviews.

There were no photographs of the event in the Courier but there were in the Illustrated London News, which stopped printing in 2003.

Anyone who went out to see the whales, or who knows someone who did, can get in touch with Dr Herring on 01368 864613 or email herring39@gmail.com