Miles MacInnes remembers the Big Freeze

My memory of 1962/3 is that the big freeze started on Boxing Day and lasted into March.

We were living on the shore of the lake at Beauthorn in Watermillock and I remember venturing further and further out into the bay as the ice thickened. Finally on the day I was to return to school I persuaded my parents to let me and one other skate across the lake to Sharrow Bay.

We roped up (which might have been a mistake as one would have pulled the other in if the ice failed), and my father watched from the shore with a ladder which he could push out to rescue us if need be. My mother hid in the kitchen.

I remember feeling distinctly anxious in the middle with the ice cracking all round us although I gathered later that this was a good sign of strong ice.

We made it to the other side to be greeted by Muriel, Dowager Countess of Lonsdale who was feeding the ducks and tried to persuade us not to return, but having made it over it seemed safe to return the way we came and so we did.

I then took the train back to school - my father rang the press and Border TV sent a crew to film an imposter masquerading as me.

My parents ran a small school, cramming pupils for Common Entrance exams, and they all thoroughly enjoyed the next few weeks, skating and venturing out onto the ice - they were only snowed in once. My father read in the Church register of a 'marvellous greate frost' in the 16th century when bonfires were lit, shooting matches held and pots of ale drunk, so he recreated this (apart from the shooting) to some success - apparently the bonfire only melted a few inches of ice and was frozen over the next morning.

Cars were driven on the ice at Pooley Bridge and my sister Gay came back from Keele university to ride her horse on the frozen lake.

Suddenly it all melted one night with very noisy cracking of ice and floes washed up on the shore the next day.


By Miles MacIness

Cutting from the Herald 2nd March 1963. Courtesy of Miles MacInnes