Whales Herald east
Thorntonloch Beach in May 1950 – looking south.

Book chapters

Chapter 1 Press reports
The first chapter critically examines press reports of the stranding, including dramatic headlines and newspaper reports of interviews, mainly with officials. It contains newspaper headlines and photographs from newspapers such as The Herald, The Scotsman, The Haddingtonshire Courier, The Illustrated London News, The Bulletin and Scots Pictorial and The Guardian

Chapter 2 How people got there
Chapter 2 looks at how people got to Thorntonloch in May 1950 and places the event in the context of the times e.g. the lack of transport for most people or the novelty of travelling in a car for the first time. Many local people walked or cycled to see the whales. Others – from Haddington, North Berwick, Eyemouth and Edinburgh – and went in cars, taxis or vans and one man went by train and then horse and cart. Photographs of the whales and people viewing the whales, as well as bikes, cars and buses from 1950 are included.

Chapter 3 Memories of the scene at Thorntonloch
Chapter 3 reviews people’s reaction to seeing the whales and presents the memories of people of different ages and from different backgrounds. People interviewed by the author remembered the crowds at the scene, gave descriptions of the whales on the beach, the actions of the RSSPCA, attempts to refloat whales and the loading of whales on to lorries. More photos of the scene are included in this chapter.

Chapter 4 Behaviour and feelings
Chapter 4 looks at how people behaved when seeing the whales and how some behaviour – of children – was frowned upon. It also reflects on people’s feelings – of sorrow, horror, amazement and bewilderment – when they saw the whales. More photos of the scene are included in this chapter.

Chapter 5 Why did the whales strand and what would happen today?
This chapter uses interviews with experts – two research scientists, a marine life rescue coordinator and a vet with rescue experience – as well as books on whales, to seek a possible explanation for the stranding and to examine what might happen today if a similar event occurred. It includes photos of recent strandings in Scotland and New Zealand.

Chapter 6 Conclusion