Jean Bland had to admit to a heartfelt sigh of relief when her son John, 10, and 12-year-old Sally rushed into their holiday cottage one lunchtime with the news that they had found two new friends.
We're seeing them on the beach again this afternoon, Sally told her. "There's a girl about my age and a boy a bit younger. They come from London and are on holiday for a fortnight, like us."
Jean Bland, her husband Laurence, and their two children had taken a holiday cottage in a small bay near England's Cornish port of Falmouth in the hot summer of 1979 and Jean admitted that keeping up with two boisterous youngsters wasn't easy. The beach was safe and near at hand and it was something of a relief when John and Sally announced that they had found some friends of their own age.
As Laurence Bland was to recall: "It meant I could actually have a break from swimming and playing beach football and sit in the garden to read my book!" After a hurried lunch, John and Sally rushed away to meet their new-found pals and didn't return until the shadows began to lengthen shortly after 6pm. Once during the afternoon Jean had walked to the end of the cottage garden from where she could see the beach and caught a glimpse of her two children. "They were alone and I assumed the others must have gone to get ice-creams or something," she said. Eventually her son and daughter returned sunburned and tired, with stories of seaside adventures. Jackie, the boy they had met, had caught three crabs in the shallows and his sister Yvonne, had told them that she had appeared in the chorus of Peter Pan on the London West End stage last winter. Sally said that when her new friend left school she was planning to become a famous actress...
The following day was cloudy and dull and the Bland children were soon back from the beach, complaining that there was no sign of Yvonne and Jackie."They said they would be there," John said. "Perhaps we'll go down later."
Years afterwards, Jean Bland recorded what happened next in a magazine article."That evening it was black and windy and it looked as though there was going to be a summer storm. "The beach was deserted but the children insisted on going down to see if their friends were there. My first reaction was to say no but they were so insistent that I eventually relented, but said they must be back in ten minutes. On the other hand if their new chums wanted to come up to the house and play for a while, they would be more than welcome."
"But Laurence and I were utterly unprepared for what happened next. The door burst open and the children rushed in absolutely hysterical. Sally screamed: 'Jackie and Yvonne are drowning. They went for a swim when we said they shouldn't and were just swept out to sea and under the rocks. Come quickly...'"
Laurence and I rushed out after them and we all ran down to the beach but no one was there. The wind was blowing from the south and white surf was pounding on the rocks at the edge of the bay. There was no sign of children in the water. Laurence Bland hurried to the coastguard post but an hour's searching by boat crews and volunteers yielded nothing and finally darkness and bad weather ended the search until the next morning. Next day the Bland children were interviewed by police seeking details of the alleged fatality. What were the names and addresses of the missing children? Who were their parents? Where were they staying?
John and Sally couldn't tell them. All they knew was that they were Jackie and Yvonne and that they came from London. There the matter rested. No one was reported missing and no bodies were ever found. Not surprisingly, the Bland youngsters were given a good ticking off by police for having imaginations too lurid for their own good. Then, two years later, their parents were forced to think again about the strange incident on the beach.
That was when a West Country friend sent Laurence Bland a cutting from a Cornish magazine which included a reference to the disappearance of two children in Falmouth Bay 30 years earlier. Amazingly, their names were Jack and Yvonne Grainger. Astonished by the information, Laurence Bland made inquiries and found that children of that name had indeed been drowned in the summer of 1949. Had Sally and John seen some paranormal re-enactment of the tragedy? What other explanation could there be? Laurence Bland said:"We did tell the children about all this until some ten years later. Jean and I found the whole thing extremely disturbing so what would the children think?
In fact when we did eventually tell them, they were teenagers and pretty unaware about the whole thing...'I knew there was something strange about them,' Sally said. 'They wore such awful old-fashioned clothes!'