On this day… 29th November, 1965
On this day… 29th November, 1965, Mr. Robert Akrigg, a 55 year old reservoir keeper set out in treacherous conditions to check the water gauges from the Gorple Cottages near Hebden Bridge, but never returned.
Water Board employees accompanied by the police, local farmers, estate keepers were joined by Mountain and Fell Rescue Team members from across the north of England to begin the search in earnest.
As the week progressed, the search mounted in intensity and by the third day, more than 300 people were searching the moors and stayed from first light until dark without success. With the passing of days, the hope of finding Mr Akrigg alive diminished however the searchers never gave up. Throughout the search, the wintery conditions were relentless with biting cold wind, causing an icy ‘smoke’ over the whole moors.
Tragically Mr Akrigg wasn’t found during the search and it was only when the heavy snows of that winter receded (some 65 days), that his body was discovered.
Hebden Bridge Times headlines:
3/12/65 “Search for missing man continues”
10/12/65 “Still no sign of missing waterman”
17/12/65 “Reservoir level lowered in search for missing keeper” and “The search goes on”
24/12/65 “Frogman search for missing waterman”
31/12/65 “Aircraft search Gorple Moors”
7/1/66 “Search for missing waterman will go on”
14/1/66 “Big moorland search planned for weekend” and “Move to form a rescue group”
28/1/66 “Missing waterman: only a few small areas of moor still left to search”
11/2/66 “Progress made in forming mountain rescue team – meeting 1/2/1966”
11/2/66 “The moors finally gave up their secret”
“Missing reservoir keeper found – coroner’s tribute to search parties”
18/2/66 “Moorland Rescue Team formed”
As a result of this tragedy, an inaugural meeting was held in early 1966 at Hebden Bridge Council Offices with over 30 people attending. At the meeting, Mr. Wally Keay (a former leader with Wharfedale Fell Rescue Team) said,
“There’s nothing heroic or romantic about being in a rescue team - just 5% inspiration and 95% hard slogging. The first priority of a new team is; training in navigation and first aid”
During this meeting Calder Valley Moorland Rescue Association was formed and they sought the help of Hebden Bridge St. Johns Ambulance Brigade to assist with the First Aid training.
On Saturday 6th February, Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team will be holding a Celebration Service at St Michaels Church, Mytholmroyd, to mark the teams 50th Anniversary.
As our friends, extended family and supporters, we hope you will help us mark this monumental year. This is an open invitation to anyone who wishes to join us at this service. Please pass on this invitation to previous team members and anyone who we have helped over the last 50 years.
Thank you for your continued support and for helping us to help you.
Saving lives in wild and remote places since 1966.
For more information from the archives, see our Where it all started page.