Riverside unveils Sid's watch as families meet for the first time
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Riverside unveils Sid's watch as families meet for the first time

A watch at the centre of a successful public appeal to ‘find Sid’ has gone on display at Riverside Museum, Glasgow.  The new panel was unveiled in front of the family who kept the watch safe for almost 80 years and the family of the original owner, who met for the first time. Rob Hutchinson, whose father Gerald “Gerry” Middleton Hutchinson had treasured the watch until his death in 2015, travelled from Canada for the special occasion, which took place on the 78th anniversary of the sinking of TSS Athenia. The ship was attacked on the day World War 2 was declared in September 1939, becoming the first maritime casualty of the war, claiming 122 lives.
Sid Worrall, ship’s cook, was hard at work frying fish when Athenia was torpedoed.  He was horribly burned by boiling fat and steam.  Passenger Gerry Hutchison was on deck and was able to help launch Athenia’s lifeboats.  Gerry ended up in the same boat as Sid and tried to make him as comfortable as he could before they were rescued by the cargo ship Knute Nelson and taken to Galway. Sid thought he was at death’s door and asked Gerry to look after his watch.  Gerry treasured it for 66 years, but never knew that Sid had survived the sinking.
Gerry died in 2015 and Rob decided to donate some of his Athenia related items, including Sid’s watch, to the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. It has a display dedicated to the ship and tells the story of the sinking.  The ship had been built in Glasgow in 1923 for the Anchor-Donaldson Line, which later became the Donaldson Atlantic Line.  She worked between the United Kingdom and the east coast of Canada until September 1939.
While researching the history of the watch the curator, Emily Malcom, uncovered a fascinating hidden story.  After issuing a plea for information on Sidney Worrall she discovered he had not died, as previously thought. He loved the sea and returned to the Merchant Navy when his scars healed. He called his many skin grafts his “map of the world”. Sidney’s granddaughter and nephew, who didn’t know each other, both came forward.  Sidney’s nephew Ernie Worrall was able to meet and thank Rob Hutchinson at a special ceremony to mark the unveiling of the new display and the anniversary of the tragedy.
Ernie Worrall said: “My family are indebted to Gerry for keeping my uncle’s watch safe all these years, a remarkable  act of faithfulness to an obligation he had accepted in that dire situation in a shared lifeboat. It’s been wonderful to meet Rob and to be able to thank him personally. And it’s very exciting to see the watch go on display in Riverside, where my whole family – including those I have come to know only as a result of this search – can come and see it.”
Rob Hutchinson, who was joined at Riverside by his wife Judy, sister Beth and brother Ken and his wife Kathy, said: “On behalf of my family, I am delighted Riverside Museum has been able to draw together the two ends of this very long story.  I am thrilled to come to Glasgow and meet Sid’s family and see the watch on display. I know my father would have been so pleased.”
The discovery allows Riverside Museum to complete the jigsaw and tell the whole fascinating story, including what happened to Sidney after he reached Galway in September 1939. The Revd Canon Gordon Fyfe, a minister from the Scottish Episcopal Church, led a short service outside Riverside Museum to commemorate the anniversary of the sinking and remember those who died in the tragedy. He was joined by Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald and other descendants of Sid Worrall who responded to the public appeal for information on him, including guests from England and Ireland. Dougie McCance piped while members from both families placed a biodegradable wreath into the River Clyde.
Glasgow Museums Chair, Councillor David McDonald, said: “I’m so pleased to be able to welcome Rob all the way from Canada to Riverside for the first time, to introduce him to Sid’s family and to show them Sid’s watch as it is prepared for our new display. We are delighted Sid’s family is happy to help Glasgow Museums complete his story and share it with all our visitors. It’s good that something so positive has come from such a disaster.
“The men and women of Glasgow sacrificed so much as part of the war effort. Even today, thanks to the work of our outstanding curators, we are learning more about the people behind the history and what they gave for their country. This has been a real detective story and we hope visitors will enjoy reading about Sid’s heroic tale.”
Visitors to Riverside Museum can read Sid and Gerry’s story as part of the Athenia display from Sunday 3rd September 2017. For more information visit www.glasgowmuseums.com
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