Bomb disposal experts were sent to a remote island after locals discovered a large “buoy” that children have played on for decades was in fact a massive mine.
Islanders on Eigg have in the past regularly lit fires on the beach landmark as they picnicked nearby, but recent storms removed sand to reveal that the “buoy” was in fact a Second World War mine that had its full explosive casing intact.
Postman John Cormack – whose home was 100 yards from the beach where the mine was buried – was evacuated while controlled explosions were carried out.
His son Ben found out the true identity of the “buoy” on Laig Beach on the Hebridean isle earlier this month. The 32-year-old graphic designer, who was born on Eigg, said that as a child he lived in a caravan next to the bomb.
“It was only a stone’s throw away from my dad’s front door, and my front door wasn’t that much further,” he said.
“The barrel shaped metal object, that had been buried in the beach for as long as I can remember, had always been presumed to be an old wartime buoy, of which there were many on the Eigg beaches when I was a kid.
“Some people thought it was maybe a mine, but it had only ever protruded a few inches above the sand. We used to play on it.”
Mr Cormack said there had been many beach fires around the bomb. He only realised what it was when the washed away sand revealed the interior.
He said: “I took a picture and e-mailed it to the police and within the hour they phoned me to say that the Navy bomb disposal unit were going to come and look at it.
“They arrived a few days later on the ferry in their bomb disposal wagon. It turns out that it was a good thing they didn’t come by helicopter as they needed the winch on their vehicle.
“The four-man team, who had driven all the way up from their barracks outside Glasgow, first needed to verify whether the mine was a threat, so they excavated it by digging around it, then winching it out of the hole for a closer inspection.”
Mr Cormack said the mine was British and would have been used to protect Allied shipping lanes from German U-boats and warships.
He added: “The mine is a rare example as they are not usually found with the explosive casing still intact. In fact one of the bomb squad said in 30 years he had never seen one intact – that’s why they were very worried.
“The device still had part of its seabed tether attached, which it would have broken lose from and floated onto Laig beach about 60 years ago before becoming buried in the sand.”
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “The matter was handed over to the Navy explosive ordnance disposal to deal with. At first they were going to fly out but in the end they went by ferry and successfully carried out a controlled explosion.
“But we would like to thank the member of the public who contacted us from Eigg. People should contact us immediately if they find something suspicious”.
Dave Macbeth of Stornoway Coastguard, which was also involved in the operation, praised Ben Cormack’s response.
Mr Macbeth said: “The guy did good. He realised that even after all these years this was something more than people thought it was and he was right.”