Obituary: Sandy Marr, police officer known as Mr Courage after saving girl's life

Alexander Dowie Marr BEM, Police officer. Born: 30 December, 1937 in Methil. Died: l3 May, 2021 in Kirkcaldy, aged 83

Sandy Marr was awarded the British Empire Medal for his bravery

When Sandy Marr made a selfless split-second decision one autumn afternoon he could never have envisaged how it would change the course of his life irrevocably.

A dedicated beat bobby, in his prime at the age of 38, he was on door-to-door inquiries during a murder investigation when he and an eight-year-old girl were caught in the path of a speeding drink driver.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

As the motorist hurtled towards them the officer made the lightning choice to push the youngster to safety and in doing so took the force of the crash himself. In that fleeting moment he saved the life of the schoolgirl but the heroic act led to him being pinned against a wall by the car. He subsequently lost both legs.

Undaunted by the catastrophic change in his circumstances, nine months later he returned to work where he was known as Mr Courage.

Alexander Marr, known as Sandy, was born in Methil, the son of butcher Bill Marr and his wife Meg, a home help. He attended Methil Primary and Buckhaven High School before opting for an apprenticeship in the grocery department of the Co-op in Leven.

His two years of National Service were spent in the RAF and in 1960 he married his wife Christina, known as Ena, whom he had met at a bowling green dance in Methil.

He continued to work for the Co-op, driving the store van and delivering to customers in Largoward and other the east coast villages, before joining Fife Constabulary in 1963. After training at Tulliallan Police College he became a beat officer, based at Templehall, Kirkcaldy. It was while stationed there that he was drafted in to help with investigations in the town of Leslie following a murder in October 1975.

That afternoon Constable Marr had been going door-to-door in Cabbagehall Road when he met two girls leading a pony. The elder girl led the animal off the road into a gateway and the other, eight-year-old Arlene Ferguson, stayed talking the officer on the footpath at the side of the road. As they chatted a car sped round the corner and swerved across the road towards them. In an instant Pc Marr pushed the little girl aside to safety and she escaped uninjured but shocked. He, however, was so badly hurt that one leg was severed on the spot. He also suffered other major injuries and his other leg was later amputated in hospital.

In details of the incident, recorded in the Roll of Heroes of Carnegie Hero Trust Fund, Dunfermline, it was noted that he could almost certainly have saved himself from the path of the car but chose to put himself at enormous risk to save the child instead.

Showing great courage and fortitude, he fought back to health and learned to cope with artificial legs. He returned to work as a police officer the following year, in a different role as a collator at Kirkcaldy police station. He also met up with Arlene but was always aware of the legacy of the effects of the accident on the young girl.

In 1977 his bravery was recognised in the New Year’s Honours list when he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his actions and he continued working for the force until 1984. Following retirement from the police he went on to establish a housebuilding company with his brother before fully retiring from working life and concentrating on his family, his garden and the Retired Police Officers’ Association in Fife of which he was treasurer.

Though his life had changed beyond measure he coped quietly and without fuss with his injuries and the challenges they brought – struggles compounded latterly by Parkinson’s disease – and was highly respected within his community.

On the day of the funeral his cortege was escorted by police motorcycle outriders and met by a piper and a police guard of honour at the crematorium, fitting tributes to the man regarded as a hero within the service and beyond.

He is survived by his wife Christina (Ena), daughters Karen and Sandra, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.