ALLOA harbour once bustled with ships from Continental Europe and Scandinavia, trading in coal and salt, while the foreign ships carried grain and timber.

It was a noisy, busy and dangerous place but the local children were fascinated by these ships as they unloaded their cargo, and by the sailors who manned them.

On Sunday, June 22, 1874 a Finnish vessel, the schooner Veritas from Turku – a city on the southwest coast of Finland, also known as Abo in the Finland Swedish dialect – had been tied up at the quayside, having delivered its cargo.

A young boy called Donald Hunter of Alloa was sitting on its bulwarks facing the quay when Theodor Francell of the Veritas came up behind him and pushed him.

The boy fell between the ship's side and the quay wall into the water. The incident was witnessed by another man called Marshall who ran to help the boy and managed to get him to safety.

Had it not been for his swift action, the outcome could have been much more serious for the youngster.

On Tuesday June 24, Francell stood in the dock at Alloa Sheriff Court before the Sheriff Clerk John Ewing, charged with assaulting Hunter.

As Francell could not speak English, an interpreter was brought in. He was Mr Hansen, a shipbroker from Alloa and told the Sheriff Clerk that the accused pleaded guilty to the charge, but said it was carried out without malicious intent.

Solicitor Mr Laing, who acted on behalf of the Finnish seaman, told the court that the sailors on the ship had become increasingly annoyed with a group of small boys who had gone aboard and would not leave them alone. As they settled down for the night, Francell was given the job of watchman.

By this time, all the boys had finally left the ship, except for Hunter. In order to get rid of him and allow the ship to close down for the night, Francell, who by this time was at the end of his tether asking the boy to leave, shoved him off the bulwarks.

When he realised what he had done, he tried to help the boy as best he could.

Luckily the youngster was unharmed, but it could have ended in tragedy, so the Sheriff Clerk fined the young sailor 20 shillings, the alternative being 14 days in prison.

The prison sentence was not an option, so the fine was paid, and he left Alloa on his ship shortly afterwards.