Brothers save young girls sucked out to sea
A BRAVE act at a notorious Coast swim spot has been officially recognised more than 45 years after two brothers risked their lives to save two young girls.
Jim and Hugh McClelland were 16 and 15 when their patrol of Bulcock Beach for Ithaca-Caloundra City Life Saving Club took a dramatic turn on the afternoon of January 9, 1974.
Girls aged about 10 and 11 were spotted on small rented surfboards caught in an outgoing current and being sucked out to sea through dangerous surf at the Caloundra bar.
Most surf beaches had been closed that day due to the conditions but Bulcock Beach, being a non-surf beach, had remained open.
Jim, now 62, recalled barely being able to keep up with the girls as he, Hugh and another patrol member, David Robson, sprinted along the sand.
The brothers dove in to secure the girls while Mr Robson continued sprinting around to Kings Beach to alert the surf life saving inspector.
Neither of the brothers were trained as surf life savers, with calm waters their usual domain.
"I remember hitting the surf and it was like a washing machine," Jim said.
They lost the girls and found them again repeatedly as they were churned in the waves.
Somehow, they managed to hang on to the girls as they were sucked beyond the breakers and south along the northern end of Bribie Island.
They each carried a girl on their backs as they fought the current for more than an hour to get back to shore, more than 1.5km south of the bar.
After a short rest, they walked the girls back to the northern tip of Bribie Island where fellow club members and surf lifesavers were scouring for signs of life.
A hire boat was used to pick them up and bring them back across to Bulcock Beach.
They were fine, but Mr Robson was hospitalised for exhaustion such was the effort of his sprint to alert the Kings Beach inspector.
Jim said neither he nor Hugh, now 60, had heard from the girls since that day.
He said it was a "hell of a surprise" to receive confirmation earlier this month that their efforts had earned Bravery Medals in the Australian Bravery Awards.
"It's a good memory from the point of view it was very successful," Jim said.
"Unfortunately people don't realise how dangerous calm water beaches can be.
"You have got to watch those currents."
Jim, a Brisbane-based tax accountant, has maintained his connection with the club in mostly administrative and advisory roles since then, but reignited his patrol days last year.
He now travels to Bulcock Beach to watch over swimmers most weekends.
"It is fun actually. I really enjoy it."