Iwish I had been able to thank Margaret for saving mine and my dad's lives that day; TODDLER SAVED BY HERO WPC IN ROOFTOP STAND-OFF DRAMAGRATEFUL.
OVER 50 years ago, a nation watched and held its breath as a tormented Scots father dangled his baby son on the edge of a 50ft drop.
Television cameras broadcast live from the scene in Bloomsbury, London, as efforts were made to talk Thomas French down from the roof of a three-storey building.
But 31-year-old Thomas, in the grip of depression, seemed resolute in his threat to hurl himself and his 22-month-old son to their deaths, ignoring the entreaties of policemen and their fire brigade colleagues.
Finally, in desperation, senior officers allowed a relatively inexperienced young policewoman to try to get through to him.
Their last resort, Margaret Cleland, stepped forward on to the roof and addressed Thomas in soothing tones.
On hearing the gentle brogue of a fellow Scot, the tortured dad began to open up and was drawn into conversation for the first time during the stand-off.
For more than an hour, Margaret spoke gently to Thomas while she edged her way closer to him and his distressed son.
Down in the street below, the crowds, who had gasped in horror each time Thomas had swung the infant over the drop, were stunned into silence.
All eyes remained glued on the scene as the onlookers hoped and prayed that Thomas would give himself up to the diminutive 26-year-old WPC.
Meanwhile, Margaret kept her own gaze firmly fixed on father and son as she whispered words of comfort and brought herself within arms' reach of the pair.
Without warning, she suddenly lunged for Thomas and clung on to him so tightly he toppled forwards, releasing his grip on the screaming child.
Margaret grabbed hold of Stuart and cradled him while male colleagues who had been waiting in the wings leapt forward and restrained his father, preventing him from throwing himself into the abyss below.
The onlookers below sent up a rousing cheer, echoed in households across Britain watching the drama unfold on television.
Half a century on, the Record has tracked down the baby at the centre of the drama - and he has finally been able to publicly voice his gratitude to the brave young policewoman who saved his life.
Sadly, Stuart French - who had never before seen the footage of his dramatic rescue - learned the full story of Margaret's heroism on that day in March 1964 too late to offer his thanks in person.
Margaret, originally from Twechar, Dunbartonshire, died in 2011 after a short battle with cancer.
Stuart said: "I never got the chance to say thank-you to Margaret and I never knew what became of her.
"But I want to say how grateful I am that she was able to rescue me and saved both my dad's life and mine."
Margaret had only been an officer for three years with London's Metropolitan Police when she was called into action on that day.
Thomas, originally from Glasgow and a garage owner in Cambridge, was standing on a parapet 50 feet above the ground with Stuart in his arms.
Ongoing depression had seen the tortured Scot scale the building and threaten to jump to his death taking his son with him.
He had refused to speak to any of the police officers gathered at the scene, until Margaret was allowed to intervene.
Her exploits saw her awarded the George Medal for bravery and become one of only two Scots policewomen to be given Britain's second highest civilian honour.
Stuart, who still lives in Cambridge, said he had never seen the dramatic film of his rescue before and the incident was rarely spoken about by his parents.
He said: "I was taken into care after it for a little while.
"My mum and dad had been having some problems and my dad was suffering from depression.
"I did eventually go back to them and it did come up in conversation now and again but never in any great detail.
"I think I was about 14 or 15 when I first heard about it and most of what I know has only been learned in the last couple of weeks after Margaret's story was in a TV documentary.
"I'd never seen the footage before and I'm a bit stunned by it all."
Stuart revealed his father attempted suicide several times during his lifetime. He died from cancer in 2007 aged 74.
In the same year, Stuart's wife and the mother of his two daughters, Sharon, committed suicide.
Stuart said: "You could say suicide followed me my whole life. Sharon died six weeks after her mum died. Dad died the same year.
"We had fallen out for 15 years and I can't even remember what for.
"We reconciled just before he died and I'm glad about that.
"I had a happy marriage before Sharon got ill and we had two beautiful daughters and I would have missed out on all that if Margaret hadn't saved me.
"I'm happy with the way life has turned out. I would have liked to have met Margaret to say thank-you in person."
Margaret, who married a fellow police officer, Thomas Jackson, worked for the police in Dunbartonshire after she left London.
She went on to become a civilian telex operator with the Scottish Criminal Records Office in Glasgow.
Her daugher, Diane Lowrie, revealed that Margaret remained an unassuming, modest public servant all her days.
Diane said: "For the last 18 years of her life, my mum lived in Milton of Campsie.
"I am immensely proud of my mum and all that she achieved in her life.
"Her view of the rescue was that she was just doing her duty."
SAVED Stuart French today and, above, in his depressed dad's arms on the roof VIDeO dailyrecord.co.uk
Young Scot won the George Medal but saw the rescue as simply doing her duty
CONTACTMARGARET reaches out to depressed father Thomas French as he clings on to his son Stuart
PROUD Margaret with some of her police colleagues after George Medal announcement
PERILOUS Onlookers gathered to watch the incident
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Apr 25, 2015|
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