Campaign breakthrough for Dylan Ramsay's family on the 10th anniversary of teenager's death

Ten years ago tomorrow, 13-year-old Dylan Ramsay drowned at Hill Top Quarry in Whittle-le-Woods.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 10:21 am
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 4:04 pm

In that moment, the lives of his family and friends changed forever, and in the decade that has passed, they have worked tirelessly to make sure his spirit lives on as a water safety talisman.

In a twist of fate this week, just days before the anniversary, they have managed to smash the 100,000 signature barrier to have a landmark petition on water safety and the school curriculum debated in Parliament.

"He hasn't died for nothing", said Dylan's mum Beckie, 41, from Chorley.

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A previously unseen photo of Dylan Ramsay, who died aged 13

"I can see this is the start of change. I never believed in petitions making a difference before, but now I feel like I have 100,000 people beside me and it makes me stronger.

"There's too many people who want this now, and it's always been for everyone, it's not just about me and my loss."

>>>View and sign the petition here.

The petition aims to tackle a "hit and miss" approach to water safety in schools and deliver important messages about open water, such as rip tides and cold water shock.

Beckie Ramsay

Beckie is firm in her belief that Dylan would be alive today, had he had that education.

Dylan, Beckie and John Ramsay's eldest child, drowned while swimming in open water with friends on a hot day.

He was a strong swimmer and was in the water for 20 minutes before he got into difficulty, the exact details of which are still unknown .

The coroner who said his death was due to cold water shock, but the family are still unsure.

Dylan was a talented athlete

After his death, as well as raising three other grieving children, Beckie threw herself into setting up Doing It For Dylan, a campaign aimed at preventing any more families suffering the same loss as hers.

It has seen her travel the country presenting her message to thousands of school children, supporting and mentoring other bereaved families and raising the issue with politicians and educators.

In 2019 she was awarded the British Empire Medal for For services to the Prevention of Water Related Accidents and in the same year, her daughter Annie became a water safety ambassador for the Swimming Teacher's Association.

>>>Click here to read Annie's story.

Beckie Ramsay at Hill Top Quarry

In March after "trying and failing many times" to get water safety on the national curriculum, and horrified by the increased number of coastguard callouts during lockdowns, Beckie set up her petition on the Government's website.

Numbers had been growing steadily, but she says a rare Facebook post by her husband John helped boost signatures by 32,000 in just a few days.

She said: "I ended up getting barred from Facebook, I don't know why. Maybe I was posting too often about the petition and they thought it was spam.

"So my husband put a post on about the work and how much he felt for me, and it seemed to have struck a chord with people.

"It got about 17,000 shares and for the last few days, the petition has been trending everyday, nationwide.

"Some days we have been getting 1,800 signatures an hour."

Dylan Ramsay

The family set their alarm clocks early for the day they expected the numbers to smash through the 100,000 barrier.

Beckie said: "We set our alarms for 7am and it was at 99,000. Then just as my daughter was about to go to school, we hit 100,000 and we had family members on the phone, whatsapping us, it was going mad.

"I was just thinking 'Oh my God'. I didn't know what was going to happen at that point."

She has since found out that the petition will be debated at 6.15pm on Monday, July 12 in Westminster Hall. MP Catherine McKinnell, the chair of the committee, will lead the debate.

Beckie said: "I'm a bit in shock, it's all happened so quickly. I've heard of other campaigns hitting the 100,000 mark and waiting months to get a date.

"It makes me wonder whether it's being rushed through because they want to include it in the new curriculum in September, or is it because Parliament is closing down for summer?"

She added: "It's brilliant timing and it definately takes away some of the negative side of this week.

"And it's weird because the debate is also happening a day before the 10th anniversary of Dylan's funeral. If he is watching down on me , he probably sees I'm tired.

"But it feels like little messages are starting to get through.

"It's as if all of us families who have been affected by this have thrown a stone into a river and now all of a sudden, the ripples are beginning to be felt.

"If we can get the little details picked up on, then it will have a knock-on effect. If people stop buying the dark, blue swimming costumes, and pick the bright and colourful ones, then maybe the shops will notice and it's starting to work."

Tomorrow, to mark the anniversary, Dylan's family will make a trip to the quarry and erect a plaque about his story on the fencing where he entered the water.

They are also planning to have a get together with friends and family to toast his memory.

"I'm dreading Saturday, I'm not going to lie", said Beckie.

"We'll go up, change the plaque, like we do every year and make the area tidy.

"It's not a memorial site, but you can tell that someone died there. It would be nice to have something permanent, something proper for him, to say 'he was'.

"He's done a lot for this country, in his death. I've had medals, but he's not here to receive anything.

"He's my hero. He's saved so many lives and he doesn't know it. That's so sad."

Dylan

"Anniversaries and birthdays are the worst", said Beckie.

"I'm always thinking, 'would he have been married by now, would he have kids? Would he even be living in this country?"

"He was always dead bubbly, dead family-oriented. He achieved things earlier that most other children.

"By 13 he'd started getting into films and music, from Bonjovi to Cold Play and You Me at Six.

"He loved Greek mythology too, all the Greek Gods, and was always talking about going to Greece."

Dylan, a pupil at Parklands High School in Chorley, was twice named Athlete of the Year at school and was on track for A and A* grades.

Beckie added: "I can't put into words how special he was. He'd sit with you to comfort you if you were down, he'd clear snow off drives of old people, he'd wash people's cars.

"He would succeed at anything, and even in his death he has succeeded. He hasn't died for nothing.

"This world isn't good enough for Dylan, he's got to have gone to a better place. If I thought for a moment that I'd never see him again, I couldn't cope with that."

The campaign

Beckie has been fighting for the curriculum to change for 10 years.

She said: "We don't really teach water safety on the curriculum. At the moment you have to learn to swim 25m unaided by the end of primary school and self-rescue from two different points.

"So, yes the children go into the waters wearing their pjyamas and they're asked to swim down and pick up a brick, but it's not realistic.

"In real life, that water isn't going to be warm, clean and clear, it's going to be cold and nasty.

"And still, 50 per cent of children are not able to swim 25m by the age of 11.

"This needs to be Ofsed-regulated."

The petition calls on education about two main areas - rip currents and cold water shock.

Beckie said: "Cold water shock is the biggest killer in open water, but rip currents are important too. The first time many people introduce their children to water is usually at the beach.

"You can follow all of the safety advice, but if a rip current takes you out to sea, you can panic and drown in 60 seconds. But if you know what to do and get on your back, then you stand a good chance of surviving."

She is also concerned about the impact lockdowns have had on water safety.

Swimming pools have been closed and swimming lessons cancelled, and more people have been out exercising in their local areas, coming across open bodies of water they never knew about before.

Beckie said: "Some schools only offer swimming lessons in year six. Well, if that year fell when we've had all these restrictions and pools haven't been open, then that chance is lost. There will be a whole generation of children who haven't had that the lessons.

"It's so important because it's the only thing you learn at school that is actually a life-saving skill."

Coronavirus-related travel restrictions also mean more people are holidaying in the UK this year.

Beckie said: "More people will be staying in the UK and visiting places they've never been before, like Devon and Cornwall.

"They will be doing things they've never done before, like surfing and wakeboarding.

"They won't realise they're putting themselves at risk of Cold Water Shock when they would be at a much smaller risk in open water in typical holiday destinations such as the Meditteranean."

Figures released last month show that 634 people drowned in the UK last year, with 253 of them accidental.

"Every day since Dylan's died and we have hot weather, I expect a text or an email about someone else drowning, or a newspaper ringing me for a comment on it", said Beckie.

Beckie's tips for safety at the seaside and in areas of open water:

- Watch your children at all times and be close to them. If you can't reach them, you can't save them.

- Choose brightly-coloured swimwear that can be seen in the water. Avoid dark colours.

- Do not take inflatables into the sea.

- Speak to the lifeguard and ask about conditions such as tide times.

- Know what the flags on a beach mean, such as red flags mean no swimming, and chequered black and white flags mean watersports and no swimming.

- Alcohol and drugs do not mix with water. People lose their inhibitions and put themselves in greater danger.

- Do not succumb to peer pressure to jump into water or go swimming.

- Download the What3words app, which easily helps you identify your location incase you need to call the emergency services.

- Do not try to swim against a rip tide. Swim adjacent to the beach, or lie on your back and wave for help.

A picture of Dylan only discovered this week by Beckie
John and Beckie Ramsay, Dylan's parents
Dylan as a toddler