A Young woman with debilitating learning difficulties saved her family’s life by leading them to safety after a fire ripped through their home.
Thick smoke and flames had already engulfed the family home in Inveresk when Annie Dow, who has a highly unusual chromosome disorder, calmly made her way through the house to raise the alarm.
While fire raged in the kitchen – causing extensive damage and destroying many of the family’s precious possessions – 23-year-old Annie helped lead them to safety with minutes to spare.
Now her incredibly cool response to the life or death drama has inspired a new award to be launched in her honour.
Dubbed The Annie Dow Heroism Award (TADHA), it will recognise courageous achievements by young people like her with learning disabilities and special needs.
The blaze was sparked by an electrical fault in the fridge at the restored property in the conservation village of Inveresk, Musselburgh. While Annie and parents Robin, 71, and Sophie, 61, slept, plumes of deadly thick smoke seeped into the upstairs bedrooms.
“It happened in the middle of the night,” recalled Mrs Dow, a Swedish journalist who went on to launch Mindroom – a charity aimed at supporting those affected by learning difficulties.
“Annie saved us. Annie woke up at ten to three, she couldn’t breathe. The fire alarm had been knocked out by lightning and hadn’t yet been replaced. When Annie woke up, we had more or less two minutes to live.
“Annie realised the house was on fire. She called Robin who woke and screamed ‘Get out.’
“We had a house guest and Robin, not knowing where the fire was, went further into this inferno to save our friend. We survived by seconds.”
The blaze took three hours for firefighters to dampen down. But while the incident left Annie’s parents shaken and destroyed precious belongings, she seemed perfectly calm. She later told her parents she had been taught how to respond in an emergency during fire drills at her boarding school, The New School Butterstone in Perthshire.
After the blaze, an anonymous donor impressed by Annie’s heroism donated £20,000 to help set up the award scheme.
It will be officially launched at Summerhall on October 9 and the first awards will be given in February next year.
“We lost a lot of stuff in the fire,” added Mrs Dow. “It doesn’t matter because we came so close to annihilation.
“But if you ask Annie about it, she just says ‘whatever’.”