Scots actor finds new lease of life after Thames tragedy

Peter and Jean Martin pictured in Monte Carlo. Picture: contributed
Peter and Jean Martin pictured in Monte Carlo. Picture: contributed
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When Peter Thorburn witnessed his partner’s tragic death in a freak boating accident on the River Thames he knew his life would never be the same again.

But two years on from the devastating incident the 73-year-old says he has come through the tragedy and is now going from strength to strength.

Peter, who was raised in Fountainbridge, lost childhood sweetheart Sheila Currie in 2015 after a surprise boat trip took a horrifying turn when she fell overboard and was fatally injured by a propeller.

Her death was made even more agonising by the fact that the couple – who met at a cultural event in the West End – had lost touch for more than 30 years before eventually reuniting.

Now Peter, who trained as a blacksmith in the Old Town before becoming an actor, says he is doing well thanks to the support of his family and friends, as well as 18 months of counselling.

And he has even found love with new partner Jean, something he said was “the icing on the cake”.

Recalling Sheila’s death, Peter said it was one of the worst things he could ever have witnessed and had been made even worse due to its sudden nature.

“When you have got an old person in the family, you are expecting that to happen, you are expecting them to leave – that’s a natural kind of thing,” he said.

“But for something like what happened to Sheila – a tragic accident or anything else – it’s like someone is stealing something out of your hand.

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“It’s finished, it’s gone and there’s no time to think about it. That is where the trauma comes in, especially if you witness it.”

The trauma resulted in Peter, who now lives in London, taking a break from his acting career as he struggled with auditions while coming to terms with Sheila’s death.

But the ball is now rolling once again, with Peter – whose previous work includes everything from bit parts in Taggart to American sitcom Two and a Half Men – now back on the auditions circuit.

“I didn’t go for auditions or castings, I just couldn’t face anyone,” he said. “I tried [but] everything I did was just wooden, there was nothing coming out at all, there was no warmth.

“Round about September last year I started to go out and about again – I told my agent to see what’s going on. Then the work started – it’s going well. It’s just fantastic, it’s so refreshing meeting with people again.”

But for Peter the “icing on the cake” has been his new found romance with 66-year-old Jean following a chance encounter at Victoria station.

Peter said he and Sheila had discussed new partners in the event of one of them dying but admitted it was not something he had given much thought to.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think anything like that would happen to her,” he said.

“We used to say if anything ever happens don’t be alone – not overnight but when it happened I knew we had talked about these things. I had never thought about anyone else but when that happened I appreciated what we did talk about.”

And things with Jean are going well, he added, with Peter urging others in similar circumstances to believe in themselves and not to give up hope of finding happiness.

“I just kind of gave up, I thought the party’s over for me,” he admitted.

“I didn’t have that closeness – someone to go to the theatre with, go for a meal with, just to do nothing with.

“My family took to her very well and likewise her family have been very kind to me. I feel like my life is more complete.”