Ice Ice Baby

In February 1935, a tiny baby girl was found abandoned amongst a load of fresh fish, in a fish ice-box, at an unnamed location (probably in the environs of what is now modern Murcia City). The baby was alive, but in a poor condition and nobody ever discovered her true identity. The story of the baby’s discovery was undoubtedly a tragic one, which was reported in newspapers across the UK. However, papers like the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail (which reported on the incident on February 11th 1935) were keen to point out the more positive aspects of the case and show how the local Murcian community rallied round to give the abandoned baby girl the best possible start in life.

Fish ice box, c.1935  (c) Farrell Photo Collection
Fish ice box, c.1935 (c) Farrell Photo Collection

To begin with, the sad tale of the baby in the fish ice-box was heavily publicised in Murcia and beyond. As a result, the baby was quickly adopted by a loving family and didn’t face life being brought up in an orphanage. Secondly, once the baby girl had been removed from the fish-box, she was treated in a local hospital where nurses clubbed together to buy the foundling appropriate swaddling clothes. Local Murcian students also heard of the baby’s plight and organised activities which raised over £12 for the infant (roughly equivalent to nearly £900 in 2021). Moreover, this money was placed in a local savings bank for the child. The generosity of spirit shown by the local people of Murcia, in response to the ice-box baby case, certainly caught the attention of the British press at the time. It was a sad tale which ended quite well and provided a fillip to depression-hit people in both Britain and Spain.

Murcian Cycling Mayhem

The Tour of Murcia cycle event was started in 1981. For the first four years, only amateurs were allowed to compete in the competition, which originally consisted of five stages. This was scaled back to three stages in 2011 and then two stages in 2012. Between 2013 and 2018, the Tour of Murcia was a single day event and moved to mid-February in the racing calendar. After the end of the COVID pandemic, the event is expected to resume as a two-day competition.

Aitor Gonzalez (3rd from right) (c) Euskaltel Euskadi 2005
Aitor Gonzalez (3rd from right) (c) Euskaltel Euskadi 2005

In 2001, European press and television focused on the event after a monumental pile-up (involving over twenty cycles and riders) occurred just before the finishing line of the 146.9 km first stage between Murcia City and Aguilas. Twenty-six year old Danish cyclist Tayeb Braikia crashed to the ground, not far in front of the finishing line, slid into the barriers, and then bounced back into the middle of the race peloton. The unfortunate Dane was run over by numerous pursuing cyclists, who all crashed out of the race. In total, over twenty bikes were involved in the collision, which left Braikia lying on the ground in a pool of blood. The accident completely overshadowed the achievement of Austrian Werner Riebenbauer, who won the first stage. (The overall winner of the 2001 Tour of Murcia was Spain’s Aitor Gonzalez).

Lance Armstrong in 2009 (c) Paul Coster
Lance Armstrong in 2009 (c) Paul Coster

The Irish Independent newspaper of 8th March 2001 also devoted some column inches to Lance Armstrong, the US cyclist, who competed in the 2001 Tour of Murcia. By this time, Armstrong had already won the Tour de France on two occasions and he went on to secure five more consecutive victories in the French Blue Riband cycling event. Armstrong was later revealed to have been using performance-enhancing drugs, over a sustained period of time in order to achieve sporting pre-eminence. In 2001, he finished well down the field in the Tour of Murcia competition – ‘taking it easy early in the season’ – according to the Irish Independent.

At the time of the 2001 Tour of Murcia, Tayeb Braikia was the reigning Clasico Almeria champion (a single day cycling road race). After he’d recovered from the injuries sustained during the first stage of the Tour of Murcia, Braikia continued to race for the Lotto Adecco professional team for one further year. However, he was never to win another cycling title.