Stowmarket: 10-month-old Megan had a lucky escape

MEGAN Myall turns 26 in December – the latest birthday she might never have seen. For life could have ended almost before it had begun. In the early hours of Friday, October 16, 1987, winds that at times reached hurricane force swept across eastern and southern England.

In Stowmarket, a 130ft Turkish oak lost its fight with the relentless forces pushing against it. Down it came, smashing into a line of three houses in Melford Road. A garage was reduced to rubble – a garage less than 15 feet from where baby Megan McSloy sleept. The father of the 10-month-old, Peter, said the 100-year-old tree would have smashed through the house’s roof, and into his daughter’s first-floor bedroom, had it fallen at a slightly different angle. Neighbour Cindy Scanlan, owner of the flattened garage, said: “We could all have been killed in our beds.”

Born lucky, then? “Yeah,” laughs the adult Megan. “I hope it continues – definitely when I play the lottery! That would be nice!”

The McSloys’ house was one of three semi-detached homes in the cul-de-sac that lost guttering and had their porch roofs smashed by the branches of the oak when it was blown over at about 4am.

Jacqueline Bargewell, in those garden it had stood, said: “There was a big bang, but I did not go out at first because I thought it was thunder.” Anniversaries of The Great Storm have punctuated Megan’s life. Her parents talked about it from time to time when she was growing up. “I’ve seen the old newspaper clippings. We kept them,” says the former Combs Middle and Stowupland High pupil, who is now married and works in the Ipswich area.

“I know that if the garage hadn’t been there it would have been a lot worse. It broke the fall, I think. If the garage hadn’t been there, it would definitely have got me, and then mum and dad as well.”

The drama first impinged on her consciousness at about the age of 10, she thinks, when the EADT marked the anniversary of the gales and photographed her on a garden bench.

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Talk of this latest milestone has rekindled her interest and she’s asked her mum to dust off the cuttings so she can remind herself what happened. “I think the last time I looked through the papers was when I was about 15 and at school. We were learning about hurricanes and that sparked it off.”

Her parents moved but are still in Stowmarket. She herself also lives in the area.

“I drive past it a lot and often look at it,” she says of the house where she spent her early months. “There’s a house a couple of doors away that used to have a massive oak tree in the garden. Mum and Dad, when I was younger, we used to drive by and they’d point it out and say it’s like the one that fell down.”

She doesn’t often find herself reflecting on that moment, but admits: “It’s quite interesting to look back and maybe you do think ‘I’ve had a lucky escape.’”