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Death on the Canal - Five Near Misses

Friday Five

One day I will finally finish my article on the apparent dangers of the Cwmbran stretch of the Mon and Brec canal. One distant day... Until then here are five tales of people who narrowly avoided a watery grave within its confines!

#05. Rescued From Drowning
About ten o'clock on Monday night Police-Constable Lawrence saved a man's life who had fallen into the canal near the Forge Hammer Inn. The man cried for help, and the policeman, by means of his belt, got him out. 
- Weekly Mail, 09 May 1885
Regular readers might remember PC Lawrence as the police officer who fainted at the sight of the Cwmbran Ghost.

#04. Attempted Suicide

On Sunday night last, a woman named Mary Ann Jenkins, living at Spring Vale, in the parish of Llanvrechva, attempted to commit suicide by throwing herself into the canal, near Cwmbran furnaces. A person named John Jones, who was near the spot at the time, succeeded in dragging the poor woman out of the canal, when she stated that her reason for attempting to commit suicide was that her husband was an irreclaimable drunkard. 
- Monmouthshire Merlin, 18 October 1856.


#03. Cwmbran Man's Escapade

Hooked Out of the Canal by a Boatman. At a special police-court at Pontypool yesterday, Sidney Strange, a labourer, of Cwmbran, was charged with being drunk at Griffithstown on the previous night. The evidence showed that defendant fell into the Monmouthshire Canal, and was pulled out by a boatman with his hook. The man being in an exhausted condition, a police-constable was sent for from Griffithstown, whither the man was removed in a barrow. A local doctor found the man to be worse for drink. The presiding magistrate imposed a fine of 5s., with the doctor's fee of 7s. 6d. 
 - Evening Express, 18 February 1902

This was not Mr. Strange's first brush with newspaper fame. In December 1893 he was sentenced to 21 days' hard labour for stealing 3lbs of tobacco, worth 15s, from the grocers E. and J. Richards.

#02. Rescue From Drowning

On Saturday last Messrs. Andrews and Baby, railway wagon builders, gave their workmen the annual picnic. The party proceeded in breaks to Cwmbran Gardens, and on arrival at the canal near the Patent Nut and Bolt Company's Works, a crowd of persons were standing upon the bank in a state of great excitement, and a cry was raised that a boy eight years old, named Joseph Harrington, had fallen into the water between the locks, which was about twenty feet deep. One of the Cardiff men, named Henry Arthurs, immediately jumped into the water and brought up the insensible body. 
After using the methods prescribed by the Humane Society and the attendance of a doctor, the boy showed signs of consciousness. During the afternoon a subscription was started by Messrs. Andrews and Baby, to which all the workmen contributed, and a purse of money was handed to Henry Arthurs, whose clothes were dried in a neighbouring cottage. This is the fourth person he has rescued from drowning without recognition by the Humane Society. An excellent dinner and tea were provided by Mr Clark, to which 30 sat down. After proposing the usual toasts and indulging in various games, the party returned to Cardiff, after having spent a most enjoyable day.
- South Wales Daily News, 01 September 1884

The Weekly Mail of September 6th also reported on the story:
A circumstance which was nearly fatal occurred on Saturday at about 12:50p.m.. Some lads were bathing in the canal, and one, named Thomas Harrington, fell into the lock, a depth of about 16ft., and sank to the bottom. Mr. Henry Arthurs, of 47, Cecil-Street, Roath, Cardiff, who had only just arrived at Pontnewydd on a pleasure trip to Cwmbran Gardens, hearing that someone was in the canal, ran at once a distance of about 500 yards, and without hesitation divested himself of his outer garment, dived to the bottom of the lock, and brought the lad out, apparently dead. The lad was immediately lifted to shore, and after a considerable amount of exertion animation was restored. This action on the part of Mr. Arthur [sic] should be fully recognised.

#01. A Narrow Escape

On Wednesday, a boy named Patrick Reardon, about 6 years of age, son of Mr Daniel Reardon, who lives at Nightingale Row, near Pontnewydd, was playing abut the canal lock, when by some means he fell into the lock. Fortunately, he was seen by some women, and their screams attracted the attention of Mr Jeremiah Dacey, who was on the canal bank, and he immediately scrambled down the gate of the lock and rescued the boy. The little fellow had received no injury beyond a cut on his face and a thorough wetting. It was extremely fortunate that help was near at hand, or the child would have been drowned. Dacey deserves much praise for his prompt and courageous action. 
- Pontypool Free Press and Herald of the Hills, 18 August 1879
Patrick, one would hope, learned his lesson. It seems he was the only one...
PONTNEWYDD. Another narrow escape from drowning occurred on Sunday last, near the same spot as that named in our last issue. Another little boy named Reardon, a brother to the one rescued by Dacey, fell into the canal, near Nightingale-row, and must have perished had it not been for the prompt assistance of William Skinner, who plunged into the water and rescued the little one from its perilous position. We wonder there are not more accidents of this kind, when we see so many children allowed to play on and about the locks of our canal. Are not these men entitled to some reward for their bravery in these cases of saving life?
 - Monmouthshire Merlin, 29 August 1879

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Friday Five


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