On the waterfront: The East End lifesaver

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This week, we conclude the story of the East End hero Edward Brown.

On March 23, 1920, the “East End Life Saver” (as he had become known) stood in the Mayor’s parlour at the Town Hall to receive a framed certificate and £10 cheque awarded by the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust in recognition of his gallantry in saving a young girl’s life at Low Quay the previous September.

Scottish industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie had founded the Trust in 1908 to recognise the heroism of ordinary people who risk their lives to help others.

At the time, Brown had been instrumental in saving life from drowning on no fewer than 38 occasions. A small man plagued by ill health, his rescue efforts had not previously been acknowledged, other than in local press reports.

At a 1914 inquest into the death of a boy whose body had been recovered from the river by Brown, the Coroner had remarked that while he thought him most worthy of honour, his acts of bravery had never been brought to the attention of the proper authorities.

In receiving his awards from the Mayor, Alderman Ritson, Brown modestly acknowledged that he would “do his best” if he was again required to act in similar circumstances.

And act again, he did. On August 17, 1923, he made is 42nd rescue after 10-year-old Michael Moore overbalanced from Commissioners Quay while fishing. Jumping into the river fully clothing, Brown succeeded grabbing the child as he came to the surface.

Following this rescue, the Mayor received a glowing account of Brown’s bravery in a letter from a Manchester citizen. This prompted authorities into action resulting in the award of the Royal Humane Society’s Testimonial on Vellum.

Brown once claimed that men and boys were least likely to panic in a rescue situation, but that women would often cling to a rescuer. He admitted that he had often had to thrust the head of a drowning person under the water to weaken them - definitely not something to be contemplated today.

Brown notched up his 48th rescue in 1931 at the age of 57. Called from his home at nearby Dunn’s Passage, he ran to the Low Quay in his stocking feet after hearing that a 30-year-old man had fallen into the river.

Once again Brown demonstrated his life saving skills by holding the victim’s head above water until a boat arrived.

That seems to have been his final rescue as nothing is heard of him again until a sad tale some years later.

While acting as watchman on board RWC dredger Viscount Ridley at Hendon Dock, 64-year-old Brown passed away after suffering a heart attack on October 30, 1939.