Royal Humane Society. Recognising Bravery.

Royal Humane Society

Instituted 1774 and Incorporated by Royal Charter in 1959

Patron:  Her Majesty the Queen

President:  HRH Princess Alexandra, the Hon Lady Ogilvy KG GCVO

Registered Charity Number 231469

50/51 Temple Chambers
3/7 Temple Avenue
London EC4Y 0HP
Telephone : 020 7936 2942
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The Icemen

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Society's Icemen (there were several) would be on hand in London's parks during the winter in case anyone fell through the ice and needed rescuing

Ice-skating was very popular in the winter but there were many accidents when the ice gave way. Thousands of people would skate at the same time on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, central London, so the Icemen would be on duty from 7 o'clock every morning.

The figure in the left foreground wearing a coat with the words 'Humane Society' on the back is such an IceMan

A DragBehind the Iceman, you can see a piece of equipment that looks like a ladder. This was called a 'drag'. It would have been pushed across the ice towards the unfortunate person who'd fallen in. They would grab hold of it and the Iceman would pull them back to safety.

The rules of the Society stated that Icemen were 'not to assist in putting on or taking off skates.' In this detail, you can see someone else doing that, to the left of the Iceman.

Sometimes it must have been tempting to keep warm by having a nip of brandy, but that was strictly forbidden: 'Icemen found intoxicated or accepting liquor from the public whilst on duty will be instantly dismissed', warned the Annual Report of 1890

Ice Skating Scene - Click for larger image
Icemen preparing for work

The Ice Brigade

These verses were written by an un-named supporter of the Society and appeared in the Annual Report 1858.

When piercing frost invades the ground
And trees with snowy wreaths are bound,
And shining in the moonlight clear;
Each seems a crystal chandelier;
Then o'er the ice we skaters fly,
Like meteors through the starry sky,
On joy intent, of nought afraid,
We're guarded by the Ice Brigade.
The maiden sees, with glist'ning eye,
Her beau on wings of lightning fly;
The mother sees, with woman's pride,
Her son o'er treacherous waters glide,
And rosy health, and bright-eyed glee,
Runs laughing by in company;
Grim death, alone, stands by dismayed,
He's guarded by the Ice Brigade.
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