Home > 250th Anniversary Stories > Case 1 – Thomas Vincent, Waterman rescues child from Thames

Case 1 – Thomas Vincent, Waterman rescues child from Thames

Year 1774, Thomas Vincent

Read by John Grandy – Chairman, Royal Humane Society

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July 12, 1774

THOMAS, the son of John Joseph, a child aged about 14 months, dwelling by the Iron Foundry near the Falcon Stairs, wandering from its mother and other women who were drinking tea together in a chandler’s shop, got into a back kitchen, and fell through a trap, the door of which was carelessly left open, into an aqueduct communicating with the River Thames.

The women heard it fall, and ran to the place, but could not perceive the child. Their screams brought a shoemaker, who lived in an adjacent house, to the place, but he was fearful of jumping in, lest he should fall upon the child.

Thomas Vincent, a waterman, who was amongst the crowd brought together by the cries of the distressed mother, being informed of the event, ran round by several houses, and climbing over the walls of the aqueduct, waded up to the place to the height of his chest in the water, proceeding cautiously, and feeling for the infant with his feet as he advanced; for he imagined the returning tide might have carried it to a distance from the place: nor was he altogether deceived; as he felt the child about ten feet from the opening. He took it up, and gave it to the women through the hole through which it had fallen.

From seven to ten minutes must have elapsed from the falling-in of the child to the time it was taken out. The women upon the strictest examination affirmed, that the child was to all appearance dead; its eyes were fixed, it lay breathless, and void either of motion or pulse. They shook, and beat it on its back for some little time, and then laying it upon a counter in the shop, rubbed its belly and chest with dry salt; the friction was scarcely continued three minutes before the child began to galp, and give other signs of returning life, which increased till they were enabled to pour some salt and water down its throat. This excited a vomiting, by which the child threw up a considerable quantity of water and mud from its stomach, and in a few minutes more it was restored to the joyful arms of its mother. In the course of the evening it had two or three convulsive fits, but these were of short duration, and returned no more.

The person who had taken the child out of the water ran for Mr. Boyse, one of the Medical Assistants to this Society: he not being at home, his journeyman went to the house, but he found the child pretty well recovered. The waterman had the reward promised by the society.

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