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Child resuscitated following canal fall

Year 1783, Mr. Tomlinson

Read by Justina Gilbert – Trustee, Royal Humane Society

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July 29, 1783

Copy of a Letter from Mr. Tomlinson, to the Register.


It is with infinite pleasure I embrace an opportunity of communicating to your valuable Institution the following successful Case.

On Thursday last, being at my garden, near the canal, I was informed, that a person apparently dead, was taken out of the water. I immediately ran to the spot, and discovered John Crickett (a child) lying upon the wet sand, without the least symptom of life, and was informed by some gentlemen present, he had been under water ten minutes, and that then he had been taken out a quarter of an hour or more, in which time they had employed the proper means; his face was amazingly enlarged, and of a very dark livid colour; the abdomen also much distended. I instantly conveyed the body into an adjoining field, stripped off the shirt, and made use of the methods recommended by the Society.

Fortunately having some brandy at my garden, I employed it externally to the thorax, abdomen, and spine, so successfully, that in about twelve minutes I had the pleasing satisfaction to observe Symptoms of Returning Life by a deep sigh, accompanied with a tremulous motion of the trachea, and plentiful discharge of urine and faeces; the inspirations now became much more frequent, and in about twenty minutes he began to groan. The reason I did not instantly remove the body to the Public-house I mentioned, was, the sun at that time shining very bright, and I conceived that its rays would answer every purpose of artificial beat, besides the time which would have been lost in conveying the body to that distance, I thought might be much better employed. Having thus far succeeded in my attempts, I ordered a warm bed to be procured at a neighbouring Public- house where I had the child immediately convey the frictions, &c. continued, and some more of the brandy and water given, though made much stronger than the former; of this, I believe, about two table spoonfuls were taken, into the stomach, which immediately brought on a vomiting; nevertheless the patient seemed much relieved for a short time, when he was attacked with convulsive spasms over the whole body, but these very soon subsided, and as restoration advanced, the child seemed to be in extreme pain, uttering the most violent shrieks, yet he was not able to articulate a single word before the following day.

It was two hours from my first seeing the patient, before I chose to omit the various means and I then rubbed the thorax, throat, and temples with warm brandy; this, with the extreme agitation he had before undergone, very soon composed him to sleep; when he awoke he was insensible, and in this situation was removed to his own home, and slept most part of the night; in the morning he was perfectly sensible, and had not the most distant idea of the accident.

I am well convinced, that from the time the child remained in the water, and the distance I had to go, it could not possibly be less than five and twenty minutes before I saw the body. The space of time before any symptoms of returning life appeared, I can more positively speak to, as I ascertained it by my watch.

I was induced to take this early opportunity of communicating the present case, as I hope it will, in some measure, contribute to your invaluable publications.

I cannot in justice conclude my letter without strongly recommending the Widow Harries to your consideration, as she immediately admitted the body into her house, and afforded me every assistance the nature of the case required.

I am, Sir,

Your most obedient humble servant, THOMAS TOMLINSON.

The Honorary Medal of the Society was presented to Mr. Tomlinson, the receipt of which was mentioned in very respectful terms in the Birmingham Papers; and the worthy inhabitants have on a variety of occasions expressed their approbation of the liberal proceedings of the Directors, in granting them Premium for the restoring to life the son of a worthy resident of their town.

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