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Foreman saves several colleagues from flooded sewer

Year 1894

Read by Coral Gurney – Life Governor, Royal Humane Society

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Mugford Wm., Foreman of Works.

Stanhope Gold Medal 1894.

A violent thunderstorm, accompanied by rain, broke over Torquay at 2.30 a.m. on the 20th October, 1894. The flood rushed from all points with terrific force into the town sewer, the water of which rose about three feet in as many minutes. A party of eight or nine men were dispatched to carry out some repairs to the interior of the main sewer. They had been at work about a couple of hours, when the man who was set to watch signalled to them that the water was rising, and William Mugford, the foreman, ordered the men up. Three men, Callicot, Beasley, and Potter started off in the direction of the manhole, Mugford remaining behind to make fast the staging upon which they were working. The water rushed down in a perfect torrent, and before the foremost man had reached the manhole it had overflown the dam, and was whirling about down the sewer in a resistless flood. Beasley managed to clutch a barrow which was made fast to the dam, and by means of a life-line was pulled up on the staging. Callicot was overcome and carried away, nor was anything seen of him until his dead body was found lodged against the staging upon which the men had been working. Milton, one of the workmen, again and again was carried off his feet by the rushing water, and would have undoubtedly have been drowned but for the coolness and presence of mind of William Mugford, who is a powerful man, and held on to him, half carrying him out of danger. Potter who was further up the drain, also owes his life to the foreman. The two men, under the direction and supported by Mugford, finally hauled themselves up to the foot-irons and chains, and remained seven hours there before they were finally rescued. It is stated that had it not been for Mugford’s brave devotion to his fellow workmen all would have been drowned, as the outlet discharges directly into the sea on a rocky and dangerous coast.

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