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Ice Skater saved by Sister and friend in Galway

Year 1881

Read by Frances Buchan – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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Miss. Jennie Coates

On the 31st January, 1881, Miss Coates went out skating on Lough Derg, Co. Galway, whilst her sister and a gentleman named Lewis were walking on the ice close by. When the party were upwards of 100 yards from shore the ice gave way under Miss Coates and she became immersed in twelve feet of water. Mr. Lewis started for the land with a view of obtaining a rope from a boat on the other side of the lake, but before going made an ineffectual attempt to rescue the lady, becoming immersed himself.

Miss Jennie Coates took off her boots and ran across the rotten ice of the bay, nearly half a mile distant, and procured a rope, returning by the same route, followed by Mr. Lewis, who endeavoured to hand the rope to the lady, who was holding herself above water with the aid of a branch thrown by her sister.

In doing this Mr. Lewis lost his life, as the ice gave way and he sank beneath the surface. Miss Jennie Coates, nothing daunted, with great presence of mind succeeded in getting the rope to her sister, but could do nothing more by herself excepting to encourage her sister to hold on. In this awful position the ladies remained for nearly two hours. Miss Jennie, retaining her hold on the rope, supporting her sister, and crying aloud for help. At this juncture the lady’s younger brother appeared, who at once procured another rope. Here, again, the young lady added to her former presence of mind by handing the rope to which her sister was clinging to her brother to hold, whilst with the other rope she crept along the ice to the place where Mr. Lewis had gone down and tied it round her sister’s waist, stooping over the edge of the ice and reaching into the water, then getting back to her brother on the firm ice, they pulled the almost lifeless girl out of the water and carried her to land.

The Committee of the Royal Humane Society were unanimously of the opinion that the courageous conduct of the late Mr. Lewis should be recorded, and if he had survived his gallant exertions, he would have been awarded the Silver Medal also.

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