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Intrepid youth saves crew from watery grave

Year 1849

Read by Kevin Horn – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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On the 20th April 1849, at three o’clock A.M., an English merchant vessel called “The Thistle,” of Whitby, was driven ashore at low water. The sea at the time was raging furiously, and as the tide rose the vessel was lifted and thumped alternately upon the sand banks, reeling to and fro, and threatening destruction every moment to the unhappy crew. The master’s last act, before quitting the deck, was to fire off a musket twice as a signal of distress, and was about to fire the third time, when a heavy sea broke over the ship, and nearly carried him away: he them fled to the fore-rigging to join his men, who had already sought shelter, or rather prolongation of life, in the shrouds. They remained for eight hours in the fore-rigging, little thinking, as was afterwards discovered, that the foremast was sprung; and after this lapse of time passed in the most intense anxiety and suffering, during which some hundreds of the villagers and peasants of the surrounding neighbourhood had gradually collected, each feeling within himself his sad inefficiency to render the least assistance, and every moment expecting to see their fellow-creatures rudely thrust from their hold, and plunged into eternity, at this awful moment there appeared from among the crowd a youth of the name of Eugene Gérard, who, at the early age of eighteen, had been already buffeted about by the winds and waves.

This youth, more intrepid than the rest, seeing the impossibility of approaching the ship with boats, boldly went forward, and at the most imminent risk of his own life (notwithstanding the entreaties of his father to return), dashed into the sea, and, after having ben three times overturned by the violence of the waves, succeeded in forming a communication between the ship and the shore by means of ropes; and thus, by his daring courage and humane exertions, saved the master and the wretched suffering crew from a watery grave.

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