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Lad saved after fall through ice in St. James’ Park

Year 1811, Mr Smith and James Dunstone

Read by Justina Gilbert – Trustee, Royal Humane Society

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Letter from Mr Smith, of Portsmouth Dock Yard


Having been skating for a short time in the evening of the 3rd ultimo, upon the canal at St James’s Park, on my way out, I observed a number of people collected, which, when I approached, proved to be occasioned by a lad in the act of drowning; they were in much confusion and calling out for a rope; but neither that or any other means being at hand, and the lad’s situation such as would admit of no time being lost, I threw off my coats, took the person next to me by the hand, desired another to take his, and so on; went upon the ice, which by my repeated jumpings broke in; with the hand had at liberty, I continued breaking my way on, until I was breast-high in water, and found it happily in my power to lay hold of the lad, stretching my hand across a piece of ice that lay between us, and to drag him out.

On his first being taken out, he was to all appearance dead; but after having opened his waistcoat, and wiped his chest dry, and then sitting down, having rolled him on my thighs for some minutes, he exhibited signs of life, which encouraged me to proceed until he was able to speak.

After being so far recovered, he said in answer to my inquiries that his name was Dunstone, that he lived at No. 35, Northumberland Street, Strand, at Mr Fugan’s. I gave him in the charge of some people present, who offered their services to conduct him home, and desired that they would take him to some place where he might have some warm brandy and water.

C.H. Smith


This is the letter that Smith’s father received in reply from the boy.

Honoured Sir,

I am too young to express my mother’s and my own gratitude as I wish to do, to your worthy son – his humanity has saved my life; for this I shall ever feel indebted to him. Any man might have rendered me this service, but few would have been so kind and benevolent as he has been since my rescue; I am truly sorry that he has suffered by this act of charity. May the Lord reward him! I see with pleasure that the notice you have been pleased to take of this adventure originates in the known worth of a dear son, and the heartfelt comfort he affords you: that you both may mutually enjoy this comfort many years, will be the constant prayer of the widowed moth and her eldest of three orphans, who begs leave to subscribe himself with respect and gratitude.

Honoured Sir
Your most devoted and obedient servant
James Dunstone

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