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Sailor saves eight lives from watery graves

Year 1835

Read by Grace Clark – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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November 19, 1835

John Ellerthorpe, a sailor on board the New Holland packet, on Thursday the 19th of November, rescued a fellow-creature from a watery grave. Ellerthorpe had been on watch on board the packet, and was partly undressed, just turning in, about 8.30 P.M., when he heard a plunge in the water, and, running on deck, he sung out, “Is any one overboard!” but the pier being deserted, he received no answer. Hearing a struggle in the distance, no object being visible, Ellerthorpe threw himself into the water, and swam to the place from whence the noise proceeded.

The drowning person seized hold of him, and got so entangled as to carry Ellerthorpe down with him; they rose again, and Ellerthorpe having freed himself, called to the man to hold only by his shoulders, and thus took him swimming on shore. His reward was, the grateful thanks of Robert Brown, the rescued man, a sailor belonging to North Shields, unable to swim.

This man seems to be placed on board the packet, which is constantly crossing the Humber several times in the day, between Lincolnshire and Hull, as if by an overruling Providence, for the preservation of the lives of his creatures.

The following persons have been saved by Ellerthorpe :—

In August 1833, Mary Ann Day, about six years of age, fell into the harbour. Ellerthorpe jumped overboard, caught her as she rose to the surface, and restored her to her friends.

On the 11th of November 1833, a man fell into the Humber dock basin. Ellerthorpe sprang across two keels, and directed by the sound, swam about ten yards, when he discovered the object of his search almost exhausted, and, with the assistance of the keelman, he was recovered. The night was dark and tempestuous.

On the 4th of October 1834, an old man fell from the landing-place of the Grimsby Packets : he was seventy- five years of age, and very feeble. Ellerthorpe, who was standing at the door of the Minerva hotel, the moment he heard the cry of ” A man overboard!” although the night was dark, jumped in and caught hold of the man ; but owing to his feeble state, and having a heavy great-coat on, it was with great difficulty that Ellerthorpe could reach the breakwater, to which he clung until assistance reached him.

In September 1834, Richard Chapman, about seven years of age, fell into the water from the Humber dock pier. Ellerthorpe was not present ; but the moment he heard the alarm, he ran to the spot, and had to leap from a height of at least fourteen feet, and could but just discern the hands of the boy he saved.

In the same month of that year Robert Leeson fell into the harbour at New Holland ferry, and disappeared.

Ellerthorpe dived and brought him up. Another sailor who could not swim, having jumped overboard to assist, Ellerthorpe also had to rescue him from his perilous situation.

In May 1833, a boy named Wilson, aged twelve years, fell into the Humber Dock basin. Upon seeing a crowd collected trying to save him with hooks, Ellerthorpe instantly dived, brought him up, and restored him to his friends.

In August 1834, Sarah Harland, a very stout woman, about forty years of age, fell overboard. The moment the alarm was given, Ellerthorpe jumped overboard, caught her by the clothes as she was floating away, and rescued her.

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