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Unceasing care saves a life using the Society’s Manual

Year 1821

Read by Claire Hill – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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December 3, 1821

Catherine Blamire

On the morning on Monday 3rd of December, 1821, during very tempestuous weather, a boat belonging to the Industry, Tender to His Majesty’s Ship Severn, was coming on shore, with fourteen men onboard, at eight o’clock, when on a sudden she was seen to upset, and every man was consigned to the mercy of the raging element.

Mrs. Blamire had been anxiously watching the boat from her cottage window, and her eyes were fixed upon the spot at the very juncture of its awful disappearance. Her feelings at this moment may be conceived rather than expressed. Immediately, upon an impulse, sudden, and, as it were, involuntary, she rushed to the beach, with some vague notion of giving relief, but neither boat nor crew were to be seen. Her maid, who had followed her, seeing her extreme agitation, and knowing the bad state of her health, entreated her return, and supported her back to her cottage.

At this moment her daughter, eleven years of age, understanding what was the matter, exclaimed, on a sudden thought, “Mamma, we have got a book will tell us what to do;” and immediately brought from among her play-things the Manual of the Royal Humane Society. Mrs. Blamire, with the auspicious document in her hand, and reinspired by better hopes, repaired quickly to the shore, where the crowd had just dragged the body of an old man out of the water, and had turned him with his face downwards, and his head on the declivity of the beach, without the smallest signs of life.

On occasions like this there are many advisers, and most difficult it is to command attention to that which is right. Some were for holding him up by the heels, to evacuate the water he had swallowed. Others were for rolling the unfortunate man about; but the prevailing sentiment appeared to be, that all measures were useless. Mrs. Blamire, however, with no other guide but the printed regulations, aided indeed by her own extraordinary and admirable presence of mind, directed the body to be laid on the back, with the head upon the rise of the beach, and while the cry of ” carry him to the nearest house” was heard, and nobody seemed willing to receive so hopeless a case, this benevolent lady, animated by better feelings, ordered them to carry the unfortunate object of her solicitude to her own cottage; and sending forward her maid to make up speedily a good fire, to heat water, to warm blankets, pillows, etc., she accompanied the body herself, to see that the men conveyed it carefully, with the face upwards, and the head and shoulders elevated.

As she expressed herself afterwards, “God gave her strength of mind to second the first impulse, and go on with it.” On their arrival, she directed the body to be laid before a good fire which was in readiness, and to be immediately stripped ; and finding the assistants tardy and awkward in their endeavours, she seized a knife, and saved much precious time by cutting the wet clothes from his back, with an expedition which none of the rude crowd about her could have accomplished. She had him rubbed quite dry with warm flannels, not disdaining to assist, but solicitously active in effecting and procuring everything which humanity and the urgency of the occasion required; he was then laid, by her directions, in a warm bed, with his head and shoulders supported by pillows,–a bed in which one of her children who was ill, had just been seen about to enter.

What will not zeal and the warmth of humanity effect? — By this time a sort of mob was collected in the house, crowding into the room, to the great detriment of the salutary process that was intended; half of these were idly staring at what was going forward, and- the remainder hindering, rather than assisting, by their despairing manner. To correct this great evil, Mrs. Blamire got upon a chair in the midst of them, and read aloud the short directions of this Society, and by the most urgent entreaties, and the most powerful language she could command, at length thinned the room.

She applied bottles of hot water to various parts of the body as directed, and while these operations were going on, the little girl who had thought of the Manual, hearing that her mother needed more bottles, etc., ran from house to house, though a stranger in the neighbourhood *, to procure some, till so much exhausted with unaccustomed fatigue and agitation of spirits, she fainted away. To keep up the beneficial effect of warmth, Mrs. Blamire had the bottles of hot water constantly renewed, and applied the warming-pan to the chest, back, etc. She wiped away the mucus which filled and frothed over his mouth, and cleared the inside of it, that returning respiration, if respiration should return, might not be impeded; and all these things she did ” with a quickness, a strength of body, a presence and clearness of mind, which are possessed by very few under any circumstances, and which, as she afterwards said, ” seemed given to her for the occasion,” and which justly bred admiration in those who witnessed them. It might be supposed that half an hour’s unremitted exertions, without the smallest signs of returning life, would have wholly banished hope, and slackened further endeavours. It was not so with this lady. The frequent exclamations of some about her that ” the man bad no life in him,” that ” it was useless to try any further,” accompanied by all ” those interjections which break the energy, resolution, and perseverance of nine people out of ten,” had no effect upon Mrs. Blamire.

* Mrs. Blamire had but just taken the cottage.

She still persevered, using the same means, and encouraging others to assist her **; and in about an hour from the time he was brought into the house, signs of life made their appearance.

For four hours afterwards he slowly and gradually recovered under her kind and unceasing care. Warm gruel, broth, and a little weak brandy and water, were now given him from time to time, while the remedies first used were still continued. ” She watched as a mother over the charge thus by Providence committed to her care,” and at the end of five hours from the time he was brought to the house he was able to be conveyed with safety to the Hospital.

Another body was thrown on shore about the same time, and near the same spot, but did not meet the same humane care. It lay on the beach for some little time, and was then taken to a public coach-office. A medical gentleman who attended found him lying there with his face upon the ground. He had his position altered, and the body, by his directions, was removed to a warm bath; life, however, did not again return. It is to be remarked, that he was a very hale man, and Mrs. Blamire’s patient an old and very infirm man, and had for a fortnight been labouring under a severe cough.

James Bandinel, esq. of the Foreign Office, was an eye-witness of Mrs. Blamire’s humane and great exertions, and to this gentleman the Society is indebted for the more important particulars of this unprecedented and extraordinary case, which, as drawn up by herself at his request, is too modestly expressed to convey a just idea of its merit.

** The directions state that the remedies should be persevered in for three or four hours.

Her motive, says this gentleman, for making it known through the medium of the Society, is to shew that, “under the circumstance of an apparently dead body having been got on shore, even a woman may, by attending to the directions of the Society, and doing her best, be the means of preserving to a fellow being that existence which God alone can give.” She earnestly

wishes it to be an example to others, and gives her name because, in the opinion of the Society, the cause of humanity cannot be so well answered without it. The thanks of the Society are also due to Vice-Admiral Hallowell, Captain McCulloh, R. N. and Lieutenant Dickson, R. N. for their communications upon the subject.

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