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Unconscious man saved 130 feet up chimney

Year 1914

Read by Catherine Bernard – Life Governor, Royal Humane Society

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Rafter, Stephen, Steeplejack, Leeds.

Between 3 and 3.30 p.m. on the 22nd December, 1914, Stephen Rafter and Esau Mayall were engaged demolishing a large chimney at the Corporation Electricity Works, Leeds. The men were laddering the chimney, which is 180 feet in height, and had nearly reached the top, Rafter being on the ladder at the height of 160 feet and Mayall 30 feet lower down.

A hammer which Rafter had been using slipped from his belt and struck Mayall on the head, stunning him, but in falling his left leg caught in the rungs of the ladder and he hung suspended head downwards. Rafter at once got down the under side of the ladder and getting underneath him raised him into a prone position. To do this he had practically to hang on to the ladder with one leg and support Mayall till further assistance came.

A rope was now passed up to him which he fastened round Mayall’s body and then round his own shoulders and neck. He had then to raise the body into an upright position to enable him to get the leg clear of the ladder. When this was done the whole weight was borne by Rafter, from whose neck and shoulders the man was suspended, and in this way the descent was made and the bottom reached in safety. Had Rafter made a single false movement or missed his foothold it meant instant death for both.

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