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Heroic Deaf Scout Saves Drowning Boy

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 19 March 2014

In around 1928 (I am not certain of the date) Jack Kellett of Water Street, Holbeck, a deaf scout from the Leeds 14th South-West Troop of Boy Scouts, was walking along the Leeds and Liverpool canal bank in Globe Road having been for a swim.  Another child pointed out a boy, George Henry Wright aged 4, who was struggling in the water.   Jack dived in, grabbed the boy’s coat, lifted his head from the water, swam with him to the bank and then pulled him out.  He immediately began artificial respiration until further help arrived.  The boy recovered, and Jack, who had learnt life-saving and swimming in the scouts, was given the Royal Humane Society’s Testimonial certificate, presented to him by the Lord Mayor, Alderman David Blythe Foster.

There are many fascinating things about this story.  Jack was a signer – that is he used BSL – and the presentation was interpreted, the mayor saying,

The deed was very fine and brave.  I am glad to know that you can swim.  That is one of the things I cannot do and I am now too old to learn.  I hope that all the girls and boys of the city will learn to swim, so they can render service in case of emergency, as you have done.

Jack would have been born around 1913 but I have not found him on the Free BMD website.  Perhaps ‘Jack’ is not his proper name.  There is a challenge there for someone to find out more about Jack, his family, where he went to school and so on.  Perhaps someone remembers him?  Kellet seems to be a common name in Leeds so there may well be relatives.

The Royal Humane Society‘s records are now in the London Metropolitan Archives and would certainly be interesting to check.

Finally, it is really curious to note that I have come across a number of examples of Deaf people rescuing others from drowning.  There is a fascinating article on “Heroic rescuing behaviour,”  which says, “Males with low socio-economic status were more likely to rescue in all the contexts (fire, drowning, violence and traffic accidents).”  The article links such behaviour to evolutionary theory.

Lyons, Minna, Who are the heroes?  Characteristics of people who rescue others.  Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology, 3 (2005)3– 4, 239–248

 This post is based on a photograph of a newspaper cutting of unknown date.

Jack 001

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