X Close

UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries

Home

Information on the UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries

Menu

“After a great struggle he managed to rescue her” – George Biddle (b.ca. 1912)

H Dominic W Stiles24 January 2020

I came across yet another example of a Deaf person who heroically rescued a drowning person – George Biddle (b.ca. 1912) of Glasgow.

DEAF AND DUMB HERO Award to Glasgow Rover Scout The Silver Cross for Gallantry has been awarded to a deaf and dumb Rover Scout, George Biddle, aged 24, of the 154th Glasgow (Handicapped) Group, by the Boy Scouts Association for his outstanding bravery in rescuing a woman from drowning in the River Clyde at Bridge Wharf, Broomielaw, Glasgow, at mid-day on March 12.  Biddle was cleaning a car when a man drew his attention by making signs and pointing to the water.  Seeing the woman in the water, Biddle unhesitatingly took hold of a lifebelt and jumped in fully clothed and with heavy boots on.  He caught hold of the woman, and the men on the side pulled them to the bank by the rope of-the lifebelt , which he had left attached to the ring. (The Scotsman – Wednesday 27 May 1936)

The Magazine for the Scottish Deaf covered the story –

Thrilling Rescue

The deaf are in the news, and for this we have to thank George Biddle, who at great personal risk saved a woman from drowning in the Clyde on 12th March. It appears that the woman for no apparent reason jumped into the river. Immediately George, without any hesitation, got hold of a lifebelt and dived in fully clothed and with heavy boots on. After a great struggle he managed to rescue her.

Feeling that public interest might be awakened as a result, here are some extracts from a letter sent to the Press :—

” It may be of interest to the public to know that the young man is a member of the Glasgow Mission to the Deaf and Dumb, and also, for 7 years, of the 154th Glasgow Crew of Deaf and Dumb Rover Scouts, attached to the Mission.

There can be no doubt that Biddle’s alertness and quick thinking saved the woman from death, and he deserves every credit for his gallant action. It should be noted that while there were several hearing people on the scene, it was left to one who is deaf and dumb to play the part of rescuer. My object in writing is to emphasise that the deaf can be as alert, and at times even more so, than others with all their faculties, a fact which is unfortunately very often overlooked.

There are many kids in and around Glasgow of Biddle’s type who, for lack of understanding on the part of employers, have been given no chance of finding their place in the industrial world.

Unemployment is the most acute problem the deaf, particularly the younger people, have to face, and I hope that, as the result of this incident, there will be a better understanding of the character of the deaf. I particularly appeal to employers to follow the excellent example of Messrs Taggarts, the well-known motor agents, who are Biddle’s employers.”

Well done, George! (Magazine for the Scottish Deaf, 1936, vol.6 (3) p.45)

As a scout, I am pretty sure he must be in this photo from 1928 of  the  154th  scouts.  I have no more information about George – do contribute if you can!

 

 

James Herbert Roxburgh, Deaf Hero, 1923 – connecting the dots…

H Dominic W Stiles20 September 2019

James Herbert Roxburgh was born in December 1898, probably in Dublin.  According to his marriage certificate, his father, also James, was a ‘painter [or perhaps printer] traveller’.  He may be the James Roxburgh who attended the Claremont Institution and was there in the 1911 census, with an unknown girl called Roxburgh who was aged 10 and possibly a sister.   The 1901 Irish census has James, a Scottish printer manager, and Salvation Army member, with a son William Roxburgh aged seven who was deaf.  William sadly died in 1907, aged 13.  Another son, Bertie, who was two, is I believe, James Herbert.  His deafness may not yet have been apparent.  They probably abbreviated Herbert to Bertie as the father was also called James.  That could explain why I am unable to find his birth record.  The girl on the Claremont census was almost certainly Bertie’s younger sister, Dorothy Emma Roxburgh, who was aged six months in the 1901 census.  Dorothy was recorded as living with her mother, and her brother Ronald, in the 1939 register, at 4 Charnwood Grove, West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, England, and she died in Bath in 1984.*

James Herbert emerges from obscurity into a fleeting moment of fame, not far from the spot where the River Fleet enters the Thames.

In 1923 he was working on the photographic staff of Boots, Stamford Street, London.  On August the 25th, he was returning from work at about 12.30 pm, when he saw a crowd of people staring down at the river by Blackfriars Bridge.  When he reached there he saw a boy struggling in the water.  Pausing only to remove his hat and coat, he dived in, and got his left arm under the boy’s armpits, raising him up.  He swam back to the steps, where he proceeded to resuscitate the unconscious boy.

The rescue was entirely unassisted, and the tide was running up very strongly at the time.

Although another man failed to reach the lad before he had been brought ashore, he assisted in the effort to revive him, which was successful, and the seven-year-old boy (son of an ex-soldier) was taken home by his parents. The rescue was witnessed from the Bridge by five of the rescuer’s fellow-workers, whose evidence and full particulars have been forwarded to the Royal Humane Society. (British Deaf Times)

There are steps on each side of the south end of Blackfriars Bridge – it could have been from either of those that he made his rescue.  It is nice for us that in Selwyn Oxley’s photo collection, there is a reproduction of the Royal Humane Society’s award.
You may be interested to note that James Roxburgh is the third Deaf swimming hero I have written about on the blog, and there are others.

James was recorded as working as a ‘photographic copyist’ in the 1939 national register.

In 1931 James married Estelle K Maclean.  Estelle was the daughter of a Scottish born Concertina Tuner (a very specific job!), James Maclean.  In 1911 he had been married to his wife Jane for twenty-four years, so I suppose he moved to London in the 1880s, and they had four children.  Estelle and her brother Gordon James Maclean (1889-1964), a cabinet maker, were both ‘deaf from birth’ according to the 1911 census, at which time the family lived at 23 Ashburnham  Grove, Greenwich.  In 1919 Gordon married Annie Florence Harvey (1897-1957) who was also Deaf from aged two, and who lived with her family at The Cottage, Hythe Road, Willesden Junction.

James and Estelle retired to Torbay, where he died in 1986, and she died in 1988.

If you can add anything more about the lives of these four related Deaf people, please do below.

Deaf man’s brave act: a Thames rescue. British Deaf Times, 1923, 20 (239/240), 105.

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

Roxburgh –

Marriage 1931 – Reference Number: p78/pau1/007

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/405I

Maclean –

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 533; Folio: 156; Page: 50

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 2680

Harvey –

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 224

*Thanks to Norma McGilp for spotting James and Estelle’s death records, and for digging out additional family links.

 

Heroic Deaf Scout Saves Drowning Boy

H Dominic W Stiles19 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

Thomas Mundy, A Deaf Hero from Hull

H Dominic W Stiles20 July 2012

MUNDY, Thomas (1845-1914)

Born in Yorkshire at Hunslet,  Leeds, Thomas Mundy lived an anonymous life as most of us do, apart from three particular incidents that put him in the spotlight. He was the father of three (hearing) sons, Thomas Hill Mundy, Robert Norris Mundy and Henry John Mundy, by his wife Mary Ann. Mundy married Mary Ann Prinn, who was herself Deaf, in 1871, but sadly she died aged only 48 in 1896. It may well be possible to discover which school she attended as she seems to have been a Hull lass. Mundy, who was the son of a miller by the name of George Mundy, seems to have not been born deaf (he is not described so in the 1851 census), and we might speculate that it was from illness in his youth that he became deaf.

As a result of his rescue, Thomas was awarded the Royal Humane Society Medal at ceremony in Hull Town Hall, in December 1897, for rescuing woman from drowning, as we see in the British Deaf Monthly below. Mundy also saved the three year old son of Edward Robinson when he fell into the Skidby drain in 1906. Mundy rescued a third person at some point, as we can see on page 13 of the Hull Institutions 1914 annual report. This report says that upon the award for the first rescue, Mundy said with sign language,  “I only did my duty and shall do it again if I see the need for it.”

The full story of his 1897 rescue – click on image for larger size.

Described in the 1881 and 1891 censuses as a ‘pressman’ (or perhaps ‘greaseman’) in an oil mill, despite his heroism Mundy was in the Sculcoates workhouse in 1911 where he is said to have been ‘formerly a general labourer’. (The workhouse was more like the equivalent of being in a hospital in modern times for those who were ill and poor, medical care being so expensive.)

He died in 1914.

A deaf hero. British Deaf Monthly, 1898, 7 (76), 72.

Hull, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, annual reports in library for 1884, 1910-1918, 1921-1924, 1928, 1933, 1939, 1943-1949,1953-1960.

HULL, EAST YORKSHIRE AND LINCOLNSHIRE INSTITUTION FOR THE DEAF AND DUMB – History. British Deaf-Mute and Deaf Chronicle, 1895, 4, 138.

Rescued from a Hull drain. British Deaf Times, 1906, 3(30), 137.

Researchers in Hull will no doubt know the local archives at the Hull History Centre – they may be worth checking for more information on Mundy and the Hull Institution.