Mexborough and Swinton Times, March 25, 1898
A Conisborough Hero.
Remembering the words of the wise man, “Honour to whom honour is due,” it is with pleasure we record some of the many brave actions performed by Conisborough’ hero, Mr. Thos. Wilson Downing.
The subject of this appreciation commenced his humane services as far back as 1873, when he was successful in saving a boatman named Samuel Lewis from a watery grave in the locks at Conisborough, the coroner passing a high eulogium upon him, rewarding him with a 6d. from his own purse.
In 1878, a child named Maskell fell into the mill stream at Conisborough. Its father jumped in to save it, but, was carried out into the deep water of the Don. A man named John Williams went to their help, but he too was earned away by a strong current, and had it not been for the timely assistance from Mr. Downing (who is a capital swimmer), all three must certainly have been drowned.
In the year 1879 he added another to the list of rescued. Mr. Thos. Fearn (the late town crier and pinder) fell over a boat side at Mexborough, whilst attending a boat, launch at Mexborough, and was carried down the stream for some distance until rescued by Mr. Downing.
Shortly after this, he rescued a Sheffield man named Joseph Hill, who foolishly was bathing in the Don, although not able to swim. The man had gone under the water for the third time, Mr. Downing gallantly diving down, and was successful in bringing him out safely.
The next one he had the opportunity of helping was a Mexborough youth, who, along with others, was bathing in the Don at Mexborough, one getting out of his depth, and the others being unable to render him assistance. It will thus be seen that Mr. Downing has quite an enviable record of life saving from drowning persons.
To this must also be added his gallant attempt to save the life of a boy at Kilnhurst a few weeks ago. It will be remembered that the child’s clothes were all in flames when Mr. Downing, at considerable personal risk, extinguished them, being himself badly burnt in carrying out this kind action.
For his many humane actions he has at various times received the hearty, thanks of coroners, but owing chiefly to a thoughtless public he has not yet been publicly rewarded, or rather had not until the present month.
On learning of Mr. Downing’s long record of kind actions, the Rev. P. Houghton, Vicar of Kilnhurst, wrote the Humane Society on his behalf, but received a letter stating that the society did not take notice of rescues from burning, only from drowning or asphyxia in mines, etc., and that such cases must be reported within two months or they cannot be considered.
Being disappointed in this respect. Capt. Turner, of the Rotherham Fire Brigade, at the instance of Mr. Houghton, wrote the Fireman’s Union, recommending them to award the badge of merit to Mr. Downing for his services, which they accordingly did, the same being presented to him at a public meeting held in the Kilnhurst Church School on the 4th inst. The Rev. P. Houghton, who made the presentation, expressed great pleasure in doing so, and hoped Mr. Downing would live long to wear the badge he bad so honourably won, and that if he had an opportunity of rendering such signal service in the future he would not fail to do it. The rev, gentleman remarked that by good rights Mr. Downing should have been awarded a medal previously, but the cases were not taken up at the time. He looked upon such actions as a service to the public.
Capt. Jones, of the Conisboro” Fire Brigade, also expressed pleasure at the recognition of Mr. Downing’s services, with whom he had been connected for some years past in Fire Brigade work at Conisborough. He also testified to Mr. Downing’s valuable work as chief fireman in hi3 local brigade, and hoped it would not-be long before he received a. further reward.
Mr. Downing replied, stating he looked upon it as his duty to do what he could under such circumstances, whether he was rewarded or not.
The succession of brave actions performed by Mr. Downing is one of which he may justly be proud.